Polo Tuning

"Tuning guide to the most effective VW Polo modifications."

The Polo has a loyal fan base among our members and rightly so, it is a great little car.

As of August 1974, the first Polo was essentially an Audi 50 hatchback that had been renamed. The Polo and SEAT Ibiza Mk2 shared a platform. As a precursor to the Polo Mk3, the Ibiza shared much of its mechanicals, as well as its instrument panel and other interior components.

Interestingly the current 2020 Polo is larger than the original Golf, forcing VW to introduce a new Small car to the lineup!

To focus on bigger, more luxurious automobiles in 1978, the Audi 50 was discontinued. The Polo was a stand-alone vehicle in the Volkswagen lineup until the Mk1 and Mk2 variants were introduced.

Audi, SEAT, and Skoda all adopted the Polo's platform as a basis for their own vehicles when it was acquired by VW in the 1960s.

SEAT Ibiza Mk3 and Skoda Fabia Mk1 and Mk2 were also designed on the same basis and used many of the same engines as the Polo Mk4 providing rich pickings for doing engine swaps and upgrades!

Small nimble and agile. There are plenty of modifications around for it, especially since it shares the engine range from the Golf.

We've even seen some crazy Polo engine swaps but the 1.8T engine seems to be very well suited and the later 1.4TFsi and 1.8TFSi really suit the small cars chassis.

You have to get the right mods for your Polo or you will be disappointed so follow our unbiased guides carefully and read up on which mods work, and find out which ones are a waste of time and money.

We'd suggest some power mods, braking mods and a few handling modifications are all that's needed to create a fun daily driver.

Polo Brake Mods & Upgrades

For dramatically improved stopping put better brake pads and mate this with meatier brake discs.

Bear in mind that race pads can be noisier and will have to be hot before they bite.

On your regular commute to work the brakes are only applied now and then and won't be all that effective so source brake pads which don't need to be really hot.

The turbo diesels are quite lively in the small body of the polo and make good projects.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Top end power should be your overall aim on the Polo with a nice fat peak torque band.

With our tuning guide your Polo can be both a track day fun car and reliable daily run around.

Smaller engines do not provide much of a return in terms of power so start with a bigger engine. Engine swaps are a good option if you have a small engine size. Look to the Golf engines for suitable donors (ask in our TorqueCars forum to get an idea of which engine swaps work the best.)

Polo Tuning modifications.

We have guides for the following VAG group engines. (More will be added soon) These would make great engine swap candidates for your Polo project.

These mods sports upgrades are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to push your car before you get started.

Getting the best uprated mods for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 (competition) mods just don't work well on the road making the car difficult to drive.

Please watch our video which provides a good introduction to VW Polo tuning. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Best Engine Mods for your Polo

  1. Engine Tunes - engine tuning/remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  5. Throttle bodies can add a sharper throttle response and a higher pressure fuel valve will also help improve your off the line takeoff.

If we were to break down these mods and upgrades into the familiar Stages of tune it would look something like this...

VW Polo Stage tuning

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Panel air filter, Engine Tunes/Remapping, Suspension upgrade (drop 24mm - 39 mm.), Alloy wheels, Lighter flywheel, Sports exhaust.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Ported and polished head, fuel pump upgrades, Power/Sport clutch, high flow fuel injector, Fast road cam.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Engine balancing, Competition cam, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Sports gearbox, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

You need to keep as much low end torque as you can and aim for a wide power band rather than a narrow top end power spike.

For more in-depth information on customizing your ride, the best sports kits for cars, or anything else related to modding, visit one of the many forums on our site, such as those where you'll find all of our insights. A high-performance camshaft is one of the most effective NASP adjustments you can make to your engine with a single item.

As long as it's done correctly, it may boost the engine's power output. An ECU reflash and other modifications would be ideal. We'd also advise against installing a motor sport cam since it has an adverse effect on the engine's idle and other aspects of city driving.

Fuel upgrades on the Polo

To maximize performance, you'll need to keep an eye on your fuel use. More power necessitates the use of more fuel.

Throttle bodies can add a sharper throttle response and a higher pressure fuel valve will also help improve your off-the-line takeoff.

If you're experiencing pinking or early ignition on your VW project after installing previous upgrades, you may want to consider using high octane gasoline before trying upgrades.

You'll be able to feed the engine more efficiently with new injectors and a better fuel pressure regulator will not increase power directly but may provide the fuel needed so you no longer run lean.

Adding larger injectors will need the purchase of a larger fuel pump to keep up with the increased demand.

Gearboxes are known to be prone to failure and must be replaced on a regular basis. Remanufactured gearboxes with harder internals coupled to an Quaife limited slip differential are the better option than messing around with old ones.

VW Polo Intake and Exhaust.

Now we move on to the intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. Air induction kits are only beneficial to add power if your air intake is restricted!

Adding an induction kit to most low power Polo engines will see NO LOW-END POWER GAIN AT ALL.

If you have heavily modified your engine and it's need for air INCREASES DRAMATICALLY then an induction kit is the answer and will help remove this restriction.

Derestricting the flow of air into the engine is a primary goal of car tuners so get a better flowing air filter if you find that the car is running lean only if you find the car is running lean.

Induction kits can sound great but due to the warm air in the engine bay they will not do much to increase power and actually rob you of power on most cars.

Sports exhausts can help equal out the flow of air through the engine. But if the exhaust is too large, ie: it's over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a great deal of your flow rate and end up sapping power and torque.

Airflow through the head can be dramatically increased with some professional flowed (porting and polishing). These should match and be setup to take into account any other engine mods. A good triple plate fast road upgraded clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never skimp or assume your standard clutch to cope. The best mods we recommend for your Polo are Remapping or piggy back ecu, fast road cam and air intake and exhaust.

Turbo engines are just crying out to be Upgraded. You will see significant power gains on most modern turbo engined cars including diesels making a tune/remap one of the most cost effective and significant modifications for your money.

We've also seen some tuners playing with twincharged conversions and making some seriously high power gains.

The most phenomenal power gains for NA (naturally aspirated) engines usually involve the addition of forced induction. Superchargers are usually easier to add than a turbo. Turbos give boost in exponential proportion to increasing engine speed and this can make mapping difficult.

It is simpler to map a supercharger because the boost is directly proportional to engine speed on a linear curve. Alternatively you could perhaps fit water injection to minimise knock.

VW Polo Handling and Suspension.

Drop the car optimally somewhere in the region of 35mm and fit stiffer dampers, bigger drops will need other modifications in most instances or you'll need to use really hard shocks.

Many individuals believe that firmer springs and a lower ride height would enhance handling.

However, there are several more suspension settings that may dramatically improve handling without replacing any components.

It is a piston in liquid with an extra gas chamber to absorb shocks (gas compresses whereas liquid does not compress under pressure.)

Shocks may be rather complex. If you receive more than one bounce while testing your shocks, your shocks are on their way out. Without shocks, the automobile would bounce about like a spring.

It's possible to fine-tune your suspension settings to enhance cornering AND straight-line stability (but not both). It's a damper so will try to restrict the movement of the body and keep the wheels in line with the road surface.

Bound & Rebound This is the shock absorber's damping force.

The shock's bound rate permits compression, while its rebound rate allows compression to be released. If your suspension has a dampening control, you may tweak it to achieve the best performance.

A decent set of coilovers will make a world of difference to your Polo's handling. But TorqueCars urge you to avoid the cheaper brands out there. You'll end up having to start over when they break, or fail to deliver on their promise.

Camber: The wheel's angle to the road.

Positive camber is achieved by placing all of your weight on the outside of your feet, whereas negative camber is achieved by rolling your feet inwards.

Camber affects both handling and tire life as the automobile rolls into a bend.

Sadly, the optimal camber for handling causes excessive tire wear! While deflecting up on normal suspension travel, the front wheels develop negative camber. Camber is the angle of the wheel to the road and the wheel to the chassis.

To keep the tires in touch with the road, the suspension geometry must be adjusted. As a result, while making suspension adjustments, you should attempt to remain as near to the manufacturer's standard as is feasible.

Progressively tune the camber setting

There is less fluctuation under stress and less space to explore with a more finely adjusted suspension setup. Begin with the manufacturer's settings and increase the negative camber to evaluate the results.

Why bother if you can't tell a difference?

Remember that kerbing and bumping the wheels hard on potholes might mess up your camber settings or damage your shocks.

What is the Caster setting?

Caster Let's say you lean forward on a gusty day.

The angle of the caster is the angle of the wheel hub to the suspension arm.

In the same way as a pram wheel, the connecting arm to the hub is set back. In contrast, a neutral camber causes the wheel to wobble around the axis and affects the stability of a car in a straight line and on cornering.

When an automobile wheel is rotated at an angle, it creates greater camber.

What is Toe in and Out?

Standing like Charlie Chaplain, heels together, toes out.

Imagine your car's tyres at the same angle (Toe Out).

Toe in means heels apart and toes together. Obviously, Toe angle in an automobile is negligible. This setting offers the automobile considerable straight-line stability and opposes right or left turns.

Toe out improves steering responsiveness. Toe in is a favored road vehicle position, whereas Toe out is a track setting.

With toe heading towards the negative, certain automobiles perform better than others.

You select how much Toe and what feels comfortable in your vehicle, given your driving style on common roads.

Remove body roll on your Polo whilst cornering

Keeping all four wheels on the ground promotes cornering stability. Most modern automobiles will raise a rear wheel off the ground when driven hard enough, and the Polo is no exception so you need as much rubber on the black stuff as possible.

By lifting one side and moving it to the other, the roll bar or sway bar helps maintain the automobile level in a corner. Since this isn't possible, the lift is effectively lowered, keeping everything on the road.

Strut braces reinforce the top of the suspension mountings and assist prevent flex while driving hard, decreasing roll.

Spring selection soft or hard?

Too firm springs cause the automobile to bounce over bumps on the road. If it's too soft, the automobile will float (although it will be quite comfy).

The greatest shocks are adjustable on the automobile to fit your driving style. Front springs that are softer will cause greater nose grip in turns and more oversteer (back gets lighter and tends to go wide in corners).

Soft springs in the back generate understeer, which is why most modern production automobiles have understeer rather than oversteer.

Make sure your suspension bushings are in good condition.

Bushes link the suspension components to the car's chassis.

Rubber ones degrade over time. However, since they are tougher, new polyurethane bushes might make the ride a bit bumpier. They may also wear out other suspension parts.

A new pair of poly bushes will improve your car's handling by decreasing slack and sway. Most Polo models have an aftermarket option containing a complete set of Poly suspension bushes, however, some models frequently just have the primary bushes in polyurethane which will still give some benefits.

Custom bushes may frequently be created on order. Replace your OEM rubber bushings and notice a huge improvement in handling when comparing them with your worn bushes.

VW Polo Handling and Wheel modifications.

The benefits of alloy wheels include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling.

The downside to large alloy wheels on your Polo is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on performance.

Aim to keep the overall rolling diameter of the wheel the same as supplied from the factory (low profile tires will enable you to achieve this). In all cases we do not recommend going above 15-16 inches.

Please join us in our forum to discuss the Polo options in more detail with our very active and enthusiastic Polo owners. It would also be worth reading our car tuning articles to get a full grasp of the pros and cons of each type of modification.

Please Check out my YouTube channel, we're regularly adding new content...

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8 Responses to “VW Polo Tuning”

  1. Grant says:

    I only put on a K&N pan filter and decat my 1.4 polo and i can feel the difference already…i wish i could install a small turbo to my 1.4 motor just for the extra response to overtake quicker…

  2. Tom says:

    I have 6N polo with 1.6 engine. Looking for some serious mods and IT WILL BE AMAZINGLY OSOM IF I COULD FIND GUIDE “FITTING TURBO TO POLO 6N” from start to end..

  3. siya says:

    I want to know what about the 9n3 polo ???

  4. Marco Rossetti says:

    I’m away to buy a 1 litre vw polo off my friend and was wondering what’s the best mods to start with as considering an engine swap to a 2.0 golf gti engine

  5. TorqueCars says:

    It depends which Polo version you have, I would recommend looking at the 1.8T engine, this responds very well to tuning and fits in most Polo engine bays. Focus on brakes and suspension before doing the engine swap. Some GTi, S3 or even Porsche brakes would work well but you might need larger alloys to house them. See what your local breakers have in stock and take some measurements.

  6. kazi_6r says:

    I have a 2011 polo 6r dsg 1.4 non turbo. Was wondering what perfomance mod do you recommend me. Atm I changed my alloys to 17″ and changed my back box for twin exhaust. I was thinking how much should I drop my car by as I have a splitter at the front. Also what induction kit should I go. which would give me the best gains and sound!!

  7. Kane says:

    I have a 1.4 FSI Polo and I was wondering what would be a good engine swap? What would actually work? Looking for a bigger sized one?

  8. Goodboy says:


    I have polo vivo 1.4 model 2012. I want to substitutes it’s engine, which engine can fit in my car?

    Thank you


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