Curbside Classic: 1997 Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Automatic – The Golf’s Little Brother


(first posted 6/30/2016)    In 1994 Volkswagen introduced the third generation of the Polo, their B-segment (subcompact) model. Built at the Wolfsburg plant and still very common on the European roads. Its competition back then came from cars like the Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa, Renault Clio and Peugeot 205~206.

Offering their cars with a wide range of gasoline and diesel engines is a good Volkswagen tradition; throughout its 1994-2001 production run the Polo III was available with gasoline engines from 45 to 125 hp and diesels from 57 to 110 hp. Worth mentioning is that the Polo III was the first Polo generation wearing a GTI-badge, 120 hp -later on 125 hp- from a 1.6 liter DOHC 16v engine.


Initially the Polo III was only available as a three- and five-door hatchback, Volkswagen completed the line-up with the introduction of the Polo Classic sedan in 1995 and the Polo Variant wagon in 1997.

You’ve heard of the Volkswagen Golf Harlequin, right ? Meet the Polo Harlequin.


The front wheels of this clean single color example are driven by a 75 hp 1,598 cc OHC 8v gasoline engine.

More powerrr….the Polo III GTI.


Oh yes, of course today’s subject has a trailer hitch, a fine Dutch tradition. The registered towing capacity of this 946 kg (2,085 lbs) Polo is 800 kg (1,764 lbs).


Volkswagen’s typical clean dash policy. A five-speed manual was the standard and most common transmission, this one is equipped with the optional four-speed automatic. There are two other Volkswagens in the background.

Just an example of the Polo Classic sedan. The four-door Polo sedan was fully based on the contemporary Seat Cordoba, the sedan version of the Seat Ibiza hatchback. Not a Classic in my book, it’s as dorky looking as any other modern-era subcompact sedan.

And the Polo Variant wagon, also Seat based.


Given its overall condition -and quality- this little Vee-Dub will just soldier on, no doubt about that. The Polo III was a commercial success, 645,000 of them were sold in its seven years’ production run.

The current fifth generation of the Polo was introduced in 2009. It’s about the same size as a 1983-1992 Golf II, just a bit taller. The car models I mentioned in the first paragraph are still the Polo’s main competitors, although Peugeot’s B-segment number is 208 these days.