Refreshed VW Saveiro revealed as half-tonner SA can’t have

Refreshed VW Saveiro revealed as half-tonner SA can’t have

A facelifted version of the Volkswagen Saveiro has been revealed in Brazil, but the half-tonne bakkie is still off the menu for South Africa. Here’s what we’re missing out on…

South America has just welcomed a refreshed version of the Volkswagen Saveiro, but the German firm’s half-tonne bakkie – which is built exclusively in left-hand-drive form – remains firmly off the menu for South Africa.

Effectively the 4th facelift of the 3rd-generation Saveiro – a unibody bakkie based on the since-discontinued Gol hatchback and tracing its roots all the way back to 1982 – this latest update compromises styling tweaks and a smattering of extra standard kit, with the powertrains offered in Brazil unchanged.

Volkswagen Saveiro

That means power again comes from VW’s naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine (EA211), which drives the front axle through a 5-speed manual transmission. Peak outputs sit at 79 kW and 151 Nm, or a little higher should ethanol rather than petrol be used. Single-cab derivatives have a payload capacity of 664 kg, while double-cab versions (though still with 2 doors) can carry up to 638 kg.

The renewed Saveiro range comprises 4 distinct models: the entry-level Robust single cab, the entry-level Robust double cab, the mid-tier Trendline single cab and the flagship Extreme double cab (a variant previously known as the Saveiro Cross). Standard safety features across the range include dual front airbags, electronic stability control, hill-hold control, ABS, disc brakes all round and rear parking sensors.

Volkswagen Saveiro

Volkswagen’s Brazilian division says the Saveiro’s restyling includes a new bonnet, a fresh front bumper and a redesigned grille (the latter now with a chrome strip connecting the headlamps). Furthermore, the fenders gain new wheel-arch trim, while the updated taillights are connected by a matte-black strip on the higher-spec models.

In addition, the rear bumper scores an overhaul (ostensibly resulting in an improved departure angle), while the front suspension receives an extra 10 mm of ground clearance, which VW claims allows for a “more comfortable response to ground imperfections” and a “better angle of attack” during off-road driving.

Volkswagen Saveiro

The range-topping Saveiro Extreme is identified by the piano-black emblem on its B-pillar (reminiscent of that fitted to the original Amarok Extreme) and decals on its bonnet and flanks, along with its model-specific black 15-inch alloy wheels and roof rack. Inside, you’ll find leather upholstery and more “Extreme” logos.

With production of the Nissan NP200 scheduled to end by March 2024, South Africa’s half-tonne bakkie market will soon be no more. Earlier this year, we asked Martina Biene, chairperson and managing director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, whether VW SA had any plans to offer the Saveiro locally.

Answering a question the German firm’s management has fielded time and again, Biene suggested numerous feasibility studies had been conducted over the years, but each time indicated converting the Latin America-only bakkie to right-hand-drive would be prohibitively expensive.

“We’ve done multiple calculations [in an attempt] to get the current Saveiro converted to right-hand drive. Unfortunately, the downside of our Brazilian partnership is that all these [Latin American] countries are left-hand-drive countries,” she explained.

Volkswagen Saveiro load bay

So, what about building a similar unibody bakkie in South Africa? Well, Biene revealed such an opportunity may well present itself at some stage, making reference to the mystery 3rd product the German firm’s local division plans to build – alongside the Polo hatchback and the Polo Vivo – at the Kariega plant in the Eastern Cape.

In November 2022, VW SA announced an intention to add a new model to its local production line, confirming the vehicle will ride on the same MQB-A0 platform as the Polo and numerous other VW Group products. Internally dubbed the “A0 Entry SUV”, the newcomer is set to be positioned below the T-Cross as part of the Polo family.

Volkswagen Saveiro

“The nice thing with this ‘A0 Entry SUV’ is that it provides an opportunity for an even bigger than half-tonne bakkie – so, a 750 kg [payload] bakkie. This is something we are looking into,” Biene revealed. “So, there is hope, but there is not hope for the current Saveiro. But probably for something nice to come in the future.”

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