Confirming rumors, VW says it will sell the Polo--a model smaller than the 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit--in the US, probably starting in 2011. Launched at the recent Geneva Motor Show, the subcompact Polo got good reviews for its fuel economy, features, and build quality.

But in a surprise, the company will develop special versions of the Polo just for the US, according to an interview with Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen of America, in the industry trade journal Automotive News.

Those models would be larger than the Polo sold in Europe, he said, with a longer wheelbase and greater height. Jacoby described the five-door version as "more like a cross between a compact minivan and a hatchback," citing the 2009 Honda Fit specifically as a competitor.

[UPDATE: A VW of America spokesperson says any US-spec Polo would be "similar in size" to the European version. Hmmmmmm ...]

The other US Polo model would be a four-door sedan. In general, European buyers prefer their small cars as five-door hatchbacks rather than sedans, but Stateside buyers are the opposite.

The US Polos must be priced between $13,000 and $15,000 to have any chance of success, Jacoby admitted. That means they'll have to be assembled in the Mexican plant that now builds all US-bound Jettas, rather than in higher-cost Germany.

In Europe, the Polo offers both gasoline and diesel engines from 1.2 to 1.4 liters. Jacoby didn't indicate whether the company would offer a diesel Polo in the States alongside its Jetta TDI and Rabbit TDI models.

The Rabbit and Jetta have been the smallest Volkswagens sold in the US since the demise of the Brazilian-built VW Fox, sold here between 1987 and 1993.

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion Concept

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion Concept

[SOURCE: Automotive News (requires subscription)]