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Tested: Volkswagen Polo Vivo

2010-06-09 08:43
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Volkswagen
Engine 1 598 cm3 petrol
Power 77kW @ 5 250 r/min
Torque 155Nm @ 3 500 r/min
Transmission five-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 10.6 seconds
Top Speed 187 km/h
Fuel Tank 45 litres
Fuel Consumption 6.6 l/100 km
Boot Size 432 - 737 litres
ABS yes
Airbags dual front
Service Intervals 15 000 km
Warranty three-year/120 000 km
Price from 150 800

Hailey Philander

The name says it all. The new Polo Vivo is lightweight yet vivacious, with an inherent fun character and proven Volkswagen mechanicals to underscore it. We test it.

I have to mention this – whenever I hear the music to the TV ad for the Polo Vivo, I instantly feel the urge to pack up laughing. It’s incredibly infectious and a fun approach to what is, at the heart of it all, just an average, hand-me-down, entry-level car.

The Polo Vivo is Volkswagen’s attempt to pick up where the iconic Golf Mk 1 (or SA’s favourite Citi Golf) left off. Essentially a mildly facelifted and slightly rebadged version of the previous-generation Polo, Vivo is (as the last Polo was) available in both family-friendly sedan and more footloose hatchback guises. We doubt whether Vivo, despite its infectious name, will attract quite the same die-hard following as the humble ol’ Citi did, but perhaps we need to allow it 30 years or so to prove itself.

For now, Vivo presents a slight conundrum in that, while some models are more convincing value options, several higher ranked models compete directly with the new Polo. Weird, but VWSA seems determined to trade on the loyalty of the Volkswagen faithful. Vivo is the same car, essentially, as the previous Polo but gets nice new slush technology for a soft-touch dash, a new nose and a few more cosmetic items.

More of the same

Mechanicals are familiar, although it’s a petrol-only affair at the Vivo party with a 1.4-litre with outputs of 55 and 63 kW serving as the entry-points to the new range, while a 77-kW 1.6 rounds out the engine line-up.

Unfortunately, Wheels24 was offered a top-of-the-range 1.6 Trendline. With 77 kW on tap and 155 Nm, you shouldn’t expect fireworks, but it’ll see to the daily shuffle without fuss. Volkswagen claims a top speed of 187 km/h, although I’d hesitate to push it that far considering that, when engine revolutions were pushed beyond 3 500 r/min, it sounded as though the engine was preparing to take off and leave the car behind.

I blame a lack of insulation and sound-deadening material, which I reckon also contributes to the decided feeling of weightlessness the Vivo enjoys. If you’re happy to drive at a more sedate pace though, the 77-kW 1.6 should reward with intact engine mountings and 6.6 l/100 km to the tank. If you’re interested, it covers the 0 – 100 km/h “sprint” in about 11 seconds.

As for equipment, the 1.6 Trendline model comes with three cupholders, a steering column adjustable for rake and reach, power steering, driver and front passenger airbags, an alarm with remote central locking and front electric windows. As a Trendline, this is also one of the models in the line-up that comes standard with ABS brakes, although, thankfully, you should be hard-pressed to find a need for it.

Oddly enough, the cabin looks a lot more modern in the image. Familiarity makes it easy to use and slush technology gives the fascia a more luxurious feel.

Over the top?

Options for the 1.6 Trendline are air conditioning, an audio system with MP3, USB and Bluetooth functionality and metallic paint. Other options include a five-year/60 000 km Automotion maintenance plan and a five-year/60 000 km service plan.

With only a handful of extra goodies available, and with many being more than happy to forgo “free” service and maintenance for the honour of supporting their local grease monkey, the ultimate in creature comforts is not top of the Vivo’s list of priorities. However, the level of kit on offer in this car (for what you get) became apparent when I was asked to drive a sports sedan as a brief interlude to the Vivo.

Where I had previously grumbled about the Vivo’s apparent lack of padding and bemoaned the entertaining but slightly annoying whinny of its engine, I now found myself muttering at the luxury model’s lack of auto-locking doors and a lights-on warning buzzer – qualities the cheapie Polo possessed. The only thing that would have made me happier in the Vivo would have been electric adjustment for the wing mirrors, and that’s probably just because my arms are so short.


Come on, now. It's essentially a facelifted Polo. Look out for the slim-line grille and new light clusters.


Even the interior looks a little old-school, but the new slush technology used for the dash gives it a caressingly soft touch. Pity it wasn't used the for the door trim...

Driving it

If you've driven the previous Polo, you have nothing to fear. Ride quality is good, the handling fairly predictable.


The Polo Vivo is a tenacious trooper and a potential real world hero in a space where price and dependability are key. But it is unlikely to warm the cockles of your heart or have you doodling its name in quiet moments at the office. Polo Vivo is just not that kind of car. It is made for practical, economical A to B-ing, so expect anything more and you’re likely to be disappointed.

The model provided by VWSA was a little overkill though. It was the top-of-the-range model (which also made it the most expensive, especially with the options added) and at the price as tested, getting a new Polo hatch seems the more sensible option.

The idea of taking an older car and reworking it into something cheap and fresh holds some merit, and has been done before to great effect, but not at the price of the 1.6 Trendline. The 1.4 three-door base model just clears the R100 000 mark and (on paper) probably offers a better reflection of the Vivo concept.   

Does Vivo have the chutzpah to pick up where Citi Golf left off? Share your thoughts


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