Ford Figo Sports Edition vs Volkswagen Polo GT TDI: Which one’s hotter?
The feisty little Ford Figo diesel hatchback comes with an extra dose of attitude in the Figo Sports Edition, but it has a tough adversary in the Volkswagen Polo GT TDI.autos Updated: Jun 17, 2017 12:55 IST
The Volkswagen Polo GT TDI has long been revered as the only affordable, yet fun, diesel hatchback. Now, however, it needs to defend its title against another diesel hatch, the Ford Figo Sports Edition. Both are similar in terms of power, come only with manual gearboxes, and promise to be frugal and fun. It’s time to find out which one is worth your money.
Before we get to the driving bits, let’s get acquainted with the cars. The Polo GT TDI and the Figo S (Sports) don’t look very different from their regular hatch counterparts. The Polo GT TDI differentiates itself from the standard Polo via some ‘GT’ badges and a more powerful engine. The Figo S, on the other hand, can be recognised with its honeycomb grille, smoked headlamps, black roof, ‘S’ decals along the sides, 15-inch black alloys and fatter 195/55-section tyres.
From behind the wheel
The Polo GT TDI and the Figo S are both powered by 1.5-litre, turbocharged diesel engines, mated to five-speed manual gearboxes. The Figo S puts out 100hp, while the Polo GT TDI makes a stronger 110hp.
Save for the motor, the Polo GT carries over the mechanical bits – steering and suspension – from the standard car. The Figo S gets the same powertrain as the regular diesel Figo, but its steering and suspension have been tweaked to improve handling.
What’s clear is that neither of the two is a true-blue hot hatch. Yes, the diesel engines are punchy, but performance is never manic, and neither is agility. Nevertheless, they are loads of fun to drive.
The Polo GT TDI’s engine is punchy, with the bulk of the power kicking in at medium engine speeds. And this is where the car feels strongest. It responds only after 1,900rpm and really comes alive after 2,100rpm. Thereon, power delivery is strong all the way till 5,000rpm. It’s capable of dashing from standstill to 100 kph in a brisk 10.51sec.
There is a noticeable engine clatter at idle, and vibrations filter into the cabin too, but the engine never feels strained, even when revved hard. The gearshifts are precise and quick. The clutch, however, is on the heavier side, and pedal-travel is longer than most would like.
The Polo GT TDI’s low-speed ride is quite absorbent, but there’s some amount of leaning and wallowing. It feels a lot more hunkered-down at higher speeds, and takes road undulations with a muted thud. Through bends, the car feels composed and there’s ample grip from the tyres.
The Figo S’ 1.5-litre diesel engine is pretty impressive, and feels livelier than the Polo’s at low engine speeds. It pulls cleanly until 5,000rpm in an almost petrol-like manner. Performance is also good as it does 0-100kph in 10.55sec, which is as fast as the Polo. However, post 4,500rpm, it starts running out of steam, and the engine gets quite noisy. Gearshifts are smooth, though not as precise as the Polo’s, and the clutch is heavy and springy too.
Ride and handling is the real differentiator between the regular Figo and the Figo S. It’s absorbent and cushy at low and high speeds, and the steering feels direct too. It also has more grip than the standard version. Where the Figo S really shines is when you step up the pace. It feels extremely secure and comfortable at speed, and the sharper handling makes it thrilling to drive around bends.
The cabins of the two cars feature a few sporty touches. In the Polo GT TDI, changes are limited to different seat upholstery, ‘GT’-badged door sills and aluminium-finished pedals. There aren’t many substantial changes in the cabin of the Figo S either. The only things that set it apart from the regular hatch are a leather-wrapped steering, red double-stitching for the upholstery and piano-black inserts on the dash as opposed to the regular car’s silver bits.
Dominating the Polo GT TDI’s restrained, but tastefully executed, dashboard is a touchscreen infotainment system. The multifunction steering wheel is flat-bottomed, and controls are tactile and intuitive. The seats too are comfortable and supportive. Space for the front passengers is adequate, though it could get cramped in the rear for taller passengers.
Unlike the clean look of the Polo GT TDI’s dashboard, the Figo S’ dash is all about shapes and swooping lines. Its design may not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s adequately functional. The central console is button-riddled, and there’s a monochrome screen media system with Bluetooth; no touchscreen here. However, Ford has a clever ‘dock’ on the dash to hold your phone in landscape mode if you wish to use it for navigation. The seats are large and comfortable, and space is more generous than in the Polo GT. In terms of both legroom and width, even three people will find the space at the rear acceptable.
On the safety front, both cars are almost matched. They get ABS, ESP and dual front airbags as standard, but the Ford also offers electronic brake distribution and option of curtain airbags.
In terms of convenience, the GT has the upper hand; alloy wheels, automatic climate control, driver-side seat height adjust, Bluetooth and USB are on offer. It also gets a touchscreen infotainment system, parking camera and sensors, cruise control, along with a steering wheel that’s adjustable for rake and reach; the Figo’s steering only gets rake adjustment.
And the winner is…
The Polo GT TDI recently received a slight bump up in power and that makes it even more enjoyable to drive. It’s quite quick, and because VW’s diesel engine likes to rev hard, it is well-suited to enthusiastic
driving as well. Additionally, the car is beautifully finished and put together, and the Polo’s design still looks crisp, fresh and beautifully proportioned.
However, it’s the Figo that wins because it is the more fun-to-drive car of the two. Straight-line performance is almost as strong as the Polo, the engine pulls better at low engine speeds, and, unlike the gruff Polo, it feels almost petrol-like to drive at times. What sets it apart is just how much nicer it is to drive around corners. And how could you ever forget that it’s over Rs 2 lakh cheaper than the Polo GT TDI? Yes, the interiors are nowhere as nice, and you don’t get a touchscreen, but if you are looking for a fast and fun diesel hatchback, the Ford Figo S is the one to go for.
(In partnership with Autocar India)