Volkswagen resurrects the multi-colored Polo Harlequin in Holland

Volkswagen’s Dutch division reignited a debate that has split the enthusiast community for more than a quarter century: what color is a Polo Harlequin? It brought the colorful hatchback into the 21st century by giving a 2021 sixth-generation model the same livery as the limited-edition, third-generation-based car launched in 1995.

Yellow on the front bumper, Pistachio Green on the rear bumper, Chagall Blue on the front fenders, and Flash Red on the roof. Like the original Harlequin, the 2021 model proudly wears mismatched body panels. It’s bigger than its predecessor, but it wears the look relatively well. Volkswagen of Holland even painted the door handles, which were left black on the 1995 Polo. It stopped short of designing a new emblem for the hatch, however.

Some argue that the original Harlequin looks like it belongs in a circus, but it was more popular than expected. Volkswagen explained selling the Polo Harlequin to the public was not its original intention. It built the first 20 cars to highlight the baukastensystem, which split the car into four basic categories: the drivetrain, the standard equipment, the options, and the paint color. This color-coded system made it easy for customers to configure a Polo. The firm painted a batch of cars in yellow, red, blue, and green to promote the new configuration tool, and it displayed them at dealer events held across Europe. Customers spotted them and unpredictably asked for one.

Surprisingly, executives approved an initial run of 1,000 cars that wore the Harlequin nameplate. Volkswagen built the cars in the four aforementioned colors and shuffled the body panels on the production line. Several patterns were available. Motorists not at all concerned with keeping a low profile could order a Harlequin in a handful of European countries, but they were not able to ask for a specific pattern; they were assigned one randomly.

Volkswagen’s Dutch division stressed that the 2021 Polo Harlequin is a one-off model not designed to go into production, but neither was the original, and yet demand was so high that a total of 3,806 cars were built. Most were purchased, but 500 were given away by McDonald’s in Germany as part of a contest.

Even if it spawns a limited-edition model, the 2021 Polo Harlequin will not be sold in America, where the standard hatchback has never been available. Volkswagen sent 246 units — or 264, depending on who you ask — of the similarly colorful Golf Harlequin to our shores in 1996, but seeing a modern version of it is out of the question, too, because the Golf is retiring. The closest thing would be a GTI Harlequin. How about it, Volkswagen?