LONG-TERM UPDATE 1 | Taking delivery of our Volkswagen Polo GTI
During the nearly six years of serving the publications owned by this fine company, one has had the privilege of inducting and bidding farewell to a decent number of long-term test candidates.
Never have the circumstances been as peculiar as they were when this latest subject for extended companionship arrived. On 24 March, hours before the national lockdown, it took residence after this scribe duly replicated his signature several times over on the reams of accompanying documentation.
Over the next 12 months you can read about the ups, downs, costs and quirks of living with the most powerful Polo money can buy, on these digital pages and in sister titles Sunday Times Lifestyle Motoring and Sowetan Motoring.
When we took delivery of the vehicle it had a smidgen over 1,000km on the odometer. It has since gained about 350km, dispatched over all manner of journalistic (and grocery-procuring) duties. The first mission behind the wheel of the GTI was to a ministerial briefing in Tshwane on 27 March. On 2 April we went to witness transport minister Fikile Mbalula spraying disinfectant over minibuses at the Bree Taxi Rank in Johannesburg after his regulatory indecisions. He became Sunday Times’ Mampara of the Week.
The South African market is known for its GTI appetite. In the Golf range, for example, the GTI and its potent R sibling have long accounted for more sales volumes than its regular counterparts.
The Polo GTI has a basic sticker price of R398,400. A six-speed DSG transmission is the default pairing with its two-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine (147kW and 320Nm).
Naturally, our specimen has some options fitted. First up is a set of Brescia 18-inch alloys (R6,000) wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza T001 rubber (215/40R18). Not what we would have ordered, frankly, because the standard 17-inch Milton Keynes variety have a less fussy design and higher profile rubber which would make more sense on our roads.
Then again, seeing how many Polo and Golf examples there are with aftermarket-fitted, upsized wheels and tyres, perhaps the larger rollers will make our experience more authentic. Hopefully no potholes formed against us shall prosper.
Our car wears Reef Blue Metallic paint, a no-cost option.
Yes, the pictures you see here are illustrative — before you cry fake news. Be assured that it will be treated to a personalised photography session before the next update.
Next up: optional leather upholstery (R9,950); sunroof (R11,900); park distance control (R3,350); dual-zone climate control (R3,950); LED headlamps (R13,200); and, rather curiously, the smokers’ package with lighter and ashtray (R300).
Luckily, ambitions to contravene cigarette bans of any kind were extinguished when my habit was kicked nearly two years ago. Still, maybe there would be some cool factor in purchasing that accessory many GTI drivers view as a must-have: a vaporiser replete with confectionery-flavoured fluid. Just kidding. Fresh air is just fine for me.
Besides, you need to take a deep breath before quoting the as-tested price of this B-segment athlete: R447,050. But there is another way to view this. Given that it employs the same basic engine hardware as its pricier, larger sibling, the outgoing Golf 7.5 GTI, some would label it a budget-friendlier alternative. The descriptor is used loosely in these austere times, of course.