The G40 is the original fast Polo

And maybe the coolest too

11w ago

Everybody likes a good old hot hatch. Through the decades, manufacturers have perfected these cars however, they have also become more complex, fatter, and bigger. This was not the case in the old days when the whole point was to be light, tiny, simple, and economical. We have seen some great examples that have reached historical importance like the Peugeot 205 GTi, Renault Clio Williams or the much more potent Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo II. Even more iconic maybe, there was the Volkswagen Golf GTi, the car that started it all. However, the German manufacturer produced another important car that many have forgotten.

By the mid-1980s, Volkswagen realized that their Golf GTi, which was becoming increasingly larger, needed a smaller sibling and that was the Polo. The city car made its debut in 1975 as a rebadged Audi 50, but by the second generation in 1981, Volkswagen decided to equip its smallest car with a ... supercharger! Yes, you read that well. It may not have been the first car to be equipped with one, but it certainly was different from anything we had ever seen before.

Volkswagen decided to equip its smallest car with a ... supercharger!

Jonathan Yarden

That is because Volkswagen actually revived a patent from 1905 that was meant to bring more power while keeping the fuel consumption down. Before putting the supercharger into production, VW first tried to demonstrate that this "new" technology was efficient and reliable. To do that, engineers equipped three new Polo G40s with a handbuilt supercharged 1.3-litre and drove it flat out for 24 hours at an average speed of 208 km/h. They covered 5'000 km and broke the world record. The production model was not very far off in terms of specification. In fact, the engine developed an impressive 113 horsepower and averaged a fuel consumption of 5.5l/100km. They just made it happen. Volkswagen first produced 500 units that were exclusively sold to the company employees. All the cars were black up until the manufacturer decided to deliver an extra 1'500 cars for Germany in red, white, and blue. Plus, 500 more for France between 1988 and 1989, again all in black. Because of tuning and low production numbers, it will be very difficult to find a clean early Polo G40.

But rejoice! By the end of 1990, Volkswagen brought out a new model that was now destined for a larger public. The exterior design changed quite substantially with softer edges and a classier appearance that gave the G40 look of a high spec Polo. Because that is the thing, this car does not look like a sports car. It's fairly inconspicuous, but you still get hints from the BBS wheels and the red trim that there was something special about that car. Is it pretty? I'd say the French did prettier cars during that period, but it's certainly not a bad-looking car. Could have Iooked more sporty but I really like the blue exterior colour of the model featured in this article, as well as its funky seats.

I had never been around a Polo G40, but I always heard they were great little cars. My friends from Private Car Collection had one and just had to see it. With only 98’306 km on the odo and three owners since 1993, the hot hatch was in superb condition. However, its brilliance really came to life when the engine started. The little 1.3-litre engine makes a really nice rumbling noise that just gets better and better the higher the revs go. On the road, the Polo G40 feels exactly as you would expect it. Agile, nippy, and very connected to the road despite its tiny tires. Weighing only 830 kg, it is a fun little hot hatch that picks up speeds very easily and will do 0-100 km /h in less than 8 seconds. The Polo just doesn't disappoint and reminds us of how fun the hot hatches during these years were. Unfortunately, today's fast Polos are no longer equipped with superchargers as they have reliability issues in the long term, and because the technology is expensive.

Often overlooked, the Volkswagen Polo G40 merits higher credit from the petrolhead community. It may not be as iconic as its bigger sibling, the Golf GTi but nevertheless, the G40 should get more attention. It is a car that comes with all the attributes of a good hot hatch, and even if it is still regarded as a classic, I bet we could expect the prices to rise more in the future. Being the happy owner of a 2013 Polo Blue GT, I was truly happy to meet its predecessor and discover where this heritage came from.

I​ would like to extend my gratitude to my friends from Private Car Collection. They have been nice enough to let us review their car. They have a pretty cool collection of cars that you can see on their Instagram account or Facebook page. Without them, this article could have never been possible.

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Comments (52)

  • i really want to do an engine swap from one of these into my mums mk2 polo

      2 months ago
  • VW need do this car again

      2 months ago
  • Should more modern hot hatches be like this one? @tribe

      2 months ago
  • Owned one back in the day, a 'Genesis' G40. With the rev limiter taken of and a narrower pully belt on the supercharger that thing was super fast. Had loads of fun in those days. The Civic VTEC boys were still -waiting- untill their VTEC kicked in when the polo already had it's boost build up. And without the limiter, it would also pull to about 9000/9200 Rpm. So the only thing most civics saw were my rear lights, in the distance. A fun light little rocket. It did rust just as bad as those civics, that they had in common.

      2 months ago
    • So cool! I didn’t know but the Genesis was named after the band!

        2 months ago
    • Indeed. Was a very nice very dark blue/purple colour and had a different interior. Was a bit like the Golf mk.II 'Fire & Ice'

        2 months ago
  • Fantastic article, as always Jonathan!

    I've always loved the Polo 86C and the 86C 2F. The breadvan model was always my favourite, but the coupe and the sedan were also very very cool!

    Volkswagen was very brave thinking outside the box back then. When everybody went turbocharged in the 80's, they went supercharged, and... Well they did not sell many of them 😂

    Still those and the G60 cars were brilliant. Fast but pleasant to drive, unlike some turbocharged rivals (Ahem ahem Renault 5 GT Turbo) and keeping fuel consumption at good levels.

    It's a shame they abandoned that technology, although its understandable.

    Thanks for showing such a fantastic little car! I'm sure many people don't know it.

      2 months ago