Second-hand pocket rockets: The calm power of the VW Polo GTI against the wilder Ford Fiesta ST

Despite downsizing trends, the Volkswagen Polo GTI has a strong supercharged 18-year-old and remains a classic. I love manual transmissions and was really looking forward to Polo. So how do you live with the little GTI? Will it stand up to a well-tuned Fiesta ST with a 16-year-old ecoboost? Which of them would I choose to go to empty quarters on Sunday morning? These are the questions you will soon have an answer to.

Lately, I’ve mostly gotten used to the playful features of the now seventeen-year-old little Mini Cooper S, and according to him, I tend to rate other sharp sedans. In fact, if I go even further, my personal reference for a sharp sedan will always be the Peugeot 205 GTI. I only spent a few dozen minutes behind the wheel of it, but even that was enough to completely immerse me in its hyperactive nature and light-legged character.

Photo: Petr Jeřabek

The VW Polo GTI has a very conservative design, but it’s not just getting old

Volkswagen prefers not to experiment

And now I’m sitting in a white five-door GTI Pole, looking around and thinking this car would be exactly the size of a Golf twenty years ago. It looks austere, but I see that its development has not been spared, just like its more popular sibling, the Golf GTI. Cars get bigger over time. We see it on the Mini, on the Fiesta, in short, everywhere. Moreover, Volkswagen has always been a conservative brand. The famous beetle survived fascism, the Cold War and even the attack of the “Twins” of New York. The last piece was built in Mexico on July 30, 2003.

Photo: Petr Jeřabek

Traditional GTI badges are familiar to almost every motorist; like used cars, all Volkswagen GTIs can keep a very high price for a long time

Polo doesn’t have such a long and colorful history. Less than fifty years have passed since the mid-1970s when the first generation emerged. But changing the line of the model is always more of a small evolution of the original design than a radical change. That’s why the VW Polo, just like its big brother Golf, retains its clearly recognizable character. The cloth seats have good lateral guidance, but aside from the sleek seat and back control, they look pretty ordinary. Just like the dashboard, all the controls and the audio system, it all doesn’t look expensive. But calm reigns inside, and you know that the damping materials have not been spared here. No one can say bad words about the functionality of older Volkswagen systems. This is a car from a time when large touchscreens seemed too much science fiction than mainstream reality.

Photo: Petr Jeřabek

The Fiesta is a bigger design, but it might not look as new as the Polo, which doesn’t seem to change over the years.

Fiesta, on the other hand, experimented with the design

The red Fiesta, which also has a slow 50-year tradition at Ford, changes from generation to generation. If since 1976, when the small three-door Ford appeared, it retained a clearly recognizable design language until the very end of the 1990s, it has changed a lot in the modern era. It was the sixth generation, including the pointed version of the ST (in addition to the Mountune ST200 version) that I currently drive, which brought a bold and quite complicated design. However, he is much happier than Polo.

Photo: Petr Jeřabek

The Ford Fiesta ST has stunning front seats from Recara

In terms of driving impressions, it’s a stark contrast. I drove this particular red Fiesta a while ago and it fell into my hand just fine. And the same experience has been repeated now. The car is driven with such intuitive confidence in the precise grip control of both axles. If the driver plays around with the weight transfer a bit before the turn, deliberately sliding the rear axle a little while adding and stopping the throttle, it’s easy to drive with a nearly level steering wheel, while the self-locking mechanical differential transfers all the power to the front axle.

The driver will not appreciate the interaction with the GTI Field, because its controls are set completely differently. The car has a slightly slower steering gear, which uses an electric motor on the column and two different adjustment modes. At the same time, the forces you need to work on the clutch are lighter. The gear lever passes very slightly in the background, but we don’t have a firm, absolutely precise feeling. In fact, it is the same as the Volkswagen GTI, like any other Volkswagen car. No sports notes are played here.

Photo: Petr Jeřabek

VW Polo GTI features anatomically sophisticated cloth seats with a traditional checkered pattern on the seat and backrest

However, the Polo GTI is incredibly fast, and when you get into the rhythm, it’s very interesting. It’s not exactly fun behind the wheel, but you get a feeling of excellent efficiency almost all the time. The electronic diff-lock works, the ESP sport mode works for you, and the Sport mode helps to tighten up the already quite harsh suspension and add a bit more mechanical resistance to the steering wheel. In fact, the Polo GTI’s suspension is its weakness, not as balanced as the Fiesta.

The specific car that AAA Auto loaned me for testing had only 45,000 miles on it and the chassis parts were still in perfect condition. But the suspension didn’t work as well as the Fiesta ST. Both cars are pretty tough, but Ford can iron a little better over the transverse unevenness that Volkswagen tends to jump on. If I only put the very first impression and the first kilometers behind the wheel, I would be quite critical of the GTI Field. But my relationship with the car gradually improved within a few days.

Photo: Petr Jeřabek

The VW Polo GTI already has the third evolution of the popular VW / Audi TSI engine under the hood

Quiet power from TSI and Ecoboost engines

The first good news for the Polo GTI is its engine. Their performance is very close to that of the Fiesta, but the 320 Nm of GTI torque is a value that Ford’s 16-year-old Ecoboost has no chance of exceeding. Polo flies on the wave of its maximum, and thanks to this it has a great elastic acceleration. The TSI engine, which originated in Audi, experiences almost no turbo effect and truly stretches across the rev counter range. In fact, from five thousand rpm, the power scales nicely and can be turned up to just after six.

The Ecoboost in its four-cylinder design has two decimal places less volume, but even a few more horsepower in peak power than the TSI in Poland. But that’s after the control unit was changed, and we know that the 1.8 TSI of the Field GTI can also be “opened” and accelerated without any problems. I like the Fiesta’s engine a bit more, but that was partly down to the underdrawing of the nice sound coming from the exhaust tips. The Fiesta had a Remus-tuned exhaust fitted in the past, while the Polo was completely standard.

The same tweaks leading to even higher performance would mean gaining even more extra speed for Polo. But again, it would be a problem to transfer power to the wheels, where only the electronic differential lock works, whereas in the Fiesta we had a Quaife mechanical differential with limited sealing. Of course, the Fiesta is better in the corners, as the car pulls better on the track and smooths out the natural understeer you struggle with at Pol.

Each car follows its own path

If we were wondering whether it’s better to buy a five-year-old Polo GTI or opt for the Fiesta ST, it really depends on where we use the cars. The Fiesta is a friendlier car, no doubt, but on long motorway journeys the Polo will be a nicer companion for the entire car class. You’ll choose the Polo GTI if you want a fast, compact car that you’ll probably never drive on a Saturday morning track day, but rather ‘roll over’ on a Sunday morning. This is an everyday quality supermini class car that has a truly surprising power supply for blistering overtaking or maintaining high speed. The longer you ride it, the more you’ll love it.

With the reliability of these young cars with low forays and a clear origin, I wouldn’t worry. Respectively, I would shorten the intervals for regular maintenance, he treated the engines carefully, he always warmed them up carefully and after a large load he let the lap run free before turning off and exhaling always well. The Polo GTI had a start-stop installed, which I preferred to manually deactivate before driving.

The VW / Audi TSI engines of the EA888 family (here the third generation) and the Ford Ecoboost engine are direct injection. Carbon in the intake manifold and on the intake valves can therefore be expected over the long term, and possibly even when the car is not being used properly. Also, these engines are still notorious for their timing chain issues, but in the case of the VW EA888, more like its first and at most its second generation.

Interestingly, the TSI engine in Poland can normally be up to a liter more economical than the Ecoboost engine in Fiesta. But what matters most is the nature of the course and especially the driving style. I was able to drive a regular medium out of town even for 6.3L/100km, but another popular area full of turns and hills for 13.2. The Fiesta ST is a little worse if you try to drive specifically on fuel economy. It also has a short-speed transmission and you probably couldn’t drive it under seven litres. Its owner usually drives new.

As for the price, today Fiesta ST 2016, 2017 years can be found in good condition for about 350-400 thousand crowns, in the case of Polo it is similar, for a specific car the seller even asks for 420 thousand crowns, but mainly due to very low condition and raid. Considering that today a sharp new sedan in the supermini category (for example, the Hyundai i20N) costs almost 700,000 crowns, buying a slightly used Fiesta or Polo does not seem like a bad idea at all. And deciphering which one you choose really comes down to your individual preferences. Each of them excels at something different.

VW Polo GTI (2017) Ford Fiesta ST 200 (2016)
Motor EA888 inline four-cylinder Inline four-cylinder Ecoboost
Cylinder capacity 1798 cc 1,596 cc
Performance 141 kW at 6,200 rpm 147 kW at 5,700 rpm
Couple 320 Nm at 1,500 rpm 290 Nm at 3000 rpm
Transmission 6 degrees, manual 6 degrees, manual
Standby weight 1,272 kilograms 1,163 kilograms
Acceleration 0–100 km/h 6.7 seconds 6.7 seconds
Maximum speed 236 km/h 230km/h
Consumption 8.0 l/100 km (full test) 9.0 l/100 km (depending on owner)
Price on the market today CZK 420,000 CZK350,000

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