Andre De Kock
Signs do not always mean what they say, and neither do the covers of books. Point in case – hotel and office elevators all have signs saying “Seven People Only”. That is nuts – have you ever tried persuading six other people to ride in an elevator with you?
They get worried – the men think you want to rob them, and the women are convinced you want to molest them. Hence, this writer has rather walked up many, many staircases over the years – and I am getting too old for that. Then … books. Years ago, when I suddenly needed some specific information regarding sexually transmitted diseases, I purchased a copy of “Moby Dick”, but it proved a disappointment. It never even touched on what was, for me, at the time, a touchy subject.
Likewise, I read “The Merchant of Venice” because I thought Portia was a car. Not so – a very early example of fake news. Thus, I do not put great faith into name tags, and viewed the Volkswagen Polo Vivo Mswenko with suspicion, when invited to host one at home for a week.
Polo Vivo with swagger
To explain – Mswenko is a uniquely South African slang word in isiZulu which means “swag”. Volkswagen say it is aimed at people who are fashionable, stylish, trendy, and confident. In truth, it is a Polo Vivo Comfortline with a few visual enhancements. Which is not a bad thing, with the Polo Vivo being South Africa’s top-selling passenger car for good reason.
So, in mechanical terms you get a normally aspirated, four-cylinder, 1 398cc petrol engine that sends 63kW of power at 5 000 rpm and 132 Nm of torque at 3 750 rpm to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Volkswagen say it will go from standstill to 100 km/h in under 13 seconds and reach a top speed of 177 km/h. None of the above will be of much interest to the vehicle’s target market.
They will find of more interest the fact that it looks pretty, with the test vehicle coming in a very attractive Reef Blue, plus a black roof, tinted windows and silver side mirrors. The Mswenko lettering on chequered side decals are small enough to escape looking tacky, while the whole package sits on 16-inch Portago alloy wheels in 195/55 R16 rubberware.
Inside, the newcomer boasts cloth seats in grey, blue and white, silver dashboard inlays and a leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel and gear lever. It also boasts a six-speaker sound system with App Connect, a USB port, an onboard computer and an anthracite roofliner plus a front armrest. Pre-emptive safety devices include ABS brakes and stability control, while passive safety comes via airbags for both the driver and the front passenger. It also has a full-size spare wheel – always a huge plus in this writer’s book.
Pleasure to drive
Being mechanically the same as other, less swaggy Polo Vivos, the Mswenko proved easy to drive, reasonably nippy in traffic and comfortable. And – the reason we really liked it – it has direct steering, plus a surefooted way of changing direction, which makes you feel involved as a driver. It has a turning circle of 10.6 metres, which makes it easy to park, even in tight spots. You do not deed a hugely expensive, scary fast, car to make driving fun.
We would think many Mswenko customers will buy it for its appearance, and make the delightful discovery that it is a pleasure to point it down the road. Likewise, they will find it is fuel-efficient. We made no effort to drive economically, but our average fuel consumption after a week of Gauteng traffic was 6.2L/100km.
The Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1.4 Mswenko will set you back R246 900, a R18 300 premium over the normal Comfortline,. A standard three-year/120 00 km warranty and six-year anti-corrosion warranty are included in the price. Volkswagen’s service and maintenance plans are optional.
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