Ignition Photography’s Chris and his Polo GTI

Cars Volkswagen

If I had to sum this car up in one phrase, it’d be “It’s actually a Polo”. The Mk6 Polo has grown up a lot since its predecessor and is almost always mistaken for a Golf by a lot of people! This segways nicely on to one of the main reasons I bought it. 

My previous car was a Mk7 VW Golf GTD, which was a decent and quick car but lacked the fun and excitement of a petrol. It was also always in the shadow of the GTI’s and R’s.

After a bit of a disaster with the GTD where the oil pump failed at around 100mph causing the whole bottom end and turbo to go, VW could never quite repair it to its former glory.

New engine, turbo, driveshafts, mounts and much more, but always issues. I’d had my eye on the Polo GTI for a while, seeing as it shares the same engine as the Golf GTI, R, Leon Cupra and S3 to name a few (just the smaller IS20 turbo).

This meant that it came with a proven 2.0t engine unlike the downsized competitors and had a huge range of parts already on the market.

VW agreed a generous part ex value of the Golf and I bought the Polo brand new in November 2019.

The Polo has sort of been a testing ground for a lot of the future Golf tech so was more modern, as fast and more unique – whilst being £8k cheaper for me in the end!

The early days

The day I got the car I was so over the moon about finally having a proper GTI, after years of GTD’s, Audi S-Lines etc.

It was a blast for the first couple of months coming from a diesel, but the fun started to wear off – the new emissions regulations meaning an OPF meant almost zero exhaust noise, obvious fake cabin noise and the familiar old feeling of being a shadow of the Golf GTI. 

The first mods I did were to get rid of the poor OEM tyres for some Michelin PS4. After that, a couple of cheap bits such as headlight eyebrows, wind deflectors and rear badge inlays.

I then bit the bullet and bought a JB4, a well-known and common tuning box for VW platform cars. The car was a bit more lively and allowed tweaking of boost on the fly so was useful throughout the summer when the intercooler got a bit overwhelmed.

Just before lockdown hit, I managed to squeeze in at an exhaust shop for a silencer and backbox delete.

Usually this would of made it ridiculously loud, but as the OPF was left in it isn’t too loud unless under full load and doesn’t drone when cruising. Pretty much the perfect result for me and saved me £500 compared to the Milltek systems which sound almost identical! 


It goes without saying, if you don’t have any issues, it’s not a real VW. True to that phrase, my first engine light came on at the ripe old age of 1400 miles. Luckily it was due to the MAF connector which the factory decided didn’t need to be plugged in properly, so an easy fix at home. 

There have been issues since, one of which is a very common modern VW issue – front radar problems. Luckily I haven’t been plagued with it seeing “ghost cars”, where it decides there is something in front of you and decides to brake.

Instead, my radar occasionally likes to pretend it can’t see, throwing up an unnecessary amount of warning lights on the dash (4!) and disabling a lot of systems like launch control and cruise control. 

The other issue is a bit more annoying. Rarely (thankfully), the engine will turn itself off when you crawl to a stop. It’s not to do with start stop which has made it even more complicated to pinpoint. No vagcom error codes or other symptoms, just a strange random issue. Weather, temperature, battery voltage / drain amongst many other things have been checked and none of them affect it so the hunt continues. 

The only other thing is an annoying “Moo” noise when reversing. Something to do with the brakes on the rear causes it to sound like a cow when reversing at slow speed!

Recent progress

In the last month, I’ve invested a bit more into making it a proper little hot hatch. It’s been lowered on 35mm H&R springs that work brilliantly with the adaptive dampers. I’ve had a large Ramair intake for the S3 / Golf R fitted. A larger turbo inlet elbow and large turbo outlet also which also removes the muffler, meaning more turbo noise!

The real kicker though is the Stage 1 software for the ECU and DSG from JBS. This managed 256bhp as well as a higher redline, faster gearbox shifts and improved launch control. 

I attend some shows when I’ve got people to tag along with, but my main aim with this car is not to be showy. It is instead to make it a pocket rocket that surprises a lot of bigger cars. At 200bhp per tonne currently, it’s already achieving that goal but there are more gains to be had.

A sports cat and FMIC will see over 300bhp, and there’s the final option of the IS38 turbo off the Golf R and S3 which can safely take this engine to almost 400bhp!

My photography journey

Outside of cars me and my partner also do photography of dog shows and racing. I thought I’d start shooting cars last year and it’s turned out pretty well.

I decided to set up a photography business, Ignition, and I’m now branching out and offering photoshoots to anyone interested.

Ignition do things a bit differently. Anyone can pick up a camera, apply a filter & watermark them. We’ve got experience driving and appraising cars for dealers so know how to get shots that can really show off a car.

We’ve also invested in loads of tech, such as modern DSLRs and lenses, GoPros and a drone! As well as that we’ve got permanent backup storage for any clients and we don’t charge per photo.

Despite all of this investment, I’m the cheapest for car photography around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire as far as I’m aware. Often I offer completely free shoots for portfolio building, so keep an eye on our facebook page!

Find our Facebook page right here and ask us about our car shoots!

Full spec and mods

  • 256bhp
  • JBS Stage 1 ECU software
  • JBS Stage 1 DSG software
  • Ramair Open Intake (Golf R / S3 with minor modification)
  • CM Uprated Turbo Inlet
  • CM Turbo Muffler Delete
  • H&R 35mm Springs
  • Modified Audi S3 engine cover
  • Headlight Eyebrows
  • Carbon mirror caps
  • Kill all wipers Rear Wiper delete
  • EZM Rear badge paint matched inlay
  • Heko Wind Deflectors
  • Racingline style DSG shift paddles

Written by Chris Davern of Ignition and edited by Richard Goodall at The Car Scene

Sign up and enjoy future features. Please show your support and help us continue our work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *