60 Miles Per Gallon: 1999 Volkswagen Polo Wagon SDI

This car has a lot going for it.

It was never sold in the U.S., has relatively low miles and gets terrific gas mileage according to the seller.

It's a '99 Volkswagen Polo Wagon SDI.

SDI stood for Suction Diesel Injection (versus today's TDI - Turbocharged Direct Injection) and was Volkswagen's trademark range of diesel engines. They are legendary, revered and admired by consumers for their durability, frugality and longevity.

The Polo nameplate was never sold here in the U.S. Like a lot of European automakers, Volkswagen made dozens of cars that were never offered in the U.S., including the Polo. It was to our detriment. The Polo was a subcompact and supermini range of vehicles that were just as good as the Golf and Jetta we got here.

This is a Mark III Polo, which was produced from 1994 to 1999. It features Volkswagen's typical conservative and simplistic styling, which has aged very well and is now refreshing and almost classic given how awry car design has gone today.

How did this get in the United States then?

The seller explains it was owned by the U.S. government for use at an Air Force base in Greenland, and was then imported here. It was then purchased by the previous owner at a U.S. Surplus auction. It is now in the hands of a dealer. The dealer/seller says it is fully legal and has all EPA and DOT documents. They say it came with an Ohio title, which is a good sign, because an established title should be transferable to any state.

A similar vehicle and story was also on ebay a month or two ago. It was a Opel diesel wagon that the government used in Greenland that eventually made its way here and was acquired at a surplus sale. One of my favorite car blogs, Just A Car Geek, spotlighted the vehicle here.

This is also the same seller that advertised a Volvo I spotlighted back here. They are based in Staten Island, New York and seem have unusual and low mileage European cars. I like their listings too because they give a lot of information and have a ton of high-resolution photos. If only every seller could be as thorough.

However this car came to be here, it's a pretty cool item. Since the U.S. government exempts itself from its own laws and can apparently import cars newer than 25 years old (resident citizens can only import cars 25 years and older), this could very well be 1 of 1 in the U.S., increasing the novelty factor and overall value.

On top of that, you are treated to extreme frugality and practicality, assets in a vehicle anytime, but especially in a chaotic era like now. The seller says the 1.9-litre SDI engine will get you at least 60mpg, which is a pretty big claim. Combined with the 5-speed manual transmission and bare-bones package, I believe it. The car has manual windows, manual door locks, cloth seats and a tape player. It's a small metal and plastic bucket. In your face, Prius! It's truly remarkable how many of yesterday's cars already solved the fuel-efficiency problem, without being pretentious, overpriced and counter-intuitive.

With only 32,742 on the odometer, this thing is just getting broken in, especially for a diesel engine, which typically see 300,000-400,000 miles before a rebuild. 

Find it here on ebay with a buy it now price of $11,400. Not a bargain, but not outrageous either, and perhaps it's negotiable. Let me put it this way: there are no other new diesel wagons for sale at that price. The closest vehicle would be a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen TDI which starts at $25,540. For less than half that price, you get an arguably better car that gets better gas mileage.

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