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Comparative Test: Renault Sandero Dynamique Turbo 66 kW vs. Ford Figo 1,4 Trend vs. Toyota Etios 1,5 Xs vs. Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1,4 Trendline

by CAR magazine on 27/06/2014

Comments: 8

Renault doesn’t believe South African consumers are getting the most for their hard-earned money. And the new Sandero is here to prove it.

THE French term coup d’état implies a change of leadership as a result of an assault on the status quo. And, in the case of the largest segment in South Africa, Renault believes the time has come for change.

The marques and models of the current establishment in the budget B-segment are well known and instantly recognisable. A combination of traditional brand loyalty, merited trust and comfort in familiarity have seen the likes of Volkswagen, Toyota and the re-invigorated Ford brand firmly entrench themselves at the peak of this increasingly important segment.

Four years since its launch, VW’s re-engineered fourth-generation Polo, dubbed Vivo, continues to outsell all, with the India-sourced Toyota Etios hot on its heels. Ford’s reworked fifth-generation Fiesta (Figo), which won our previous entry-level comparison test (March 2013 issue) thanks to its sure-footed dynamics and relatively generous specification, remains ever popular.

Specification and perceived value for money is what Renault South Africa focused on when it launched the locally produced first-generation Sandero in 2009. Lauded for its spacious interior, impressive ride quality and notable standard-specification list, the Rosslyn-built Sandero sold reasonably well despite (outdated) brand prejudices against Renault and Dacia, the French firm’s Romanian subsidiary that’s credited with developing the car’s underpinnings.

“Less Dacia, more Renault” sums up this Sandero. Armed with even more specification, fresh styling (bringing it more in line with the rest of the Renault family) and cutting-edge powertrain technologies, the newcomer looks set to provide sharper competition to the three contenders tested here.


It’s difficult not to feel frustrated at the lack of specification, standard or optional, offered by Volkswagen on its Vivo range. Even in top-of-the-range Trendline spec (as tested here), the package excludes electric windows, alloy wheels, remote central locking, a comprehensive trip computer and even an audio system. That all of these items were available on the previousgen Polo on which the Vivo is based evidences the cost-cutting lengths VWSA has gone to.

A further deletion from the Polo range (along with colour-coding on the mirrors and door handles, as well as grab handles in the cabin) is height adjustment on the Vivo’s driver’s seat. The impact of this omission is, however, lessened by the inclusion of rake-and-reach movement on the steering column, and a well-calculated default cushion position. Rear legroom is tight but acceptable, while the luggage area is generous. It’s worth noting that the Vivo is the only model in this group that offers a convenient external boot release latch.

Based on a hugely successful existing B-segment contender, the Vivo was always likely to feel that much more substantial than the built-to-cost Etios. But then the Toyota’s price point and relative specification makes no attempt at changing this perception. The cheapest option here, the Etios nevertheless offers standard central locking (on a separate fob), air-conditioning, electric windows and a fairly comprehensive audio system (minus Bluetooth) neatly incorporated into the recently upgraded facia. And although this upgrade hasn’t repositioned the instrument cluster to a more sensible position ahead of the steering wheel, it has made the centrally mounted dials somewhat more legible.

The Etios’s cabin is easily the roomiest in this segment, while rear legroom is on a par with that of models in larger segments. The trade-off, however, is a luggage compartment best described as tight.

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  • Miguel

    I´ll take the Figo!

    • Confido

      This does not happen very often. But yes I agree with you the Figo is my first choice as well.

  • Merlin

    Driven the Figo and Etios, and the Toyota has the most bang for my bucks!!

  • Richard Davies

    Its a pity so many of these cars are soooo unsafe.
    No mention of safety in your article.
    Its no wonder there are so many deaths on SAs roads when even new cars are 20 years behind the times in terms of safety!

    • ArthurDent

      Richard, what you are missing is that those tests were done in India with cars that is not equipped with airbags. All South African Figo and Polo Vivo models comes standard with at least two airbags and received a 4star or better Euro NCAP rating when they were tested in that configuration. The new Renault Duster only managed 3 stars.

      • Richard Davies

        I’m struggling to find the Ford Figo on the Euro NCAP test site… show we where.

        • ArthurDent

          I am referring to the previous Fiesta on which the Figo is based. If one looks at the Indian pics of the Figo there is very little A pillar distortion (unlike the Datsun Go). Equiping the car with airbags will make a major diffirence to the star rating. Polo Vivo is made locally and are up to Euro specs.

          • Richard Davies

            They don’t sell the Vivo (Polo Vivo Vivo) in Europe either? So how can it be up to Euro specs? It’s a much older version of the polo as far as I understand.
            Hmm… still a little worried; don’t like to ‘assume’ when it comes to safety tests. There are reasons why don’t sell these cars in Europe — e.g. reading about the Datsun Go you mentioned really scared me straight.
            Anyone know which cars are actually up to European Specs? I’m guessing the luxury ones that are made in Europe (Audi, not Merc… Porsche etc.); but what about usual ones? I’m guessing Fiat’s are? I’d assumed Fords were; Renaults?