Wheelswrite car of the year 2018

The year of the SUV – 2018

We started 2018 on a pretty high note with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. In many ways just what you would expect an Alfa SUV to be. A big step up for Alfa. What could top it?

Nissan X-trail in Onrus

The next car we tested to really impress was the new Nissan X-trail. At the time I said: “Interestingly the new ‘facelifted’ Nissan X-trail, which I have been driving this week got as many , if not more ‘stop and stares’ (as the Stelvio). Especially men.”

Early in February we reported on the very capable Mitsubishu Sport and later in the month the seriously facelifted Mahindra Pik-Up.

At the end of March we drove two very good SUV’s the “new” Kuga and Mazda CX-5 of which I said at the time: “The Mazda CX-5 is not just another crossover SUV wannabe. It is a refined, well rounded car which leads the way in so many ways.”

Nissan Navara LE 4×2 Auto

In March it was the turn of two very good bakkies. Nissan’s new Navara and Ford’s fancy FX4. The Navara is burly and it’s a bit of a beast and is the basis for a whole slew of models from several brands.
And then perhaps the cat among the pigeons. The Peugeot 3008. The 3008 comes with high specification levels and exceptionally good exterior and classy interior design. It not only looks stunning, it is very clever.

You will notice a lot of SUV’s and crossovers in this list.

The year of the SUV – 2018.

In May we had the pleasure of sampling two German examples of the crossover wave. The spacious Tiguan Allspace and the Opel Grandland. The Allspace is pleasant and easy to drive in town and out touring. VW have created a really comfortable, spacious cabin. The Grandland is based on the same platform as the 3008. Similar substance but very different style.

Mazda MX5

In the spring the fresh new VW Polo GTi really impressed. At the time we said: ”A few months ago we reported about the Mazda MX-5 and how it had a grin factor. You just can’t help grinning while driving it. Well, this new VW Polo GTi also has a huge grin factor.” We really loved the Polo GTi. It gives the Golf GTi a run for its money.
The Peugeot 208 GT was another pleasing car. Similar to the Polo GTi in some respects but very different in others.
I like Suzukis so really looked forward to the new Swift. It is new from the wheels up. I thought it a delightful little runabout.

Early in December I drove two astounding SUV’s. Peugeot’s touring oriented 3008 GT-Line and Haval’s off-road toughie, the H9. Both cars do the job required of them extremely well.

Probably the sweetest car I drove this year is the Mazda MX-5 Targa. A driver’s joy, but a strict two-seater and really a toy, in the sense that it’s whole reason to exist is fun, nothing more, nothing less. The most focused car was without a doubt the Ford Fiesta RS200 Limited Edition,

Ford ST200 LE

fun, fast and almost practical.

So, which to pick?

Must be a SUVish type of vehicle. Surely.

I am tempted to pick the Haval H9, it really is that good, especially if you need low range. The Mazda CX-5 is just such a good car though.
The Peugeot 3008 GT-Line was a pleasant surprise and oh-so capable in its context. Mmmm. Let’s not forget the X-trail and the Allspace.

Damn.

May I pick the SUV as car of the year?

Or just go with the Polo GTi.

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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.