REVIEW | Why the 2021 VW Polo Vivo Mswenko misses the mark

21 April 2021 - 09:37
The special-edition Polo Vivo Mswenko.
The special-edition Polo Vivo Mswenko.
Image: Supplied

Social media can be quite a leveller. Yes, even if you are the purveyor of the best-selling passenger car in the country.

When Volkswagen was punting its Polo Vivo Mswenko on platforms not long ago, some of the comments left me stifling a chuckle.

Many opinions, expressed in the zero chill kind of way we South Africans are often known for, related to the lack of a sunroof and daytime-running LEDs among other features a discerning young set might prioritise.

“How can you swag without a sunroof?” was one of the pressing questions posed.

Door decals, 16-inch charcoal alloy wheels and a chrome exhaust tip visually differentiate the Vivo Mswenko.
Door decals, 16-inch charcoal alloy wheels and a chrome exhaust tip visually differentiate the Vivo Mswenko.
Image: Supplied

You cannot help but agree. Even me, as someone who is quarter-to-30  years old, knows  there are certain prerequisites when it comes to automotive swank.

When you release a special edition with the word Mswenko in its title (isiZulu expression for swag) it had better be convincing, genuine. But this one misses the mark. Unfortunately, the Vivo Mswenko is a mild sticker job at best.

Aside from the lettering on the lower front door sills, 16-inch wheels in charcoal paint, a chrome exhaust tip and a choice of mirror covers in a different shade to the body, there is not much to it. They even painted the roof black, ostensibly to create the illusion that it has a panoramic setup. Lively upholstery work features inside: blue, white and grey in scheme. This is probably the coolest aspect about the Vivo.

Apart from the underwhelming execution, a week with the Mswenko was a good reminder of the plusses that serve the Vivo in isolation.

Colourful seats lift the interior ambiance.
Colourful seats lift the interior ambiance.
Image: Supplied

For a start, it feels really sturdy, something not often encountered in the entry-level B-segment. The doors close with a thud, the switches click satisfyingly, the rotary dials have an assured weight to them and the dashboard is nicer to touch than the one in the T-Roc costing twice as much.

Our week with the Vivo saw us driving far and wide, including a trip to the skirts of the Free State. It took everything comfortably in stride. The leather-wrapped wheel felt good in the palm.

That 1.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol (63kW and 132Nm) engine is decidedly on the gruff side, although economy is a strong suit (5.9l/100km). Optional cruise control (R2,100) made life more pleasant, as did rear park distance control with a reverse camera (R5,700).

There were other options fitted to our test car. Electronic stability control and hill start assist are part of a R2,700 safety package, while a storage package with a front armrest and drawer under the seat of the driver  adds R2,300. In total, that works out to another R12,800 on the base price of R246,900.

Build quality remains a strong suit of the Polo Vivo.
Build quality remains a strong suit of the Polo Vivo.
Image: Supplied

Is the Vivo still the one to have in this category? Alternatives like the newer Toyota Starlet and Suzuki Baleno twins are better equipped for similar money, even if they are a notch below in terms of perceived German solidity.

But at R250,000-upward, you could even get into a compact crossover or junior sport-utility vehicle of sorts. That is where pricing of that other Toyota-Suzuki pair (Urban Cruiser and Vitara Brezza) kick off, for example. Nissan has also just launched a new contender in the form of the Magnite, a spunky looker, starting at R256,999.

With that in mind, an old-fashioned hatchback seems have a lot less swag by comparison.


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