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These are the cars that cash-strapped South Africans are searching for the most

Published Jun 19, 2020


Johannesburg - With several new models due to land in South Africa in the coming months, ranging from compact cars to ultra-sporty saloons, there will be no shortage of exciting, fresh vehicles to choose from if you're the fortunate position of being able to shop for a new ride. 

There's no denying, however, that life as we used to know it has changed dramatically under lockdown. As financial strain rocks more people in the coming weeks during the ongoing lockdown, it's expected that more South Africans will sell their current vehicle; opting to buy another, cheaper pre-owned vehicle instead.

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We caught up with George Mienie, CEO of Autotrader, to find out what is happening at the entry-level of the market, where mobility is a key concern for most South Africans looking to avoid using public transport.

"Car buying patterns have changed. For instance, searches for second-hand cars under R50 000 increased by almost 300% versus normal pre-lockdown levels during lockdown level 5. And the specific vehicle bought reveal some very interesting trends," he says.

Based on an analysis of vehicles sold on AutoTrader from 1 May to 7 June 2020 it is evident that the number one choice of car in the sub-R50 000 price point is the iconic Volkswagen Citi Golf.

Should VWSA restart the Citi Golf production line?

A uniquely South African success story, the Citi made its first appearance on South African roads in 1984, six years after Golf 1 was introduced in this country. Volkswagen of South Africa launched the Citi as its affordable car to compete in the entry-level segment following the introduction of a bigger and more expensive Golf 2 – the “Jumbo” Golf, as it became affectionately known. “South Africans fell in love with the affordable and cheerful Citi; over the next 25 years, Volkswagen sold over 370 000 of these cars. It is interesting to see that the love affair of South Africans with the Citi endures to this day,” he adds.

“The popularity of the Citi Golf is also a testament to the power of the Volkswagen brand. It’s a brand that motorists buy with confidence because they trust it,” he notes.



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1 Volkswagen Citi

R37 691

192 180


2 BMW 3 Series

R37 229

245 706


3 Opel Corsa

R35 327

179 607


4 Opel Corsa Lite

R35 380

146 280


5 Volkswagen Polo

R43 357

240 857


6 Ford Fiesta

R33 831

215 154


7 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

R36 615

260 550


8 Hyundai Atos Prime

R38 750

148 917


9 Chery QQ3

R38 150

66 091


10 Renault Scenic

R35 245

173 336


Back in November 2009, the price of the very last Citi model – the limited-edition Citi Mk1 – was R113 500. Lockdown shoppers have been paying a fraction of that: R37 691 on average (for vehicles with an average registration year of 2004 and an average mileage of 192 180km).

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Car market is bouncing back slowly

Mienie notes that it’s also interesting to see that there are some good deals available on luxury German cars. “Buyers obviously need to be willing to accept average mileages of around 250 000km – but, at an average price of R37 229 for a BMW 3 Series and R36 615 for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class – there are clearly some interesting deals to be had,” he comments.

While the consumer emphasis has very much been on the sub-R50 000 price bracket, Mienie says that searches in this price category are petering off: “We are seeing a return to pre-lockdown activity, where searches for cars R100k and less, or R200k and less, are becoming more popular again. Sub-R50 000 searches decreased by 40% this week while R100k searches increased by 22% and R200K searches increased by a whopping 51%.”

The return to R100K and R200K searches is likely due to industries opening up, people going back to work under Lockdown level 3, but also, is more than likely, an acceleration in the swing from new cars to used cars by consumers still under financial pressure. 

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Here are the most-sold cars in South Africa under R50 000*

*Source: AutoTrader, 1 May to 7 June 2020

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