1. Volkswagen Polo Vivo – 2 698 units
The spiritual successor to the venerable Citi Golf, the Polo Vivo has been a regular fixture at the summit of the South African passenger car market since it was introduced in 2010.
Mimicking the successful formula applied in creating the Citi brand out of the then-departing Mk1 Golf, through two generations to date the Vivo has been based on an outgoing version of the Volkswagen Polo. Assembled alongside the modern sixth-generation Polo hatch at the brand’s world-class Kariega plant, outside of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), the current Polo Vivo harnesses the award-winning qualities of the Mk5 Polo.
Also noteworthy in terms of the 2 698 units of the Polo Vivo sold in September 2023 is that up to 76% of the components fitted to this popular hatch remain locally sourced.
The current VW Polo Vivo range starts with the Trendline at R255 600 and is topped by the GT at R341 800.
2. Toyota Corolla Cross – 2 259 units
Introduced in 2021 via one of the largest media launch events of recent times, from the outset, the Corolla Cross package ticked all the necessary boxes in terms of all but guaranteed commercial success. Locally assembled and baring the nameplate of one of the most famous family of vehicles in this country’s motoring history – Corolla – Toyota’s timely entry into the compact crossover space garnered more than 800 pre-orders before any cars had reached dealership floors.
Larger in most dimensions than rivals like the VW T-Cross and Haval Jolion, the added appeal of the Corolla Cross is that it offers buyers keen on the modern RAV4 package the opportunity to potentially save money without compromising on interior space and versatility.
As the ever-increasing cost of fuel places added strain on many South African households’ monthly budgets, one of the more popular Corolla Cross derivatives remains the hybrid version.
The modern Corolla Cross range starts with the 1.8 Xi CVT at R408 400 and is topped by the 1.8 HEV GR-S derivative at R543 700.
3. Suzuki Swift – 1 291 units
As the Suzuki brand in South Africa continues to enjoy success through its proven track record of reliability, value for money and efficiency, it’s the venerable Swift hatch that remains the most sought-after package amongst an ever-expanding portfolio of products from this Japanese manufacturer.
While the all-new Swift is scheduled to be unveiled at the forthcoming Tokyo Motor Show, the current version continues to prove one of the most complete passenger car packages available in our market. Spacious, broadly comfortable and safe, easy to drive especially for younger members of the family and, crucially, light on fuel, there’s a lot to like about the modern Suzuki Swift.
A highlight of Swift package remains the brand’s 1,2-litre naturally aspirated (not turbocharged) engine. This proven unit offers impressive go-forward despite its conservative power figure, yet is easily able to return average fuel consumption figures below 6.0 L/100 km.
The Swift hatch range starts with the 1.2 GA at R199 900 and is topped by the impressive Swift Sport at R419 900.
4. Toyota Starlet – 1 247 units
Made possible via an ongoing technology and platform-sharing agreement between these two Japanese brands, the Toyota Starlet is a rebadged Suzuki Baleno. Currently in their respective second generations, thanks predominantly to its superior dealership network and marginally more revered reputation for reliability and resale, the Toyota-badged model regularly outsells its Suzuki cousin in our market.
Imported from India, the modern Starlet hatch offers commendable levels of interior space and versatility, together with a standard specification list that clearly appeals to buyers seeking maximum value.
Available with the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, the Toyota Starlet is fitted with a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine that offers 77 kW and 138 Nm of torque.
The modern Starlet range starts at R252 100 for the 1.5 Xi manual and tops at R339 00 for the 1.5 XR automatic.
5. Volkswagen Polo – 1 148 units
Built alongside its top-selling Polo Vivo sibling, the sixth-generation Polo hatch is a car that continues to fly the South African flag high in the many overseas markets that it is exported to monthly. Indeed, so highly regarded is the VWSA assembly line that it is currently the only plant that produces the flagship Polo GTI.
While many rivals have attempted to usurp the Polo’s dominance in terms of both popularity and corresponding monthly sales in South Africa (and around the world), few have been able to replicate the VW’s reputation of solid, assured build quality and, indeed, resale values.
Built on the brand’s modern MQB A0 platform, the current Polo hatch features many of VW’s latest technologies, including adaptive LED lighting and active safety systems.
The appeal of the Polo range is that it starts with the relatively affordable base model at R343 100 and proceeds through several appealing style packages, including Life and R-Line, before culminating in the always impressive Polo GTI at R535 600.