Will the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI succeed where other enthusiast centric cars have failed?
Give any car enthusiast the option to pick between a small and fuel efficient engine, or a large, expensive but more powerful unit, and more often than not, he'd settle for the latter. So, one would think it's a great move on part of Volkswagen to bring in its hatchback, the Polo GT TSI, with a more powerful engine and a hot hatch tag. But, history suggests otherwise.
The Indian car enthusiast might be a lot of things - excitable, learned, opinionated and boastful even, but he isn't exactly a great risk taker. Maybe on the road when driving, or on a race track, but not when it comes to putting down his hard earned money on something unconventional; even if it is something he has been demanding for, endlessly. How else can we explain the failure of almost every performance centric hatchback that has been launched in the country. There have been many examples from the Fiat Palio S10 to the Ford Ikon 1.6 to - what has now become a legend of sorts - the Skoda Octavia vRS; but none really took off.
Sure, these were more expensive, and not much better equipped, but then wasn't the promise of few extra horses, a quicker 0-100kmph time and a higher top speed, supposed to justify the premium? Clearly not. The more recent example of such a car that bombed at the market place is the Ford Fiesta 1.6S. Yes, it wasn't more powerful, but it had better handling - better steering, better tyres and the like - and it completely looked the part from the outside and inside. And even though it was the car that every petrol head on a budget wanted to have, most went and bought diesel sedans when it actually came to spending their money.
Then the enthusiast wanted a hot hatch. So in came the 90PS versions of the Fiats and Tatas, in both petrol and diesel versions, and again, not many bought them. Largely because the 90HP was more of a paper stat and not something that was felt in better performance numbers. Volkswagen too entered the fray in the old school way and launched the Polo with a larger 1.6-litre, 105PS petrol along side the Skoda Fabia 1.6, and both cars again, failed.
This hypocracy of the Indian enthusiast isn't limited to the smaller hatchbacks or entry-level sedans, even the moneyed guys fail to deliver on their words. Two prime examples of this were the V6 powered versions of the Skoda Superb and the Honda Accord. The Superb owners, even with F1 noises as their ringtones, went ahead and bought the 2-litre diesel and were found talking about the nearly 15kmpl fuel economy the car returned on highways. As for the Accord owners, well most weren't young or enthusiastic in the first place.
So will we, the Indian car enthusiast, treat the new Volkswagen Polo GT TSI differently? Volkswagen clearly seems to think so. Volkswagen has made it very clear that it isn't looking at great numbers from the Polo GT TSI, but believes the sales will be good enough to add to the Polo's kitty and justify the TSI's existence. And we agree with the company's forecast.
After all, one of the biggest drawbacks of all the performance centric models, hitherto, was their relatively poor economy and higher price. The Polo GT TSI too is expensive, and by a fair margin costing almost a lakh and a half over the most expensive Polo petrol model, but it has the economy. Volkswagen states a 17.5kmpl ARAI fuel efficiency figure for the car, which is in fact better than the standard Polo 1.2-litre petrol. Add to it, way more power, a cutting edge gearbox and an on road performance than no hatch can currently match and the GT clearly has the odds loaded in its favour. Want to dial in some more then how about ESP, ABS, a hill hold function that prevents the car from rolling back when you stop on a incline and have to continue forward, airbags for both driver and front passenger and new seats that allow more kneeroom for the rear passengers.
If this formula of a enthusiast centric car can work, the Polo GT TSI is the one to do it. More so because, besides its economy, it more than justifies it price tag with the technology it comes with and of course the better value for money features.
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