Mercedes Benz GLA 200 CDI review

MB GLA 200 CDI

MB GLA 200 CDI

Mercedes Benz GLA 200 CDI

This is a very competent, practical compact luxury car. It rides highish off the ground so farm roads are a doddle. You also sit more upright and higher, giving excellent visibility.

Performance is between good and excellent. Handling and roadholding match the class leaders in this crossover SUV niche.

Mercedes replaced the old A Class with 3 models. A sporty range called the CLA, the normal one called the A and a cross-over that superficially looks like the A, the GLA. The GLA rides higher than the A and is a little bigger all round. Many will feel this is the most practical  new baby Benz.

MB-GLA200--1-011

There are two petro and two diesel models, three  style  lines and three add on packages.

The 200 is a 1.6 petrol engine with electronically controlled direct petrol injection through piezo injectors and a turbocharger. Claimed fuel consumption is 6 litres/100km, but expect around a still exceptional  7. The 250 4matic has a 1.9 engine, more performance and  is a little thirstier but still very good.

The 200 CDi is a 2.1 litre  turbodiesel with high-pressure fuel injection common-rail technology, VTG turbocharger and EDC. The 220 CDi is the same engine but with more punch. Claimed  diesel consumption is 4.5 to 5 l/100km. Aim for 6, but be easy on the throttle.

The GLA comes in a choice of three lines “Style”, “Urban” and “AMG Line” .

Amongst the many optional extras to choose from, are the large panoramic sliding sunroof, or the EASY-PACK tailgate, which can be opened and closed at the push of a button.

MB-GLA200--1-084dashStandard equipment includes multifunction steering wheel, eco start/stop, Collision prevention assist, which warns the driver visually and audibly of insufficient distance to the vehicle travelling ahead or of stationary objects, attention assist, cruise control, climate control, automatic lights and adaptive brakes.

In addition there are three style packages: Night, Exclusive and AMG Exclusive. Highlights of the Exclusive package, for example,  (available for all three lines) include heated sports seats with 4-way lumbar support for driver and front passenger, leather-covered, like the multifunction steering wheel and the gearshift lever.

It is all a little confusing and almost too much for me. In the showroom it is a little easier to get you head round the choices, but beware, costs mount rapidly.

MB-GLA200--1-007I liked the car. I think  Mercedes mostly got it right and it does feel like a baby Benz. The interior, apart from the protruding multimedia screen, is very pleasant and has enough space for a smaller car.

If you prefer a hatch type shape of car and a little more ride height MB have got it right with this car. Not cheap though.

Also look at the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, Volvo V40 Cross Country and Ford Kuga.

As tested R422 700 plus options R120 450 for a total of R543 150. Options are reversing camera, active park assist, paoramic sunroof, 7G-DCT automatic box, COMMAND online, tow-hook, Bi-Xenon headlamps, easy pack tailgate, Exclusive package, mirrors, night pack and urban line.

The range starts at R421 800, and goes to R760 800 for the GL45 AMG. We would recommend the G LA200 Auto at R461 947.  Two formidable competitors stand out. The Ford Kuga 2.0TDCi AWD Titanium is R448 900 fully and comprehensively equipped. The Volvo V40 Cross CountryD4 Excell at R395 000 is a complete package.

All GLA models come standard with a 6-years/100 000 km maintenance contract and two year unlimited warranty.

 

 

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Chevrolet Orlando LS 1.8 review

chev_orlando-thumbChevrolet Orlando

GM’s smaller multi purpose vehicle, the Orlando manages to be a little van, 7 seater bus and car all in one. And all in a neat, versatile  package. It would make a great taxi.

Think of it as an upmarket Avanza. It is slightly wider and longer than the Avanza and feels much more solid.

In SA we only get only one model. But GM has chosen it well. It is a 1.8 petrol manual with standard but good hard working trim and a good specification level.

Interior Chevrolet Orlando

Interior Chevrolet Orlando

The vehicle has 16 different seating combinations, meaning  you really can fit seven adults into the Orlando or when in van mode, a driver and a jumbo load.

Passengers will find the inside of the Orlando is surprisingly roomy with more than enough leg- and headroom. Access to the third row is OK, but headroom a little limited.

Load volume at the back is between 100 and 800 litres depending on how you have folded the seats. Fold down the rear seats and you’ve got a 1499 litre load space.The  cabin feels like a car, with neat finishes and a plethora of map pockets, armrests with cup holder, and quite a few nooks and crannies to keep things in.

Power windows for driver and front passenger are standard as is a good sound system, cruise control and power steering.

The interior is upmarket compared to the cheaper Avanza and is pleasantly finished reminding one of the Cruze, its sedan sibling.

Chevrolet Otlando

Chevrolet Otlando

The Orlando does not lack safety and security systems.  It comes with anti theft alarm and immobiliser.

An  ‘Electronic Stability Control’ system provides traction control to help avert slides, by automatically applying corrective braking to appropriate wheels to help you quickly regain control. It also has ABS and electronic brake distribution with an additional brake assist system.

Driving the Orlando is easy and pleasant. All round visibility is surprisingly good and it handles well in the context of an MPV. Road holding is above par for this category. The Cruze roots shine through.

Chevrolet Orlando 1.8 LS

Chevrolet Orlando 1.8 LS

GM claims 7.2l/100km but work on 8 in general and around 6 on the open road, which is very acceptable.

Priced from R287 000 you get real value for money.

The Warranty & Roadside Assistance package is  5 years/120 000km.  The Service Plan is for 3 years /60 000km.

Also look at the Toyota Avanza 1.3  from R190 000, Suzuki Ertiga 1.4 starting at around R160 000, VW Caddy 1.6 from R190 000 or the Nissan NV200 1.6 Combi R254 800.

First published in Small Business Connect.

Renault Sandero 66kw turbo Stepway review

Sandero-Stepway-thumbRenault Sandero Stepway

The original Stepway was the best-selling model in the previous Sandrero range as its raised ride height, adventure aura and value proposition made it the most desirable model. I predict the same is going to happen with these new cars. Renault have a winner, and we as consumers also get to win. A good car, great features and excellent price.

The Sandero Stepway is an affordable yet classy small car with a tougher than usual stance, more ride height, pleasant handling and well equipped interior with fair space and good finish . It is great value for money and surprises with its comprehensive levels of equipment and good handling for a slightly tall car.

Sandero Stepway 66kW 2014

Sandero Stepway 66kW 2014

The interior of the Sandero is very practical and comes with electric windows, air-conditioning, sound system, finger tip controls, Bluetooth, cruise control and central locking. A nice touch is the chunky leather clad steering wheel and gear knob. A major step up from the previous generation. The cabin is much more upmarket than the original model. It also appears to be well put together.

Sandero Stepway 2014 dash

Sandero Stepway 2014 dash

The cloth covered seats look great and are comfortable over normal distances. The back seats fold down in a 60/40 split while the boot offers luggage capacity of 292 litres.

The new cutting edge three-cylinder 1-litre turbo beats the 1.6-litre engine used in the previous Stepway in every way – power, fuel consumption and performance. This is the future. Together with Ford’s amazing little three cylinder these engines show the way forward. Acceleration is better than average for B segment cars and fuel consumption much less than average at around 6 litre/100km. A win-win situation.

The Stepway has all the required safety features from the basics such as Emergency Brake Assist, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability programme to hill start assist and rear parking sensors.

The Stepway will make an excellent little workhorse that will be equally at home on gravel roads as in town. I enjoyed the week I spent driving it. There was always enough power and it is big enough to sit properly on the road. Renault have done well with this one.

The Stepway costs around R15 000 more than the standard Sandero. You get extra ground clearance (29mm), roof rails, skid panels, styling differences, 16” wheels and rear parking sensors. You also get a better looking car, in my opinion.

Renault Sandero Stepway

Renault Sandero Stepway

Alternatives include the Ford Ecoboost, Renault’s own Duster, VW VivoMaxx and the Toyota Etios Cross; all (except the Etios) substantially more expensive.

The Renault Sandero Stepway costs R159 900, that’s not much of a premium over the Sandero Dynamique at R141 500.

The Stepway comes with an excellent five-year or 150 000km warranty and a two-year or 30 000km service plan.

 

Van or Bakkie with canopy?

Bakkies are the love of southern Africa car owners. The Toyota Hi Lux is often the biggest selling ‘car’ model not only in South Africa, but also in Botswana and Namibia and is the best selling vehicle this year.

Bakkies are great. There is just the little problem of the load being unprotected from the weather and from wondering eyes. Fortunately there is an easy solution. Get a canopy.

Roof high canopy with swinging doors.

Roof high canopy with swinging doors.

We are spoiled for choice of canopies.

Four materials are generally used for making canopies.

Canvas is the original material and remains a good choice of you only need a temporary cover from time to time. It does not give good security though.

Mild steel metal canopies have lost their popularity due to rust and weight issues. In some cases 3CR12 stainless steel is now used in both canopies and trailers. It is very corrosion resistant, strong and light, but pricey.

Aluminium canopy

Aluminium canopy

Aluminium canopies are gaining in popularity. They are extremely light and tough.

Most canopies are made of fibreglass/glass reinforced polyester. They are cheaper than metal and almost as strong and durable. They are slightly heavier than aluminium products.

Generally aluminium canopies are the most durable and secure, but also the most expensive.

Canopies come in two basic shapes. Space saver or full door canopies often come with a nose cone to help with aerodynamics and are higher than the roof of the cabin of the bakkie. The other shape is as high as the roof of the cabin and often has a half door that swings up.

Tall canopy - high security

Tall canopy – high security

Comparing the cost of a van with a bakkie and canopy it looks a bit like this in the case of the most popular smaller commercial vehicle range, the Nissan 200 series.

Nissan NP200 bakkie, the base 1.6 8v model is R134 600, but with air-conditioning and safety pack it costs R152 200. The diesel 1.5 DCi is R193 400.

The Nissan NV200 1.6i van starts at  R212 300. It comes with safety pack and air-conditioner as standard. The diesel 1.5 DCi costs R240 900.

The full canopy costs R11 500 installed. The slightly bigger canopy with nosecone is R13 000. The half height or roof height standard canopy costs around R9 000, while an executive low-line canopy is around R11 000. The differences between the standard and executive models include gas struts, roof rails, lockable door, UV tinted windows and interior light.

The NP200 with a full (highline) canopy is R205 000, With a roof height (lowline) canopy is R203 000.

Variety of fibreglass canopies

Variety of fibreglass canopies

The difference between a small van and a half ton bakkie with canopy ranges from R30 000  to R35 000.

I have used Beekman fibreglass shell canopies as the example for pricing, partly because they are nationwide and partly because their service is so good. They are the only local canopy manufacturer to achieve ISO9001 quality accreditation and offer a 2 year warranty on the shell and one year on the mechanical parts. Andy Cab offer a 3 year warranty on their shells.

The full height canopies have better security due to their unitary construction without side windows and the large galvanised double doors.

For the best security a van is still the best option. Also the side door of most vans should improve productivity markedly. The R30 000 cost difference is quite substantial.

The full height canopy is very useful. The doors are just so much more substantial and it is easier to work inside. I think they are worth the extra R1 000.

 

 

 

Kia Sportage CRDi AWD review

Kia Sportage CRDi

Kia Sportage CRDi

Kia Sportage CRDi AWD

Kia’s lead designer Peter Schreyer and his team have changed the face of Kia. Not only has the face changed though, everything has been upgraded. The Kia Sportage is the small SUV or station wagon in the model range and it is not only versatile but seems to be just the right size. Big enough for four adults and their kit, small enough to manoeuvre in town.

The facelifted Sportage is more refined than the model it has been developed from and has been  tweaked where it counts.

The interior is very good and has been significantly upgraded. A lot of thought has gone into it. From the leather clad multi-function steering wheel to the multi-adjustable powered leather driver’s seat everything feels just right. The armrest between the seats hides a cubby hole, one of many storage bins.

Kia Sportage CDi

Kia Sportage CDi

Needless to say the car is very well equipped with amongst others a high end sound system, climate control, electric windows, cooling glove box, auto light control and multi-function trip computer. The cabin and boot are both spacious. The boot has a false floor which is useful for keeping small things out of site.

The built-in rear-view camera and RPAS (Rear Parking Assist System) works very well and the touch screen is a nice, er…  touch.

Kia Sportage CRDi

Kia Sportage CRDi

Safety equipment includes downhill brake control, EBD, ABS, electronic stability control, hill start assist, airbags front, side and curtain and iso-fix baby seats.

I really enjoyed driving the Sportage. Acceleration is good and I found the road holding above average for a tall car. This car will be easy to live with.

Expect fuel consumption of around 7 litres/100km for the diesel and a litre more for the petrol models.

The ride is a little stiff, a bit like the Audi Q3, but it is not unpleasant. The very comfortable seats mollycoddle you in any case.

Summary

Kia has got it right with the Sportage range. No longer cheap, but solid build quality and good prices. The five year warranty says something about the quality. The dimensions are just right, inside and outside.

The Sportage is practical, good value and smart.

The Sportage range has 9 models from the 2.0 Ignite (petrol) at R321 995 to the 2.0 CRDi (diesel) AWD auto at R425 995. We tested the latter. If you don’t need AWD we recommend the 2.0 auto at R360 995.

Also look at the Nissan Qashqai (new model any day now), Ford Kuga (new model), Honda CRV, Toyota RAV and Hyundai ix35.

Sportage 086

The Sportage comes with a very good five year, 150 000km warranty and 5 year or 100 000km service plan.

Sportage crdi  016

 

2014 WOW Women’s Car of the Year Awards

The women of South Africa have voted and Women on Wheels (WOW) is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 WOW Women’s Car of the Year Awards (#WOWCOTY). Over 10 000 votes were cast by WOW readers and combined with the judges’ votes to decide the winning cars in 11 categories.

The winning cars in each category are:

  • Budget Buys: Honda Brio
  • Convertibles: Mercedes-Benz SLK
  • Crossover/Compact SUV: Porsche Macan
  • Hatchbacks: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
  • Sedans: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Green cars: Nissan Leaf
  • Large SUVs: Range Rover Sport
  • MPV: Citroën C4 Picasso
  • Sports Cars: Jaguar F-Type
  • Super car: Honda NSx
  • Overall Car of the Year: Porsche Macan

“It is such an exciting survey for us at WOW,” says Charleen Clarke, editor of WOW and convener of the WOWCOTY judging panel. “Not only are more women actively searching for cars, but with the volume of votes we can confidently say that these results are a real-life indicator of South African women’s favourite cars. More women are making the car buying decisions in their households and we are tapping in to this market.”

Toyota Corolla Quest 1.6 M review

Toyota Quest

Toyota Quest

Toyota Corolla Quest 1.6

CitiGolf started something in 1984. VW built them for 25 years. Basically they were a facelifted and modernised Mk 1 Golf, which had originally been introduced in 1974. Since then VW and Ford have played the same trick a few times, lately with the VW Vivo, a facelifted previous generation Polo and Ford produces the Figo based on the earlier Fiesta.

Toyota has also done this before. Think of the Tazz.

Just after Toyota introduced the new 11th generation Corolla they revealed the Quest, basically a 10th generation Corolla (E150).

The Quest is a brilliant interpretation of what a good basic family or business car must be. It has all the goodies like power windows, aircon, sound system, adjustable steering wheel, multi-function display, comfortable seats and connections for your sound player or phone. It does not have leather trim, or much soft touch plastic or cruise control. That is the balance Toyota has achieved.

From a safety perspective the Quest delivers. ABS brakes, ISO points, immobiliser, front airbags, halogen headlamps, fuel cut-off and

Toyota Corolla Quest

Toyota Corolla Quest

so on.

You get a choice of four colours but one model only. A six speed manual 1.6 petrol with Emergency brake assist and brake force distribution. The combination of the 6-speed gearbox and latest generation 1.6 litre petrol engine delivers excellent economy and good power. Acceleration is good and top speed well in excess of the legal limit.

Why buy a Quest? It is economical, it has got space, it is safe and its very good value for money. It should last as long as any other Toyota. Uses the same parts and a proven platform. They get the price down by keeping things simple and using last year’s technology where practical. Not a bad thing of itself.

How does it drive? Like a dog? Quite simply, just like last year’s Corolla. It is pretty good to drive. Good road holding, good handling. It is a good car.

Spares are readily available and affordable. For example, the tyres are 195/65R15 which will be easy to replace at a good price.

Toyota Quest interior

Toyota Quest interior

I highly recommend the Corolla Quest as a superb value business car.

Price as tested is  R174 900. It comes basically fully equipped.

Warranty is three years or 100 000km and the service plan is 3 years or 45 000km.

Other cars to look at in this price category include Toyota Yaris , Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, VW Polo Vivo, Honda Ballade, Ford Ikon, All smaller.

Similar size cars include the Hyundai  Elantra (R45 000 more),  Honda Civic (R40 000 more), Chevrolet Cruze R50 000 more) and new Corolla (R40 000 more).

Quest-176