“Nice isn’t a very nice word,” my English teachers used to tell me growing up, it’s a bland adjective and one no one would be happy to be described with. They were right, but wrong, for if there was no such word as “nice”, what would we compare all other adjectives to? You see, we need the boring, we need the bland, we need the mundane, especially in the automotive world, otherwise we’d never know an exciting car when we drove it. So would our Polo Vivo Maxx be mundane or mouth-watering to test out?
Built on the foundations of the previous generation Polo, the Vivo range keeps things simple, normally aspirated engines, hydraulic power steering, no auto stop/start technology, and as few extra features as possible. The Vivo Maxx name implies just what it is, it’s bigger, higher, and a more maxi-sized version of the Polo Vivo, but still remains bare in spec, for affordability’s sake. Our test mule arrived in its most basic spec, with metallic paint being the only optional extra, boosting the price R860 to R161 960. The 1.6-litre engine provided 77kW and 155Nm of torque, and the 5-speed manual mean the Vivo Maxx was capable of a 0-100 walk of 10.6 seconds with a final top speed of 187km/h.
All the figures above sound decent, but truth be told, they weren’t – figures and real-world feel are something completely different from one another. The figures themselves are ‘nice’, but the drive itself was even more so. The Vivo Maxx is targeted at younger buyers wanting a cheap 1st or 2nd car brand new, and most of these target customers in SA will spend a majority of their time ambling around town, for which light steering would be great, but the steering in the Maxx was slightly heavy and only really suited highway driving to a tee. The clutch is typically VW in length and take, meaning it’s nearly impossible to stall. All very ‘nice’ for your average driver, right?
But the not-so-nice bit is the astounding amount of nothingness this car generates. The engine itself is probably decent, but the gearing was so bland, it muted any and all power the 1.6 litre engine had. No matter what the rpm’s were, the power was the same, stagnant, and all that was gained was some extra noise. 100km/h was only cracked just before the shift into 4th gear, and again it was all noise with no performance. The gear-shifts were wonderful though, concise throws with a weighty shift action that felt great and really high quality.
“Bland”, “numb”, “cold” are all words that spring to mind when describing the drive, but then again, those are too nice, because no car has ever left me feeling so much nothing towards it, no emotion, no feeling at all. But therein lay the value of the Vivo Maxx, because there is place in the world for the bland and the boring, the autopilot cars that do all they have to and nothing more. The Vivo Maxx is so boring and underpowered and bland that it would be perfect as a first car, perfect for parents who worry about their children’s safety on the road.
The Maxx comes standard with airbags, ABS, and all the major safety nets, but it doesn’t come with traction control or ESP. In fact, if you are stupid enough to land the Maxx in a situation where it would require ESP or TC, I will personally drive your hearse to your funeral; because the Vivo Maxx physically doesn’t have enough power, or a poor enough foundation to land you in any sort of danger.
That said, it did have a decent base, a fairly strong chassis with decent feedback through an amply soft suspension for day to day commutes. The hydraulic steering meant you could feel something through the steering, and the brakes were all that you’d need for any driving the Vivo Maxx is capable of. The foundations are actually great, and I realised that the gearbox is what really muted everything else about the drive of the Vivo Maxx.
Drive aside, the Vivo Maxx does come standard with a decent sound system, really decent actually, featuring Bluetooth connectivity, USB and Auxiliary connections, with some decent speakers. The seating position in the Maxx is pretty great too, decent height for an upright driving position, comfortable for daily commutes, and plenty leg room fore and aft the driver’s seat, and boot space too was a winning point for the Maxx. The rest of the interior was rather dull and dreary though, grey left-over dishwater in colour and with rather cheap plastics being used at every juncture. The Steering wheel, control stalks and gear lever felt decent (no doubt pulled straight from the VW generic parts bin), but other than that, the build quality within could’ve been a bit more like the generation of Polos this Vivo series was based on.
The Polo Vivo Maxx is nice, but that’s about it. I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing that it left me feeling so little for it – because at least bad emotions meant it would get talked about with passion – but of one thing I am certain. There is place for the Vivos in this world, there is place for the mundane; because these are the cars we’ll feel comfortable with our kids driving as their first cars, the vehicles we will know they can’t race in or do anything stupid in. These are the cars that will enable average drivers who don’t care about cars to get from A to B without endangering the lives of those around them with too much power or dynamics. There is a place for the ‘nice’ cars, and the Polo Vivo Maxx is just that. But, and this is a huge “but”, the Vivo Maxx prices in at R161 100 in most basic format, and for what it is, that is sheer daylight robbery!
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77kW @ 5250RPM
155Nm @ 3500RPM
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Front Wheel Drive
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Author: Roger Biermann