Toyota Starlet

For many years it has been a ding dong battle between Volkswagen and Toyota to dominate the small car market niche. VW have done particularly well in the affordable compact niche but Toyota now has a Starlet up its sleeve.

Years ago (starting in the 70’s) Toyota had a Starlet, which looked like an abbreviated Corolla of the day and was built for 21 years over 5 generations.

Toyota Starlet

Now we have a new Starlet, which replaces the Etios Hatch in our market.

It is based on the same platform as the Suzuki Baleno and built by Maruti Suzuki in India. In 2019 Suzuki and Toyota announced a new collaboration to further their earlier MoU in which Suzuki will build four small cars for Toyota, while the latter will supply Suzuki with electrified and mild hybrid technology.

Suzuki will supply Baleno (Toyota Starlet), Vitara Brezza (a small SUV) known as the Toyota Urban Cruiser, Ciaz (small sedan) and Ertiga to Toyota in Africa from Maruti in India.

Toyota will build electric Rav and Corolla versions for Suzuki.

So what is the Starlet?

The Starlet is a shopping car, mom’s taxi, weekender and generally practical smaller, but not cramped, family car.

I found it to be almost zippy – good power and acceleration, competent handling, a pleasant ride and good road holding. A nice, not too little, car.

With its 1.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine featuring Variable Valve Timing producing 68kW @ 6000 rpm with 130Nm of torque @ 4200 rpm you can expect fuel consumption between 5.2L/100km and just under 6 if you have a heavier foot. Two transmission choices are on offer, a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic, all driving the front wheels. The Starlet will do 0-100km/h in 10.9s for the manual and 11.6s for the auto variant.

Toyota Starlet dash

The entry point to the Starlet range is the Xi model which is generously specced, featuring air-conditioning, electric power steering, dual 12-volt power outlets, electric windows, tilt-adjustable steering column, 60/40 split rear seats, power-adjustable side mirrors and remote central locking. The Xs model adds alloy wheels.

The flagship Xr models receive the full package, comprising chrome door handles and side mouldings, rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, LED + Projector headlamps with daytime running lights (DRL), side-mirror mounted indicators and a roof spoiler. The interior gets a digital speedometer with colour MID, leather steering wheel with telescopic adjustment, park distance control (PDC), reverse camera, climate control and push-start operation. Cruise control is also provided, operated via steering-wheel-mounted switches. Snazzy.

The car has a generous boot for this niche helped by a space-saver marie biscuit spare wheel, practical layout and effective if simple infotainment system with in the Xr model a feature-rich touchscreen audio system complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration for navigation, telephony and music-streaming services. Traditional USB, Bluetooth and MP3/Aux compatibility remains – offering the user a wide variety of in-vehicle entertainment sources. Reverse camera monitoring is also embedded within the infotainment system which is linked to the Toyota Connect telematics system which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15Gb.

As with the new Suzukis safety is top notch which include active electronic aids such as ABS, EBD, Brake Assist (BA) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). Automatic transmission models also include Hill Assist Control (HAC). The Xr model gets additional Curtain and Side airbags.

Toyota Starlet rear view


It is a good size car.

The interior feels spacious and the layout works well. The chunky steering wheel houses the cruise control and audio buttons. The trip computer between the rev counter and speedometer is quite advanced and can display fuel and range data, engine and mobility data like power, torque, acceleration and braking, time and even G-forces.

The model line-up and pricing is as follows:
1.4 Xi MT – R204 900, 1.4 Xs MT – R215 200, 1.4 Xs AT – R235 700, 1.4 Xr MT – R258 500, 1.4 Xr AT – R272 500.
If you just want a basic runabout the base model will be fine. If you want a ‘proper’ car I recommend the Xr AT. It has just about all the bells and whistles you need in a car. The complete compact package.

All Starlet models are sold with a three service or 45 000 km service plan, with 15 000 km service intervals. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is also provided. Customers can purchase an additional service plan and warranty extensions from their local Toyota dealer.

You may be wondering what the alternatives are. Clearly the Suzuki Baleno on which it is based, but also the VW Vivo, Ford Figo, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio, Renault Sandero and Clio, Suzuki Ignis, Mazda2 and Honda Amaze.

Karoo to Karoo

Gecko Rock Lodge is a very special place if you are the outdoorsy type. 

The lodge is hidden away in a valley of its own in the Central Karoo near Touwsriver. Nestled in the Nougaskloof Valley is Gecko Rock Private Nature Reserve complete with three trails, cottages, cabins and two 8-bed houses as well as two campsites.

Echo Camp at Gecko Lodge

We stayed in the very rustic Echo Valley campsite. For amenities it offers a hot shower, toilet and a kitchen area. That’s it. No power, water, mobile phone signal. Just you and nature.

The trails on offer range from a pleasant drive which you could manage with a softroader to the very challenging 4×4 Seattle trail, best tackled with more than one vehicle and with a guide if you are not experienced.

Gecko Rock also offers a number of walking and MTB trails.

We took the longer route via Bonnievale, as I wanted to buy wine from the cellars and cheese from Mooivallei Dairy which makes the most sublime mature Gouda. This route is 250 km but budget 4 hours as you will stop to admire the views, especially at Langdam.

Mahindra S11 Karoo

The Mahindra Karoo is an excellent choice in this context. Its a comfortable cruiser with the little luxuries you want on a longish trip.

Mahindra’s double cab 4×4 bakkie in S11 trim is badged Karoo and it fits the vehicle.

I found the S11 pleasant to drive and very capable in the bush. It is a truck, built to work in tough conditions, but the rough edges have been softened. It is no Amarok or Ranger when it comes to handling or interior design but it is very functional with a high level of standard equipment at the price. Nifty little luxuries like follow me home lights, light sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers and start/stop function are all standard on the S11.

Mahindra Pik Up Securideck

The bakkie we drove came with a rubberised loadbay and a rollertop cover, which is neither rain or dust proof but does provide good security.

It is well equipped with front fog lights, dual projector headlamps, heated rear window and more.

The leather covered steering wheel has cruise control and audio function controls.

The roomy cabin has got a touchscreen infotainment centre, integrated audio system with USB, Aux and Bluetooth as well as Satnav and a rear camera. It has a proper climate control system, trip computer and electric windows. I thought the door handles were a little flimsy and it just does not have the storage space of the newer bakkies. I also missed a grab handle on the A pillar for the front passenger.

The S11 has nine safety features including ABS and EBD, two airbags and collapsing steering column.

The steering is a little mushy at speed but once you leave the tar its just fine although it is a challenge to park.

Expect fuel consumption to be just under 10L/ 100 km.

The Mahindra S11 automatic, especially in Karoo guise, is a successful development and enhancement of the original Pik-Up. The 2.2 turbodiesel and the six-speed auto box work well together delivering just what you need and lifting the bakkie to a new level.

The S10 and S11 trim bakkies are really good value for money. The S10 costs R394 499, while the S11 as tested here costs R429 900.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120 000 km and the service plan is for 5 years or 90 000 km.

If for some reason you don’t like the Karoo take a look at the GWM Steed and Nissan NP 300 (Hardbody).

2020 AA-Kinsey Report

This is the 30th year of the Kinsey Report and it’s second as the AA-Kinsey Report and inevitably a few changes were forced to be made including how the figures were collected.
“Motoring has become more expensive, certainly from a parts perspective, and the results for 2020 show that. Although there may be similar alternative parts from non-franchise outlets – the durability of which cannot be vouched for – prices for original equipment are rising,” notes Malcolm Kinsey, author of the AA-Kinsey Report. All the figures in the AA-Kinsey Report were collected in September. Vehicle sales for August and September show large declines of approximately 30% over the corresponding months in 2019.

The 2020 AA-Kinsey Report again includes the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists “Car of the Year” entries. These represent the latest vehicles on the market, launched during the last 12 months, and hopefully introducing new cutting-edge features. There are 14 in this survey.

City Cars and Entry-level Vehicles Category

The first three places in this category are:

The Renault Kwid with a total basket price of R62,990, followed by the Ford Figo at R63,866, and the Hyundai Atoz at R66,189 in third place.

Service parts:

  1. Kwid R3,048
  2. Figo R3,168
  3. Honda Amaze at R3,455

Repair parts:

  1. Figo at R6,187
  2. Honda Amaze at R7,033
  3. Atoz at R7,560

Crash parts prices:

  1. Kwid at R50,490
  2. Figo at R54,510
  3. Atoz at R54,572

Super Mini Category

The winner here is the Hyundai i20, with a parts basket price of R90,065, about R2,500 less expensive than the 2019 class winner, the Renault Sandero. Second place goes to Toyota’s newly launched Starlet at R90,826 and the Ford Fiesta at R 91,275 in third.

Service parts:

  1. Toyota Starlet at R3,150
  2. Toyota Yaris at R3,543
  3. Renault Sandero at R3,968 (last year’s winner)

Repair parts:

  1. Suzuki Swift at R7,285
  2. VW Polo at R7,348
  3. Toyota Starlet at R8,256

Crash parts prices:

  1. Hyundai i20 at R72,590
  2. Ford Fiesta at R74,699
  3. Toyota Starlet at R79,419

Family Favourites Category

The Toyota Quest follows up last year’s success with another overall victory with a total parts basket cost of R85,031 – though quite a substantial increase over the 2019 figure; second is the Nissan Almera (R86,488 – just about R1,000 more than its 2019 total). Third is another Toyota, the Corolla Hatch with a total of R131, 294 – quite a leap from the first two. The Hatch was a finalist in the COTY competition which is quite a departure from the traditional 4-door Toyotas.

Service Parts:

  1. Nissan Almera at R2,827
  2. Toyota Corolla Hatch at R4,934
  3. Toyota Quest at R5,344

Repair Parts:

  1. Toyota Quest at R9,088
  2. Nissan Almera at R9,920
  3. Toyota Corolla Hatch at R10,504

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Toyota Quest at R70,598
  2. Nissan Almera at R73,741
  3. Toyota Corolla Hatch R115,855

Crossovers Categories

Crossovers are without doubt the most popular family vehicles, and their size and versatility make them ideal for a multitude of purposes. They range from small SUVs to large, sophisticated and extremely expensive models. We have three categories based on size and to a degree price. They are Compact Crossover, Crossover, and Executive Crossover.

Compact Cross Category

The Mahindra KUV 100 wins this class with a parts basket price of R81,776. Second is the Haval H2 with its parts amounting to R93,860 – some R2,800 increase over last year. COTY nominee the Citroen C3 Aircross comes in third with a parts basket total of R102,249.

Service Parts:

  1. Haval H2 at R3,741
  2. Mahindra KUV 100 at R3,781
  3. Renault Duster at R3,873

Repair Costs:

  1. Honda HR-V at R8,814
  2. Citroen C3 at R9,392
  3. Mahindra KUV 100 at R10,012

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Mahindra KUV 100 at R67,982
  2. Haval at R79,797
  3. Ford Eco Sport at R88,016

Crossover Category

The most fiercely contested category with 12 contestants and three COTY nominated vehicles. The Toyota Fortuner again wins the class with its total parts basket amounting to R100,429, with the Nissan X-Trail in second place at R115,921 and COTY nominee, the VW T Cross, third at R119,852.

Service Parts:

  1. Nissan X Trail at R3,556
  2. Hyundai Tucson at R4,283
  3. Nissan Qashqai at R4,629

Repair Parts:

  1. Peugeot 5008 at R8,961
  2. Toyota Rav 4 at R9,066
  3. Nissan X-Trail at R9,367

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Toyota Fortuna at R83,049
  2. VW T-Cross at R102,141
  3. Nissan X Trail – R102,997

Executive Crossover Category

There are another three COTY nominees in this category with the best parts basket being scored by the Volvo XC 60 at R242,070. The second, two places higher than in 2019, is the Audi Q5 with an overall parts basket cost of R251,288 and in third, a COTY entrant, the Mercedes GLE at R328,211.

Service Parts:

  1. Volvo XC 60 at R8,964
  2. Audi Q5 at R9,907
  3. Range Rover Sport at R10,822

Repairs Parts:

  1. Jaguar I Pace at R16,336*
  2. Audi Q5 at R17,486
  3. Volvo XC 60 at R17,964

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Volvo XC 60 at R215,142
  2. Audi Q5 at R223,894
  3. Mercedes GLE at R243,383
  • NOTE ON THE JAGUAR “I” PACE

This is a fully electric MPV with a range of some 400kms. It does not really fit into any current classification, but for its luxury features and sophistication, it does need a mention. We have shown the cost of the home charger and replacement battery. The battery has a warranty of eight years, so is not a part that requires short term replacement. An 80% charge can be achieved in about one hour at a quick charge station or about ten hours from the home charger.

Double Cabs Category

The Ford Ranger 2.0 D XLT is included in the double cab section because the COTY competitor, the Ford Ranger Raptor – which is included here as it’s a COTY finalist – is another vehicle which should really be in a performance class of its own, and is not really comparable to the other four double cabs. The Ford Ranger XLT wins the category with a total parts basket price of R79,796. Second place is the GWM Steed 6, one place up from last year and boasting a lower price parts basket of R86,105. Third is the Toyota Hilux at R90,189.

Service Parts:

  1. GWM Steed 6 at R3,443
  2. Nissan Navarra at R3,669
  3. Toyota Hilux at R5,059

Repair Parts:

  1. Isuzu at R5,837
  2. Ranger XLT at R7274
  3. GWM Steed 6 at R7,645

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Ranger XLT R67,456
  2. GWM Steed 6 at R75,016
  3. Toyota Hilux at R76,573

Single Cabs Category

There are no COTY contestants in this category. The Nissan NP200 and the Nissan NP300 fill the top two placings; the NP 200 the least expensive, at R42,529 with the Nissan NP300 in second, at R48,611, and the Toyota Hilux is third at R58,747.

Service Parts:

  1. Nissan NP 200 at R2,404
  2. Isuzu at R3,904
  3. Nissan NP 300 at R4,326

Repair Parts:

  1. Isuzu at R5,427
  2. Nissan NP300 R6,204
  3. Mahindra Scorpio at R6,389

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Nissan NP200 at R29,685
  2. Nissan NP300 at R38,080
  3. Toyota Hilux at R46,486

Executive Saloons Category

The Alfa Giulia takes a resounding win in all three categories. The overall parts basket cost is R86,570 and there’s a big jump to the second car, the Audi A3 at R178,710, and the Toyota Supra (another COTY contestant) at R217,634.

Service Parts:

  1. Alfa Giulia least at R5,961
  2. Audi A3 at R6,406
  3. Mercedes A200 at R6,520

Repair Parts:

  1. Alfa Giulia at R6,361
  2. Audi A3 at R9,964
  3. BMW 330i at R18,073

Crash Parts Prices:

  1. Alfa Giulia at R74,246
  2. Audi A3 at R162,339
  3. Toyota Supra at R177,963

The AA-Kinsey Parts Breakdown Report is available online at https://www.aa.co.za/sites/default/files/aa-kinsey_report_2020_parts_list.pdf and may be printed for free in its entirety or in sections.

Volkswagen Amarok Dark Label 2.0 BiTDI 132 kW

Its been ten years since Volkswagen launched the Amarok. I took that bakkie on a trip to the Cederberg. Loved it n the road, not so much offroad. The problem was the typical VW manual gearbox, with the sticky second gear, and the very narrow torque band. Then they gave us the brilliant auto box and it was like chalk and cheese.

Volkswagen Amarok Dark Label 2.0 BiTDI 132 kW

The Amarok we drove here is the final iteration of the 2.0 L bi-turbo auto before the new Amarok arrives late next year or in 2022. I must say they have ironed out any issues. Its about as foolproof as a large multi-use vehicle can be.

The cabin of the Amarok has been in a class of its own since launch, although the competition has caught up and arguably the Mercedes is more luxurious and the Ford more funky The cabin of the Amarok is seriously good – spacious, comfortable, ergonomic and apparently well put together using durable materials. I liked it originally and I still like it. There are a few odd or quirky elements, but nothing to complain about.

The seats are very comfortable, even at the back. You can go for an all day game drive and not be tired or stiff at the end of it.

This bakkie really offers SUV-like styling, equipment and finishes. Inside is more car than truck. Outside is satisfyingly more truck than car. The Amarok still looks good and up to date. The shape has not aged at all. And its still very wide. So, before you buy one, check if it will fit in your garage or parking space.

We went up to Velddrif and Aurora on a mixture of highway, regional roads, smooth gravel roads and minor (less maintained) roads  and the Amarok once again confirms it is the King of Cruising. This is a really good cruising or touring vehicle.

We drove in a sandy track and on a muddy road. The Amarok never skipped a beat.

Fuel consumption was around 9L/100km. It is possible to bring this down when cruising but you will have to be very gentle with that right foot. Handling is excellent for such a large vehicle and the behaviour of the vehicle is as good as the best in class.

The bigger sister V6 Extreem 3.0 TDI 190 kW is sublime but quite a bit more expensive.

 

Warranty is three years and the service plan is five years or 90 000 km.

The range starts at R643 600, but the Dark Label starts at R742 600 although the bakkie we tested is R765 000 with all the extras. The fancy  Extreem 3.0 TDI 190 kW has a suggested retail price of R907 200.

At around three quarters of a million rand you can also get the  Mercedes Benz x250d at R790 281, Ford Wildtrak at R717 400, Toyota HiLux GR Sport at R728 800, Nisan Navarra Stealth at R683 200 and Isuzu D-max at R653 400.

 

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

It was one of those typical Western Cape rainy, mostly overcast days – cool to the point of almost being cold. But nothing was going to put us off our weekend trip to Strandfontein high up the West Coast, near Vredendal.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Before setting off I was worried that our bedding would get soaked but the slightly funny looking cladded rollbar gave just enough protection.

We headed north on the R365 via Porterville to the N7 as we wanted to experience the Clanwilliam Dam sluices in full flow. From there we went on the R364 as far as Graafwater where we headed north on an interesting gravel road. We wondered why the local looked at us a little strangely when we confirmed the route. But not for long. Wild, wet and… well, fun.

Cruising on tar is a cinch. The cruise control even has distance control and a reminder to take a rest comes on every 90 minutes. There really is power to spare, especially when that second turbo kicks in. It makes passing so quick and easy. The Wildtrak simply absorbs all the road imperfections, its like riding on a magic carpet. The bakkie is equipped with most of the tech you may want, from automatic wipers and headlights to the very good Synch 3 infotainment system to top notch safety systems.

Wildtrak at Strandfontein beach.

Hit the gravel, or in this case mud on the road between Graafwater and Doornbaai just before Strandfontein. Turn on 4H, which you can do while driving, and enjoy the trip. This bakkie is steady and its tail does not wag the body like some other bakkies. What a pleasure.

Parking at the mall in Vredendal was easy. I did not even have to use the park assist (City Park Steering), although I found the rear camera useful, once I had cleaned the lens. The town impressed me, providing all the services and retail outlets you may need on a short trip to the area. The coffee shop in the mall serves a good coffee but their serving sizes are a bit… different.

A very civil bakkie this, with heated seats, combination fabric and leather seats, 2x USB outlets, 3x 12v sockets, a 230v inverter outlet, “A”-pillar grab handles, soft touch where you are likely to touch, very good multi-function steering wheel, climate control and more.

The 2.0 Bit 4X4 D/cab Wildtrak At gives you 157 kW and a mighty 500 Nm of torque through a silky smooth 10-speed automatic box. The loadbay is good for 860 Kg. The standard wheel size is 265/60 R18, which is quite a good balance. If you are going to spend a lot of time offroad think about changing to 265/65 R17s.

All the normal safety, passive and active, kit is included.

On the Strandfontein weekend I averaged 9.1L/100km. I think that is pretty representative of general driving, but in town it will be higher.

Of all the double cab bakkies I have driven over the years I think the Wildtrak comes closest to being the real thing, delivering comfort, performance, safety, drivability, space and economy.

Yes, the Raptor is better on a fast gravel track, yes the V6 Amarok is the ultimate highway cruising bakkie, but as an all round package Wildtrak delivers better than all the rest.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120000Km, 5 Year Corrosion, 3 Year Roadside Assistance and a 6 year or 90000Km service plan is included.

Also look at the VW Amarok Dark Label 2.0 BiTDI (R742 600), Mercedes Benz X 250 d Auto (R724 202), Toyota 2.8 GD6 GR-S (R750 300), Isuzu D-max 3.0 Auto (R679 900) and of course the Raptor.

Mitsubishi ASX

Mitsubishi ASX – the inbetweener

Mitsubishi ASX at the Buffelsrivier Dam near Pringle Bay

Mitsubishi do not sell sedan cars in South Africa any more Instead they offer five SUV’s and a bakkie. This is a trend internationally. Ford in the USA for example has also reduced the number of sedans on offer to 3 (Fusion, Mustang and Mach-E) out of the 14 models they sell in the US which include two vans, three bakkies, two station wagons, two SUVs and two crossovers. Some models are available as hybrids or electrical battery cars. They also still offer the GT performance car and are about to release another SUV, the new Bronco. But I digress.

The smallest of Mitsubishi offering in SA is the ASX. A “tween” car, not tiny but not quite “family” size either; perfect for empty nesters who may occasionally have two passengers in the back or for a young family with smaller children. The caveat being that as with all these smallish SUV’s (from all the brands) the boot is smallish too. Think of it as a high rise hatch or a mini station wagon on stilts. Okay for a weekend, but tight for a holiday.

A normally aspirated 2.0L does service in this model. The next size up, the Eclipse Cross gets a 1.5 turbo motor giving it a much more aggressive or sporty feel. I get the impression the ASX is targeted at a more mature, considered market, hence the normally aspirated 2.0 L. A good choice perhaps.

The ASX has a solid equipment list as standard, including: Tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column, multi-function leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control, bluetooth with hands-free voice control, / multi-information display, smartphone-link display audio, with apple carplay/android auto, full automatic air-conditioning, electric windows, chromatic rear view mirror, USB and accessory socket and a very clear rear view camera.

The interior is well thought out, practical and pleasant to spend time in. All the boxes have been ticked.

Safety aspects are well catered for with 8 airbags, side-impact protection bars, ISOFIX child seat anchors, active stability and traction control, hill start assist system, ABS, EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), brake assist system and rear park distance control.

The 2.0 MIVEC DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with ECI-Multi Point Fuel Injection and a 6-speed CVT, with 6-step Sports Mode delivers 110kW and torque of 197Nm at 4200 rpm. This package gives satisfactory performance and I think all the power you really need. Mitsubishi claim 7.9L/100km (Combined Cycle), which is about what I achieved. Handling is good and the car feels well planted. It does the job quietly and efficiently with no fuss The ASX is not an off-road vehicle but will tackle gravel roads with aplomb.

Build quality seems to be very good. No rattles or squeaks, doors close with a pleasant thump, and it feels solid.

The CVT model as tested has a list price of R415 000, while the manual is R400k. The warranty is for 3 years or 100 000km. Road Side Assistance is for 5 years with unlimited mileage. The service plan is for 5 years or 90 000km. Service intervals are every 15 000km.

I think the CVT is the one to go for.

The competition includes the Suzuki Vitara (now with a 1.4 L turbo option), Mazda CX-3 (2.0 L Dynamic a good buy), Nissan Qashqai (a bit bigger), Peugeot 2008 (GT Line is lovely), Opel Mokka, Jeep Renegade, Ford EcoSport (1.0 LT Titanium a great city car), VW T-Cross and Hyundai Venue

Mahindra PikUp S11 Automatic 4×4

PikUp. Tough. Truck. But now a bit more than that.

Mahindra PikUp

The S11 Double Cab offers a six speed automatic box, climate control, power windows, tiltable power steering, central locking, touch screen infotainment centre with Bluetooth, USB and AUX, steering-mounted audio & cruise controls and even puddle lamps.

Clearly we are still talking truck here, sure it has most of the comfort amenities you could want and has a really pleasant cabin, but it drives like the robust truck it is under the refreshed more stylish skin. Its not unpleasant to drive but it is not a Ranger or Amarok. Having said that it will go where any of the other bakkies dare venture. I drove the automatic in really soft dune sand with no problems at all and no need to engage low range.

Safety provision is good with all the basic measures included.

Little luxury items include rain-sensing windscreen wipers, rear camera, light-sensing and follow me home headlamps with daytime running lights.

The mHawk 2.2L turbo common rail engine produces 103 kW and 320 Nm with a claimed consumption of under 8L/100km (but work on 9L/100km). The rear mechanical diff lock is automated and low range is engaged using a rotary knob. Braked towing capacity of 2.5 ton, while unbraked is 750kg. The turning circle is a bit wide for the city at 6.7 m. The ground clearance of 210mm is not as bad as it looks because the wheels are not as far apart as some other bakkies.

The range starts at R316 499 for the S6 4×2 workhorse right up to the leisure orientated S11 4×4 Karoo at R429 999. We drove the S11 4×4 Automatic at R414 999. It is just plain good value for money. Yes, it has a lazy turning circle and yes a woman in high heels will have fun mounting the cabin (for a lack of suitable grab handle) and yes it looks a little archaic from the side and the cabin is a little narrow, but none of these are deal breakers.

The Karoo models are unique to South Africa and do give you a leisure bakkie with a real workhorse in its heart. A bit like an Isuzu – just not quite as refined.

On the open road, whether tar or gravel, the PikUp cruises happily and frugally at the legal limit. Above the legal limit you will need a bit of a downhill and preferably a tailwind to get to the 155km/h top speed.

The seats are comfortable, aircon works well, progress is effortless and roadholding is normal by bakkie standards and much improved over the versions of a few years ago. Off-road the “new” mHawk 2.2 turbodiesel working through the Aisin six-speed together with the automatic Eaton rear diff-lock produces the goods.

The warranty and roadside assistance plan is for 4 years or 120 000km while the included service plan is for 5 years or 90 000km.

The alternatives include the Steed 5 and 6, Nissan NP300 and JMC Vigus. I also like the underrated Steed 5, but only with the 2.0L VVT engine.

Mahindra is a big Indian vehicle manufacturer which since 2018 has a local assembly plant at the Dube Tradeport near Durban where the PikUp is assembled so spares should be relatively cheap and quick to source.

First published in Stellenboschnews.com.

Suzuki S-Presso

Cheap and cheerful

Suzuki sPresso between the Canola fields near Klipheuwel

Suzuki are masters at creating good small cars. They know how to extract the essence from the kernel or bean. And voila!

S-Presso – just what the barista made at Wecke & Voigts coffee shop in Windhoek in my youth. Small cup, strong and aromatic. Mmmm.

Suzuki’s little percolator on four wheels is just such a memory in the making.

With Suzuki you know you are getting a reliable car, relatively economical and safe for its niche. With the S-Presso you get more than they promise. Good finishes, enough space, especially headroom, surprisingly good kneeroom at the back, practical touchscreen and sound system and a good engine.

The 1.0 ℓ engine which produces 50 kW and 90Nm coupled to the five-speed auto box which has manual function (or a manual), their new “Heartec” platform and a three-quarter ton weight means this little coffee kettle goes sweetly even on gravel as it rides 180 mm above the road. Expect around 5 ℓ/100km.

This entry level car is not just a basic bear bones kettle but a real machine. As standard the GL+ has electric windows at the front, aircon, touchscreen which couples with Android and Apple smartphones, rear camera and a large round instrument display a la Mini in the centre of the dash. Safety systems include ABS, EBD, two airbags and a solid steel capsule around the cabin.

The boot is a usable 239  ℓ. The seats are comfortable even for little trips on weekends even though this car’s forte is the city. I took two adults on day trip to Melkbos via Klipheuwel and Philadelphia to get a feel for the open road in this little car. What a pleasure. Keeps to the legal limit with ease, feels safe around bends and has enough woema to overtake easily. There is a bit of wind noise, but not enough to drown out easy conversation. A pleasant drive. Very pleasant coffee at de Malle Meul in Philadelphia.

In a nutshell – it is a small car but does not feel cramped and performs above expectation.

If you need a city car or are buying a small car for yourself I recommend the S-Presso GL+ automatic. Easy to park (especially with the camera), nippy, safe, fair space, economic and probably solidly built. In June 2020 Suzuki sold over 500 of them in a very depressed market. Tells you something.

Your options include Renault Kwid around R160k, Datsun Go (R170k), Hyundai Atos (R160k), Kia Picanto (R190k), Mahindra KUV100 (R165k) and Toyota Aygo (R190k).

The Suzuki S-Presso range starts at an incredible R134 900 for the 1.0 GL manual. The rest are the GL+ MT – R139 900, S-Edition MT – R147 900, 1.0 GL+ AMT – R152 900, S-Edition AMT – R160 900.

You get a 5 year/200 000 km warranty, 2 year/30 000 km service plan and 1 year insurance.

I think the GL+ AMT at R152 900 hits the sweet spot.

S-Presso. Just what the barista ordered.

 

 

Suzuki Swift Sport

Little firecracker from Suzuki

Fun on four wheels can mean many things. From a rough and ready offroader, a vehicle for journeys deep into nature or a track ready sportscar. Suzuki are really good at small fun cars. Their Jimny is amazing offroad and their new Swift Sport is amazing on tar.

The Sport is one of those little grin-inducing machines, like a Mazda MX-5 which performs way above its price point. Sure, it is no Porsche or M-class Beemer but boy can it make a driver smile if not laugh out loud.

The Sport is the top of the range, one can almost say, aspirational model of the Suzuki Swift range. What sets it apart is the 1.4 turbo engine (as opposed to a normally aspirated 1.2), special sports seats with red stitching, additional instrumentation, twin exhausts and model specific body panels as well as upgraded suspension, wheels and brakes.

The Sport really makes a statement just sitting waiting for you, ready to leap on the road. Push the start button and the fireworks begin. It sounds right, the display looks right, the seats and steering wheel feel right. Press the loud pedal. Smiling already. I told you. Its fun, even to park at the mall.

Now, the 103kW and 230Nm on offer does not sound like a sports package, but remember the low weight at less than a ton, upgraded chassis, turbo and well matched box give this little runabout running legs. Grin factor. The Sport reaches 100km/h in less than 8 seconds, tops 200km/h and uses under 7 L/ 100 km depending on your right foot.

This is a car one tends to drive enthusiastically – throwing it around corners with abandon it just sticks to the road. Overtaking is effortless. You can use the paddles, but the auto box does the job superbly. Fun factor.

The interior is typically Suzuki but is well equipped and laid out. Not stunning, but neither is it shabby. I like it. The roof is quite high, even at the back, so for a small car even tall people will feel comfortable. Rear leg room is good for a super mini. The boot offers a not so great 242 litres, but it is okay for daily use.

Quite a few luxury items are included as standard, like rear camera, cruise control, infotainment system, climate control electric folding rearview mirrors.

The Swift Sport is well equipped on the safety front too, with 6 airbags, stability control and EDB and ABS.

The Swift Sport retails at R327 900 for the manual and R347 900 for the automatic we drove. This includes a 5 year or 200 000km warranty and 4 year or 60 000 service plan.

The ordinary Swift range starts at R171 900 for the 1.2 GA manual, R202 900 for the 1,2i GL SE to R224 900 for the GLX AMT.

I think the differences and upgrades justify the price. The competition, in the form of the VW Polo GTi at R411 900, Toyota Yaris GR (2021), Mazda MX-5 RF (R551 700) and the yet to be launched Hyundai i20N are all more, or much more, expensive.

Suzuki Ciaz review

Suzuki Ciaz at Rickety Bridge winery.

It must be the most under-the-radar car in the history of South African motoring. Have you heard about it?

The Ciaz is the biggest sedan car Suzuki offers in South Africa. Its about the size of the earlier Honda Ballade and previous era Corolla. I think it competes heads on with the VW Polo sedan, although it is possibly marginally bigger.

Ciaz is a no-nonsense proper traditional family car with all the little luxuries and safety equipment you can expect from a car.

Surely a recipe for sales success.

Suzuki Ciaz

But no.

In the first place the fashion for cars at the moment is for station wagons dressed up as SUVs or crossovers and secondly it seems people just don’t know about the Suzuki Ciaz – the big little family sedan of the fastest growing car brand in the country (Suzuki sold 1 632 vehicles in January). More is the pity. The advantages of a sedan include the more secure boot, lower operating costs (everything from fuel, insurance, to the price of tyres), ease of use in town and lower acquisition costs.

There is quite a lot of competition in this dwindling but still important segment though.
The Corolla Quest (998 sales per month) and Polo Sedan (503) dominate the sales of small to medium family sedans with the Honda Ballade and Suzuki Ciaz trailing by quite a margin, even though the Ciaz in GLX guise is arguably much better value as it comes well equipped. The Hyundai Accent and Fiat Tipo are also in the mix.

I drove the Ciaz recently and was impressed by the size of the boot (424 litres), the rear leg room (806 mm), the general feeling of space in the very neat cabin and the pleasant handling. A great family car, at a very good price. Big enough for a family of four to go on holiday with but small enough to easily park. It will make a good car for a sales rep too.

The interior of the Ciaz is understated but apparently well screwed together and uses fairly smart materials and finishes which seem to be hard wearing. The instrumentation includes classic analogue speedometer and rev counter dials with an informative selectable digital display between them. Suzuki’s Smartphone Linkage Display Audio (SLDA) system includes a 7” touch display with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity via a USB cable. The Bluetooth car phone system is easy to use and the sound is crystal clear. I liked the multi-function steering wheel and the steering position in general even though it is not highly adjustable. The seats are comfortable and supportive and allow good legroom for the rear seat passengers. There is a sprinkling of storage bins and bottle holders dotted all over the cabin.

The Ciaz GLX has cruise control as standard as well as automatic climate control, electrically folding side mirrors, leather upholstery, integrated lighting in the foot wells, individual rear reading lights and a retractable rear sunshade. Almost all the bells and whistles as standard.

I found the road manners of the Ciaz, on a number of mountain passes and on the highway, to be above par. In town it’s a gem. The steering stiffens up at speed, something which I liked but sporty orientated divers may consider a little vague.

Acceleration is fine and one can pass quite effortlessly and quickly. In short, a well handling sedan with adequate power (77 KW @ 6000 and torque of 138 Nm @ 4400) and good fuel consumption at or around 6L/100 km in combined city and highway use and much better on the open road.

The range starts with the 1.5 GL MT at R223 400 and tops off with the 1.5 GLX AT for R269 900; the car we drove is the GLX manual at R254 900 which includes a solid 5 year or 200 000km warranty and a 3 year or 60 000km service plan.