Remember when VW built a supercharged 2cyl Polo? | Top Gear
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Remember when VW built a supercharged 2cyl Polo?

The 1988 Öko-Polo was a brilliantly barmy 80mpg prototype

Published: 11 Jan 2021

Whack 'Öko-Polo' into your preferred online translation tool and you’ll quickly get a sense of what this 1988 Polo prototype was all about. Essentially, Volkswagen wanted to build a standard-looking city car that could travel 100km (or 62 miles) on three litres of fuel – the equivalent of around 78mpg. 

Under the bonnet was a teeny (but reportedly rather loud) 0.9-litre 2cyl direct-injection diesel engine that produced a whole 12bhp. Thankfully, Volkswagen bolted on its G40 supercharger for an end result of 40bhp and a top speed of 85mph.

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The engine bay was lined with a heat-resistant foam to minimise noise and vibrations, whilst the fuel was mixed with an additive that allowed the exhaust gasses to pass through a special catalytic converter on their way out. 

It wasn’t just the engine that VW decided to play with, though. The gearbox was a five-speed semi-automatic unit with no clutch pedal. Instead, the clutch was electronically activated and was disengaged by lifting the gear knob. Pushing the knob back down then re-engaged the clutch. Oh, and the Öko-Polo also featured a kind of start/stop system that disengaged the engine and allowed the car to freewheel whenever you came off the accelerator. This was 1988, remember.

The cost of building the Eco-Polo meant it was never put into production and only 75 prototypes were ever completed. Identified by their lovely rainbow stripe down the side, sadly many were stripped of their rather innovative drivetrains long ago. The one in the pictures above belongs to VW collector Ross Cupples in the US and is now running a 1.0-litre Polo engine. 

Reckon it's a concept VW should revisit?

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