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.


2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

New Metal | 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

The all-new sixth generation Volkswagen Polo was revealed to the world last week, along with an enhanced GTI model. Yet certain things have left ESM feeling slightly bittersweet about it all.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a life spent living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, it’s unprecedented for Volkswagen to announce a new Polo GTI at the same time as the regular supermini. In fact Polo GTI models have often felt like something on an afterthought, tacked on partway through a lifecycle. Not so with the new sixth-generation Polo, which will be available in cooking GTI specification from the outset.

The biggest news is under the bonnet, where the 1.8-litre TSI engine found in the current 6C Polo GTI is dispensed with, and in comes a new 2.0-litre unit. In world where everything seems to be about downsizing, there is something refreshing about a manufacturer upscaling an engine instead. Power raises slightly to 197hp, marking a minor increase of 8hp over the outgoing model, whilst gearbox choices remain as a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch. With an increase in size of the new car, we would imagine performance things to be pretty much on par with the existing Polo GTI.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

What has clearly changed are the dimensions, with the new Polo substantially bigger by almost every marker compared to the fifth-generation. The new model is so big that Volkswagen have actually chosen to compare it to the Mk4 Golf – a measure of the expansion in supermini scale over the past two decades. Greater interior and luggage space is the reasoning for this, and it does make you wonder just how people even managed to fit inside cars from the 1990s, let alone even be comfortable within them… (more…)

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…)

Volkswagen takes 2013 WRC Drivers’ Championship

He might have only needed one point, but Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier wasted no time in wrapping up the WRC Driver’s title on his home turf. 

VW WRC Ogier Title 001

With a third place on Rally France’s ‘Power Stage’ on the opening night of the event, Ogier cemented his grasp on his first World Rally Championship by making impossible for his nearest rival to mathematically beat him. With co-driver Julien Ingrassia alongside him, Ogier did just enough to end Sebastien Loeb’s grip on the trophy which has lasted for the past nine seasons.

Rally France 2013


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 PoloDriver.com

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 PoloDriver.com 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 PoloDriver.com 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 google.com

Mapping via google.com

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?

Friday Photo From the Archives #5

Continuing with the theme of ESM’s BTCC correspondent, here is a (fairly) recent photo of our two cars chilling out together:


A few similarities; both black, both VW-group, both petrol-turbo and both with motorsport pedigree. Our correspondent’s is the rather rare Seat Leon TFSI, which existed for only a short period of time in the first year of this model’s life, before the introduction of the FR trim level. With 185bhp from the 2.0 turbo motor it’s no slouch, just don’t talk to him about fuel economy! Or the drawbacks of black paintwork.

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!


ESM’s 2012 Car Buying Predicament #6 – The Finale

Recently I wrote about the end of my ownership of the 9N3 Volkswagen Polo, following the epically long saga to replace it which began all the way back in October last year. So after several months of searching, test driving and negotiating, just what did land on the EngageSportMode drive?


A Polo R-Line; not mine.

Originally when my quest began I had dismissed the regular Polo for looking too mundane, despite the appeal of the 1.2 TSI petrol engine. But whilst researching a broker who could supply an Audi A1, I happened across a listing for the R-Line like the one shown above. Embarrassingly for such a perennial Polo purchaser, the existence of the R-Line had completely passed me by, despite being unveiled several months ago. Could the R-Line be the answer to all the requirements I’d originally asked of my new car? Let us just review what I wanted:

Essential Criteria

1. 0-60mph in less than 10 seconds. The R-Line dips under with an official 0-60 of 9.7 seconds.
2. A 120mph+ top speed. 118mph according to the manual. Close, but not quite.
3.Real world mpg of 35+. Yup. The benefits of a modern downsized engine mean an official combined mpg of 53.3, so even taking into account the fact the stated figures are impossible to achieve, it bodes well.
4. 3-Spoke steering wheel. Three-spoked, with a flat bottom, and made of a nice leather/perforated leather combination. (more…)

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…)