Driven: 2021 Volkswagen Polo Vivo Mswenko
It’s admired by many. Good pricing, a reputation for reliability and durability and unrivalled build quality has made it one of South Africa’s favourites. Volkswagen’s solid reputation in South Africa alone would warrant a visit to your nearest dealership. Add their immense dealer network into the mix and you can see why the Polo Vivo sells in droves. But the ubiquity of VW’s smallest offering, combined with the conservative design, has made the popular Polo Vivo slightly invisible.
To combat this, Volkswagen South Africa recently revealed the Mswenko special edition. To differentiate it from the rest of the range, the unique derivative is kitted out with a few styling details. Aside from ‘Mswenko’ decals which run along the side of the car, unique 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, and chrome exhaust tip. A black-painted roof further distinguishes this from the rest of the range.
The interior hasn’t been forgotten, either. While the bare bones will be familiar to anyone who’s driven (or been driven in) a Polo Vivo, there are rather stylish details to be found all over the cabin. The most obvious being the vividly-coloured seats. Cloth-trimmed and supportive, the funky seats are a combination of white, charcoal and Ocean Blue. This certainly brightens up the otherwise sombre interior.
To liven up the soft-touch facia, VW has included silver, aluminium-look trim to the Vivo’s dash. Not only does this add an element of sophistication to what is a budget car, but a sporty streak too. You won’t want for features, either. Mswenko comes standard with six speakers, Volkswagen’s App-Connect as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake. Optional extras include LED headlamps (R14,850) and Park Distance Control (R2700).
Of course, front electric windows, central locking, and dual front airbags are standard. Space is impressive for the Polo’s size. There is adequate space for four adults and their luggage, although taller passengers seated in the rear may want for more legroom. Boot space is excellent, offering up 280 litres (a whopping 952 with the rear seats folded down).
Mswenko is powered by the familiar 1.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine which produces 63 kW and 132 Nm of torque. It may not sound like much, but the Vivo copes in town admirably. This is in no small part down to the slick-shifting five-speed manual gearbox. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the smoothest shifting ‘boxes in its class.
The Vivo feels more refined and grown-up than most cars in its class. The driving experience itself, while slightly anodyne, inspires confidence. Even at highway speeds, the Vivo feels competent and planted, doing a good impression of a far bigger car. Frugality is also a talent of the Vivo - Volkswagen claims an average fuel consumption of just 5.9 L/100 km, which is achievable. Over our time with the Mswenko, we averaged between 6.2 - 6.5 L/100 km.
The Polo Vivo is one of those cars that is hugely competent in a number of areas. Not only is it practical and economical, but in the case of this special-edition Mswenko, desirable for entry-level consumers. Throw in the aforementioned dealer network, fabulous build quality, and decent safety spec, and it’s clear to see why the Vivo sells so well. Points must be taken away, however, for the lack of a standard service plan(it remains an option). Eye-catching the Mswenko may be, we feel that there is more value to be found in the cheaper Comfortline model. At R235,000, it’s R12,700 cheaper than the Mswenko and manages to offer nearly as much equipment.