Johannesburg - Volkswagen’s new-generation Polo has been selling up a storm since its introduction in January and not without reason as it is widely regarded as the benchmark setter in the B hatchback segment.
But things are set to get a little harder for the VeeDub in the coming month, with two formidable new rivals due for launch.
First of these to arrive will be the new Ford Fiesta, which is being launched in the country next week, while those wanting to get their hands on the funky new Nissan Micra will have to wait a little longer - with Nissan SA having just confirmed that the completely reimagined hatch is due for local release in June.
Let’s take a closer look at the two newcomers:
Set to reach showrooms in mid-May, the seventh-generation Fiesta might have an evolutionary design, but technologically it’s been brought bang up to date and beyond - with Ford boldly describing it as the most advanced small car in the world.
We’ll only know the local pricing and range details at launch, but it’s a given that the mainstay engine will be Ford’s 1-litre turbopetrol triple, which is offered abroad in various output variants ranging from 74kW to 103kW. Ford will also offer a 1.5-litre turbodiesel option.
The cabin gets some much-needed modernisation, with smarter materials and a 20cm touch-screen mounted at the top of the redesigned dashboard. It’s offered with Ford’s latest Sync3 infotainment system along with other gadgets like Pedestrian Detection, Auto High Beam, Cross Traffic Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control. The local spec mix, as mentioned, has yet to be confirmed however.
Overseas models are also offered with more distinctive trim grades than before, including a crossover variant called the Active and a sporty-looking ST-Line (not to be confused with the actual ST).
On that note, the new Fiesta ST, powered by a 147kW, 1.5-litre three-cylinder motor, is set to follow at a later stage.
A far more radical departure from its predecessor is the all-new Nissan Micra, which is not only significantly bigger but also a lot more radical looking.
Based on alliance partner Renault’s Clio, and built alongside it's equally sexy cousin in France, the Micra will be positioned at the upper end of the B segment when it arrives next month, while the recently re-launched Micra Active that’s based on the Indian-built previous generation, will still soldier on at the lower end of the compact hatch market - think of it as Nissan’s Vivo.
Nissan has confirmed that local models will be powered by a 66kW 1-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol - as per the Clio - but no word on pricing or specifications as yet - except that it will be sold with a three-year/90 000km service plan.
Local models will also offer a modern touchscreen infotainment system and six airbags will be standard.
In Europe the Micra is available with a long list of driver assistance gadgets, including Intelligent Emergency Braking with pedestrian recognition, Lane Departure Prevention, Around View Monitor and High Beam Assist, among others.
Watch this space for more info in a few weeks from now.