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2018-10-26 10:30

Lance Branquinho

Image: Wheels24

Which are some of the most important and symbolic cars to have gone on sale in South Africa, this decade? Lance Branquinho takes a look at a few examples.

VW Polo Vivo

Never underestimate the ability of VW to perfectly analyse and understand the dynamics of South African car buyers.

As the company’s hugely successful Citi Golf continuation project met an inevitable end in the late 2000s, VW knew it would have to find a substitute.

READ: SA’s best-selling cars: Polo Vivo tops penultimate month in 2017

The decision was to re-roll its fourth-generation Polo as a Vivo and for most of this decade, it has been the most sought-after hatchback for first-time South African car buyers.

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With safety features and cabin comfort that City Golf owners could never have imagined, Vivo has become the benign and socially acceptable reapplication of VW’s immensely successful product recycling strategy. You could call it’s the contemporary Citi Gold, but it’s much better and safe than that comparison would imply. 

BMW i3

Although Nissan’s Leaf was first to market, BMW’s incredibly slick i3 can rightfully claim to be South African’s most successful battery car. Featuring an architecture of carbon-fibre, with excellent packaging, it has been a revelation.

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With i3, BMW didn’t apply battery technology to an existing internal combustion platform, which inevitably ends as a hapless compromise. They enlisted the company’s most visionary engineers and gave them a simple brief: build a battery car, which drives as a BMW should.

The execution delivered exactly that. Although sales numbers have been limited, it’s nearly to find a pre-owned i3 for sale, which means only one thing: those who own them, love them. 

Volvo S90

The large luxury sedan is a vehicle class under threat, from similarly sized and equipped SUVs. A segment traditionally dominated by German cars, Volvo S90 is symbolically different.

The S90’s existence is evidence of a resurgent Volvo, bold enough to risk building a large four-door luxury car – something French brands have abandoned.

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With its pleasingly logical Swedish ergonomics and a driver interface which isn’t optimised for Nürburgring lap times, unlike nearly every German sedan car range, it’s an overwhelmingly soothing car to drive.

The S90 is a triumphant return to luxury car values: ride quality and effortless cruising ability, instead of frantic gearbox and steering algorithms – which have become the standard for its German rivals. 

Kia Stinger

Celebrated for its compact hatchbacks and SUVs, this is Kia’s most ambitious attempt to showcase the brand’s engineering prowess.

A luxury car, technically a fastback with room for five passengers, the Stinger is rear-wheel drive, powered by a turbocharged V6 and built with the keen driver in mind. The keen driver burdened by family logistics. Hence that hatchback load configuration, which totals to 406 litres.

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It looks dramatically different and with the input of former BMW engineers, such as project leader Albert Biermann, who previously worked as vice president of BMW’s M-Division, it’s a properly dynamic performance car.

Stinger symbolises the building confidence of Kia, which has established itself with budget projects and now harbours an ambition on conquering market share once considered impenetrable by German manufacturers.

Toyota Quantum

The vehicle which mobilises South Africa. It’s an unhappy truth, but most South Africans are not private vehicle owners, nor do they have access to quality public transport.

For this car-less majority, the Quantum is their logistical solution, whether it is as part of the daily commute, or those longer journeys from a city abode to family events in rural geographies.

Quantum can rightfully rank as the most important vehicle in South Africa, calculated by the sheer number of people it transports. And these vehicles live very testing lives, driven fully laden most of the time, and never in an economical fashion.

It is perhaps the best test case marketing for Toyota’s product quality, that Quantum remains the unanimous choice of taxi operators. Quantum’s so awesome, Toyota’s had a biggest enough margin in demand to even build a Ses'fikile version, with patriotic side-graphics.

For those South Africans who can’t yet afford a car, their most trusted vehicle is a Quantum. Because they just keep running, from morning to night, day after day. Year after year. With an occasional service interval, here and there.

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