German car giant confirms plans to develop frugal variants of its supermini to augment standard petrol and diesel range
30 January 2014

Plug-in hybrid and compressed natural gas (CNG) powered versions of the Volkswagen Polo are tipped to reach production next year.

During this week’s official launch of the refreshed Polo range at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, the company confirmed that the two alternative power sources are being developed for the supermini.

Volkswagen’s plug-in hybrid technology sits under the umbrella name ‘TwinDrive’ and the system can be combined with either petrol or diesel combustion engines. 

Read our comprehensive review of the Volkswagen Polo supermini

The Wolfsburg-based company has already shown off several plug-in hybrids including the Golf GTE – which marries a transversely mounted 148bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine with a 107bhp electric motor – the Twin Up, which used diesel technology derived from the super-frugal XL1 two-seater, and the CrossBlue SUV.

Volkswagen wouldn’t be drawn on details of the system the Polo will adopt, beyond saying that it will be different to that adopted for the Golf. One key reason for this is because the latter vehicle is based on Volkwagen’s modular MQB platform, whereas the current-generation Polo still uses the older PQ25 underpinnings.

“The technology will differ,” said Ekkehard Pott of Volkswagen's powertrain development team. “We don’t have the same platform, so we have to make vehicle-specific adaptions.”

Pott believed the plug-in hybrid system could work well with a supermini such as the Polo, where urban journeys could be undertaken on silent electric power.

“One of the advantages would be fuel economy, of course but another one would be comfort. Driving on pure electricity over shorter distances is something that TwinDrive could offer in a very good way,” he said.

Developing a plug-in hybrid system in a supermini that can be sold at a competitive cost could prove to be a challenge in a market segment with narrow profit margins.

Although Volkswagen’s plug-in system can be paired to either a petrol or diesel internal combustion engine, the combination of an oilburner – traditionally more expensive than petrol units – and the plug-in technology would seem to suggest that a petrol plug-in makes sense.

“Until now TwinDrive has been shown with petrol technology,” said Pott. “Of course the cost of the technology would be a concern – we have to decide for every project what the most meaningful combination would be.”

Volkswagen is also assessing its compressed natural gas (CNG) technology for installation in the Polo. The system was first seen in the Golf TGI BlueMotion first shown at the Geneva motor show last year. That car used a 1.4-litre TSI engine that could take either petrol or CNG.

“Things are still under development, but if there proves to be an good outlook for TGI and TwinDrive we will unveil more of the details next year,” said Pott.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Polo

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo has junior Golf looks, but is that enough?

Join the debate


30 January 2014

Is there an estimated date for this hybrid Polo to go on sale or is it just the kind of news to convince unsuspecting readers that the Volkswagen is doing a lot for clean motoring without actually doing much other than releasing such news.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    9 December 2016
    Audi Sport drops a sub-4.0sec-to-60mph bomb into Porsche Cayman territory
  • First Drive
    9 December 2016
    Plug-in-hybrid 3 Series shows the benefit of BMW's experience with the i3 and i8. Sophisticated, swift and broadly talented to drive – and sweet-handing, too
  • Car review
    9 December 2016
    Italian brand emerges as a true luxury power with a large SUV
  • 2016 Porsche Panamera Turbo
    First Drive
    8 December 2016
    A smaller engine doesn't prevent the new Porsche Panamera Turbo being a ridiculously quick and capable sporting GT. We've driven it in the UK
  • 2016 Vauxhall Adam 1.0i Turbo Unlimited
    First Drive
    8 December 2016
    The 1.0-litre turbo engine and Unlimited trim combine to make this the best Adam in the line-up