One last track day in the Volkswagen Polo, an enthusiasts' favourite, before it bows out
The Volkswagen Polo boasts one of the most unique and storied journeys for any hatchback in the country, at least in recent times. It was the first Volkswagen to go on sale in India, 12 years ago, was the first ‘factory-built’ race car and effectively, the first car to be used in a manufacturer-backed one-make racing championship, besides being a hatchback that’s been hugely popular with enthusiasts. And let’s not forget, the immense tuning potential it has held, being popular internationally as a tuner car, resulting in easy availability of go-faster parts off the shelf! Heck, the past half decade has also seen the Polo gain immense popularity as a rally car. Also, let’s not forget, it was the Polo that Volkswagen also won the World Rally Championship in!
The Polo GT TSI was also the first hatchback in India to be powered by a turbocharged petrol engine mated to a dual clutch automatic gearbox. Then there’s the race Polo that has been performing duty in the Volkswagen Polo Cup. The race car showcased at the 2020 Auto Expo boasted a peak power output of 210PS (going up to 225PS for short bursts with the ‘push-to-pass’ function) from the 1.8 TSI motor, which made it the most potent factory-tuned race car our country has seen till date! And Volkswagen Motorsport India has been able to deliver the kind of performance the race Polo offers, courtesy the fact that the stock Polo made for a brilliant platform to develop the race car! Volkswagen had also launched the most powerful version of the Polo in the country, the three-door Polo GTI that offered 180PS from its 1.8 TSI motor!
The Polo thus has a pedigree like no other hatchback in the country. I was also mightily impressed with the updated, BS6 compliant Polo launched in 2020, powered by the smaller, three-cylinder 1.0 TSI that replaced the four-pot 1.2 TSI. The engine was quick to address any pre-conceived notions one might have had about its performance and in fact offer 5PS more than the 1.2 TSI, given its peak output of 110PS! And just before the car goes out of production Volkswagen India invited us to have one last go in the race Polo at the MMRT, besides launching a final edition of the road-going Polo, the Legend, which is identical to the Polo 1.0 TSI mechanically, but gets cosmetic changes as an ode to everything the Polo has been in India.
Our track sessions in the race Polo, stock Polo and Taigun thus made for a fitting finale for the much-loved hatchback. It’s been a couple of years since I’d last driven at the Madras Motor Race Track and the seat time was a good way to shake off some of my mental cobwebs and rust. First up was a flat-out session in the race car. Volkswagen Motorsport India has worked on the car continually, bettering it each season over the past 12 years and in its current form the race Polo feels no less than a race car of international repute. The 1.8 TSI engine puts out 210PS and is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters, while the full roll cage, race seat with a five-point harness, race instrument display and customised controls crank it up to 11 for the Polo as far as race cars go. Running on full slick tyres from MRF Tyres, the race Polo reminded me yet again as to why race cars are special and how much potential a road-going car can offer in the hands of able race engineers.
Next up was the stock Polo, which has always been a driver’s car. Pushing it around the MMRT was a pleasant experience yet again thus, the car reminding me why it has been one of the most loved hatchbacks for the better part of a decade now. Soon after the Polo, I jumped into the Taigun. Well-engineered and meant to please enthusiasts with its dynamics, the Taigun impressed on track too. In fact it proved to be a pleasant surprise, going around the MMRT’s fast, flowing corners with ease. It isn’t very often that a car maker wants you to drive its SUVs at a race track but the session just proved the confidence Volkswagen has in the Taigun which is essentially a premium family SUV!
Even sweltering heat in Chennai didn’t deter us from queuing up in the pit lane to head out on track again and again in the race Polo. It’s a car that has always impressed and always had us have a lot of fun behind its wheel, in every possible form. And the car is finally bowing out, after an illustrious, 12-year stint in the country. Until next time, Polo.