The History of the Volkswagen Polo

Often considered the little brother of the Golf, the Volkswagen Polo has done a bit of growing up recently.

It’s longer and wider than ever, with an increased wheel base, which means even more headroom and legroom for driver and passengers. A bigger 351-litre boot capacity creates plenty of space for any shopping trip or adventure out. Little wonder the new Polo has been awarded What Car? Car of the Year 2020 (small car winner) for the second year in a row.

The evolution of the Polo is a fascinating coming-of-age story, spanning more than 40 years. Read on to find out how six generations of Polo have been reimagined, remodelled and rebadged from some rather surprising car brands…

Polo Mk1: 1975-1981

Manufactured at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Italian studio Bertone  – who also designed for Ferrari and Lamborghini – was involved in the styling of the original car. The first generation, which sold 500,000 cars worldwide, was known as the Volkswagen Derby and shared the design of the Audi 50.

Despite the similarities, the Derby was cheaper than its Audi sibling, which was withdrawn in 1978. The Derby had a face-lift in 1979, when it was given plastic bumpers, a new front grille and dashboard, resulting in a vehicle similar to the Volkswagen Jetta.

Polo Mk2: 1981-1994

The Polo Mk2 brought about the iconic steep rear window, giving that classic ‘wagon’ shape. It was also a chance for Volkswagen to develop future innovations, such as supercharging with a 40mm G-Lader supercharger in the GT G40 version.

One million Polos had been produced by 1983 and three years later, this figure had doubled, a popularity which has helped the Polo outlive rivals such as the Austin Metro and the Fiat Uno.

Polo Mk3: 1994-2002

This was a completely new model, available in three- and five-door hatchback versions. It shared its platform with the SEAT Ibiza and had the floorplan of the Volkswagen Golf.

Later, the saloon and estate versions were a rebadged SEAT Córdoba, and the Volkswagen Caddy  van shared the same platform and front-edged styling.  Who knew the Polo had so many car-siblings?

Polo Mk4: 2002-2009

The new Millennium saw the Polo continue to share its platform with the SEAT Ibiza, as well as the Škoda Fabia. Design-wise, it bore structural resemblance to the Volkswagen Golf, the taillights resembled the Volkswagen Passat, and the use of quad round headlights was similar to the Volkswagen Lupo.

In 2003, Volkswagen rallied a Polo S1600 in the World Championships, with the versatile supermini winning the Turkish round.

Polo Mk5: 2009-2017

The fifth generation Polo was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009. It continued to make its mark on the international stage throughout 2010, with accolades including European Car of the Year and World Car of the Year at the New York International Auto Show, as well as What Car? Supermini of the Year, and even Japan Import Car of the Year.

This impressive list is hardly surprising, considering this Polo was longer, wider and 7.5% lighter than its predecessor. It also increased boot capacity to 280-litres and featured new safety features that helped it to a reassuring five-star Euro NCAP crash impact rating.

Polo Mk 6: 2017-present

Since 2017, the Polo has continued to improve cabin space, engines and interior technology. VW’s supermini now comes with a range of 1.0-litre 3-cylinder engines and a 2.0-litre GTI. Customisable with a huge amount of paint colours and interior trims, this little car has matured into an impressive specimen.

The new Polo’s big-car feel, along with its unwavering reputation for reliability and safety, mean it’s the ideal choice for a first car or for transporting a family in comfort. As one of the best-selling hatchbacks over the last four decades, this perfect blend of design and function can only mean that the Polo’s popularity will continue for a long time to come.

A revamped Mk6, with a new GTI version, will be unveiled later in 2021 and we just can’t wait. If you’re ready to start your Volkswagen Polo adventure, talk to the team at JCT600 Volkswagen.


Looking for more Volkswagen history? Read about the Polo’s big brother in the history of the Volkswagen Golf.

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