The Volkswagen Polo entered the market in 1975 as a supermini (B-class) car. The car was front-engined as well as front wheeled. Since it’s introduction in 1975, the Polo has been, marketed all over the world in six generations with various body configurations.
The first Polo car was a rebadged version of the Audi 50 hatchback. The two cars co-existed until 1978 when production of the Audi 50 was discontinued. The body style of the Polo has been varied through out it’s life from the original hatchback. The car also received saloon, and estate variants.
An agreement with a Japanese dealership Yanase enabled Volkswagen to sell the Polo in Japan in 1982. However, of all Volkswagens imported into Japan, the only ones to comply with the Japanese government dimension regulations were only the Polo (until 2017) and the Golf (until 1997), until the introduction of the VW Up! in 2012.
The Polo has been marketing in six different generations since its first production in 1975. The generations are identified by a Series or Mark number such as Mark I or Mk1 for the first generation. Some generations of the Polo received facelifts and these were identified by adding “F” to the number, for example Mk3F.
Previously, the Polo was manufactured with a four-speed manual transmission. Later versions however used either the five-speed automatic transmission or the six-speed manual transmission.
Although some of the current models use all-round disc brakes, most of the Polo models from the earliest used disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. The Polo has always used the MacPherson strut front suspension and a twist-beam rear suspension.
The Polo was produced as a hatchback, with saloon and estate variants. The hatchback had three doors throughout it Mk1 to Mk5 generations. The saloon had aTwo-door saloon for Mk1, Mk1F, Mk2, Mk2F, and a Four-door saloon Mk3, Mk3F, Mk4, Mk4F, Mk5, and Mk6. The estate was a five-door in Mk3 and Mk3F.
The hatchback got five doors in the Mk3, Mk3F, Mk4, Mk4F, Mk5, and Mk6 generations. A Five-door crossover SUV style hatchback was produced with the Mk4, Mk4F, and Mk5 generations.
The Volkswagen Polo was made with numerous features some of which were improved throughout the six generations as shall be seen with each generation.
Generations of the Volkswagen Polo
a] Volkswagen Polo Mk1
Produced in a Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, the first generation Polo was also known as the Volkswagen Derby. The Polo, as earlier stated, was a rebadged version of the Audi 50. It was introduced in 1975 and produced until October 1981. Although it came a year after the Audi 50, the Polo performed better on the market causing the Audi to be withdrawn.
In 1977, the Derby saloon was released with a large boot attached. The year 1979 saw the Polo Mk1 and Derby receive facelifts with plastic bumpers, a different front grille, and a revised dashboard. The Derby received square headlights which replaced the round ones. The Mk1 Polos were produced with only four-cylinder Petrol engines.
b] Volkswagen Polo Mk2
The second generation Polo came with the end of Polo Mk1 production in October 1981. The car’s major change was the introduction of a third body style called Wagon with a steep rear window known as the steilheck, that came alongside a version resembling the original Mk1 shape with a diagonal rear window that was named Coupé. Both versions were three-door hatchbacks, and in some markets the Wagon version was called the Volkswagen Polo without a suffix. The saloon version of the Polo MkII received the name Volkswagen Derby. With the expansion of production to Spain in the 1980s, two million cars were produced by 1986.
The Polo MkII was one of the largest supermini cars produced at the time of its production. The Polo MkII was used by Volkswagen to develop future innovations including supercharging with a 40-mm G-Lader supercharger in the GT G40 version. The Polo MkII also came with a diesel engine. However, the diesel engined Polo MkII was not available on certain markets such as the UK market.
To overcome the Polo’s engine’s small capacity, fuel-efficient two-cylinder diesel engine was prototyped in the mid 1980s with a G40 supercharger but it did not enter production. A high fuel-efficiency petrol-engined Formel E (E for economy) was introduced at the launch in 1981 with a 1.1-litre engine and from 1983 with a 1.3-litre engine, overdrive top-gear ratio and an early stop-start ignition system which would cut the engine (when idle for more than two seconds) to save fuel whilst temporarily stopped in traffic, and restart the engine on moving the gear lever to the left in neutral.
In 1990, the MkII received a facelift (MkIIF) of all its three body styles with square headlights, enlarged and reshaped tail-lights, bigger bumpers, and a new dashboard and door trim. Modifications to the chassis, suspension, and brakes were also made. The Polo MkIIF retained the four-cylinder engines of the MkII, and now the carburetted 1.0-L, a fuel-injected model was available with single-point injection. The engines came with a catalytic converter to combat tightening European emissions regulations.
Upon launching the Polo MkIIF, the Polo GT was the highest performance model. The car featured a multipoint fuel-injected version of the 1272-cc engine that went from 0 to 100km/hr in 11.1 seconds with a quoted top speed of 107mph. In May 1991, the G40 was introduced with a 120mph top speed and replaced the GT Polo as the most powerful model.
c] Volkswagen Polo MkIII
The Mark III Polo or Typ 6N was the third generation of the Polo. It was introduced in 1994 as a completely new model on a new chassis. It was available in a three- and a five-door hatchback versions. The MkIII five-door hatchback was the first VW to have rear side doors in this class. With Volkswagen’s acquisition of SEAT in the 1980s, the Polo MkIII shared its platform with the SEAT Ibiza Mark 2. These two interchanged numerous mechanical parts and all of the suspension components were interchangeable with the Golf Mk3.
The Polo MkIII had an all-new 1.0-L petrol, the 1.3-L petrol engine from the MKII was briefly used as well as the new 1.4- (8-valve or 16-valve) and 1.6-L petrol engines, and a 1.9-L diesel (with or without a turbocharger). In 1995, Volkswagen rebadged the SEAT Córdoba as the saloon and estate versions of the Mark III. Instead of the European Polo Mark 3, in South African market, the Volkswagen Polo Playa was marketed from 1996 to 2002 when the Polo MkIV was adopted in South Africa.
In 1995, Volkswagen introduced the first GTI-branded Polo. Only 3000 of them were released. The Polo GTI featured a 1.6-L, 16-valve 88 kW engine. The GTI was not sold in the UK until 2000 when the Polo MkIII model was facelifted. The facelifted MkIII Polo came as the 16V and GTI. The 16V had a 1.4-L, 16-valve (V), 74 kW engine while the GTI had a 1.6-L 16-V 92 kW (125 PS) engine with variable valve timing. The GTI was only available in three- or five-door hatchback body styles in three colours red, silver, and black.
d] Volkswagen Polo Mark IV
The fourth generation of the Polo was unveiled in September 2001, but was eventually put on sale in early 2002. It used the same platform as the SEAT Ibiza Mk3, Škoda Fabia Mk1, and Škoda Fabia Mk2. The Polo Mark IV used quadruple round headlights. A saloon version of the Mk4 Polo was marketed only in Latin America, South Africa, China, and Australia. The Mark IV Polo Classic was imported in Australia from China.
A GT model using a 1.9-L TDI ,96 kW engine was produced with a six-speed gearbox. The GT went from 0–100 km/h in over 9 seconds and a midrange clout with torque figures of 310 Nm which gave the GT a very impressive in-gear acceleration. The Polo Mark IV GTI was released later in 2005 with the Mark IV Polo facelift. The GTI boasted a 1.8-L, 110 kW engine like that of the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf GTI completing 0–100 km/h in 8.2 seconds. Although faster than the Mark III’s Polo GTI, it was found slower than its counterparts, most of which were producing 150 kW. In response, the VW quickly beefed up the Polo creating the Polo GTI Cup Edition that had a 130 kW engine completing 0–100 km/h 7.5 seconds.
e] Volkswagen Polo Mark V
In March 2009, at Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen announced the fourth generation of the Polo that shared the same platform with the Audi A1. The Mark V had two saloon versions including; the Volkswagen Vento also known as the Polo Sedan, and the Volkswagen Ameo.
The Volkswagen Ameo was launched in June 2016 for the Indian market.. Its design was derived from the hatchback body of the Polo and retained the shorter wheelbase and the rear doors.
The Polo Sedan was a larger saloon based on the Polo Mk5 platform developed for launch in India and Russia. It has a length of 4,384 mm, increased wheelbase of 2,552 mm and ground clearance of 168–170 mm, and had one petrol 1.6-L, four-cylinder engine 105 PS that had either five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox and one diesel engine (1.6-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder common-rail, 105 PS with only five-speed manual gearbox) options available.
The Mk5 Polo GTI, launched in 2010, is powered by VW’s award-winning 130 kW 1.4-L TSI engine which uses both a supercharger and turbocharger, with a 22 kW increase in power over the previous generation Polo GTI completing 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. The Mk5 Polo is 7.5% lighter than its predecessor. It includes features such as touch-screen satellite navigation and a seven-speed version of VW’s DSG gearbox as standard.
f] Volkswagen Polo Mark VI
Designed by Klaus Bischoff in 2014, the six generation of the Polo was unveiled in 2017. The generation used the Volkswagen Group MQB A0 platform. It was a five-door hatchback and got a four-door saloon version called the Virtus. The Mark VI was the first polo without a three-door body style. With 17 dashboard colours and 14 exterior colours, the car is extremely customizable standard, and comes with a front collision detection, blind-spot assist, and emergency stopping.
This sixth generation comes with a range of 1.0-L, three-cylinder engines with various outputs; 1.0-L 65 PS and 75 PS naturally aspirated versions, a natural gas-powered 1.0-L TGI producing 89 PS and a 95 PS TSI. In 2017, Mk6 Polo GTI was launched in 2017 featuring a 2.0-L turbocharged engine capable of reaching from 0 to 100 km/hr in under 6.7 seconds. It was launched with only six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission available.
In 2020, Russian markets received the Polo liftback that replaced the Mk5 saloon. It was, mechanically, unlike the Mark VI, with a A05+ (PQ25) platform and has a liftback (hence the name) tailgate instead of the conventional saloon trunk opening. It is offered with a 1.6-L MPI four-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine with 66kW with a five-speed automatic gearbox, and 81 kW with a six-speed automatic transmission, and a 1.4-L TSI four-cylinder with 92 kW, only with a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.
In 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, Sébastien Ogier won the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers driving a Volkswagen Polo R WRC.