When Volkswagen South Africa stopped producing the Citi Golf in November 2009, some of us were highly concerned about the future of motor manufacturing at the company’s Plant in Kariega, Eastern Cape. Later they did announce that Polo and Polo Vivo would replace the iconic Citi as products manufactured right here in this country. Today Polo is exported to a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Kenya, Germany, Ghana, Rwanda, Taiwan, Australia and Japan among others.

Recently Volkswagen SA launched the updated Polo range, which will continue being manufactured in Kariega. This includes both TSI and GTI performance models. “The Volkswagen Polo is South Africa’s second best-selling passenger car after the Polo Vivo. In 2021, 16 454 Polos have been sold in the local market which translates to a share of 22.6% in the A0 Hatch segment,” said Steffen Knapp, Head of the Volkswagen Passenger Car Brand.

Volkswagen has given the updated Polo a new naming regime. There are now four models – Polo, Polo Life, Polo R-Line and of course the range-topping GTI. Exterior changes have been made mainly at the front and rear ends. Up front the Polo features standard LED headlights, while the GTI model gets an LED strip that connects the headlights. New rear lights are clearly seen, with a wing design similar to the T-Roc and Golf’s.

Inside Volkswagen has improved the ambiance, added the digital cockpit and did away with the normal analogue one. With the company’s App-Connect feature, the new digital interior has been made available to Polo drivers as a standard item. Of course the infotainment system is accessed via a touch screen, and can give the eyes, ears and fingers music, mapping, Bluetooth and others. It can even offer wireless App-Connect as an option. For those who still prefer ports there are plenty to go around. The leather-clad multifunction steering wheel is grippy and happy to assist with the infotainment accessibility as well.

I drove the entry-level Polo as well as the GTI around some wide ranging roads in the Gqeberha area of the Eastern Cape. It comes with a 1.0-litre turbo TSI engine producing 70kW and 175Nm of torque, paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. Indeed it is an old school gearbox when rivals are going 6-speed. However, Volkswagen says it will return about 5.4 litres per 100km at the fuel pumps, which translates to roughly 740km from a full tank. The car drives very well, as a Polo does, is relatively quiet and comfortable inside, and most of all, fun.

As for the Polo GTI, its 2.0-litre TSI turbo motor is still good for 147kW and 320Nm of torque. Volkswagen reckons it will achieve its 0 – 100km/h sprint in 6.7 seconds, and stop accelerating at 238km/h. While the GTI is not built to be frugal, it can average below 7 litres per 100km. as in the pre-facelift model, a 6-speed DSG transmission is the only one available for Mzansi buyers. Personally I don’t mind, because it is a swift gearbox which can also be smooth under normal driving. GTI carries twin exhaust tailpipes which occasionally give out a fart when changing gears. We call that vrrrrrrr pha!

The Volkswagen Polo is set to be produced here for the world until at least 2025. As the brand’s new entry point into the sub-premium market, it keeps on delivering. The outgoing Polo sold 80 629 in this country since it was launched in 2018, keeping it as the most popular passenger car around. This update is looking to keep that record going. A question mark may be placed on pricing, but one only has to look around to see that nothing is cheap anymore.

Volkswagen Polo Prices

Polo 1.0 TSI 70kW – R311 800

Polo Life 1.0 TSI 70kW – R350 000

Polo Life 1.0 TSI 85kW DSG – R370 700

Polo R-Line 1.0 TSI 85kW DSG – R421 900 Polo GTI 2.0 TSI 147kW DSG – R489 400

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