Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo is a supermini car (subcompact) manufactured by Volkswagen. It is sold in Europe and other markets worldwide in hatchback, saloon, coupé and estate variants.

The Polo was first introduced in 1975.

The Volkswagen Polo Mk1 (sometimes written in Roman numerals as Mark I) is the first generation of the Volkswagen Polo supermini. It was produced from 1975 until 1981.

Polo Mark 1 (1975-1979)

The original Polo (known internally as the Typ 86), a rebadged version of the Audi 50, was introduced in 1975 on mainland Europe and was launched in the UK in 1976. The differences between the Audi and VW models were minor, with the Polo being cheaper and much more basic. The two cars were initially sold alongside each other, but the Audi 50 never sold as well, and was withdrawn in 1978.

The manufacturer let it be known that Bertone had been involved in the styling of the Polo and it's Audi sibling, although the car was essentially an in-house Audi design, with the Italian design studio's contribution restricted to the circular extractor vent cover at the base of the C pillar, and the small "flick-up" at the rear end of the waist line.

The Polo was manufactured at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg. In 1977, the Derby sedan was released, which was simply a Polo, identical to the hatchback from the C-pillar forward, with a large boot attached (an old Audi proposal, but never sold by this brand).

When first on sale the range topping car, the LS model, featured the 50 PS (37 kW) 1043 cc engine found in the Audi 50. Other specifications included parking lights, rear wash wipe, sun visors, chromed bumpers and 4.5J X 13" wheels. The N model was the basic starting spec lacking many of the features of the LS. In 1979 the GLS was introduced, replacing the LS as the range-topping car; specification upgrades included chrome headlight and grill surrounds, sunroof, a cigarette lighter and chrome wheel trims.

895 cc, producing 40 bhp (30 kW; 41 PS) 1093 cc and 1272 cc engines were used, with the smaller one used only in the Polo hatchback, and the 1272 cc only in the Derby, Audi 50, and the rare Polo GT. Different levels of compression were used on each size to achieve different power outputs, and the variations are numerous, often differing depending on the country of sale, ranging from 34 to 60 PS (26 to 44 kW).

Polo Mark 1 facelift (1979-1981)

The Mark 1 Polo and Derby were facelifted in 1979 (unofficially referred to as the Mark 1F) with plastic bumpers, a different front grille and a revised dashboard. The round headlights of the Derby were replaced with square ones, bringing it inline with the similar Golf-based Jetta sedan.

Further models were added including CLS, S and an out run LX model. The Mark 1's production run finally ended in October 1981 with over 500,000 Polos sold worldwide.

Polo Mark 2

A revised Polo model (known as the Mark 2 or Mark II, internally designated Typ 86C) was introduced in October 1981, with the major change being the introduction of a new body style with a steep (almost vertical) rear window, as well a version with a diagonal rear window and a similar profile to the previous model. These two body styles were called the Wagon and Coupé respectively, although in fact both were three-door hatchbacks. The latter was added to the range in 1983.

The sedan version was no longer called the Derby in all countries, and was changed to the Polo Classic. Production was expanded to Spain in the mid 1980s following Volkswagen's takeover of SEAT.

1093 cc or 1272 cc engines were available at launch. In 1986, the Polo received numerous technical improvements; amongst many other minor updates, the engines were changed to lower maintenance hydraulic tappets, new camshafts and valve gear and an automatic choke; the 1043 cc engine replaced the 1093 cc, and in some markets the 1.3 litre engine was available with fuel injection and equipped with a catalytic converter. In 1984 an all-new 1.3 litre engine was introduced, which was used in various generations of Polo until 1996.

Available with the 1093 cc engine the Coupé featured additions such as sporting seats trim, wheel arch extensions, rear spoiler, low profile tyres and a rev counter. The GL featured a 60 PS (44 kW) engine. In 1985, the first sporty Polo, the Coupé GT, was introduced with a 75 PS (55 kW) engine, as well as servo assisted brakes, twin headlights, a digital clock, sports seats and a rev counter. Other special feature models were introduced over the rest of the period of the Mark 2 production run including models such as the Twist, Parade and Country.

The Mark 2 Polo was used extensively by Volkswagen to develop future innovations, for example supercharging. The supercharger-equipped GT G40 version was introduced in 1987, in LHD Coupe form only, first as a limited batch of about 500 cars, most of which were sold to VW workers (as a homologated version of the car for the G40 Cup race series) and later as a normal production version. This model featured the 1272 cc engine with a small bore G-Lader supercharger, giving 113 PS (83 kW) at 6000 rpm, as well as modified suspension and the bodywork of the "normal" GT Coupé. The car could reach 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) in 8.1 secs from and had maximum speed of 196 kilometres per hour (122 mph) it was used by VW to set a number of world endurance speed records — such as the 1300 cc class records for speed over 24 hours and speed over a distance of 5000 km. A G-Lader would later be used on the larger and more technically challenging G60 engine used in the Golf and Corrado.

An extremely fuel-efficient 2-cylinder diesel was prototyped in the mid-1980s with a G40 supercharger to overcome its small capacity, although this did not make production. A high-fuel-efficiency model which did make production was Formel E (E for Economy), introduced in 1983. This used a high-compression 1272 cc engine, longer gear ratios and an early-stop-start ignition system (called SSA) that would cut the engine when idle for more than two seconds to save fuel whilst temporarily stopped in traffic, and restart the engine when the gear lever was moved to the left in neutral. The system could be enabled or disabled by means of a toggle switch below the light switch. Similar systems were later used on the Volkswagen Golf Mk3. Similar systems were developed by other car manufacturers.


The Mark 2 was available with the following engines:

  • 1.1 1093 cc 4-cylinder petrol engine (1981–1983)
  • 1.3 1272 cc 4-cylinder petrol engine. (1981–)
  • 1.0 1043 cc 4-cylinder petrol engine (1983–)
  • 1.3 1272 cc 4-cylinder petrol engine with fuel injection and equipped with a catalytic converter. (1983–)
  • 1.3 1272 cc 4-cylinder supercharged petrol engine with 113 PS (83 kW) (GT G40 version 1987 only)
  • 1.3 L 4-cylinder diesel engine (1986–)
  • 1.4 L 4-cylinder diesel engine (1990–)

Trim levels

The VW Polo was available in four trim levels;

  • Fox (1.0, 1.3 petrol, 1.3 diesel)
  • C (1.0, 1.1 petrol, 1.3 diesel)
  • CL (1.0, 1.1, 1.3 petrol, 1.3 diesel)
  • GL (1.1, 1.3 petrol, 1.3 diesel)
  • GT (1.3 petrol)

From 1987, a basic "Fox" trim level was available with a 1.0-litre engine; this was spartanly equipped as a bargain basement model. It was also sold as a diesel version in Europe; this had a 1.3-litre engine. However, neither the 1.3 petrol nor the diesel engines were available in the UK. Otherwise, Versions sold on the Continent were similar to their UK counterparts; this was the same for all Polo Mark 2 versions up to the 1994 redesign.

Polo Mark 2 facelift (1990-1994)

A facelift in 1990 (referred to unofficially as the Mark 2F or IIF) saw square headlights, bigger bumpers and a new interior (dash and door trim). The three different styles (hatchback, coupé hatchback and sedan) were maintained. As well as the cosmetic differences, under the skin the car received modifications to the chassis and suspension as well as the addition of servo-assisted brakes to all models including right hand drive versions. The new Polo still had the 4-cylinder engine but now as well as the carburetor 1.0 L, a fuel injection model was available with single-point injection and all engines came standard with a catalytic converter to combat tightening EU laws on automobile emissions.

The Derby was only produced in Spain, and ceased production in 1992. At this point, the Polo was now terminally dated. The follow-up model, the Mark 3 or Typ 6N version, was already well developed, but due to the high sales numbers, production of the other Polo models (hatchback and Coupé) was continued to 1994 in Wolfsburg and Spain. Volkswagen used the extra two years to restudy the Typ 6N and change the format slightly before introduction in 1994.

Soon after the launch of the Mark 2F, another sporting model was added to the range — a new version of the supercharged G40, now as a full production model in all markets rather than the limited batch of Mark 2 G40s. The engine used a slightly different version of the digifant injection system to allow the use of a catalytic converter, and produced 113 PS (83 kW), which gave 0–100 km/h figures of 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 196 kilometres per hour (122 mph). The car was lowered by 25 mm (1.0 in) over the standard Polo and featuring special edition Le Mans sports seats, similar exterior styling to the GT with the addition of a bee sting aerial and 5.5J X 13" BBS RA cross spoke alloy wheels. As with the previous model, VW Motorsport modified G40 Cup cars were sold for racing in a one-make series, the Volkswagen Polo G40 Cup. The reliability of these vehicles was hampered by early production mistakes and high maintenance costs — parts of the G-Lader can wear out quickly if unmaintained — which damaged the reputation of the supercharging concept. Volkswagen ended its experimentation with supercharged hot hatches at the end of the Polo 2F production run, due to high manufacturing costs and less than enthusiastic sales. The price was little less than that of the basic Golf GTI.

In 1992 VW released a limited number of special edition Polos, with special trim and a G40 engine and suspension. The "Genesis" G40 was made to special order only. A single right hand drive example found its way to the UK. This one-off model was a competition prize when the VW-sponsored Genesis tour reached its UK leg.

Trim levels

Trim levels were Fox, CL, GL and Genesis. The Fox was the entry-level model, only available with a 1.0-litre engine, but in Europe it had a 1.3-litre version.


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