The first time we Indians heard the name, we immediately related it to a popular mint brand. Guess, it has got something to do with the VW group's naming culture. Remember the Skoda Laura? Well, let's not get in to these. For Volkwagen, the Polo nameplate immediately clicked. Heck, we know of a Parsi gent who still hasn't removed the plastic seat covers of his 2013 model. The Polo nameplate stood for German build quality, a safety cocoon and an efficient diesel if noisy diesel engine. Along the years, while the general silhouette remained the same the Polo did get timely updates. Revisions to power trains, extended body styles and more were introduced. Let's take you through a timeline of each.
The 2009 model was the first Polo to be launched here. The car had a 1.6-litre petrol and 1.2-litre diesel engines. This was just the beginning of the sub-4m era wherein the benefits of a lower capacity engine were lost in the VW development. Nonetheless, the petrol engine was a powerful one, at least compared to the one that is on offer now. It used to make 105hp and was considered proper hot hatch material. The diesel in the meanwhile was known for its frugality. Volkswagen did command a slight premium over the Fiats and Marutis at that point of time.
Volkswagen, a year after the Polo came to India, ensured that there was a sedan derivative on offer. The Vento as it was called, is on sale even now. This ensured that the company could effectively compete with the Honda City as well as the Hyundai Verna. The 1.6-litre petrol engine was carried over while there was a new 1.6-litre diesel unit borrowed from the Jetta. Again, the Vento did command a slight premium than the others in the segment.
Around this time, the Polo received a 1.2-litre petrol engine which produced close to 74hp and was considered a bit anemic. However, this Polo was priced a lot lower than the 1.6 and hence the sales numbers were on a high. Around the same time, there were also reports of VW charging a premium on the service. Not only this, the Polo received new paint schemes too. The 1.6-litre petrol continued as the performance-oriented version.
The Volkswagen Polo fold saw the entry of a turbocharged engine - the 1.2-litre TSI. This engine was on offer with a new trim called the GT. VW offered this engine only with a 7-speed DSG. This car ensured that even the hardcore enthusiasts flock to Volkswagen showrooms. Moreover, the fairer sex too started buying the TSI version because of the ease of driving. Subsequently, at a later date, the Polo GT TDI too was launched. This one had the 105hp, 1.6-litre diesel from the Vento and a manual transmission. In 2013, Volkswagen also introduced the Cross Polo, a take on an urban crossover.
This was when crash tests were conducted on the Volkswagen Polo by independent international agencies. This resulted in the car scoring zero stars. Volkswagen immediately made dual airbags standard on all the Polos in India. This meant a slight increase in price but then the feeling of being in a much safer car helps, right?
It was at this time that Volkswagen started developing a smaller 1.5-litre diesel engine. This motor was developed in-house and has more than 60 per cent localisation. It made the same power numbers as the bigger 1.6. In fact, VW started offering the regular Polo with an uprated 90hp configuration while the GT TDI used to make 110hp. Significant difference, then!
Another big year for Volkswagen as the company launched its sub-4m sedan, the Ameo. This sedan boasted the same engines as the regular Polo but with a variety of transmission options. It also has an enviable feature list. Volkswagen launched the hardcore enthusiast car, the Polo GTI. The GTI brought in the Polo in a 3-door format. The Rs 25 lakh price tag though was a bit difficult for enthusiasts to handle and VW India had to take remedial measures. The latter resulted in the entire lot of GTIs being sold at huge discounts. Then the dieselgate happened and lot of VW cars in India were affected too. The company is still fixing these cars.
Volkswagen launched the Polo with a 1.0-litre petrol engine. This one replaced the previously imported from Poland 1.2-litre motor. The specs were a bit low of this naturally aspirated engine, however the cost price too was kept low. The 1.5-litre diesel continued on without any major changes.
This year, we expect Volkswagen to get in their BS-VI compliant engines towards the later part. Moreover, there is a facelifted version expected soon. Unfortunately, while the world gets the next-gen Polo, we will have to make do with facelifts. It is likely that under the India 2.0 program, the Polo might get some significant changes.
PS: Volkswagen got in umpteen facelifts of the Polo and Vento. However, we haven't counted these in. They also made their foray into the Indian motorsport scene with the Polo hatchback, later with the Vento and now with the Ameo.