Next-gen VW Polo GTI gears up to steal the supermini hot-hatch crown from Ford Fiesta ST.
HERE’S the next-generation Volkswagen Polo GTI, and what better place to catch one of the world’s most eagerly awaited hot hatches than in one of the hottest places on the planet?
Sprung undergoing what we assume is hot-weather endurance testing near Death Valley in Eastern California, this Arizona-registered prototype is the clearest example yet of the German company’s vital new supermini.
Some reports say this Mk6 Polo is due to make its world premiere around the Geneva Show in March, with an Australian launch possibly late in 2017 or early 2018.
Despite all that psychedelic concealer, the typical GTI hallmarks – big wheels, slammed stance, twin pipes – are plainly visible, suggesting that Volkswagen will not be dragging its feet in the battle for B-segment hot-hatch supremacy against the runaway success Ford Fiesta ST, as well as the Renault Clio Sport, Peugeot 208 GTi, Suzuki Swift GTI, and – hopefully one day – the Mazda 2 MPS.
Judging by the length of the body, the new Polo is palpably larger overall, and seems to sport a softer, more rounded silhouette. This size increase is no surprise, as the existing model unveiled in 2009 is now one of the smallest in its class. What might shock some is that the three-door is rumoured to have been axed, leaving only a five-door style for now.
An upsized Polo ought to mean more passenger and cargo space, as well as the usual high-quality Volkswagen dashboard design and presentation.
Among the latest driver-assist safety tech mooted for the Wolfsburg baby are Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), active lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic braking – items not available in today’s ageing hatch.
To that end, we understand that the newcomer will switch to the full-fat version of Volkswagen Group’s MQB modular transverse architecture, after the current ‘Mk5.5’ facelift released in 2014 adopted some of its electrical and multimedia systems, first seen in the Mk7 Golf.
Engines relevant to Australia are likely to be centred around three- and four-cylinder TSI turbo units, ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 litres in the mainstream models, while the GTI pictured here is thought to again adopt a variation of the 141kW/320Nm 1.8-litre turbo that has helped make the existing variant such a big hit.
Fingers are crossed that a six-speed manual will continue to be available, but we’re unsure whether the automatic versions will keep the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox or adopt an eight- or nine-speed torque-converter transmission provided by either Aisin or ZF. One thing we’re pretty certain of is that the suspension will remain MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam out back.
As with the current Polo, the Mk6 will share many components with the second-gen Audi A1 due sometime next year, and will also be the basis of Volkswagen’s small SUV, seen in concept-vehicle form as the Volkswagen T-Cross Breeze at this year’s Geneva Motor Show back in March.
Prices? This will be interesting, as today’s base 66TSI kicks off from a hefty $16,990, and tops out with the GTI DSG at $29,990. But the uplift in size, space, refinement, and technology could see the 2018 Polo’s RRP skyrocket. In Europe the excellent sub-B-segment Up slots in below to help soften such a blow, but unfortunately there is Buckley’s chance of that returning here before the next-gen baby appears with auto in hand in about 2020.
What will Volkswagen Group Australia do, we wonder?
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