Crafter, Transporter, Caddy, Amarok and, now, Xpress – Volkswagen’s latest half-tonne workhorse … GAVIN MYERS goes, well, express…
We’ve seen ‘em before – small local-delivery vehicles converted from popular passenger hatchbacks for the purpose. Back in the 1990s, Toyota turned its Conquest into the Carri; more recently, Chevrolet brought out the Pronto based on its little Spark.
The concept is so simple, yet so clever: remove the rear seats, bolt in a hardwood floor and a mesh bulkhead and voila – one urban delivery vehicle that’s as easy and efficient to pilot around town as the entry-level hatch on which it’s based. In Volkswagen’s case, that would be the Polo Vivo 1.4 Conceptline.
The company created the Xpress in response to requests from fleet owners for the company to offer a small delivery vehicle. It was designed and developed locally by the Volkswagen Engineering Division in Uitenhage and the net result is a Polo Vivo with the ability to carry a 519-kg payload and offer 1 060-litre loading volume.
It must be said, the quality of workmanship by the Uitenhage skunkworks is truly top-notch. The load partitioning has a hardy finish and the hardwood floor in the loading area has a grippy, non-slip surface finish.
Six tie-down hooks are located in the load compartment, which can be accessed by the rear hatch or either rear door. It is secured with the standard fitment central locking and alarm system. Practically speaking, that Volkswagen has fitted the interior central-locking buttons to the dashboard – and not the driver’s door – is a boon for easy locking/unlocking.
Furthermore, the front suspension has been raised by 15 mm and it rides on 14-inch wheels, either steel or optional alloys. Part of the optional equipment is a rough-road package that comprises an underbody guard and heavy-duty shocks.
Also optional is cruise control and a Bluetooth radio/CD system, but air-conditioning, dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes are standard. There is no form of traction or stability control fitted, but, with a mere 55 kW and 132 Nm from the 1,4-litre motor, it’s hardly needed.
That power output does nothing to slow the Xpress down. Gearing is well-suited to both buzzing around town and carrying a load. It’s frugal, too, consuming a claimed 6,2 l/100 km.
For the rest of it, the Xpress is no more difficult to drive than any other Polo; with a light clutch/gearbox combination and power steering. It’s perfectly comfortable, too – provided that you’re of average height as the load partition restricts seat adjustment. As a result of the conversion, noise intrusion from the road and the exhaust system is a little high, but expected.
Interior stowage space, for documents and all the paraphernalia needed when flitting from door to door, is good.
Ideally suited to an operation that needs to transport smaller products in busy urban regions, the Vivo Xpress is a high-quality conversion that makes sense as a small delivery vehicle.
Maintenance and service plans are optional, but the Xpress has been homologated as a N1 Commercial Vehicle – which will allow VAT registered customers to claim back VAT on the attractive R172 650 sticker price.