The first Polo (type 86), a rebadged Audi 50, was produced from 1975 to 1981. No performance model was sold by the factory That didn’t keep people from tuning the car, I know a guy who had 165 hp in his Polo built for rallye use.
The Polo II (86C) followed in 1981. The top engine was at first a 75 hp 1.3l in the GT. Starting in 1987, the G40 engine (115hp) was sold in very limited numbers. A major facelift was performed in 1990, the resulting model is usually known as 2F. The G40 now became a regular option, developing 113hp due to the catalytic converter.
An all-new Polo III (type 6N) was finally introduced in 1994. It was available with a wide range of engines, from a 1.05l/45hp engine (later replaced by a 1.0l with 50hp) to 1.4l and 1.6l engines with 60, 75, and 100hp. A GTI with a 120hp 1.6l engine was briefly produced. A major facelift was performed in 1999, resulting in the 6N2 model. The GTI now became a regular option, with a 125hp power rating. The same engine could also be had in the Lupo GTI.
The much larger Polo IV (type 9N) was introduced in 2001. A GTI wasn’t offered until after the facelift in 2005. The engine was the well-known 1.8l turbo that was also used on the Golf IV GTI, developing 150hp or 180hp in the Cup Edition.
The Polo V (type 6R) was introduced in 2008. The GTI became available in 2010, now with a 1.4l engine with both super- and turbocharger and 180hp. After the facelift in 2014, the engine was changed to a 1.8l with 192 hp. The Polo R WRC was built as homologation model for the World Rally Championship, with a 220hp 2.0l engine. Only 2500 were built.
The Polo VI was introduced in 2017. Contrary to current downsizing development, the GTI now has a 2.0l engine with 200hp.
The current Polo VI GTI weighs 1355kg and does 0-100kph in 6.7s, with a top speed of 237 kph. The previous model is only slightly slower. The Polo III GTI with its naturally-aspirated engine does 0-100kph in 8.9s, with a top speed of 205 kph.
Lighter and cheaper than a Golf GTI.
Smaller and thus less practical than a Golf GTI. The latest model is quite heavy for its size. The French offerings (Clio RS) are probably a bit more sporty.
I’ve got two favourites here. I’ve always liked the 6N2 GTI and briefly considered buying one before getting my compact instead. I also really like the looks of Polo V GTI, which does of course offer much more power and performance than the 6N2.