We’ve just driven the brand new Volkswagen Beetle, and we really liked it. With a more powerful 150PS version of the Jetta's 1.4-litre TSI petrol (the sedan gets just 122PS), the Beetle felt the perfect amount of fast. It got us thinkin... wouldn’t it be perfect if Volkswagen put a similar engine in the Polo - fast enough to be exciting but not so complex to make it inaccessibly expensive?
Internationally, the Polo GTI comes with a 1.8-litre TSI petrol that makes 192PS. It’s a unit similar to the one available in the Skoda Octavia and Skoda Superb but in a higher state of tune. Volkswagen doesn’t currently offer this engine which means the company will have to have it homologated for our market. That's just part of the problem - the bigger issue will be cost, the 1.8-litre engine will work out to be far more expensive. The international-spec Polo GTI running the 1.8 TSI was spotted testing in India in mid-2015 but we believe that was more of an evaluation exercise.
The more we think about it, the more sense it makes. The 150PS engine is already here and fully homologated. It runs the 7-speed DSG gearbox that’s also available in a number of Volkswagen cars in India like the Polo GT and the Vento TSI. There are further advantages as the engine will be cheaper to service and parts availability will not be an issue compared with the 1.8-litre motor that will be imported in tiny numbers solely for the Polo GTI.
Most of all, 150PS and 250Nm will put the India-spec Polo GTI right up against the newly launched 145PS Fiat Punto Abarth. The Abarth costs Rs 9.95 lakh ex-Mumbai while the current Polo GT TSI with its 1.2-litre 105PS TSI engine costs Rs 8.49 lakh ex-Mumbai. In the UK, a new 1.0-litre TSI engine that makes 110PS has replaced the 1.2-litre TSI that we get in India. However, the price difference between the 1.0-litre TSI and the 1.4-litre TSI in the UK is just £1000 or about Rs 1 lakh in INR.
Even if you double the difference and account for the added taxes thanks to the larger displacement, the 1.4 TSI motor will allow Volkswagen to price the Polo GTI competitively, making it a strong rival to the hot Fiat. Wishful thinking makes us pine for the option of the excellent 6-speed manual from the Jetta (it'll be cheaper too!) but in all likelihood the Volkswagen Polo GTI will only come with a 7-speed DSG automatic, just like the smaller Polo GT. The upside is that the DSG gearbox will bring added features like ESP and hill-hold, both found in the Polo GT.
As we understand it, Volkswagen is currently evaluating both engines for our market and will soon take a call as to which will be a more viable option for India. A launch is expected in 2016. Our money is on the smaller 1.4 TSI.