The Volkswagen Polo is the name behind what many South Africans consider to be the best entry-level car. Traditionally, its reliability and its relatively affordable asking price gained this little hatch immense popularity. In today's day and age, it seems as though the price has become rather steep for what is essentially an older entry-level hatch.
My initial impression of the Vivo was that the exterior doesn’t look nearly as fresh as the body of the TSI and retains the same style from nearly half-a-decade ago while the interior too continues with the similarly dated theme.
With lots of hard-wearing plastic and an outdated infotainment screen, the Vivo's cabin isn't the most visually appealing. The cabin's simplicity and accessibility impressed me, and I appreciated the straightforward controls for the climate and entertainment system.
The steering wheel is rather thin but feels good in the hands. I liked the placement and use of the steering wheel buttons to easily use cruise control and scroll through the driver display settings and information options.
The cloth seats are comfortable and provide a high seating position which I liked. However, the back seats don’t provide an amazing amount of leg- and head-room for taller passengers.
Often when driving an affordable hatch, there are a few points which tend to get under my skin, like the lack of power, sparse noise insulation and tight space. I was relieved to discover, however, that the Polo Vivo gives off a nonchalant attitude to the business of driving which I found rather enjoyable. Yes, there isn’t much power, but its smooth ride, decent ground clearance and rather high seating position provide an enjoyable grocery-getting experience.
The 1.0-litre engine is a noisy little thing if you give it some right foot, but the noise isn’t particularly noticeable with more tame inputs. With only 77kW and 153Nm of power, this little engine demands high revs to perform at its best.
The 5-speed gearbox wasn’t anything to get excited about. The throws are quite long but the clutch is light and allows for easier gear changes, especially for newer drivers. Despite only having five gears, highway driving is a breeze as engine speed doesn't exceed 3000r/min at highway speeds. This adds to its decent fuel consumption of 6.2l/100km.
The Polo Vivo does add a stress-free element to your life, and spending time with the car almost helps me unwind on the roads. The cost is the part I can't seem to wrap my head around. There are a wide variety of alternatives available for under R304,700.
Considering it’s known to be an affordable hatch, cars like the Citreon C3, which comes in at R229 ,900, provides an arguably better option with a more exciting interior, infotainment screen, more space and what is effectively a bigger car. Another good option is a top-spec Suzuki Swift GLX which too comes in at around R239,900 for the manual.
The Vivo does come with a 120,000km/3-year warranty for peace of mind.
The Vivo is a good little hatchback, but as much as I enjoy the overall driving experience, its price is on the steep side. Although its exterior is outdated, it still has plenty of charm and provides all the necessary niceties without breaking the bank.
What I did get to understand is why the Polo is so popular. It inspires an on-the-go lifestyle without too many frills or fuss. It's easy to see why it's SA's best-selling hatchback.