Once you get over the over the déjà vu you’ll discover that the new Volkswagen Polo Vivo is a worthy successor to the boxy old Citi Golf, writes The Wheel Deal.
If ever there were a car manufacture that believed in reincarnation, Volkswagen South Africa would be it. Heck, just look what they did with the original Golf when the rest of the world turfed it aside in favour of the more refined Mk2 that materialized back in ‘83. Yup, that’s right, they slapped a Citi Golf badge onto its rump, gave it a funky new image thanks to some savvy advertising campaigns and watched those sales figures rocket well into the Noughties. However just as the old VW Beetle started to lose sleep about losing out in history’s longevity stakes, Uitenhage pulled the plug and the renaissance box finally crossed over to the other side in 2009. But now, 26-years after the fact, VW’s necromancers have once again descended on motoring’s graveyard to bring yet another past model back from the dead. Basically a rehashed version of the now deceased Mk4 Polo, it’s called the Vivo and, sporting a fresh new face, it plans to dominate the budget sector just like its predecessor did for nearly three whole decades.
And in the flesh I have to admit that it looks well up to the challenge. For whereas the Citi was starting to look rather long in the tooth when lined up next to its rivals, the flash new Vivo sports a smorgasbord of contemporary curves and lines that no longer rely on the word “retro” to be considered cool. What’s more, a brand new grille design brings the Mk4 shape even more up to date; so much so that from a quick glance on a darkened street the Vivo can easily be mistook for the newer, more expensive Mk5 Polo that was just voted as the 2010 World Car of the Year. And that’s a good thing.
What isn’t, however, is the somber interior that greets you every time you swing open the driver’s door. About as cheery as the bowels of a Soviet-era coal mine, the soulless innards of the Vivo make it one of the bleakest cars on the market to spend time in. Thankfully, despite some suspiciously brittle-feeling plastics on the dashboard, this light-sucking environment manages to redeem itself by offering VW’s traditionally rock-solid levels of build quality. Still, with no height adjustment on the driver’s seat and both air-conditioning and that CD/MP3/Radio weighting in as options (R8880 when all is said and done), one can’t help but think that Volkswagen are having a bit of a laugh. Especially considering that on an equivalent (and cheaper) Renault Sandero, all these little luxuries weigh-in as standard fare.
Regardless, despite its slightly stingy approach to kit, what the Vivo does offer over its French rival is a much more grown-up and refined drive. Indeed, even after sampling the ways of the new Mk5 Polo, you can’t help but be impressed by the way the little Mk4-based Vivo scampers across the asphalt. For although it’s not as overtly sporty as Ford’s Fiesta (still the segment leader in my opinion), this budget VW certainly spoils you with a well dampened ride that, along with those small-diameter 14-inch tyres, helps rip the teeth out of most imperfections. Around town and at low speeds this makes the Vivo a very pleasant and easy-going car to drive; something you’d quite happily use everyday to schlep around kids, dogs and groceries.
Unfortunately when you decide to open the taps and give that free-revving 1.6 engine a caning through corners, well, the Vivo tends to get very sloppy very quickly. The steering is too light and uncommunicative, body-roll is never in short supply and the limits of grip feel as if they’re seldom far from breaking. Granted it’s no backroad sizzler – leave that to the Ford – but driven calmly or out on the straight sanctitude of a highway, the Vivo is certainly a class act. If you favour grace rather than pace, this one’s for you.
Of course it goes without saying that punters will mourn the demise of the iconic Citi Golf, but there’s simply no disputing that the Vivo offers a far safer and sleeker budget-motoring experience. In fact what with our smart Trendline model coming standard with two airbags and ABS brakes – both absent from the ‘80s stalwart – many will argue that only now does VW have a proper B-segment contender to effectively take on an ever-increasing cache or rivals. Reincarnation might not be for everyone but for the bean counters of Uitenhage it seems to be the best way of getting ahead in life.
VW Polo Vivo 1.6 Trendline Fast Facts:
Engine: 1598cc four-cylinder petrol
Power: 77kW at 5250rpm
Torque: 155Nm at 3500rpm
0-100km/h: 10.6-seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 187km/h (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 6.6/100km (claimed combined)
Price: From R144 900
I really want this car, is it still on the market?
I really love this car, economic & stylish. Well done VW.
I REALY LOVE THI CAR ITS BY FAR MY DREAM CAR AND WILL BUY IT IN 5 MONTHS TIME.
I think the dull interior of th Polo Vivo can be solved,saw one on the net with seats with a red stripe and red seat belts (very trendy). Is it costly to accessorise the seats? I want that
WOW..well done VW, i am impressed. i really want this car..stylish, economic and trendy..viva..
I’m getting this car 2012 spec hahahahahahaha.