MK4 Volkswagen Polo Tuning

"Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about the MK4 Volkswagen Polo"

So go on then, tell us about it. Launched in 1994 with an emotive black and white advert that ran the slogan “Ever noticed how protected you feel when you make yourself small?,” the MK4 Polo was the first to show that like it’s bigger sibling the Golf, it too was solidly built and expertly engineered. In Euro NCAP tests it scored a better than average 3 stars, proving that the slogan wasn’t merely empty blurb.

(And trust me, on the day that my Polo lost it’s footing in a flood and got decidedly intimate with a dry stone wall, destroying a telegraph pole in the process, believe me 3 stars was well deserved. )

Please watch our video introduction to VW Tuning.

Ever noticed how protected you feel when you make yourself small?

Around this time, Golfs were getting bigger and more expensive and so the Polo also began looking like a good alternative, a car that mixed early Golf handling with modern build quality and safety standards.

Engine swaps are quite popular mods for this model, here are engine guides to all the VAG engines we've covered.

Hurrah, you say. Sounds perfect. And yup, if you got the right model it was. Don’t even consider buying one without power-assisted steering. Not only is it heavier to drive, but the steering rack wears out quickly, and that’s money that could be much better spent on coffee and Smartie cookies...

Avoid the 1 litre like plague, my friend Wayne had one and it was embarrassingly slow. The 1.3 and 1.6 are supposed to be alright-ish, but the 1.4 16V is the pick of the range. Although I had a straight 1.4CL, and with the multi point fuel injection, it did me rather nicely, thank you.

You liked it then ?

Although they are excellent, excellent cars, like anything on the road they aren’t without their niggles. Rear silencers wear out quickly, although that’s the perfect excuse to fit an uprated system. More seriously, a squealing noise means the water pump’s knackered (that happened to me), the clutch is quite fragile (that happened to me too) and occasionally first gear gets really stiff (guess what? Someone remind me now, why did I like this car?). These problems ain’t cheap either. The water pump is about £30.00 for the part, and about three hours labour to replace, and for the clutch you’re staring down the barrell of £300.00. And you’ll have to lift with a stiff gearbox, unless you want to shell out for a complete rebuild.

Don’t be put off though because in the majority of cases these cars are extremely robust and reliable, are a blast to drive and cost very little to run.

Ok. So you’ve convinced me and I’ve got one. Now what?

Now the fun starts. Although it’s a perfectly entertaining little hatch to run about in standard form (unless you ignored my advice and bought a 1 litre, you buffoon!), the sheer potential of it and the enormity of available parts and options will soon have you running off to the torque cars shop with your credit card clenched firmly in your sweaty palm.

Starting at the beginning with an uprated air filter and exhaust will set you nicely on your way. Don’t get an induction kit, Polos don’t like them. A K&N Panel filter will improve breathing and at around £35 it’s a veritable bargain. Airflow can be further improved by drilling the airbox if you want to. I would also recommend a Scorpion cat-back exhaust system which not only burbles beautifully, but along with the air filter makes for a much smoother drive and a keener response to your right foot.

That’s as far as I went with mine, but if you want more then you have two roads open to you. Option 1 is to get yourself a gas-flowed head, Piper camshafts and then a re-chip, which’ll set you back about £850 - £1000 ish. Or you can bin you’re standard lump, the missus won’t mind, and put in a supercharged 1.3 litre G40 engine from a MK3 Polo, or a 1.8 Turbo or VR6 engine from a Golf. Bear in mind that other Golf engines, including the GTi, won’t fit because they’re too tall. Bear in mind the extra weight of the VR6 if you want one though...

As any self respecting car enthusiast should know, investing wisely in upgraded suspension can achieve the same result as spending twice the amount under the bonnet. According to the great, but now defunct magazine Revs, the ideal ride height is 40mm lower than standard. Any more and the car starts to feel “jittery”. FK Automotive make high quality, TUV approved coilovers that start from around £400.00 and are adjustable between -35mm to -65mm. Also consider an Eibach anti-roll kit for around £200.00 and uprated suspension bushes to sharpen handling and increase rigidity no end.

I‘m ready to put it down on the blacktop. Now I want to look good while I’m doing it.

There’s a wealth of styling gear available for the Polo. I know, I’ve spent long hours drooling over it. Unfortunately I never had the wedge in my back pocket to buy any of it before writing my Dragon off, but if I had, I would have bought the Dietrich RS2 kit and some super smooth Borbet T rims. You can have any style you ant with the Polo, from simple splitters through smooth Euro kits to lairy wide arch stylee. You could even go Jap style, if you really wanted to.

Wheel wise, 6x15 with 185/50x15 tyres in an ET45 offset gives the best compromise of looks and handling and with a 40mm drop will fill those arches beautifully. It is possible to get 18’s on and achieve full lock, but if you aren’t familiar in the use of an angle grinder then make friends with someone who is. (Be careful with which angle-grinder bearing people you make friends with though - you might want to invest in a full body suit that wipes clean easily).

A popular and relatively easy mod is to change the horrible orange indicators. All are dead easy to fit, and there’s no shortage of options. Make sure that you get ones that are E-marked though, otherwise your fog light and reverse light will be the wrong way round and Mr MoT man will dish you out a fail. Oh, and I know it’s tempting, but don’t put green lights on a dragon green Polo. I wanted these till I saw them on another car and it looked atrocious.

I wanna go shop, I wanna go shop, I wanna go shop, I wanna go shop!!!

The greatest Polo link in the whole entire universe. Enjoy!!!

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Article submitted by Torquecars member James Berridge (he likes his VW Polos!) Join our forum and he'll tell you lots more I'm sure - ed!

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One Response to “VW Polo Tuning and living with the VW Polo Mark 4”

  1. Ben says:

    Just say… someone ordered a k + n induction kit and then read this article after. Would you tell me… I mean ‘them’, to send it back if possible or just use it? What do you mean by ‘polos don’t like them’. Thanks 😀

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