Business Insider Edition

The Polo Vivo has been SA’s favourite car for a decade – and it hasn’t really increased in price

Phillip de Wet , Business Insider SA
 Dec 31, 2019, 06:46 AM

News analysis

Polo Vivo
The VW Polo Vivo. (VW)
  • New cars are likely to feel expensive to cash-strapped South Africans in 2020. But that feeling won't necessarily be accurate.
  • South Africa's record-holding favourite passenger vehicle, the VW Polo Vivo, hasn't really increased in price since it was introduced in 2010.
  • And the effective R10,000 you'll be paying extra for it in 2020 might quickly seem worth it at the current petrol price.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

Times are tough and money is tight – with South African consumers desperately sniffing out discounts and deals amid tiny salary increases and huge increases, over the longer term, in the price of essentials such as petrol.

Which means those dropping money on a big ticket item such as a new car are likely to experience that purchase as expensive – even though it really won't be.

With record-low inflation at times in 2018, and improvements in efficiency and scale over the last decade, things aren't all that expensive compared to a decade ago, including new cars. 

In fact, South Africa's favourite passenger vehicle, the VW Polo Vivo, will be selling at effectively the same price in 2020 as it did in 2010, when it was first introduced.

See also: Polo Vivo has been SA's top-selling car for an astonishing 10 years - here's why

First introduced as a replacement for the budget Citi Golf in March 2010, the Vivo has always been about price, which may help explain why it has nearly always been the top-selling car every month over the past 10 years, and is easily the top seller of the decade.

How SA's best-loved car (never really) changed in price since 2010

At launch, in 2010, the cheapest Vivo you could buy had a list price of R101,500, which bought you the 1.4 litre two-door, with a  55 kw engine.

Though the performance of the entry-level model is unchanged, much else has been added to the Vivo since then. Mostly notably: air-conditioning, which was entirely absent from the entire range at launch, to much criticism. AC was available only as an optional extra, for another R9,280, bringing the price of such a moderately enhanced Vivo up to R110,780.

Within eight months aircon was made a standard feature – with what amounted to a discount. From September 2010 the entry-level 2-door hatch cost R104,065.

But a better comparison to today's basic VW Polo Vivo – and our chosen model for calculations, is the four-door model released in September 2010's aircon upgrade, which had a retail list price of R116,065.

Ignoring cosmetic, tech, and safety upgrades in the new generations since, that is the direct ancestor of today's entry-level Polo Vivo – with a standard-model price of R195,300, or an increase of just about 70% over the years.

Once corrected for inflation, that number does not look so bad. Using the consumer price index (CPI) since September 2010  it shows that a new four-door 1.4L Vivo would have cost you R185,300 in today's money if you bought it 10 years ago, for a real price increase of only R10,000.

Or, to put it differently, the Polo Vivo is only around 5.5% more expensive today than it was a decade ago.

And a 2010 buyer may have been willing to part with that extra money for the model that is now available, for reasons including standard ABS brakes (an optional extra back in 2010) and a fuel consumption rate that is some 8% better – and will pay for the extra capital cost very quickly at modern petrol prices.

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