Toyota Avanza SX 1.5 Automatic review

Toyota Avanza SX 1.5 Automatic

Avanza is a plain but almost nimble inner city transport machine. It turns on a tickey, pulls away quite briskly and stops rapidly. The SX Avanza has a 4 speed box and a 4 cylinder 1.5 litre petrol engine putting out 76kW @ 6000rpm and a torque of 136Nm @ 4400.

Bearing in mind it is a smaller vehicle it takes quite a load, 7 people or especially if you take the rear bench seat out a huge boot with a cabin wide door and a conveniently low cargo floor.

In short, the Avanza is a great little commercial vehicle well suited to city life.


The SX is a seven seater with three rows of seats finished in what looks like durable cloth. The seats are not very adjustable.

Equipment includes manual air conditioner, electrically adjustable windows and mirror, power steering, courtesy lamps with door ajar warning and an entry lamp in the door, speakers but no radio. The latter cost around R600 from a car radio dealer.

Interior finishes tend to hard plastics. The cabin is not unpleasant, it is just very functional. The interior of a workhorse, which it is. There are a large number of nooks and crannies to put things. Even a flip down spectacle holder in the roof.

The air conditioner is very effective. The controls feel a little flimsy and will take a little getting used to.


Its a box on wheels. The overall impression is easy on the eye, with a balanced relationship between the various elements. It is available in six colours.

Driving impression

The Avanza is a really good little runabout. The automatic gearbox as tested is very effective. The steering is light and easy to get used to. Acceleration is surprisingly good.

For a commercial vehicle the Avanza is quite nimble and not unpleasant to drive. Just take corners carefully.

ABS brakes are fitted as standard. Ground clearance is good at 200mm.

Toyota claim fuel consumption of  7.2 litres/100km. I think you will battle to improve on 8 litres per 100km, and nearer to 9 in town.


The interior is a little plastic. There is just too much hard plastic. It is a little noisy, but not overly so.

A strong cross wind tends to push this somewhat slab sided little van all over the place.

I personally feel it is a little narrow. The upside of its small dimensions is it fits everywhere.


The Avanza is a practical runabout workhorse which seats seven adults in comfort.

It really works as a tough, simple car which can seat 7 people and give years of trouble free motoring for a very reasonable price.
It can be used as a van when the seats are folded away.


Priced from R157 500 for the base S range to R204 200 for the top TX model.

The SX automatic as tested is R191 500.

Standard warranty is 3 years/100 000km. The service plan is 4-year/60 000 km.

October 2012 Car Sales in South Africa

Naamsa figures for sales in South Africa and exports by SA factories in October 2012.

Mercedes Benz sales are around 2400, but are no longer reported as per the industry standard.

At 2883 sales the VW Polo range is the biggest selling car range. Toyota HiLux continues its success with 2283 sales and exports of 3530 units.

Ford Focus updated

Focus upgrade


The Fors Focus range is getting a bit of an upgrade. Ford has added 4 models to the Focus line up.

Additional models

Hatch (5-door)
2.0 TDCi Trend (6-speed manual transmission)
2.0 TDCi Trend (6-speed PowerShift auto transmission)

Sedan (4-door)
1.6 Ti-VCT Ambiente (6-speed PowerShift auto transmission)
2.0 GDi Trend (5-speed manual transmission)


The 1.6-litre Duratec Ti-VCT has a maximum power output of 92kW @ 6 000rpm and 159Nm at 4 000rpm. CO2 emissions are as low as 145g/km with an average fuel consumption of 6.2 litres/100 km on a combined cycle, dependent on bodystyle and transmission.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine found in the Focus is one of the first on the market to combine the technology of gasoline direct injection (GDi) with twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT), producing 125kW of power and 200Nm of torque. CO2 emissions are as low as 154g/km with an average fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100 km on a combined cycle, dependent on bodystyle and transmission

The 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi model produces 120kW @ 3 750 rpm and 340Nm @ 2 000 – 3 250 rpm. Thanks to its efficient fuel pump and a low friction accessory drive power, torque, economy and emissions are notably enhanced.  CO2 emissions are as low as 134g/km with an average fuel consumption of 5.1 litres/100 km on a combined cycle, dependent on bodystyle and transmission.

All engine options can be paired with Ford’s acclaimed PowerShift transmission. Unlike regular hydraulically operated automatic transmissions, which use power-sapping torque converters, wet clutches and pumps, Ford’s dual-clutch PowerShift automatic consists of two manual transmissions working in parallel. Each has its own independent clutch unit controlled by computers and fast-acting electromechanical actuators that shift the gears.

Other changes

The information system, called SYNCH, has been improved and is now fitted to most of the range.

Ford SYNC is a software platform that provides hands-free, voice-activated in-car connectivity. Available on the Trend and Sport derivatives, the SYNC system allows customers to connect a compatible mobile phone or digital media player to their Focus via Bluetooth®1 or USB.

The SYNC system can recognise up to 150 voice commands and is able to cope with variations in accents and vocabulary, making it easier to access more content by voice.  It is compatible with most mobile phone devices and allows the driver to make calls via voice commands and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

SYNC is able to retrieve text messages and reads them aloud. It is even able to identify popular abbreviations and emoticons such as LOL (laugh out loud) and 😀 (big smile). Using voice activation, the driver can also send a reply from a predetermined list of 15 responses while on the move.

The second change is a  capless refuelling system, new to the whole range.


Prices start at R217 560 for the 1.6 Ambiente 5-door and increase  to R353 700 for the ST 2.0 GTDi 3 door.

Toyota Innova 2.7 VVTi 7 seater review

Toyota Innova 2.7 VVTi

Toyota tries to make a vehicle for every niche. The Innova slots in between the, for me too me too narrow, Avanza and the more luxurious Verso.

It’s either a van like estate car, or a car like van. You choose.

It shares the platform with the Toyota Hilux bakkie and Fortuner and enjoys all the advantages derived from the shared components and development. It should be tough and last a long time.

The overall impression is of space. It will make a great touring vehicle. The versatility also allows you to use it as a goods vehicle if needed.


The cabin is neat and very functional. It is all about usable, practical space. The 7 seater even has audio controls on the steering wheel.

The car is well appointed. The dual zone air-conditioner works very well. The audio system does its thing and has Bluetooth, and USB, Aux connections with steering wheel controls. On the seven-seater the screen also displays input from a reversing camera.

The rear seats fold up like the Fortuner’s making for a cargo hold more than a boot.

The middle seats are very comfortable. The front seats are adjustable and should work for most people.


The Innova is somewhere between a station wagon and a van. It is not exactly pretty. But then big, dependable, tough reminds one more of a rugby forward than a ballerina.

The Innova looks better in reality than in a picture.

Driving impressions

The Innova is a big car based on a bakkie platform. It handles well within the context of a large van like vehicle, with good brakes, accurate steering, fair acceleration and a top speed far in excess of the limit.

Toyota claims a top speed of 180km/h.

Power is claimed to be 118kW @ 5200 and torque 241Nm @ 3800. Actual experience with the Innova suggests it has more than adequate power and torque for normal everyday driving.

I found the Innova easy to drive and park. The park assist is available only in the 7 seat version.

Weak points

Claimed fuel consumption of 11.2litres per 100km. This figure will be difficult to match in real world conditions.

The ride quality is a little agricultural if the road surface is not perfect.

I think the interior trim, although lending an airy lightness to the cabin, is too light and will soon show wear and tear.

The fake wood veneer trim is ugly to my mind.


The Innova packs loads of space. The rear seats can be easily folded out of the way to turn it into a van. It is more van than car, but comfortable and well appointed. My overall impression is of a rugged tough truly multi purpose vehicle.


The Toyota Innova 2.7 VVTi 7 list price is R276 200. The 8 seater is 259 800.

The service plan is 5 years/90 000km and the warranty 3 years/100 000km. Service intervals are 15 000km.

Mazda BT-50 review

Mazda BT-50

The new BT-50 carries on in the tradition of ‘lekka’ tough, comfortable Mazda bakkies. Although based on the same platform as the Ford Ranger the BT-50 is a very different beast.

People are going to ask: Does the BT-50 have Zoom-Zoom? You betcha. It also has go,go,go. And, it goes well too. Drives and handles like an SUV.

BT-50 program manager Takasuke Kobayashi said of the BT-50:“I wanted to move into uncharted territory. I wanted to create a completely different kind of pick-up – one with the personality of a passenger car. So my team developed innovative, dynamic styling and equipment levels that match high-specification CD-segment cars. We re-engineered the technologies in the powertrain, steering system and frame to deliver the Zoom-Zoom driving pleasure that is Mazda’s greatest brand value.”

The BT-50 looks very different to the Ford Ranger. Brighter and softer. More car-like than the Ranger.

Driving impressions

The BT-50 sits well on the road, any road. It drives like a car. My wife found it very easy to drive, except parallel parking. That is a mission due to the sheer size. It is broader and longer than most cars and all previous generation bakkies except the likes of the Ford 150 and the Cruiser double cab. A similar size to the Amarok and Navarra.

The 3.2 turbo diesel engine fitted to the BT-50 we drove will only be tested if you are towing a big boat, large caravan or heavy trailer. It has oodles of power. The 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder diesel with six-speed automatic transmission pushes out 147kW/470Nm.  I think the 2.2 is more than enough for normal use. Its the one I would buy.The 2.2 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC intercooled turbo diesel produces a useful 110 kW @ 3,700 rpm and torque of 375 Nm @ 1,500 – 2,500 rpm. More than enough normally.

The short distance I rode on gavel it seemed very settled and stable.

Acceleration, especially in gear, when overtaking for example, is excellent.

Cornering for such a tall relatively heavy vehicle is very good. The brakes on this truck are to be felt to be believed. they are really good. Steering is very good. Light at low speeds and progressively more stiff as the speed increases.

This is a great bakkie to drive. Parking, though, can be an issue.


The seats are really comfortable and highly adjustable. The driver’ s seat also has adjustable lumbar support.

The cabin has practical finishes and is well designed. It would put most large sedans of ten years ago to shame. It has all the nooks and crannies and storage places you would expect.

All the important controls are within easy reach and work intuitively. Switchgear feels solid. Audio controls are on the lest of the steering wheel, cruise control on the right.

The climate control is very effective.

The radio, CD, MP3 player works well and the speakers sound good. There are aux and USB points in the box between the seats.

The rear window has a brilliant little window.

Weak points

Loading or getting something off the loadbay is quite a mission, simply because she stands so tall. For normal use the loadbay is a little high. It is impractical. The same applies to getting in and out of this truck. It is quite a heave up into the cab.

I do not like the fake chrome trim around the lights, but I am sure many others will like it. Its a little “sudden” for me!

The fiddly little button used to control the ‘computer’ display is totally impractical and bordering on unsafe.

Fuel consumption is a lot better than older generation tricks but it is still stiff. At best I got 10litre per 100km unladen at 120km/h, while the big mill purrs at 2 000rpm. In town it shoots up. My average was 8.9l/100km.

I would have preferred a soft touch finish on a few surfaces. It just feels a little hard.


This is a bakkie to easily get used to living with in spite of the odd little niggle. Just remember she is big and high and wide.


The double cab range starts at R340 480 for the BT-50 2.2 (High Power) MZ-CD SLX 6MT 4×2 D/Cab Diesel. The Top of the range BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4×4 D/Cab Diesel costs R462 210.

The vehicle we tested, the BT-50 3.2 MZ-CD SLE 6AT 4×2 D/Cab Diesel costs R414 890.

Air conditioner and slip rear axle is an extra option at R10 870.

Warranty: 4 year/120 000km

Service plan: 5 year/90 000km, 15 000km service intervals

Mazda CX5 2.0L Active MT review

Mazda CX5 2.0L Active MT

The Mazda CX5 range of SUV’s are not designed to be super tough overland vehicles. Instead they are cars with good space, good handling, and a slightly higher stance allowing you to go on any unpaved road. On tar they behave like a car, both in performance and fuel economy.

The Mazda CX-5 is the first new generation vehicle to boast the complete suite of SKYACTIV Technology. Various innovations minimise fuel consumption, allowing you to use as little as 6.8litres/100km. I got 7.5litres/100km average in mixed driving. It would be possible to improve on that figure.

Versatile boot

If you fold the rear seats down you get an enormous boot. You can easily fit two bicycles and a weekend’s luggage in. With the seats up the boot is fairly big. The space is also clean so you can get more in. The spare wheel is the almost normal type of temporary wheel.

The Mazda CX-5 is the first car to have Mazda’s ‘KODO – Soul Of Motion’ design theme at its core. There is even a tyre pressure monitor.

Priced at R312 090 for the base model as tested it compares well with the Mazda6 at  R297 730. It is a whole lot bigger than a Mazda3.


The CX has a spacious well designed pleasant interior with a pleasant variety of finishes. There is just enough soft surfacing to soften the cabin. The interior is softned with brushed aluminium trim highlights and a piano black strip splitting the dash horizontally. It works well. There are USB/ Aux and power points in the box between the seats. I really liked the canvas coloured roof lining.

The seats are very comfortable and the seat height is perfect for getting in and out. The seat is also very adjustable and provides good support. It has a “commanding” driving position.

The radio is easy to use with simple controls. The sound quality is good too. The controls and switches are practical.

Mazda CX5 Full frontal

Driving impressions

These cars drive like, well, cars. Good ride and handling. While you have enough power to do what you have to, there are not many spare horses.

The Yokohama G98 255/65R17 tyres give the car a superior ride.

Expect to get near the claimed 6.8l/100km and a top speed of 197kph on a longish straight at the claimed acceleration of 9.3for the 0-100km/h sprint.

The CX5 just eats up highway kms. It handles gravel roads well.

Brakes and steering feel are both excellent. The weight of the steering varies depending on the speed but is always light and responsive. You always feel in control.

Body roll is well controlled. It is a well sorted ride.

Weak points

There is not a lot wrong with this car.

One complaint must be the wind noise round the mirrors, they are too big. At speed the car is not as quiet as one would like.

I found it strange that it does not have  park assist as standard.

No cruise control as standard


As a package the Mazda CX5 does well. Good performance, very good fuel economy, quite roomy, and comfortable. See it as a sexy compact station wagon or a hatch on steroids and you will appreciate it.

The top of the CX range Mazda CX-5 2.0L Individual AT costs R393 390. The 2.0L as tested is R312 090. This price is a little steep if you consider that the much more capable Subaru XV with AWD costs R329 000.

All CX Mazda’s come with a 4 Year / 120 000km warranty and 5 Year / 90 000km service plan.

BMW X3 xDrive 30d 2012 review

BMW  X3 xDrive 30d

This second generation BMW X3 is the epitome of luxury compact SUV motoring in the same niche as the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q5.

Its lines are pleasing, much more so than the first model. It has a pretty nose and a functional rear. The middle bit is a little bland to me.

X3 comes in many versions. We drove the xDrive 30d. An awesome piece of machinery. BMW xDrive is able to recognise difficult road surfaces through sensors in the DSC chassis control system, and react immediately.

The 30d’s fuel economy is only marginally worse than the 20d’s according to reports and BMW’s own figures. They claim 6litres/100km, but you will not come close to that figure in real life.

Power is claimed to be 190kW at 4 000 and torque an enormous 560Nm from 2 000.

General impressions

I like the dark “ceiling” trim contrasted with the light tan trim of the bottom half of the cabin. It is very pleasing on the eye and calming. Pretty smart too.

My wife loved the seats. Not only are they highly adjustable, but they are just right. Not to hugging, but highly supportive.

One of the biggest criticisms of the first-generation X3 was its overly hard ride, and BMW has given this car a far more compliant set-up.

The X3 comes with run flat tyres. In the boot you will find an electric pump. Extra load hooks, a net and a folding basket.

There is a good size boot which has a practical shape. The floor has two rails and four movable hooks are provided.

Despite the extra height and weight that it carries, it drives like a normal car, consumes fuel at a similar rate and emits a comparable level of CO2.

This is the first car I have driven with a heads up display. It projects speed and cruise control settings on the windscreen in front of you. The system works well.


The interior is smart. It has got all the goodies you could reasonably want.

I personally loved the two tone interior. Above the sill it is all black. Below tan. There is a huge panoramic window in the roof, if fitted as it is a R18k optional extra. The front part of which tilts up.

The cabin is very cosseting. ‘The seats are highly adjustable to the point that thigh support is extendible. All in all, almost as comfortable as the seats of the Subaru XV tested last month. You will be able to adjust your seat and steering wheel to a comfortable position no matter your size.

The controls all feel good and solid. The interior feels like a cockpit. It looks as if the car can fly. Even the new version of the i-drive is not too bad. The switchgear and instruments are shared with other BMW models, but the X3’s blend of a tall dashboard built around a central display screen and its relatively upright seating position work together.

The driver and front seat passenger areas are intelligently divided based on functionality.

One gripe I have is the fatness of the steering wheel. It is just too fat or thick for my liking although I generally prefer fatter wheels.

The second generation X3 has much more interior space.

Driving impressions

The X3 has 3 performance settings. Normal, which is pretty sprightly. Sport which tightens up the suspension and increases the revs by about 500rpm and quickens the change points. And then there is Sport + mode. For racing.

I drove 95% of the time in normal mode. Handling and road holding is top drawer. Body roll is well under control. The x-drive system splits torque 40:60 front: rear. It’s no rock hopping 4×4, but  it handles gravel and even good jeep tracks. Ride hight is not a strong point in the off-road department.

All X3s except the base model now come standard with eight-speed automatic boxes and stop/start technology.

Stop at a traffic light and the engine switches off automatically to save fuel. Press the accelerator and it starts again. Works well and after a day you won’t even notice it any more. The X3 is very much a drivers car. Roadholding and handling are impeccable.


Cost of the X3 30d is R642 400. As tested add R18 800 for the panoramic roof, R14 700 for the head-up display, R7 900 for connectivity pack and R22 000 for the GPS. So the car cost in excess of R700 000. That is more than double the Subaru XV. The thing is, the XV will go where the X3 cannot.

The good news is that you can buy a base model X3 without any enhancements for R469 000, for the xDrive20i standard.

You can easily add R100 000 to the cost of your car with a few accessories, so be careful.

All X3 series cars come with a 5 Year/100 000km Motorplan, non-contributing service and maintenance contract.

Goodyear EfficientGrip SUV tyre launched


EfficientGrip SUV is the latest offering in Goodyear’s ‘EfficientGrip’ family, and follows the Wrangler HP All Weather range.

It’s been dubbed the ‘decathlete of the tyre world’ because, unlike high performance road tyres or really rugged off-roaders, EfficientGrip SUV is a jack-of-all-trades.

The new tyre combines the excellent road and braking grip qualities of the EfficientGrip range, while incorporating Goodyear’s innovative FuelSaving technology, better rolling resistance, and a comfortable yet quiet ride on both tar and dirt.

Independent tests against both predecessors and competitors have shown EfficientGrip SUV to deliver:
•    lower fuel consumption
•    lower co² emissions
•    a quieter ride
•    dramatically reduced braking distance

In South Africa, a broad size range (from 16” to 19”) of this all-rounder will be imported by Goodyear for the local market, as well as for OE replacement requirement.

EfficientGrip SUV is produced using the very latest manufacturing techniques and materials.  An advanced tread compound is tightly woven into the tyre’s structure, for example, which uses traction resins to further enhance wet braking; and noise is minimised by utilising an optimised block design and sequence.

The tyre is also lighter, which improves steering precision and handling for drivers.

Renault Megane GTline review

Renault Megane GTline

The shiny deep blue Renault Megane GTline made quite an impression on my neighbours and people on the street. They would stop, look and then smile. Preferred this one to the old model. I do too. Yep, a great looking car.

Driving it brings a smile to your face too.

The Megane GTline is between the “normal” models and the high performance R range. I think a particularly good fit between the two. More than just a cosmetic package. What Renault has managed to do is to make a comfortable car which can perform as well. Think of a French Honda Civic.

At idle you can almost not hear or feel this engine. On two occasions I got out of the car only to realise the engine is still on. It’s that smooth and quiet. The advantage of a turbo petrol engine mounted on thick rubber.

The car has a good sized boot and emergency spare tyre.

Power is a claimed  96kW at 5 500 and torque of 190 Nm at 2 250. Maximum speed is 200km and 0 – 100km/h is 9.7 seconds.


The improvement in the interior of the new range of Renaults has to be experienced to be believed. Big people may find the front seats a little too sporty (ie narrow). I found them just right. I like the combination of leather and cloth.

A clever design element is red stitching on the leather clad steering wheel and gear lever, complimented by a red stripe on the left of the dash under a mock carbon fibre panel. Looks good.

The GTline has a good amount of soft touch surfaces. There are more than enough nooks and crannies and cup holders.

I found the dials and switches easy to use and in the right places. You wont even need the manual. It all makes sense. Materials seem to be top notch.

Fit and finish is excellent.

Driving Impressions

The GTline feels sure footed. Perhaps because of the 205/55/R17 profile tyres the ride never feels harsh, but at the same time you feel in contact with the road. A brilliantly balanced driving experience.

The clutch and gear selection is excellent. So smooth and easy. you will never miss a gear or stall this car. It has hill hold control which works both ways. Driving is effortless.

If you want to turn on the taps, the turbo blows any cobwebs out of your hair. Real world acceleration and handling is top drawer.

It is both easy and fun to drive.

Iffy points

Nothing about this car screams at you: bad. They have really put together a very good package.

The fuel consumption is never going to best the best precisely because it can be an exciting car to drive which results in heavier fuel consumption. Expect around 8.7litre/100km. You van get it down to 8.2litre/100km average, which I achieved driving to work. But a little spin over Franschoek Pass will take it to 9.2litre/100km. Eina. Renault claims 6.3litre/100km. I wonder where they get those figures?

Good points

It is such a competent all round car. It has good overtaking acceleration and superb roadholding. It feels planted.

It comes with all the safety equipment both passive and active, like ABS, ESP and EBD.

I liked the automatic halogen headlights and wipers.


Megane GTline gets right something that few cars does. It gets the balance between practical, comfortable motoring and fun, responsive driving just right. French flair perhaps?


The GTline costs R249 900. That includes 5 Year / 150 000km mechanical warranty and 5 Year / 100 000km service plan.

The baseline 1.6 16v Expression costs R209 900 the diesel 1.6 dCi Dynamique R269 900.

Natalie du Toit Captivated

South African Paralympic swimmer, Natalie du Toit  was handed the keys to a brand new gold Chevrolet Captiva just after she landed from the games..

Gold in colour, in keeping with the performance of this swimming sensation at the 2012 London Paralympic Games where she achieved a haul of three gold and one silver medal, the Chevrolet Captiva LTZ will be du Toit’s personal transport over the coming months as she attends the many official sporting and business engagements.
“Natalie has been a Chevrolet brand ambassador for a number of years now and we are excited to be able to continue this relationship with her as she moves on from her medal winning success in swimming competition to a new era in her career as a world class athlete,” says Chevrolet brand manager Tim Hendon. “She adds an element of excitement to an iconic automotive brand in South Africa which we trust will transport her in style as a South African and international sports celebrity.”