Volkswagen has swapped out the DSG for a six-speed torque convertor in the Polo. What does that mean for the GT TSI?
Look, I wasn’t too pleased when Volkswagen announced that the new Polo GT TSI would be missing the DSG gearbox. So much of the GT TSI’s character was drawn from that snappy DSG ’box and the idea of a sluggish torque convertor replacing it just made me sad. Come the BS6 era, Volkswagen introduced the more powerful 1-litre TSI engine with a manual gearbox. We loved the engine, caning it regularly in the last few months in the Polo, Vento and Skoda Rapid. It packs a proper punch for such a tiny motor and has established its enthusiast credentials, without a doubt.
However, there was still apprehension around the GT TSI. Would the torque convertor live up to the high standards set by the DSG? Would it be quick? Would it be fun? Would this drivetrain be worthy of the GT badge? These questions raced through my head as I approached the familiar-looking Polo.
Yes, nothing radical has happened on the design front. The only changes here compared to the standard Polo are the addition of the GT badges on the nose, boot and c-pillars. It gets the same spoiler that the TSI Edition that was sold in limited numbers (and not available any more) got, though it misses out on those honeycomb decals on the doors. Thank heavens for that. There’s no denying the design is old, but the Polo has aged well and still manages to catch my eye when rolling down the street, particularly in Lapiz Blue.
Not much has changed on the inside either. The most conspicuous change is also the most obvious — the six-speed manual shifter has been swapped out for the automatic gear selector. The selector is identical to the DSG as well, so the cabin is very familiar. There’s also a traction control button on the dash and the only other change is to the seat’s upholstery — you get a GTI-inspired tartan finish on the seats.
Let’s get to why we are here though — the drivetrain. The engine is the same 1-litre TSI motor that puts out 108.5bhp and 172Nm, now mated to the six-speed torque convertor. And my first impressions of it? I was properly impressed! It actually shifts rather quickly and feels sporty. Torque convertors have a tendency to be lazy and sluggish but this one feels nothing like that. Shifts are snappy and crisp, and while they may not give you the near-uninterrupted torque delivery that a DSG gives you, it is nearly there. It is more than willing to shift down as well. The DSG was so good because it rarely hesitated to send a downshift your way. This torque convertor doesn’t hesitate either, though it isn’t as snappy — that is just the nature of this technology and that is something you’re doing to have to live with. Downshifts, particularly in sport mode aren’t the smoothest with the car lurching slightly but otherwise it is really fun. The engine has a really strong midrange and the ratios take full advantage of that. Under hard acceleration, the tacho goes all the way to the redline and even bounces off the limiter before upshifting. It’s entertaining as hell. The only downer is you cannot spin the wheels while launching — even with traction control turned off.
An interesting fact is that not all GT TSIs were bought by enthusiasts — plenty of customers were just looking for a small car with a nice automatic and the GT TSI did that. So how does it work in stop-start traffic? Well, it crawls faster than most cars I am used to so getting off the brakes for the first time was a bit unnerving, but you do get used to it over time and begin to measure your pressure on the brake pedal more carefully. There’s a slight judder as the torque convertor engages from standstill, particularly when the car’s fluids are cold, but then once you’re on the go it smoothens out completely.
I wish this new GT TSI got paddle-shifters. As with the DSG that came before it, there are no paddle shifters though you can manually control the transmission using the gear stick. There isn’t too much lag between when you ask for a shift and when it happens, though I was more comfortable just letting it do its thing.
All in all, while the DSG still remains the benchmark for a snappy transmission at this price, this new torque convertor runs it real close in terms of how it performs. I was genuinely apprehensive of what this change would mean for the GT TSI, but I don’t think you would miss the DSG. This drivetrain is worthy of the GT badge. Being a torque convertor, it should be more affordable to service and maintain as well and that makes it all the more appealing.
The rest of the Polo remains the same. You still get the sharp dynamics and it remains a car that is fun to chuck around. It rides well over our roads without being overly soft and has solid highway manners as well. In that sense, the Polo’s enthusiast-friendly nature remains intact.
We do need to talk about the price. At Rs 9.67 lakh (ex-showroom), the Polo GT TSI cost nearly the same as it did with the DSG which is a bit of a downer. The Polo with its 1-litre TSI was so appealing because of its price! The manual is currently priced at Rs 7.89 lakh (ex-showroom) making this GT TSI (the only Polo variant with an AT at the moment) a whole Rs 1.8 lakh more expensive, which is a fair bit of money. However, we have gotten wind of an automatic variant slotting in between these two in the near future and if you’re okay parting with the fancy GT badges and the spoiler, it is definitely worth a look.
I believe the allure of the GT TSI will endure. This car, despite swapping out such a crucial component of what made it special, retains its ability to thrill and bring joy into your driving experience. And it does so without compromising on practicality. As an enthusiast, I couldn’t be happier.