Two days and one night in the familiar streets of Gqeberha and Port Alfred, our very own Siya Mbaduli was sent out on an assignment to sample the Volkswagen Polo range and get a better idea of why the model has been a local favourite for so long…
What are we driving?
With a fleet of Polos ready to be driven, ranging from the Sedan, more colloquially known as the Polo Uber, Polo Hatch, Polo Vivo, Polo Vivo GT to the Polo Vivo Black Style Package, the only family member missing from this gathering was the range-topping Polo GTI.
Nonetheless, with keys in hand, my assigned vehicle on the first rotation was the Polo Sedan, the driving route started from the Kariega manufacturing plant (the only one in the world producing the hotted-up GTI) and stretched down to Port Alfred. The following day we switched cars and I immediately jumped in the Polo Vivo Black Style Package for the drive to the Windy City of Port Elizabeth.
Why is the VW Polo Significant?
The straightforward answer to this question is that it is affordable, reliable, fuel-efficient and it caters to a wide audience of buyers wanting easy mobility. The family-oriented can opt for the sedan because it’s a bit bigger in size, young professionals who can’t afford a Golf (now only available in potent GTI and R trim) but have a bit of money to spend can easily lean towards the Polo GTI and the people who are just looking for their first vehicle can find themselves in the driver’s seat of the Polo Vivo.
The Polo is not called the People’s car for nothing – since its introduction, it has earned the title of best-seller for Volkswagen and at some point it conquered both charts, coming in at first place as the best-selling vehicle and earning the infamous reputation as the most stolen vehicle too.
What’s new on the Polo?
Apart from the new body style that takes a few styling cues from the Jetta, the Polo Sedan now features updated tech inside the cabin, Volkswagen omitted physical buttons for the infotainment which proved to be a not-so-practical idea on their part but they have promised that they will bring back the physical buttons. Hopefully, a Type-A charging port will also return to cater to everyone on board although this is unlikely with current trends.
The biggest change the Polo Sedan has undergone has to be the brand ditching beige fabric seats to a subtle black with a grey pattern and grey stitches. The rear seats are also foldable without the 60/40 split.
Moving on to the Polo Vivo Black Style Package, The Volkswagen Polo Vivo Black Style pack includes black 16-inch Portago alloy wheels, gloss black mirror caps, a gloss black painted roof, gloss black B and C pillar covers, black side sill covers, body-coloured boot spoiler, privacy glass, chrome exhaust tip as well as anthracite headliner and sun visors.
What does the Polo cost?
Pricing for the Polo Sedan kicks off at R340 700 for the 1,6 MPI Manual which produces 81 kW of power at 5 800 r/min and 152 N.m of torque at 3 850 – 4 100 r/min. Moving on in the range, there’s a 1,6 MPI Life Manual that costs R369 900, pumping out the same power figures as the MPI Manual. The range-topping Polo Sedan, 1,6 Life Tiptronic comes in at R391 200, power figures remain unchanged at 81 kW of power at 5 800 r/min and 152 N.m of torque at 3 850 – 4 100 r/min.
All three models produce the same amount of power but prices differ because of all the added tech as you go up in the model range.
The Black Style Package is available on the Polo Vivo Comfortline and Highline derivatives. It is only offered in Pure White, Reflex Silver, Flash Red and Reef Blue exterior colours. The Volkswagen Polo Vivo Black Style pack is now available from R9 000 on the Comfortline and R8 250 on the Highline.
What are the Polo’s Rivals?
The Polo is obviously a fan favourite but buyers with an appetite for something a little bit different have models like the Hyundai i20, Renault Clio 1.0T Zen and a Peugeot 308 to choose from.
As I mentioned above, the popular model caters to a wide audience. They will not tick every box for every niche buyer on the market despite the large range but they ensure practicality is chief on the agenda. Granted, the Polo Sedan feels underpowered with the engine screaming at 3 500 r/min, trying its best to propel itself forward (even at the coast). Speed and moderate power are not critical for buyers but rather fuel economy and comfort are instead. With that in mind, it must be said that the drive on the open road is good and the long boot variant felt stable and composed despite the wet and windy conditions.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Polo Vivo Black Style Package, paired with a 1,6-litre 77 kW powerplant proved to be a perfect fit for someone my age. Despite the comical reputation the models have received from their inexperienced drivers, they performed equally as well in wet and windy conditions. As a bonus, it felt a lot faster considering the power-to-weight ratio of course. With a sportier looking lowered body style and an overall aesthetically pleasing look, the Vivo Black Style Package is bound to age well and would be my choice as an early-20s buyer.