The Polo

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

Back Catalogue | Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a new Volkswagen Polo GTI announced, we’ve taken a look back at the previous versions of Wolfsburg’s supermini that have worn the fabled hot hatch badge. And not just because ESM’s editor has owned two of them…

VW Polo GT

Ok, maybe the ownership history plays a small part in it, but there’s also the motivation to raise the profile of the Polo GTI and its ancestors. Having spent some 19 years living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, we think it’s only fair that the Polo gets some attention. There were fast Polos before the GTI, but here we’ve stuck with the six that were given the GTI badge.

1998 – 6N Polo GTI

Until 1998, the most powerful version of the third-generation 6N Polo was the 1.4-litre 16V model with 100hp. Things changed in 1998, with the introduction of a limited edition GTI, boasting a 1.6-litre engine producing 120hp. Suspension lowered by 15mm, a set of 15″ BBS RXII alloy wheels, uprated brakes, and a standard Electronic Differential Lock were the other mechanical changes.

Inside was a leather-wrapped steering wheel, with sports seats and red-edged floors mats also part of the package. Only 3,000 cars were produced, and all in left-hand drive, meaning the UK would have to wait slightly longer for a Polo GTI.


1999 to 2002 – 6N2 Polo GTI

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

ESM’s editor had one. He still talks about it now. A lot…

As part of a comprehensive mid-life facelift, Volkswagen made the Polo GTI a permanent fixture on the 6N2 price list. Much was carried over from the 6N GTI including the same 1.6-litre engine, but with power boosted to 125hp. This drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, which gained a reputation for failure at high mileage. Something the 6N2 GTI owned by ESM’s editor fortunately managed to avoid. 0-62mph needed 8.7 seconds, with a top speed of 127mph, meaning performance was more warm than boiling.


Editorial – Have you got fuel economy OCD?

Motorway cruising has got our editor thinking about just how far do you need to go in the pursuit of fuel economy, especially when it’s probably an impossible task.

Editorial12052014Driving down the A1(M) in the Polo R-Line the other day, sulking whippet in the boot, something struck me about the traffic that was being generated. Usually on the A1(M) any kind of tailback tends to be caused by lorries overtaking each other – that soul-sapping display of watching one HGV ease past another with a 0.0005 mph speed differential, played out over several miles. But there was something else which caught my eye today too; cars sat in the wake of lorries in front of them, travelling at 50 mph.

I understand that we have no minimum speed limit, so cars can essentially travel at whatever speed they want on our motorway network. Obviously that’s so long as they’re not causing an obstruction, or contravening any relative road traffic legislation. But it did leave me wondering why on earth you’d want to sit there chugging along, whilst HGVs, caravans and everything else has to venture into the outside lane to get by.

But then something else became apparent. A lot of these cars doing the half-ton were rather new; as in less than 3-4 years old. Whilst I know down at the bottom of the automotive food chain there’s still some very slow cars on sale, at least 99% of them are still capable of more than 50 mph. Looking closer still,  the badges on the boot of these cars said ‘ECOnetic’, ‘Bluemotion’ or ‘EcoMotive’. Now it made sense; these were people desperate to get somewhere near the claimed official MPG figure for their car.


200th Post Special – Volkswagen Polo R-Line 8,000 Mile Review

It seems hard to believe that a year has now passed since ESM picked up a very shiny Volkswagen Polo R-Line on a chilly January afternoon. So 365 days and 8,000 miles later, just what has life with the R-Line been like for the past twelve months?

Polo R-Line Report2 001

In short, the R-Line has been virtually flawless throughout the year, with only a handful of minor issues cropping up along the way. Here’s a quick summary of what has been good, and bad, since the last report with just 1,000 miles showing on the odometer:

The Good

  • Fuel economy – 45 mpg is an average real world figure for day-to-day driving, based on a mix of motorway and urban roads. Economy has improved over the year, and longer runs can easily see it creep up towards 50 mpg. (more…)

EngageSportMode Shares the R-Line Love

If you just cannot get enough of hearing about my Polo R-Line, but would rather read about it elsewhere, then you prayers have been answered. Over the coming months I’ll be documenting my ownership of the R-Line over at

But in all seriousness, I am genuinely honoured to have been asked to contribute to somebody elses website. I’ve only been doing this internet writing thing for 18 months, so to have the chance to write something for truly means a lot.

This is especially true given the immense time and effort put into the site by owner Rich Gooding. I challenge you to spend five minutes on and not find out something new about Volkswagen’s supermini. For instance, did you know about the painfully rare 2004 Polo Club Sport? Or that VW India offers a version of the R-Line known as the GT TSI? Well, now you do.

So go on, go learn something new about the Polo!

Music Makes it Better – Driving Tunes

Does music turn a drive into a journey? It’s something that struck me last weekend, as I found myself piloting the Polo R-Line along a short stretch of road from Crakehall to Catterick in North Yorkshire. It’s the one highlighted in blue on the image below:

Mapping via

Mapping via

It’s a road I’ve driven a few times, but never with any real intent. However, last Saturday, everything seemed to align into a perfect opportunity to test the R-Line in the wild. It was warm and sunny, there was very little traffic as people made the most of the good weather, and this song came on the radio:

As you can see from the video, What It Feels Like by Armin Van Buuren is quite clearly a song that you’re meant to drive to. The beat and rhythm fitted perfectly as I threaded the Polo around the twisty bends, found the slightly too long travel of the suspension and worked the TSI motor for all it’s worth.

By the time I reached Catterick and joined the A1, I was grinning from ear to ear. Had I done that route with the radio off it would still have been enjoyable; but having a musical accompaniment just made it even better.

Whether this is the same for everyone, I’m not so sure. Up until recently I’d have probably turned the radio off to have maximum concentration when partaking in some “spirited driving” but playing Forza Horizon has probably made me contemplate music as part of the experience. In addition, should you be fortunate enough to be driving something with an aurally exciting engine (we’re talking V8, V12 territory), then I’m pretty sure you’d be in the music off category.

So if you’re out this weekend doing enthusiastic driving, will you be speakers up or windows down?

VW Polo R-Line – 1,000 Mile Review

As you might have just read, after a huge period of indecision, ESM finally acquired a Volkswagen Polo R-Line. That was back in late January so, several months and miles later, just what has the kitted-up supermini been like to live with?

First, some photos from when it arrived and the cleanest it has been since, due to the excellent weather we’ve had.

Having had my hand ever-so-slightly forced into taking the Deep Black pearlescent option, I was pleased to find that it suited the R-Line well. The jutting front end gives it an aggressive appearance, with the rear diffuser and relatively large exhaust pipe making the back look equally sporty. On the motorway it has proved able to hustle and intimidate others out of its way well; something it’s predecessor never could. It’s just unfortunate that the colour is already living up to my fears; showing a couple of small scratches, much to my annoyance!


End Of The Road: The VW Polo 1.4 SE (9N3)

I intended to write and publish this item many, many, weeks ago. However, certain events transpired to prevent me from doing so. So here it is, now, slightly later than planned.

 Polo SE-01

In short, the 9N3 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 SE pictured above is no longer with me, having been traded in for something else, which finally concluded the epic car-buying saga. It was in my possession for around 9 months, and in that time it failed to be anything if not underwhelming. 

Polo SE-03

After the previous frantic experience of the Panda 100HP, I realised I needed something a little more sensible from my daily-driver. To be fair, you’ll struggle to get much more rational than a 1.4 petrol Polo in SE spec.  (more…)

The Random Volkswagen Collective

Writing about the Polo earlier this week got me thinking about my appreciation for VAG products in general. The result being a list forming, photos being researched and this post about some of the more obscure models to emerge from Germany that I have a fondness for. These are not in any particular order, just the way in which my brain spat them out onto paper.

1999 – 2005 Volkswagen Bora V5

For (almost) as long as the Golf has existed, VW has produced a version with a huge boot grafted onto the back-end to meet the demand of the American market. Those on the other side of the pond have, generally, shown a far greater demand for models with a trunk, resulting in the Jetta, Vento and Bora models. In Europe, these models have never garnered the same appreciation; leaving them to be the unloved middle child, wedged awkwardly between the smaller Golf, but larger Passat.

I, however, have a relative fondness for these ugly ducklings, and the Bora V5 is a particular favourite of mine. Packing 170bhp in later models, the narrow-angle five cylinder was as punchy as it was aurally satisfying. It’s also completely unassuming looking, making it an excellent Q-Car and thus why I love it. (more…)

Filling The Hole: The Polo

Yesterday I mentioned how I would save the details of the Panda 100HP’s replacement until today. As promised, here is the new contender to fill the (obviously quite petite) shoes left by the baby Fiat:

Yes, like an errant homing pigeon finally finding the coop, I’ve returned to the Volkswagen stable. This 2006 Olympic Blue 9N3 model proved to be the best option when narrowing down the choices.

The biggest issue with being interested in cars and reading lots about them, is that you can pretty much make a pro’s and con’s list for any possible vehicle. So when you come to actually buy one for yourself, it’s possible to become lost in a wall of facts, figures, reviews and recommendations. In a bid to try to see the wood for the trees, I went back to what I know. The Polo. (more…)