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By Bruce Fraser | Mar 17, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

TRYING to get a foot in the door of the entry-level car segment is probably one of the hardest feats to crack.

TRYING to get a foot in the door of the entry-level car segment is probably one of the hardest feats to crack.

Referred to as A0, it is those cars around the R100000 mark aimed at first-time buyers, those looking to downgrade, or those with not too much money.

At R95050, the Chev Spark 1.0 LS fits the bill, as does the Chery QQ range, which starts at R69 900, the Suzuki Alto at R99900 and Tata Indica 1.4 LSI at R97995.

Overseas manufacturers have tried the last couple of years to get in on the market and had their fingers burnt because even though a buyer might not have a lot of money , he wants a certain degree of quality.

Volkswagen's Citi Golf was a definite choice for 25 years and proved that to be cheap, you didn't have to be nasty. When production stopped in January, it left a large void, which to a certain extent has been filled by the launch last week of the Polo Vivo. I say a certain extent because the Vivo ranges in price from R101500 for the 2-door hatch to R150800 for the 1.6 Trendline 4-door sedan.

In between there are seven variants - four hatches and three sedans.

Volkswagen will be the first to admit they have cut corners to bring in a car at a fraction over R100000.

On the base model, out go luxuries such as radio-CD players, electric windows, air conditioning and so on.

What they haven't done, though, is compromise on quality and safety (airbags are included, but ABS is an optional extra).

So how have they managed to keep the price so low yet kept the legendary German quality?

David Powels, VWSA's managing director, explains: "Before, 40 percent of a vehicle consisted of locally manufactured parts. This has now been increased to 70 percent. This will also have a positive spin-off on spares as the majority of them will be made in Port Elizabeth, thus reducing costs," he said at the Uitenhage plant.

I drove the sedan at the launch and it definitely had a good feel to it. Functional is a suitable way to describe it. There's nothing flashy about the car, but that is more than compensated for by the smooth ride and overall feeling that it's a solid car. A manual five-speed gearbox is standard across the range, but automatics should be available later this year.


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