LONG-TERM UPDATE 8 | A year with the VW Polo GTI is nearly over

18 November 2020 - 12:21 By brenwin naidu
Life with the VW Polo GTI has been almost foible-free.
Life with the VW Polo GTI has been almost foible-free.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

Over the past eight months and 11,600km you could say a real bond has been forged with our Reef Blue Metallic Volkswagen Polo GTI.

From a solitary confinement chamber when things in the house got too frantic under lockdown, to a willing companion over two cross-country jaunts, its soul and character successfully crept into the ventricles of a car-loving heart.

To the point where the prospect of having to hand back the keys to Volkswagen South Africa in April next year leaves me anxious. There are just over four months left with the car and if you have been following our monthly chronicles, you would have a pretty accurate picture of what can be expected from the ownership experience.

It has not been gripe-free, with a few criticisms levelled at the car and a number of quirks that came to the fore. No serious deal-breakers, though. It can be said with confidence that the virtues of the locally-built German hatchback eclipse the foibles. If you want a B-segment compact with superb performance, street credibility and build quality in equal measure, you would struggle to do better.

Since the slightly torturous more than 3,000km trip (with a full load) reported on in the seventh update, local commutes had been the main agenda over the past three weeks. Which was a reminder of just how taxing life can be for a car in any major city. Aside from the cut-and-thrust of traffic driving, Johannesburg roads are beginning to resemble obstacle courses as torrential rains wreak havoc on the asphalt.

And then there is the experience of negotiating a heavy downpour. You may agree that fellow road users tend to forget basic driving principles when the clouds open up. In addition, reduced visibility and malfunctioning traffic lights will elevate the blood pressure.

Things are obviously less dramatic from the wheel of the right vehicle. And it must be said that the Polo evinces a rather assuring sense of sturdiness. The cabin is well-insulated, the wipers work with the efficiency you expect and its ventilation system is brilliant – rapid demisting and temperatures that are always comfortable are ensured by the dual-zone climate control system.

Two weeks back, we were caught in a hailstorm. The roads were flooding and the Polo trundled along slowly and sure-footedly. And it was probably glad that we had not removed its Thule headwear, which took the brunt of that violent spray of ice balls, rather than exposing the glass of the panoramic sunroof.

In fairness, the least that can be done as a thanks for such dependability is a good wash – the poor Polo is absolutely filthy. We are talking bugs in its teeth, alloys coated in brake dust and a rear window that someone could draw a dodgy emoji on. Lockdown prompted a ritual of performing a handwash, in my best pair of swimming shorts (sorry, neighbour) and with a good old bucket and sponge. A nurturing act that played a role in breeding such a strong attachment.