Published on April 5th, 2024 | by Subhash Nair


Audi 50, The 1st VW Polo’s Cousin, Turns 50 Years Old

The Audi 50 may not have been sold here but there are plenty of VW Polo owners in Malaysia who might be interested in this piece of history.

In the midst of the oil crisis in 1973, the automotive industry was faced with the challenge of producing fuel-efficient and compact cars that could meet the changing demands of the market. It was during this time that Audi launched the Audi 50 – a small car that would go on to become a blueprint for the popular VW Polo which was launched later using the same mechanical components.

Audi 50 Had A Groundbreaking Design

The Audi 50 was a revolutionary car in its time, featuring a front-wheel drive layout with a transverse engine, a two-door hatchback design, and a large trunk with a fold-down backrest. Despite its compact external dimensions, the 50 offered appealing road performance and driving characteristics, thanks to its innovative engineering.

A so-called X-ray drawing of the Audi 50.

Leveraging Synergies within the Volkswagen Group

The 50 was not just a stand-alone model; it was a part of a larger strategy within the Volkswagen Group. It was structurally almost identical to the VW Polo, which was launched seven months later, allowing the group to leverage synergies and drive success in the small-car segment.

Designed for Modernity and Versatility

The Audi 50 was meant to be a modern and versatile car, designed to complement the larger Audi 80 and Audi 100 models. The Ingolstadt team, led by CTO Ludwig Kraus, worked tirelessly to create a car that was the “right size for today’s imperatives,” as stated in the design manifesto.

Performance and Fuel Efficiency

The 50 was available in two versions: the 50 LS with 50 PS and the 50 GL with 60 PS, both equipped with 1.1-liter engines. The 50 LS had a top speed of 142 kph, while the 50 GL could reach a maximum speed of 152 kph. The cars were also designed with fuel efficiency in mind, with the 50-PS version using regular gasoline and the 60-PS variant requiring super-gasoline.

Legacy and Impact

Although the Audi 50 had a relatively short production run, it left a lasting impact on the automotive industry. By establishing the small-car segment within the Volkswagen Group, the Audi 50 paved the way for the continued success of the VW Polo, which has since become one of the most popular and iconic cars in the world.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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