VW Polo 6 R GTI Used Car Review

What's a used car worth? Get an instant report today on Trade values, Retail values & historical transactions.
Post Reply
User avatar
VWCSA Member
Posts: 3075
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2007 9:12 am
Car Make: 2007 VW
Car Model: Golf 5 GTI
Membership No: 3337
Location: Groot Gat

VW Polo 6 R GTI Used Car Review

Post by kingr »

The first Polo in VW's history to be declared the European Car Of The Year in 2010, the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG remains one of the most popular "small" hot-hatches today. Here is our comprehensive buyer's guide, covering the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG history, specifications and common problems to help you make an informed decision!

Polo MK5 6R GTI Model Years: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

Vehicle Specifications:
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Capacity (cm3): 1,390
  • Bore/Stroke (mm): 76.5 / 75.7
  • Valves (per cylinder): 4
  • Compression Ratio: 10,0:1
  • Power Output (kW @ r/min): 132 @ 6200
  • Torque (Nm @ r/min): 250 @ 2000 - 4500
  • Transmission: 7-speed DSG (dry clutch)
  • Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.9
  • Top Speed (km/h): 229
  • Fuel Consumption (combined, litres/100km): 5.9
  • Fuel Tank (litres): 45
  • Boot Space (litres): 204
  • Weight: 1269
  • Tyres: 215/40 R17
  • CO2 Emissions (g/km): 139
  • Service Interval: 15000km
  • Warranty: 3-year/120,000km
  • Service Plan: 5-year/60,000km

Vehicles fitted with the 1.4L R4 16v TSI/TFSI:
  • VW Tiguan (2009)
  • VW Golf MK6 (2009)
  • VW Touran (2006)
  • VW Scirocco (2008)
  • Audi A3 ( 2008)


The end of 2019 will mark the 44th anniversary of the Volkswagen Polo's existence. The first "people's" mini car got its start in 1975 as a rebadged Audi 50, sharing the same Type-86 platform. While it was sold along with its pricier German cousin, the Audi 50 didn't match the Polo's success. The big Whigs at the Volkswagen group decided to have the Polo as a standalone model in the B or mini-hatch segment, while it orientated the Audi badge towards larger and more luxurious models. With the massive expansion of the VW Group in the '80s and '90s, gobbling up SEAT and Skoda, the Polo has continued to share platforms with its Czech and Spanish extended family.

In those four decades, the Polo has been a mainstay of the mini, supermini or B-segment class. While rivals have come and gone, like the Austin Metro and Fiat Uno, the Polo's only real historical and present competition, arguably, is the Ford Fiesta. The VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG, was noticeably different from its historical predecessors as well as the small hot-hatch market in the 2000s. When the Ford Fiesta ST launched in 2010, it didn't feel like you were comparing two cars that were competing for the same audience. Some may snort at the suggestion, and many would say that's quite obvious especially if you compare the new MK6 Polo GTI and Fiesta ST Mk7 today. But back in the 2000s, it wasn't obvious, nor was it expected.

Let us explain by taking you back to the hot-hatches of the early and late 2000s. Much like the drivers themselves, this was an era of excessive neon and ostentatious small pocket rockets that looked like they came out a cereal box — blasting primitive techno music while keeping pace with M or AMG-powered sports saloons with their Golf shirt and Bluetooth-handset wearing drivers. The hot-hatches of the 2000s were counter-cultural, excessive, loud and exciting. This is the era that spawned the Civic Type-R VTEC, the Clio RS 200 and the 2003 Clio V6, the Ford Focus RS500 and the Golf 32R with its ridiculous V6 engine. The engines were bigger, the styling more ridiculous, manufacturers were vying for Nurburgring records and Green Day was topping the charts.

But manufacturers have calmed down since the excess of the 2000s. The engines are smaller and more advanced, the styling toned down and we now have XXXTentacion topping charts.

In a weird repeat of history, VW decided to reorientate the Polo into a different direction - much like Audi in the 70s. No longer will the Polo have an overly gelled up, blue-collar techno-fiend behind the wheel, but a refined professional who prefers the races over the raves. The VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG is precisely that, more refined and subtle. There's no big shiny red start button that you see in the Honda Type-R or the various race orientated options you see in the Fiesta ST.

But don't let that dissuade you, despite having the 1.4L version engine, the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG still has exciting performance even by today's standards. It's a comfortable and pleasant everyday driving car, but it will still bring a smile to your face when you push it through the corners. The interior styling is still attractive and oozes quality 10 years later, and much like it's exterior it gets confused often with its larger Golf 6 GTI counterpart.

Is The Polo MK5 6R GTI Right For You?

The Polo Mk5 6R GTI is still massively appealing as used hot-hatch option today.


The element of longevity, not only in its performance credentials but it's interior and exterior don't feel outdated 10 years later. It has all the premium comforts you'd expect from Voice Control and adaptive cruise control to parking distance control. The styling still feels refined and clean; the ergonomics are sleek and driver-orientated, which means you won't get tired of it very quickly. If you liked the exterior design language of the VW Golf MK6 GTI, it's hard not to like the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG.

At the time, and still excellent by today's standards, the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG was the most fuel-efficient and lowest CO2 emitting GTI of all time. Agile, efficient and powerful but without compromising on everyday driveability. The combination of direct injection, supercharger and turbocharger turns the modest 1.4L engine into a 132kW sprinter, capable of 250 Nm Torque and launching the Polo 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds! The DSG dual-clutch transmission strikes the perfect balance between efficiency and performance with a touch of the accelerator. Despite being 15mm lower and with stiffer dampers the Polo MK5 6R GTI still drives like an everyday car. The sportier chassis and familiar McPherson suspension transfers the power cleanly in the hard turns, but only when it needs to. Unlike the Ford Fiesta ST, where you can feel every grain of asphalt on the road even at lower speeds, the Polo MK5 6R GTI is a pleasant everyday car. It's quiet and comfortable on the long drives as well as fun and exciting through the apex.

If you're looking for a used hot-hatch that's exciting but still has the contemporary comforts you'd expect from a new car, the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG ticks those boxes. Used VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG is still numerous and popular on the South African market, and prices are competitive. Before you get your cheque book out, it's advisable to vet any used car that’s for sale, but especially a performance orientated car like the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG as they are more prone to previous owner abuse. The last thing you want to be stuck with is a failure-prone Polo GTI, as repairs will set you back a fair bit. Performance cars always cost more to maintain, and you should look into getting an extended warranty to at least cover the potentially most expensive repairs should a failure occur.

VW Polo MK5 6R GTI Common Problems:

Unfortunately, it's not all unicorns and rainbows with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG as multiple problems shared by multiple drivers have been reported over the years. The upside to this is that there are 10 years worth of information related to these problems, and VW has been active to address some these with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG. With that being said, if you're looking to buy a used VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG always do a VIN number check and reference the service book to see if any of those common problem parts have been replaced or addressed.

#1 Engine Piston Failure:

Probably the most common and costly problem reported with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG is engine piston ring failure or malfunction usually associated with the piston ring itself. So much so that VW Australia released a "service campaign", declaring that it wasn't a "safety issue" but rather a need for affected drivers to take their cars to the dealership for an engine software update.

However, numerous reports of excessive exhaust smoke reduced compression levels along with the loss of powerpoint towards a piston ring problem that an "engine software update" will not solve. The problem is not only associated with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG but all models that have the 118 1.4L TSI twin-charged engine such as the; Golf and Jetta. VW, naturally, has an excellent PR team and the problem has been diminished to a minor piston ring batch problem rather than a potentially costly recall for a piston design flaw. Regardless, before buying a VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG reference the service book and see if the dealership addressed this problem. Most drivers report this problem early on (as early as 10,000km), and a vast majority of those drivers that report the problem have also admitted that they run some aftermarket software.

The cost of repairing a damaged piston ring or related problem is enormous and requires an immense amount of labour. The engine needs to be removed and stripped down to diagnose the damaged component. Gaskets, big-end bearings, piston and ring set among several other components also have to be replaced in the repair process. It's recommended that you acquire an extended warranty plan just for that added peace of mind and you adopt preventive maintenance as failing to deal with engine piston failure can lead to additional damage to your car.

Function: The primary function of a piston is to act as a moveable plug in the cylinder, forming the bottom part of the combustion chamber. The gas-tight seal or compression seal between the piston and the cylinder wall prevents the combustion gases from expanding and escaping and thus forces the piston down in its typical motion. The piston is connected to the crankshaft through a connecting rod which forms part of the piston assembly. The small space between the piston and cylinder wall is bridged by the piston rings, which slide into grooves or ring lands on the piston or piston belt. The oil control ring allows excess oil being sprayed onto the cylinder walls to escape; a faulty oil control ring will lead to carbon buildup, high emissions and excessive exhaust smoke.

Symptoms of Failure:
  • Excessive exhaust smoke
  • Excessive oil consumption
  • Difficulty accelerating due to reduced compression
Cost to replace? In the area of R30,000 to R40,000, along with the additional components that are recommended to be replaced during the piston ring repair process. A large part of the cost is due to the intense labour required.

#2 Charge Pressure Change Over Valve:

If the reduced power isn't a symptom of an engine piston ring fault, it's very likely that its due to a valve within the boost system. Unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do as the driver to prevent this, but the upside is that the problem isn't catastrophic, nor is it expensive to repair. VW will be able to diagnose the problem quickly as the onboard system will have a direct error code indicating the problem, so you won't completely strip the assembly to diagnose the issue. The only thing you can do as a driver is to be aware of an obvious sign of diminishing power.

The reports on forums regarding the issue with charge pressure change over the valve with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG indicate that the actual valve itself gets "stuck" and mechanically jams rather than a wastegate problem.

Function: The boost valve allows the turbo to spool, in a linear fashion, and then releases pressure quickly once you've hit the boost threshold. The wastegate controls the exhaust flow around the turbo, and the boost valve, to control boost levels. By opening the wastegate, increasing the flow of exhaust, the boost is decreased and vice-versa. The wastegate doesn't operate as "open" and "closed" but modulated by varying degrees to create a desired level of boost.

Symptoms of Charge Pressure Change Over Valve:
  • Decreased power, especially under load.

Cost Of Repair? Depending on where you go, you're looking at around two hours of labour excluding the cost of parts.

#3 Water Pump Failure

Another common issue reported with VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG is water pump failure. The Polo relies on a fan clutch assembly within the water pump system, and usually, this is where the problem lies. A fault in the fan clutch regardless if its a thermostatic or electric fan will have the same outcome - overheating. If left too late, you could end up having to replace a whole host of other components as a result of substandard cooling and the wear it has on your car. The upside to this problem is that regardless of the specific issue with the water pump whether it be coolant leaks or corroded impellers, most mechanics will recommend replacing the entire water pump system including the drive belt and other drive components as a preventative measure.

If you're looking at a used VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG, VW recommends replacing the water pump at 90,000km. Water pump failure shouldn't be a problem with higher mileage Polo's granted that they have stuck to the service intervals.

Symptoms of Water Pump Failure:
  • Steam coming from the radiator. If you're at this point, you've obviously known about the problem for a while and left it too late. Call a tow-truck.
  • Coolant Leak, usually at the front-centre of your car.
  • Rust, deposit buildup and corrosion of water pump due to gradual leakage.
  • Whining, usually as a result of a loose pulley, or bearing/rattle-type noise.
  • Error Code P1296 Engine Cooling Malfunction.
Cost Of Replacement? For the OEM Water pump alone you're looking at around the R5000 area, and that excludes the four-hour estimated labour time.

#4 Turbo Failure

Another problem reported with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG is a complete turbo failure due to the retaining nut on the compressor actually breaking off and lodging itself into the internal components creating immense damage. A loose impeller lock nut or turbo compressor wheel nut coming loose is usually as a result of worn bearings due to oil contamination, allowing the impeller wheel to rub and stall against the housing which loosens the locknut. But usually, it's attributed to foreign object damage to the compressor or turbine wheel, thus putting it out of balance.

Function: Turbochargers are usually manufactured with shafts that rotate clockwise, and shaft/impeller lock nuts that have a left-hand thread. Locknuts with left-hand threads have a self-tightening effect on the shaft, and that's how it's secured as opposed to right-hand threads. The two modes of turbo operation are acceleration and deceleration of the rotating assembly. When accelerating, there's a high degree of torque loading between the turbine (driving) and compressor wheel (driven). During acceleration, the torque loadings are much lower as the turbo slows down. Right-hand threaded lock nuts are fine, but they have the added risk of being improperly tightened upon installation.

Symptoms Of Failure:
  • Loss of power.
  • Slower, but louder acceleration (as your engine attempts to bridge the gap in power loss)
  • Difficulty maintaining higher speeds.
  • Error Code P0299 (Check Engine Light)
  • Grey/Blueish smoke
Cost Of Replacement? You have a few options when it comes to replacement, and that will ultimately affect the cost. You can go with the costlier OEM part or the direct installation, plug-in-and-play non-OEM. The labour required is quite intensive, usually taking up to 6-hours.

#5 Timing-Chain and Tensioner Issues

These are two separate issues that get reported, but they are interrelated. The timing-chain issue is usually due to the chain stretching over time, and skipping a "tooth". A broken timing-chain will prevent the engine from starting or stopping completely while driving, causing immense damage to related components on the way. A broken chain could lead to the pistons and valves being damaged from contact with each other and the camshaft being warped among several issues. The chain tensioner issue isn't something you can really prevent other than keeping a close eye on some possible symptoms as the tensioner affects how the chain drive the pulleys in the sub-assembly and this ultimately affects performance and functionality.

  • Timing-Chain:The timing chain is the link between the crankshaft and the camshaft that transmits the rotation of the crankshaft to the camshaft. Effectively controlling the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves within the engine.
  • Chain Tensioner: Is a pulley mounted on a spring mechanism or adjustable pivot point that is used to keep tension on the engine serpentine belts. When this stretches or becomes worn, the effectiveness of driving the various engine accessories is diminished, which has a massive influence on your car's performance and driveability.
Symptoms Of Timing-Chain Failure:
  • Engine misfiring or rough idling and rattling noise.
  • Metal shavings found in the oil (due to excessive wear on head valves)
  • Engine fails or won't start.
  • Error Codes: P0016 (Crank/Cam position sensor) or P0328 (Knock Sensor).
Symptoms of Chain Tensioner Failure:
  • Grinding or squealing noise from the belts or tensioner.
  • Unusual belt wear.
  • Belt-driven accessories fail (alternator, water pump, AC compressor)
Cost To Replace? Replacing the timing-chain or tensioner is not cheap, but significantly less expensive than fixing a broken engine with internal damage to your sub-assembly.

#6 Camshaft Adjuster Gear

This issue is just related to general wear over time, which will affect higher mileage and older cars. Unlike the VW Golf 6 GTI, where the camshaft and adjustor gear are one unit, with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG if you have a problem with the adjuster gear you won't have to replace the camshaft as well. Failure usually occurs around the 100,000km to 120,000km mark, so It's recommended to get an extended warranty on your used VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG particularly if it has high mileage.

Function: The camshaft adjuster forms part of the VVT (variable valve timing) system, the adjuster primarily controls the adequate flow of oil through the VVT system when it's engaged. The VVT system delivers extra power to the vehicle when travelling under load or stress. If the adjuster is faulty, it won't be able to provide an adequate amount of lubricant to the timing chain and gears, thus causing friction and excessive wear that can lead to engine failure as well as additional repairs.

Symptoms of Camshaft Adjuster Gear Failure:
  • Lowered fuel efficiency and suboptimal performance.
  • Whining noise coming from the camshaft area.
  • Contaminated engine oil (not from the gear itself, but lack of proper maintenance will lead to debris buildup which affects the adjuster.)
  • Rough idling
  • Error Code: P0011 Camshaft Position "A" - Timing Over-Advanced or System Performance (Bank 1)
Cost To Repair? The cost of just the camshaft adjuster unit itself will depend on the use of an OEM or non-OEM part, but it's actually quite low. The labour cost is what you'll primarily be paying for as its an arduous process that can take up to 6 hours.

#7 Fuel Injector Failures

The fuel injectors on the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG commonly fail due to leaks or electronic failure. Thankfully, VW will be able to pick up fairly quickly if the fault is due to an electronic however, you’ll still need to replace the fuel injectors. The trick is to be aware of the symptoms and resolve the problem as quickly as possible. A proper fuel injector cleaning can restore your injectors at a fraction of the cost of replacing them new. A leaking fuel injector is a fire hazard and has the potential to cause severe engine damage if left unchecked. Unfortunately, the fuel injectors remain a common problem with the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG, but preventative maintenance will help avoid costly replacements in the future.

Function: A direct petrol fuel injector acts like an electrically operated gate that delivers fuel into the combustion chamber. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) manages when the fuel injector should inject its fuel into the engine cylinder, but a leaking fuel injector will require replacement. It's recommended that cleaning the fuel injectors should be done every 20,000km to 30,000km. Usually, fuel injectors fail as a result of clogging or general wear and tear over time.

Symptoms Of Fuel Injector Failure:
  • Rough idle or engine stalls
  • Engine misfiring
  • Noticeable fuel odour and leak
  • Decreased fuel economy
Cost Of Replacement? Again, the cost will be dependent on where you go, but as far as components go fuel injectors are relatively cheap.

#8 DSG Clutch Failure

Probably the most disappointing problem that's commonly reported is the premature wear of the Polo GTI's DSG clutch system. The Polo utilizes the 7-speed DSG gearbox, and it also utilizes a dry-clutch system.

From what we've seen in the forums, VW seems confident that the problem rests solely with the control module that isn't adapting or compensating for the "slip" as you push your car. This usually results in the car going into a failsafe mode or "limp" mode, which will limit the transmission to a single gear only. Bear in mind, clutches are not immune to general wear and tear, and VW recommends replacing the DSG clutch at 100,000km. But it's the premature failure one should look out for, and to spot the problem as early as possible. Before buying your used VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG, always to a VIN number check and reference the service book to see if the DSG clutch has been replaced and adopt preventive maintenance from there.

Function: VW's DSG dual-clutch gearbox combines the best of both worlds, the ease of a conventional automatic transmission (CVT) and the power of a manual transmission. It consists of two independent gearbox units, through the dual-clutch, both gearboxes are connected alternately and positively to the engine via two drive shafts depending on the odd/even gear. The dual clutch's hydraulic actuators allow gear changes to be executed without any reduction in traction.

Symptoms Of DSG Clutch Failure:
  • Squeaky sound when pulling away coming from the transmission tunnel.

  • Shuddering or notchy changes through gears (especially 1st and 2nd gear).
  • Car enters the failsafe or "limp" mode.
  • Cost Of Replacement? Incredibly expensive and labour intensive, expect costs rising up to R20,000.
#9 DSG Mechatronic Unit Failure

Last but not least, the final commonly reported problem with VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG is issues relating to the mechatronic unit within the DSG assembly. Unfortunately for you as the driver, there isn't anything you can do to prevent a mechatronic unit failure but only to keep a lookout for the symptoms while you drive the car or before you buy the car. Failure can occur due to a faulty oil pump or just an electronic failure within the unit. If you're testing a used VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG, drive it in multiple conditions (traffic, open road, low speed, high speed) and go through all the gears.

Function: The mechatronics module in the DSG assembly is the computerized control part of the dual-clutch system. Which means its complex and hard to troubleshoot if things go wrong.

Symptoms Of DSG Mechatronic Module Failure:
  • Gearbox Failure Warning Error.
  • Gears "popping" out.

  • Jerky or notchy gear changes.
Cost Of Replacement? Incredibly expensive to replace due to its complexity and labour intensity. Costs can reach up to R15,000.


The VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG still remains a popular car despite the problems reported with it. The engine is still exciting despite being smaller than the 1.8L engine introduced in 2014. If you're looking for an affordable, refined and exciting hot-hatch, the VW Polo 6R GTI 1.4tsi DSG ticks those boxes.

Find your used VW Polo MK5 6R GTI here!
- 07" Golf 5 GTi, 6MT, RamAir Intake, TMSS DP, Bridgestone Potenza RE11s/RE003
- 13" BMW 1-Series 118i AT

Ex: 13" ST180, 03" Mk4 2 door 1.8T Stage 2, 07" Velo 1.6, 83" Mk1 GT 2.0 8v MP9, 87" Mk1 1.6 CitiSport, 88" Mk2 2.0 16v, 83" Mk1 GT 1.6 + 40 webers
Post Reply