PORT ELIZABETH, Eastern Cape ? There's no escaping the fact that the Polo Vivo has been a huge success story for Volkswagen SA. And it's little wonder when you consider that the local arm of the Wolfsburg-based company has had plenty of experience in prolonged lifecycle vehicles from the days of the CitiGolf.
The first-generation Vivo numbers are staggering. Nearly 200?000 examples of the Vivo-badged hatchback were sold since introduction back in 2010. The fact that this model is made locally, and comprises no less than 76% of locally sourced parts (even the engines are produced here), means that the little hatchback is responsible for a vast number of South African jobs.
Now using the body of the fifth-generation Polo hatch, the new Polo Vivo has its own tweaks and features.
Having sampled both the turbocharged 1,0-litre?81 kW GT (read our scoop first drive here) and the 1,4-litre 63 kW Comfortline (in the March 2018 issue of CAR magazine) derivatives, we now take a drive in the 1,6-litre 77 kW Highline model, which is priced at R214?900 (see range pricing here). While I felt?quite satisfied?with the smaller-engined 1,4 (with 63 kW) that comes in at well under R200?000, you do get extra equipment, such as the 16-inch ?Rivazza? alloy wheels, with this 1,6-litre Highline.
The cloth upholstery is called ?Cable? and is particularly classy looking. These perches also boast a bit more comfort and ?give? than the optional leather seating. Side-mirror caps and door handles are body coloured (rather than black as on the base model), while fog lamps are standard. The steering wheel is leather-clad with audio?controls and the audio system is the six-speaker 340G arrangement with both SD and USB inputs, plus Bluetooth.
Safety, apart from the dual front airbags, is enhanced by electronic stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system that works by comparing the tyre diameters. If pressure is lost, the diameter decreases and a warning is given. One useful, optional feature is cruise control, priced at a very reasonable R1?800. Other options are a centre armrest accompanied by an under-seat storage tray (R2?000) and a towbar (R3?800). The facia is now soft touch, but there are no extras such as grab handles or electric side-mirrors. That said, a height-adjustable driver?s seat (with the steering wheel adjustable for both reach and rake) allows a high level of driver comfort.
All the Polo Vivo models in the range are relatively enjoyable to drive, but the flagship GT's lowered suspension makes the ride a bit firmer and noisier, so this 1,6 Highline model might be a popular choice for most who want a car with enough power, while retaining a decent ride quality. The boot is big, and we have actually already measured one in our test garage; the ISO dimensions are 216 litres with a utility capacity of 808 litres.
So, not only are the engines easy-going, fun and fairly frugal (the 1,6-litre has a fuel consumption claim of 6,2 L/100 km, which isn't much more than the figure for the 1,4-litre versions), but the five-speed gearbox is quick and light. Perhaps best of all, however, is the steering feel. This electrically assisted system is one of the best in the segment, with no remote, wooden sensation to it.
So, should we expect this latest Vivo to continue selling up a storm here in South Africa? Well, the vehicle certainly has wide appeal, and pricing isn't far off the outgoing range, either. The answer, then? A resounding "yes"...