6 Generations of the Volkswagen Polo
Follow the evolution of one of Europe’s most beloved hatchbacks
It’s crazy to think that the Volkswagen Polo has been selling in huge numbers since 1975 - that’s 43 consecutive years of production and sales across the globe. As of February this year, 14 million Volkswagen Polos had been sold worldwide making it one of the most popular vehicle models of all time. It has certainly solidified its place in the UK as one of the top 3 most popular superminis alongside the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.
Now, in 2018, The Polo entered its 6th generation. So we’re taking five minutes to reflect on how the Polo has adapted and evolved over the years. Let’s get started…
First Generation - 1975 to 1981
The first Polo actually came as a twin sibling to the Audi 50. They were almost identical cars only the VW was more affordable and more basic. The Polo was also considerably more popular.
The First generation Polo was available only with 4-cylinder petrol engines which, by modern standards, are horrifically underpowered but at the time they were more than up to the job. There was no diesel option available. In 1979 the Polo got its first ever mid-life facelift. This involved a new front grille, new plastic bumpers and new headlights. Production finally ended in 1981 when the second generation of the Polo was released, but the First Gen had a solid innings with over 500,000 sales worldwide.
Second Generation - 1981 - 1994
The second generation Polo was on sale for a whole 13 years, the longest production period of any Polo to date. The second generation went on sale with 3 body shapes available, a hatchback, estate and a saloon.
The second generation model endured a lifetime of fierce competition from the likes of the Austin Metro, Ford Fiesta and then later on the Peugeot 205 and Fiat Uno. The Polo was the biggest of the bunch but it was also more expensive. Nonetheless, the second generation experienced huge sales success. The millionth Polo was sold in 1983 and the two millionth sold by 1986. The figures were growing exponentially year on year.
There were 6 different petrol engines to choose from but from 1986 and 1990 respectively, 2 diesel options were included for the first time, a 1.3 litre then a 1.4 litre.
Third Generation - 1994 - 2002
The third generation came as a whole new car. Brand new chassis, engine choices, brakes, mechanicals and so on. New from the ground up. It was also mechanically identical to the second generation SEAT Ibiza but neither shared a single external body panel.
The third generation went on sale again as a hatchback, wagon or saloon but of course, it was the hatch that dominated the sales figure. The Polo Third Generation ceased production in 2002 when the new fourth generation arrived.
Fourth Generation - 2002 - 2009
When the Fourth Generation Polo came along in 2002 it was a sure thing that it would go on take to take huge honours and dominate the global market. What was most surprising was just how well the sporty GTi model performed. Arguably the most important GTi of all the Polo generations; this one used a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine which is still lauded today as one of the best hot hatch engines ever made. It would put out around 150 horsepower straight from the factory but enthusiasts didn’t have much trouble getting that power figure well over the 200 mark after a few tweaks.
Interestingly, this model was still being produced as late as last year in South Africa!
Fifth Generation - 2009 - 2018
The Fifth Generation Polo was launched at the Geneva Motorshow in March 2009 and like the Fourth generation, it shares its platform with other VW counterparts such as the Audi A1, SEAT Ibiza and Skoda Fabia. For the first time in the Polos history, the Fifth Generation model went on to claim the European Car Of The Year award in 2010. Looking back, you can really see that the smaller ‘city car’ segment was really emerging at this time, as the fifth generation polo was taller, wider, lower and longer than the model it replaced and it had a bigger boot. All this expanding left more room for the smaller ‘Up!’ model to thrive in.
Sixth Generation - 2018
Now we’re up to the present. The Sixth Generation has gone on sale and it truly is the Polo in it’s finest form. The petrol engines are now more efficient than ever before with turbocharged 3 cylinder engines. The diesel engines have never been cleaner to now that they are up to the Euro 6 standards. And, finally, the Polo GTi has never had this much power. The hot hatch is now pushing out around 200 horsepower, which is 10 more than the previous model, and almost double the power of the original mark 2 Polo GTi. Prices start from £14,235 and they are already flying off the shelves. Get down to your local dealer and book a test drive to see what all the fuss is about.