The new Volkswagen Polo is bigger and better than its predecessor, but how will it stack up against its new/improved rivals in the B-segment?
The Volkswagen Polo is a hugely successful product and in South Africa, it consistently appears on the Top 5 best-selling passenger cars list on a monthly basis. Combining attractive traits such as drivability, reliability, solid build quality and fuss-free motoring, the Polo is often top-of-mind for buyers shopping for a compact hatchback.
The new Volkswagen Polo is expected to lead the segment but new and improved rivals will provide ample competition.
Building on the success of its predecessor, Volkswagen has revealed the next-generation Polo and not only is it bigger in all directions, it also boasts a newly designed interior featuring a revised dashboard, steering wheel and switchgear. When the Polo arrives on local soil early in 2018, buyers will be spoilt with attractive features such as Volkswagen’s Active Info Display, wireless charging pads, keyless entry and additional safety features such as Front Assist, City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring systems to name a few.
*Pictured above is the new Volkswagen Polo in R-Line trim.
The new Volkswagen Polo's interior is vastly improved and will offer technology such as an optional Active Info Display.
As far as the engine lineup is concerned, on the turbo petrol side, there will be a 1.0-litre naturally-aspirated motor, 1.0-litre TSI (available in various states of tune), while the 1.2-litre TSI engine could be replaced by the Golf’s 1.5-litre unit (with cylinder shutdown technology, still under consideration for South Africa). In Europe, the 1.5-litre TDI turbodiesel will be superseded by a 1.6-litre TDI unit (local models are currently 1.4-litre units). Meanwhile, the Polo GTI derivative will be powered by 147 kW 2.0-litre TSI lifted straight from the Golf GTI.
By all accounts, the new Polo will be well received locally, but will the recent and forthcoming arrival of new or updated rival products have any impact on the success of the new Polo? Take a look at 6 of the Polo’s strongest rivals in this hotly contested segment!
New Ford Fiesta
The new and improved Fiesta is a strong Polo rival that's expected to arrive in South Africa in 2018.
The Ford Fiesta is the Volkswagen Polo’s strongest rival and even though the current model is long-in-the-tooth, an all-new Fiesta is expected to arrive in South Africa early in the second quarter of 2018. We recently travelled to Spain to drive the new Fiesta and came away quite impressed with its fun-driving character and refinement. South African Fiestas will be powered by a 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbbopetrol engine with 92 kW and 170 Nm of torque as well as a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine offering 63 kW and 215 Nm of torque. The 1.0-litre will be available with a manual and automatic transmission, with the latter offering outputs of 74 kW and 170 Nm of torque. The 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine will only be offered in manual guise. The new Fiesta ST is expected later, but will arrive with a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine with 147 kW and 290 Nm of torque.
Apart from its (perhaps regrettably) evolutionary exterior design, the Fiesta’s interior has been thoroughly redesigned and incorporates higher quality materials and new technology. A major improvement is the inclusion of an 8-inch floating touchscreen display utilising Ford’s latest SYNC3 infotainment system, resulting in a 50% reduction of buttons compared with the current car's fascia. The system will offer Bluetooth capability, audio streaming and voice activated audio, navigation and smartphone functionality while also offering Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and SYNC AppLink. Passenger comfort has improved too; Ford claims an increase of 16 mm for rear passenger legroom, while new seating offers greater levels comfort.
The new Fiesta boasts an 8-inch touchscreen with the latest SYNC3 communication and entertainment system.
The new Fiesta will also feature no fewer than 15 driver assistance technologies including adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, adjustable speed limiter, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, driver alert, a lane keeping aid and -alert system and forward collision warning. Features such as Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Ford’s enhanced Active Park Assist with Perpendicular Parking is also expected, but bear in mind that the exact specification for the South African market is yet to be confirmed.
Want to buy a Ford Fiesta?
Facelifted Renault Clio
The Clio is a popular alternative to the Polo and the recent facelift has improved both the exterior and interior design.
The Renault Clio is a stylish rival to the Volkswagen Polo and a facelift late in 2016 brought minor exterior and interior updates to the popular French hatchback. An updated exterior design is matched with an improved interior incorporating higher quality materials that give the Clio a more upmarket look and feel.
The infotainment comes courtesy of the familiar 7-inch MediaNav touchscreen system. It’s both colourful and easy-to-use, offering Bluetooth functionality and navigation. Dynamique and Expression derivatives feature comfortable and well-bolstered front seats. In terms of safety, the Clio features good standard safety specification.
The Clio's interior is modern and attractively styled, utilising a 7-inch MediaNav infotainment system with integrated navigation.
The updated Clio range offers a 0.9-litre, 3-cylinder turpbopetrol engine (manual only) with 66 kW and 150 Nm of torque, as well as a 1.2 litre turbopetrol engine (automatic) with 88 kW and 190 Nm of torque. The Clio GT-Line (manual) offers 88 kW but 205 Nm from the same 1.2-litre turbopetrol engine. The sportier RS derivatives are powered by a 1.6-litre turbopetrol engine (automated dual-clutch) with 147 kW/260 Nm in the RS 200 Lux derivative and 162 kW/280 Nm in the RS 220 Trophy.
Want to buy a Renault Clio?
New Kia Rio
The new Kia Rio has arrived in South Africa and represents a marked improvement over its predecessor.
The new Kia Rio was recently launched in South Africa and it’s now 15 mm longer and sits 5 mm lower than the outgoing version. The wheelbase has been extended by 10 mm too, which has freed up more space for passengers.
Along with a refined exterior design, Kia has also improved the overall design and feel of the Rio’s interior, which now benefits from a new infotainment system accessed via a 7-inch touchscreen on high-spec models. The system offers Bluetooth functionality and is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
Fitted with a new infotainment system and updated materials, the Rio's interior attractive and functional.
In terms of safety features, the new Kia Rio covers the basics and although Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is offered on selected derivatives, it’s not standard across the range which is a bit disappointing.
In terms of engines, buyers have the choice between a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine (manual only) with 65 kW and 120 Nm of torque as well as a 1.4-litre petrol engine (manual and automatic) with 79 kW and 135 Nm of torque.
Want to buy a Kia Rio?
The Opel Corsa is strong Polo rival with good looks and a modern, feature-rich interior.
The Opel Corsa is a strong contender in this segment offering a balanced mix of upmarket style, refinement, comfort, practicality and value. It’s no surprise then that the Corsa 1.0T Enjoy claimed the win in the Compact Hatchback category of the 2016/17 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank earlier this year. The Corsa range recently received a specification update and price reduction.
Engine options include a 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbopetrol engine (manual only) with 2 outputs of 66 kW/170 Nm and 85 kW/170 Nm. A naturally aspirated 1.4-litre engine (automatic) is also offered with 66 kW and 130 Nm of torque as well as a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine (manual) with 110 kW and 220 Nm of torque.
The German car’s interior is not only attractive in design, but can be equipped with a number of useful features such as a comprehensive Intellilink infotainment system accessed via a 7-inch touchscreen and nice-to-have features such as automatic park assist and blind spot alert, to name a few.
Corsa's interior is simple and modern in design and an easy-to-use 7-inch touchscreen is a useful feature.
There is, however, an all-new Corsa currently in development (it will be based on a PSA platform) and it's expected sometime in 2018. When it arrives, it will wear a fresh design aligned with that of the Astra and a newly designed interior will incorporate upmarket materials. The future of the Opel brand was recently secured in South Africa when General Motors, the current distributor of the brand, which will leave South Africa at the end of 2017, announced that the Williams Hunt Group will market the products from 2018 onward.
Want to buy an Opel Corsa?
Toyota Yaris Pulse
The facelifted Toyota Yaris Pulse has arrived in South Africa and represents good value in its segment.
The facelifted Toyota Yaris, now known as the Yaris Pulse, was re recently launched in South Africa with a new 85 kW/136 Nm 1.5-litre (manual and automatic) engine and updated exterior and interior styling. An entry-level 51 kW/95 Nm 1.0-litre engine (manual only) is also offered, with the Yaris Pulse Hybrid topping off the range.
The Yaris Pulse prioritises value and peace-of-mind motoring and although its interior has been updated with new upholstery and trim details, it’s not on par with more premium products such as Corsa and Clio. Nonetheless, Yaris Pulse is markedly more refined than its predecessor and the upgrades will ensure that it remains on buyers’ shopping list. Toyota has also lifted the safety profile of the Yaris Pulse by making Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) standard across the range.
Sturdy build quality and a simple, yet functional interior design makes the Yaris Pulse worth consideration.
Want to buy a Toyota Yaris?
The i20 remains popular in our market thanks to its attractive blend of styling, features and common-sense appeal.
The new Hyundai i20 landed in South Africa in 2015 and remains a popular choice for buyers looking for a reliable and practical city car. Engine options include a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre engine (manual only) with 61 kW and 115 Nm of torque and a 1.4-litre engine with 74kW/133 Nm (automatic) or 85 kW/160 Nm (manual).
The i20’s interior, although well-built and equipped with a basic radio/CD player, can't quite match more upmarket products such as the Clio or Corsa, but the i20 covers most of the basics and therefore represents a good value proposition in the local market. Safety features such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) are standard across the i20 range
The i20's interior, although not class-leading in terms of design, is adequately kitted with features.
Want to buy a Hyundai i20?
Although cars such as the Renault Clio, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris Pulse and Hyundai i20 are much-improved products, they will, in all likelihood be outclassed by the new Polo when it arrives in 2018. The new Ford Fiesta and possibly the all-new Corsa, in our opinion, have the best chance against the Polo considering the amount of new technology expected to be offered, but their success may very well hinge on the level of specification and pricing offered in the local market.
Judging by the interior and exterior images of the new Polo, buyers are certainly in for a treat! However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the new Polo will most likely be a pricey proposition compared with its rivals and pricing, especially in a strained economic environment, is where Volkswagen may lose sales to more affordable options in the market. We will keep you informed as soon as local specification and pricing details are made available, so stay tuned...