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VW Polo GTI: 1.4L to 2.0L – A brief history lesson

By: Michael Schaapherder

In the last 7 years, Volkswagen changed their mind quite often as to what engine will suit their Polo GTI range.

The first model Polo to have been added to the GTI range was the Mk 3 (6n2). Apparently a limited edition, with a normally aspirated 1.6l pushing out 125bhp (93kW), getting you from standstill to 100km/h in just 8.4 seconds – which, for the year 2000, was a lot!

It was not until late 2005 that the next generation Polo GTI was launched. This later became known as the "old" Polo GTI here in South Africa – the mighty 9n3 shape – which offered a 1.8l turbocharged engine pumping out 110kW. With that said, however, it lacked power compared to its rivals, which forced Volkswagen to bring out the Polo GTI Cup Edition, it smacked out 130kW and featured much more aggressive styling. This generation Polo was very popular amongst car enthusiasts due to the modification potential of the engine. The 1.8l turbo was a great success at Volkswagen and they used it in both the Golf Mk 4 GTI as well as the similar aged Audi A6.

Some years later, Volkswagen sent the Polo GTI back to the drawing board, eventually launching the Mk 5 GTI (6R) in 2011. I must admit, when I first laid eyes on this shape, I wasn't that impressed with its visual styling and disappointed to discover the new engine was only a 1.4l.

Being a Volkswagen enthusiast myself, I decided to find an opportunity to drive it. That same day I bought one. My god, was I impressed! This was a serious step up from the 9n3. Yes, smaller displacement, but the standard turbo boosted up to 2.5 bar... straight out of the factory. Not to mention, the engine was supercharged as well.

How do they get so much power out of such a small engine you might ask? I always say: "keep in mind, Formula 1 engines are 1.6l". But, nevertheless, this version pumped out 132kW and 250Nm and was only available with a 7 speed DSG gearbox. According to the stats, it got you from 0 – 100km/h in just 5.9 seconds.

Much like the fourth generation Polo GTI Cup Edition, Volkswagen also launched a very rare 2.0l R version of the Mk 5 based on the WRC Polo, only 2 500 of these incredible machines were ever launched. The WRC-R packed 162kW and 350Nm. Out of the factory, this version comes with the iconic rally decals, and each version has its unique number displayed on the rear window.

Shortly after the launch of the 6R, Volkswagen launched the 6C GTI, which was not a new version, but rather a facelift. However, they yet again changed the engine back to a 1.8T, although this one was developed by Audi. Regardless of how successful the 1.4 twin-charged predecessor was, it had been quite problematic.

In mid-to-late 2017, Volkswagen announced the Mk 6 Polo generation, with a completely new shape and engine... yet again! Volkswagen however, has their styling down to a tee. For me personally, unlike when the original Scirocco launched that everyone loved, when a new shape Golf or Polo gets launched, I hate the shape – its been like that for me with the Golf 6, Golf 7 and Polo 5 – but they always find a way to grow on you, and that acts in Volkswagen's favour, their cars age very well.

Strangely enough, the Mk 6 polo GTI shares the 2.0l TSI engine from the Golf 6 GTI, obviously de-tuned, with 147kW and 320Nm on tap – however, I sure am not complaining. The Polo GTI version comes standard with lowered suspension, GTI bumpers, bigger brakes and red callipers, twin exhausts, tartan seats, a sports steering wheel, red stitching, and a roof spoiler. You also get GTI LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, and adaptive dampers as options.

I hope to test drive one in the near future, but I'm also hoping I don't have the same reaction as I had with the 6R GTI... otherwise I'm going to be broke, especially with its new price!

Check out the video below and leave us your comments.

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