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Turning thirty is not always a reason to celebrate, some people end up in mourning when they realise the wild days of their youth are suddenly over. However, for a car, it is a great event when the development of the model generations reaches such an age. Thirty years represent a car life that stands for quality, seriousness, character and credibility and that became possible due to these characteristics. The Polo is celebrating this remarkable anniversary with the launch of a new model generation — reason enough to look back on three decades of a model success story.
1975 – The First Generation
The first generation of the Polo, introduced in March 1975, already had the essential defining characteristics that it has retained up to this day. The modern front-wheel drive was a guarantee of safe handling and the large tailgate was an advance as well as a practical detail. This small car, which, in terms of technology, was closely related to the Audi 50, provided an opportunity for low-cost entry into the world of Volkswagen. The basic version was available for around 7,500 Deutschmark and was driven by a 29 kW / hp PS four-cylinder engine with a capacity of 900 cubic centimetres. In 1976, Volkswagen added a 1.1-litre engine delivering 37 kW / 50 hp to the range. Just one year later in 1977, the range was expanded to include another body version, the saloon-style Derby. Thanks to its 515-litre boot, it provided new prospects with a classic body shape. The customers’ demands for more also had an effect on the engines as a 1.3-litre delivering 44 kW / 60 hp was made available for the Polo and Derby.
1981 – The Second Generation
The second generation of the Polo was introduced in August 1981 just before the Frankfurt International Motor Show. A completely new body set new trends. The distinctive steep tail and the resulting more practical boot made the small Polo a great. When the rear bench was folded down, the Polo set the then class record of 1,000 litres of boot volume.
In addition to the new shapes, the Polo also developed in the area of environmental friendliness. The Formula E model (for Economy) was particularly fuel efficient due to an engine with higher compression and a higher fourth gear.
Besides economy, Volkswagen turned to sportiness when it launched the Polo Coupé with its elegant hatchback in 1982. It not only looked sporty, it also became a real racer in the form of the GT G40 version introduced in 1986 that had a spiral-shaped G-charger and delivered 85 kW / 115 hp. Before that in 1983, the Polo celebrated its first million units produced.
Today diesel engines are part of almost all model ranges and the first diesel Polo came in 1986. The first in Volkswagen’s smallest model delivered 33 kW / 45 hp. Back then it was already one of the most fuel efficient power plants and consumed just 6.0 litres of diesel every 100 kilometres. In the same year, the petrol version of the Polo became more environmentally friendly when the first micro catalytic converter was integrated in the exhaust system. At the start of 1990, all petrol engines for the Polo switched to the more modern computer-controlled catalytic converter.
The Polo underwent extensive improvements in autumn 1990 with bigger bumpers and rectangular headlights. The engines also gained a few hp of power.
1994 – The Third Generation
The third generation of the Polo celebrated its premiere in the French capital Paris in 1994. In terms of technology and design, it was noticeably higher quality than its predecessor. The harmonious design was characterised by a rising sideline and painted bumpers made the Polo look even higher quality. The small car had grown and was also available as a four-door for the first time. Fans of traditional body shapes also found the model they wanted when the Polo Classic with a saloon body was introduced. Two years later, the model family continued to grow when another, very practical version, the Polo estate, was added to the best-selling range. 1,260 litres of cargo space made the small estate a very impressive car. The new generation of TDI engines was also added to the Polo range for the first time with the 81 kW / 110 hp TDI.
In August 1998, the 88 kW / 120 hp Polo GTI, which could reach speeds over 200 km/h, became the top model. This limited series of 3,000 cars was quickly sold out.
The Polo also set numerous production records in its third model generation. In 1995, the four millionth Polo was built. Just two years later the model broke though the five million barrier and the six million mark was reached in 1999.
The Frankfurt International Motor Show was the venue for a greatly modified version of the Polo in September 1999. The re-designed front and tail changed the image of the Polo moving it towards the higher compact class. The improved outside quality appearance continues on the inside with a extensively modified interior. The Polo body was fully galvanised for the first time and Volkswagen therefore started offering a twelve-year warranty against internal corrosion. The Polo set standards in this generation with standard front airbags and ABS. The sporty highlight was again the GTI, which delivered 92 kW / 125 hp and was equipped with ESP as standard.
2001 – The Fourth Generation
A completely new Polo was launched in autumn 2001. This Polo had an unmistakable face with its large round headlights and additional round lights. The dimensions continued to be compact, but the new model grew in all respects. It was considerably longer, wider and taller and had a longer wheelbase than the previous model. This model, which was available with two and four doors from launch, set new standards in terms of manufacturing and material quality, comfort, active and passive safety as well as drive technology. The new engine range included a direct injection petrol engine and two TDIs.
The Polo Fun introduced in autumn 2003 followed new ideas standing out with increased ground clearance, large alloy wheels and extraordinary colour designs.
So far over 8.7 million models have been produced and the Polo has been the undisputed German market leader in this segment for years.
The Polo — A Career
Over 8.5 million units built in 30 years
Unique model and engine variety
1975 – Premiere of the first generation with capacity of 0.9 litres (29 kW / 40 hp) or 1.0 litres (37 kW / 50 hp)
1977 – Premiere of Derby saloon version
1981 – Launch of second Polo generation
1982 – Launch of sporty Polo Coupé and second generation of Derby
1983 – The one millionth Polo is built.
1985 – The Polo is available with saloon body shape replacing the Derby
1986 – Presentation of Polo Coupé GT G40 delivering 84 kW (115 hp) and the 1.3-litre Polo diesel delivering 33 kW (45 hp), Production figure reaches 2,000,000
1990 – All petrol engines for the Polo come with computer-controlled catalytic converters; extensive model improvement
1991 – 3,000,000 Polos have been built since the series launch
1994 – Presentation of third Polo generation
1995 – Production record of 4,000,000, Model range to expanded to include the Polo Open Air, Polo Colour Concept, Polo Harlekin and the Polo Classic saloon version
1997- Production jubilee with 5,000,000 Polos, Launch of Polo estate
1998 – Special model Polo GTI with 1.6-litre 88-kW (120-hp) engine
1999- Extensive model improvements with new look, fully galvanised body
2000 – Special model Polo GTI with 1.6-litre 92-kW (125-hp) engine, 25th anniversary
2001 – Launch of fourth Polo generation
2003 – Launch of Polo saloon, Premiere for Polo TDI delivering 96 kW / 130 hp
2005 – Current model generation, new TDI engines. All engines fulfil Euro 4 norm