Good: smart looks, well-suited engine
Not so good: expensive
During at least one point in most of our driving lives will be the ownership of a small hatchback. For the more enthusiastic motoring folks this may also include a hot hatch - something with a little more potency. For many it can be seen as a rite of passage to bigger and better things behind the wheel. Hot hatches are becoming a dying breed though, in the traditional sense at least. The advent of ever-tightening emissions regulations and the more widespread use of automated transmissions to better handle the power delivery means that they are not what they once were.
Enter the warm hatch, more specifically, the Volkswagen Polo BlueGT. This is a Polo that employs much of the fuel-saving technology Volkswagen has learnt from other models, such as the Golf BlueMotion and put it to work in this latest Polo. The car sits 15mm lower than the standard model in a bid to improve airflow underneath the car - thus reducing drag and easing fuel consumption. Add to that more aerodynamically-optimised bodywork that includes a new rear spoiler and you have a car that not only cuts through the air that little bit better but also manages to look very smart too. Neat additions of darker rear light lenses and the 17-inch split-spoke 'Montani' alloy wheels, both of which feature as standard, help to complete the look, while the twin exhaust tailpipes serve to underline the car's performance credentials.
Where the warm part comes into the equation is the 1.4-litre TSI engine. This light four-cylinder engine was heavily worked on to maximise its efficiency without sacrificing its performance levels. One of the biggest factors in this is the employment of Volkswagen's Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) that shuts off the combustion in the inner two cylinders when the engine is under less of a loading; this has a significant effect on fuel consumption. On a number of occasions, I found myself glancing at the dashboard's real-time fuel consumption figure on the motorway and observed figures well below 3.0 litres/100km when cruising. Impressive to say the least, especially given that this is still a car powered by a 1.4-litre petrol unit and not a diesel engine that we're reviewing here.
Gearing-wise, the six-speed manual transmission comes with a useful set of ratios that help to keep sluggishness at bay. Indeed, around town in second or third gear there is still a sufficient amount of torque on hand to make the Polo BlueGT feel quite perky. Don't expect to be leaving black lines down from every set of traffic lights, but you certainly won't get bored with it. It's also worth pointing out that, despite the reduction in ride height by 15mm, there has been no impact on the comfort of the suspension.
The interior of this latest Polo is also hard to fault, especially given the standard fitment of Volkswagen's new five-inch high-definition colour touchscreen infotainment system. Sports seats feel supportive and the contrasting fabrics lighten up what is otherwise an understated decor. You will fit three passengers across the back seats but it does come at a squeeze; two adults will fit quite comfortably though, with good legroom.
By harnessing its efficient technologies and putting them to use in a manner that enhances rather than diminishes driving dynamics, Volkswagen has created an impressive car in the Polo BlueGT. Jump in and take it for a quick blast and you'll appreciate the zesty performance, but live with it for longer and you'll develop a greater appreciation for the levels of fuel economy that you will never get from a hot hatch. This Volkswagen is helping to usher in a new era, nee type, of performance hatch. Yes, it may be a compromise, but it operates in the centre of a Venn diagram that will appeal to many drivers of today. It would seem that warm is the new hot.