The body style has been varied through the life of the car, most widely as a hatchback which derived from the Audi 50. A saloon version was marketed as the Volkswagen Derby, a descendant of the Audi 60.
Volkswagen vehicles built off different platforms have carried the Polo name plate. For example the Volkswagen Polo Playa hatchback sold in Southern Africa in the late 1990s was a rebadged SEAT Ibiza which has a different body shell from the Mk3 Polo sold in Europe at the same time. The current saloon is only available in China, Latin America and South Africa and other Southern Africa countries.
Position in the Volkswagen range
On its introduction in 1975, the Polo was Volkswagen's second front wheel drive hatchback model, fitting into the range beneath the Golf, which had been launched the previous year. It remained the smallest model in the Volkswagen range until 1998, when the Volkswagen Lupo was introduced. The Polo is still Volkswagen's second smallest model, larger than the Fox and smaller than the Golf. (In North America, the Golf – now sold there as the Rabbit – is the smallest Volkswagen available, the Polo never having been sold in this territory.)
Over the generations, as with many other long-lived car brands, the Polo's size has increased, and the latest incarnation of the Polo is actually larger than the original Golf MkI.
The current version is mechanically very similar to the SEAT Ibiza and Škoda Fabia, being based on a standard Volkswagen Group platform used for a large number of models.
Performance versions and motorsport
Volkswagen pioneered the so-called hot hatch genre of high performance hatchbacks with the Golf GTI in 1975, and has produced a number of performance versions of the Polo. The first of these was the Polo GT version of the Mk1F.
The MkII and IIF were available as supercharged G40 models. The GT G40 with its 1.3-litre 85kW (115bhp) could reach 100km/h (62mph) in 8.1s from standstill and had a maximum speed of 196km/h (122mph). It was used by Volkswagen to set a number of world endurance speed records, such as the 1.3-litre class records for speed over 24 hours and speed over a distance of 5000km.