Volk­swa­gen Polo

Ad­vice on buy­ing the best of the fourth-gen­er­a­tion model.

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Contents -

The su­per­mini mar­ket was big news at the start of 2002, as two of the big­gest names in the sec­tor were re­placed with sig­nif­i­cant new models. They were the Ford Fi­esta and the Volk­swa­gen Polo, the for­mer Bri­tain’s best­selling small car and the lat­ter the most pres­ti­gious in its class.

Nat­u­rally, com­par­isons were drawn be­tween the two, with Volk­swa­gen play­ing the dura­bil­ity card to pro­mote its new model. Sold as ‘The Tough New Polo’, a se­ries of TV ads were cre­ated show­ing the Ger­man model sur­viv­ing in sit­u­a­tions that other cars may have strug­gled with. It’s some­what ironic, then, that the Volk­swa­gen tends to suf­fer from more me­chan­i­cal break­downs than its Ford ri­val, de­spite its per­ceived re­li­a­bil­ity. Even to­day there are mo­tor­ing pub­li­ca­tions that talk about the Polo’s ‘bul­let­proof ’ re­li­a­bil­ity, which makes us won­der if they were us­ing rub­ber bul­lets – but more of that later.

First, a pot­ted his­tory. The Polo was re­vealed to the world at the 2001 Frankfurt Mo­tor Show, its de­but over­shad­owed by the events that un­folded in New York on Septem­ber 11, which also hap­pened to be press day at the show. It went on sale in the UK in March 2002, with a choice of three-cylin­der 1.2 or four­cylin­der 1.4 petrol en­gines, or 1.4 and 1.9-litre diesels; the 1.4 diesel was a three-cylin­der model and the other a much older 1.9-litre PD unit, both tur­bocharged and nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated.

The en­try-level model was called the Polo E and came with cen­tral lock­ing, a ra­dio-cas­sette and not much else, al­though there was a choice of 55bhp or 65bhp out­puts from the 1.2-litre en­gine. The E was also avail­able with the 1.9-litre SDI nat­u­rallyaspi­rated diesel, de­vel­op­ing 64bhp. Next up was the S model, with elec­tric front win­dows, re­mote lock­ing, a sin­gle-slot CD player and air­con; avail­able with the 1.2 en­gine in both power out­puts, as well as the 75bhp 1.4 petrol and the will­ing 75bhp 1.4 TDI. The same en­gine line-up was of­fered in the SE, which gained plusher trim and al­loys, while the range-top­ping Polo was the 100bhp Sport, which came with the 1.9-litre TDI en­gine only.

GTI power

In 2003, hot on the heels of the Rover Street­wise, Volk­swa­gen re­vealed the Polo Dune. It was based on the SE, but with plas­tic cladding around the body and a raised ride height to help shrug off pot­holes. In 2005, the range was given a facelift, with new sin­gle-piece front head­lights re­plac­ing the twin orig­i­nals, and a brighter, more youth­ful cabin. The Dune was re­named the Crosspolo, while the Polo GTI also made a re­turn, us­ing the 148bhp 1.8-litre 20v petrol turbo en­gine from the Golf GTI.

2006 saw the launch of the new Polo Blue­mo­tion, which was de­signed with var­i­ous aero­dy­namic en­hance­ments to go with its three-cylin­der diesel en­gine, promis­ing 72mpg on the com­bined cy­cle. That’s pretty much on a par with most small mod­ern diesels, but back in 2006 it was big news.

The MKIV was re­placed in 2009 by the big­ger and wider MKV, though it wasn’t with­drawn from sale com­pletely. In­stead, it was re­launched in South Africa in 2010 as the Vivo, which re­placed the Golf Mki-based Cit­igolf.

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