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20 January 2021 ~ 0 Comments

New Volkswagen Polo Harlequin created to brighten up Blue Monday

Here’s something to brighten up the darkest and bleakest January day. The enterprising Volkswagen importer in the Netherlands has created an updated version of the arresting Polo Harlequin, which was sold in Europe. Unveiled for ‘Blue Monday’ on 18 January, the new version of VW’s small car joker wears a brightly coloured wrap and is based on the current sixth-generation Polo.

It’s not the first time an updated version of the Polo Harlequin (named ‘Harlekin’ in Europe) has appeared of course, but this latest attempt is set apart by just how well it has been done, and by how ‘official’ it looks. But then it has, in effect, been made by Volkswagen Netherlands. There’s also the fact that its original Harlekin buddy in these images is in tip-top condition. It’s rekindling all sorts of rare Polo desires in us!

Originally on sale in the UK in April 1996 – yes, the Harlequin is now, unbelievably, 25 years old – after its its appearance at the 1995 London Motor Show, the Polo Harlequin was based on the 1.4 CL. Featuring their own unique upholstery, UK-bound Harlekins were equipped with a driver’s airbag, Polo GLX ‘sports bumpers’, white indicators, as well as darkened tail lights. The UK price at launch for the five-door-only model was £11,095.

‘Building block’ approach
Manufactured in batches of four (Yellow, Pistachio Green, Chagall Blue and Flash Red were the base car colours), the idea was reportedly born from how the continental, European-market Polo was sold. Employing a ‘building block’ approach where buyers could pick and choose between various option packs rather than the UK’s solid trim levels, the bundles were marketed with each one a different colour: blue for chassis and engine; yellow for equipment; green for paint colours; and red for options. Yep, you’ve guessed it, the same colours as the Harlequin panels.

The other innovative approach with the Polo Harlequin was that the buyer was unable to specify a particular panel to be a particular colour – the combination that their car arrived in would be a complete surprise! Around 250 Golf Harlequins employed the same idea in the US, and both the rainbow-coloured Polo and Golf may have been inspired by the ‘Ballyhoo’ Beetle of 1971 which was painted in the 10 colours of the UK-market model.

Initially a concept to gain a production acceptance, VW displayed the Harlequin at the 1995 Frankfurt motor show, and was inundated with customer requests to buy it. Twenty cars were initially made for the promotion of the ‘Baukasten’ building block option system, and a run of 1,000 cars followed. A total of 3,100 Harlequins were eventually produced. UK buyers bought only 113 examples, and a quick check on howmanyleft.co.uk shows that 27 Harlequin are still registered for use on UK roads.

Sadly, there are no plans to put the 2021 Polo Harlequin into serial production, the car clearly made just to brighten people’s spirits during what is traditionally a quiet and unexciting time of year. It has certainly succeeded. However, we think a production version could be just the ticket drivers need for 2021 as we hopefully start to slowly and steadily populate roads again, and see 2020 increasingly disappear in the rear view mirror. It’s also an anniversary ripe for exploiting. How about it VW?

[Images: Eric Van Vuuren / Volkswagen Netherlands]

Would you like to see a new and official production version of the Polo Harlequin? Let us know in the comments section below.

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18 January 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Polo Vivo crowned 2020’s most popular car in South Africa

2018 Volkswagen Polo Vivo

Volkswagen Group South Africa took the vehicle registrations top spot for 2020 in the local market, with the Polo Vivo once again crowned the country’s most popular new car. A total of 19,750 units of Volkswagen South Africa’s entry-level model were registered in the pandemic-hit year, almost a third of the VW-brand’s 53,319 recorded registrations.

The sixth-generation Polo-based T-Cross SUV was South Africa’s most popular imported car, with 5,693 units registered. Now the country’s second most popular vehicle in the A0 SUV segment, the T-Cross has fast found favour, on sale in South Africa for less than two years.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

A total of 63,482 vehicles were registered by Volkswagen Group South Africa in 2020 and the Volkswagen brand’s market share of 21.6 per cent is the highest in the company’s long history in South Africa. Audi also ended the year with an improved market share, up to 18.5 per cent, and even Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles enjoyed a record full-year 3.7 per cent piece of the light commercial pie. The Audi Q2 and Volkswagen Caddy were the respective star players.

‘A challenging year’
‘2020 was a challenging year not just for our brands but for the motoring industry as a whole and to come out of 2020 still holding onto our leadership of the passenger car market is an incredible feat,’ stated Mike Glendinning, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) sales and marketing director.

‘VWSA was severely affected by the pandemic which ground vehicle sales to a halt in April; our 2020 sales are down by 28.9 per cent year-on-year when compared to 2019,’ said Glendinning. ‘Despite the difficulties we faced, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand posted a record market share last year; the 21.6 per cent market share is 1.2 per cent higher than that of 2019 and is the highest market share in the history of the brand, as well as the highest market share of Volkswagen markets across the world,’ Glendinning added.

Production milestone
In November 2020, Volkswagen South Africa’s Uitenhage factory celebrated the four millionth car to roll off its lines. Currently the home of the Polo for local and export markets, as well as the Polo Vivo, the plant built 75,521 Polos for export up until the celebratory milestone, as well as 12,804 units for local consumption. A total of 17,038 Polo Vivos were also produced for the local market, the only one in which it is sold.

It looks to be another busy year for Volkswagen South Africa, with the brand celebrating its 70th birthday in August 2021. The year will be kickstarted by the arrival of the eighth-generation Golf GTI, followed later by the new Golf R and refreshed Tiguan. New versions of the Caddy and T6.1 Kombi will also debut. In the wider group sphere, Audi’s new A3 will also appear, along with refreshed versions of the RS 4, RS 5, RS 6, RS 7, RS Q8, RS Q3, and R8.

Steffan Knapp has also replaced Martina Biene as the head of the Volkswagen Passenger Car Brand in South Africa, and joins from Volkswagen India where he successfully turned the brand around. The fifth-generation Polo and its Vento saloon sister were launched there in 2010.

Elsewhere in the world, the sixth-generation Polo was the eighth most popular car in the UK, with 26,965 units registered (with grey the most popular colour – what a very imaginative bunch the British car buying public is!). According to focus2move.com, up until December 2020, the Polo was also the third most popular car in Europe during the year, its 225,941-unit total down 27.5 per cent compared to 2019. Behind its second-placed Golf sibling (283,614 units) and the top-spot Renault Clio (314,357 units), over 14 million Polos have been produced since its introduction in 1975.

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17 January 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Polo GTI R5 results round-up: Grönholm and Linnaketo score sixth at 2021 Arctic Lapland Rally

Volkswagen Motorsport may have closed its doors, but the rally monster that is the Polo GTI R5 can still be seen out on the stages. At least 15 of the 272bhp four-wheel drive rally machines were made before the end of 2018, its debut year, and the rally GTI has tasted victory in the hands of famous names, including Oliver Solberg, son of world champion Petter Solberg.

Another celebrated rallying name is now associated with the GTI R5. Niclas Grönholm, son of two-time WRC title holder and former Volkswagen test driver Marcus Grönholm took the wheel of a MRF-tyred Polo for the 2021 Arctic Lapland Rally. The Finnish event ran from 15-16 January and Grönholm’s ALM Motorsport-prepared car came home in tenth place overall at the end of the seven-stage event. The result puts the young Finnish rallycross driver and his co-pilot Antti Linnaketo sixth in the 2021 Finnish Rally Championship.

‘Very challenging’
‘It was great to have two cars wearing MRF Tyres inside the top 10. The stages were in good condition, but there was a lot of loose snow, and it was very challenging,’ reported Grönholm.

Other Arctic Lapland Rally Polo GTI R5 runners included the pairings of Egon Kaur and Silver Simm for Kaur Motorsport; Georg Linnamäe and Tanel Kasesalu in another ALM Motorsport car; and Jussi Keskiniva and Mikko Kaikkonen in a Printsport-liveried Polo. Keskiniva finished 18th overall, with Linnamäe 21st and Kaur 30th. The 2021 event isn’t the first at which Polo GTI R5s have been seen in action: in 2019, Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen helmed their small VW to victory.

There is more Polo GTI R5 action next weekend, as four cars are scheduled to take part in the 2021 running of the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo.

[Images: MRF Tyres / Volkswagen Motorsport]

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01 December 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Official racing Polo activity halted as Volkswagen motorsport programmes end

Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH, the Hanover-based outfit behind the four World Rally Championship title-winning Polo R WRC, and the current Polo GTI R5, is being integrated into Volkswagen AG. The 169-strong workforce will be offered employment at Volkswagen AG, as the company ceases all motorsport activities and realigns itself with the age of electromobility.

Successful run
Production of the sixth-generation Polo-based GTI R5 will finish at the end of 2020, though spare parts will be ‘ensured in the long term’ to service teams who run the 270bhp four-wheel drive machines in national and international championships. An end to the Polo’s successful run which began in 2013, it sadly spells the final curtain on the Polo’s officially backed role in motorsport.

In addition to the quartet of World Rally Championship titles Volkswagen Motorsport scored with the Polo R WRC from 2013-2016, the Polo RX won a trio of rallycross world championship titles in 2017, 2018 and 2020, most notably through a pairing with Petter Solberg. Up-and-coming driver Johan Kristoffersson also formed an unbeatable and winning bond with the rallycross Polo.

2017 PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo GTI Supercar, World RX of Hockenheim: Kristoffersson

VW states it is “pooling its strengths for the transformation into the mobile electric age” as part of its wide-ranging refocus. ‘The Volkswagen brand is on the way to becoming the leading provider of sustainable electromobility,’ stated Dr Frank Welsch, Volkswagen brand Board Member for Development.

‘We are pooling our strengths and have decided to discontinue our own motorsport activities for the Volkswagen brand. The workforce will subsequently be integrated into Volkswagen AG.’ Welsch also explained that the ‘in-depth technical expertise’ of the Volkswagen Motorsport employees and the knowledge gained from the ID R electric racing car project will feed into the development of the incoming ID range of cars.

‘Significant sporting successes’
‘The Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH team has had significant sporting successes for the brand over the decades. My sincere thanks go to all employees for the many victories, titles and records around the world and their personal commitment,’ said Wilfried von Rath, Volkswagen brand Member of the Board of Management, adding that the Hanover workforce will be offered employment at Volkswagen AG in Wolfsburg, and will be integrated into the company over the coming months.

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Great Britain: Ogier/Ingrassia

As well as the components for the Polo GTI R5, spares for the Golf GTI TCR will also be safe in the long term. The 335bhp track machine secured a pair of TCR International titles in 2016 and 2017. Both machines are customer sports propositions, Volkswagen Motorsport not running any ‘factory-backed’ teams itself.

Five-decade history
Volkswagen Motorsport’s history goes back five decades, starting with Formula Vee in the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequent participation in Formula 3, national and World Rally Championships (with both second and third-generation Golf GTIs, as well as the Polo R WRC), circuit racing series and three Dakar Rally events show it was a company to be reckoned with in the world of motorsport.

More recently, the electric ID R single-seater successfully showcased Volkswagen Motorsport’s technical skill. The EV racer holds five international records, including the overall fastest hill climb times at Pikes Peak and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, as well as the quickest electric car lap on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.

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28 September 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen adds swagger to Polo Vivo with Mswenko special edition

Riding on a decade of success, a new special edition derivative of the Polo Vivo has been launched in South Africa. The Polo Vivo Mswenko has been named after the isZulu word for ‘swag’, which is an expression of attitude and confidence in the Bantu language of the Zulus. Aimed at ‘dynamic and young at heart’ buyers, the R246,900 Polo Vivo Mswenko has some eye-catching features.

Outside, there are ‘Mswenko’ (pronounced ‘m-swe-nkoh’) diamond door decals, a black roof, coloured mirror caps, 16-inch anthracite ‘Portago’ alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, and a chrome exhaust tip. Inside, there are even more statement features. The most notable change over a standard Polo Vivo are the very bright ‘Ocean Blue’ seats, but there is also anthracite headlining, silver dashboard inserts, six speakers, a leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel and gear knob, and App Connect.

Style and attitude
Along with that little lot, and the available four colours – Limestone Grey, Pure White, Reef Blue, and Reflex Silver – the Polo Vivo Mswenko should easily live up to the ‘mswenko’ tag. In South Africa, a self-confident and stylish person is said to have ‘swag’. The word ‘mswenko’, which is unique to South Africa, also refers to a person’s style, attitude and general demeanour.

In Volkswagen South Africa dealers from October 2020, the Polo Vivo Mswenko is based on the 1.4-litre 63kW Polo Vivo Comfortline, and costs R246,900. A three-year/120,000km warranty is standard, along with a six-year anti-corrosion warranty. A Volkswagen Maintenance Plan as well as a Volkswagen Service Plan are available as options, and service intervals are 15,000kms.

Since its introduction in March 2010, the Volkswagen Polo Vivo has been the most popular car in South Africa, with over 261,285 registered. Originally based on the fourth-generation European Polo, the Vivo took the shape of the fifth-generation Polo in February 2018. One of the reasons for its success may be that its cost of ownership over a three-year cycle makes it one of the most affordable cars to own in the South African market. Proof that swag confidence is more than style deep.

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