Land Rover Defender facelift 2012

Land Rover Defender

The iconic Land Rover Defender gets a little upgrade for an early Christmas.

A new 2.2-litre diesel engine has replaced the 2.4-litre diesel, matching it for power, torque and fuel consumption, whilst a full acoustic engine cover replaced the previous splash cover, reducing radiated engine noise and improving driving refinement.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine produces 90kW @ 3,500rpm and torque of 360Nm @ 2,000rpm, CO2 emissions on the combined cycle are 266g/km for the Defender 90 and 295g/km for the 110 and 130.

The GFT MT 82 six-speed gearbox has a high top gear for cruising and enhanced low-speed crawl capability.

Dress up

There is a choice of three more options as well as the choice of two new body colours, Barolo Black and Havana.

Smart new, contrast roof colours can now be chosen against the majority of the Defender paint palette. In addition to the standard Fuji White, customers can now opt for Santorini Black, Indus Silver, Orkney Grey or Firenze Red. The Firenze Red for example, can be chosen with the Santorini Black roof and the Baltic Blue with Indus Silver or simply retain their body colour.

Premium part leather seats which contour your body are available to the driver and front seat passenger, sporting the Land Rover logo on the backrest. The style of the seat naturally enhances driving support and comfort over the toughest of terrain. An integrated, centre stitch line on the headrest is also visible and adopted to the current standard seat in the Defender.

A Leather Pack is available – Part leather seats and leather steering wheel available on all body styles (except 130 derivatives).

The base audio system for the Defender has a single-slot CD player, USB, Aux jack and 4x50W amplification with an optional audio upgrade available for Bluetooth connectivity with remote microphone.

A plain black Pick Up hood is also available as an option and a plain beige hood for the 110 Double Cab Pick Up. Both options are in addition to existing styles.

All models have tinted glass and there’s the option of part leather standard seats in addition to the new premium seats.

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Namibia trip – July 2012

I visited Namibia recently and drove a chipped VW 1.9 TDi LWB Kombi and the 2,0 FSi Q5 Audi.

Let’s look at the cars first.

Starting with the Q5, which I drove in and around Windhoek. I tested the Q3 at the end of May (check review) so found it interesting to drive the big sister a few weeks later. It was also interesting to compare the turbo petrol to the turbo diesel. In general, the Q5 is a much better car than the Q3 to me.

It drives and handles better, sitting very pretty on the road. It feels glued to the road but does not have the choppyness or over firm ride of the Q3. The cabin is spacious and somehow more refined. A lovely place to spend time in. The car did not feel the altitude at all. I think the turbo petrol trumps the turbo diesel by a mile. If you have the extra cash the Q5 is way better than the Q3 and arguably better value. I am told the fuel consumption is fine, but can’t comment myself. Loved it.

I drove the VW bus down to Swakop via Erindi. The rather anaemic diesel engine has been re-chipped. The chip apparently boosts performance by 30%. You can feel the difference to the straight 1.9 TDi engine. It worked hard when overtaking but otherwise handled the altitude and the roads very well. The long wheel base version is a bit big for inner city driving, but on the open road and driving in a game reserve it borders on perfect. Hard to beat for space or visibility.

These Kombi’s handle very well for what they are. As with most Volkswagens the second gear is a little sticky. The seats remain comfortable even over long distances.

If you are planning a Namibia trip a night at Erindi is highly recommended. SADC citizens get special rates. Everything is included barring drinks. There are two game drives a day, early morning and evening, each lasting well over two hours.

In between the stoep (verandah) at the restaurant overlooks a dam. There is a constant stream of life to the water’s edge. Hippos and crocs inhabit the water.

The bird life is amazing, both at the dam and on the drives.

The food at Erindi is very good. The cakes with afternoon tea have to be seen to be appreciated.

Erindi is in the process of developing a camping terrain a few km north of the lodge.

The drive from Erindi over Omaruru and Karibib to Swakopmund is varied and remains interesting. The vegetation and terrain varies hugely every hour. Very good biltong shop just outside Usakus on the Swakop side.

Swakopmund is as great as ever. Well worth a stay of three or four days.

Base yourself in Swakop and visit Walvisbay one day. The seal/dolphin cruises are a must do.

A trip north to Hentiesbay is an eye opener. The road is made of salt. It looks like tar from a distance but is much more slippery, so beware foggy conditions.

Swakop itself has quad biking in the dunes, camel rides, educational trips into the desert and a load of other things to do. The town boasts and impressive array of eateries and pubs. A lot of the old town has been preserved. It is really good to just wander around the town. Lovely stuff.

There are three routes back to Windhoek. One, all tar past Wilhelmstal which has a roadside shop selling local olive oil, biltong and other farm produce. Worth a stop. The other routes offer scenic drives on gravel roads. Slightly washed away with this year’s rains but will be graded soon.

The other good stop is the Closwa Biltong factory shop in Okahandja.

Have fun.

Biltong = dried meat, jerky in the US

World Rally Championship coming to South Africa

South Africa has  been tasked by the international motorsport body, the FIA, to host a candidate event of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in Kwa-Zulu Natal from August 16 to 18 2012 to test readiness.

The bid which is being led by Kagiso Media subsidiary company, Kagiso Vantage, (previously Mobil Alliance),is the second biggest motorsport event in the world, after the Formula 1, with a world-wide television audience of 570 million viewers in over 200 countries. Positive signs of a successful bid emerged when the country.

According to Murphy Morobe, CEO of Kagiso Media, a successful bid will augur very well for the country and Kagiso Vantage.

“We are happy to support an international sporting event that will contribute positively to the country. During the 2010 soccer World Cup we proved our ability, as a nation, to put together world class sporting events. We have toiled very hard to reach this point to ensure that our bid meets the criteria, ” says Morobe.

Following a ten year absence from Africa (the last one was hosted in Kenya, 10 years ago), the event is planned  to take place in three areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal, namely the Valley of a Thousand Hills, Richmond and the South-Coast. The Moses Mabhida stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as operate as a service park.

Mr S’bu Sithole, the City Manager of eTthekwini, says “being the host city of the event is in line with the objectives of attracting great events to Durban while at the same time encouraging tourism.”

“Such events are crucial for developing the profile of the city and province as they do not just create good PR, but have other positive spin-offs, such as tourism and job creation. The WRC has a strong emphasis on tourism, with the event televised to a wide international audience. This exposure to these international markets over a three year period can only bode well for the City and the region” says Mr Sithole.

Citroën C4 Aircross

Citroën’s latest addition to their local line-up takes the famous French company into a new segment in South Africa – the rapidly growing compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) market.

Although there have been Citroën station wagons in South Africa before there has never been an SUV. The newcomer, the C4 Aircross, is a compact five-seater with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive with three trim and equipment levels: Attraction, Seduction and Exclusive.

All models are powered by a 2-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine developing 113kW of power and 198Nm of torque. The Attraction and Seduction models are equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, while the Seduction and the range-topping Exclusive are available with a continuously variable “automatic” transmission.

The intelligent 4WD on demand system is available on the range topping Exclusive model. It senses wheel slip and adjusts the split of power optimally between the front and rear wheels for maximum traction. The centre differential can be locked in really tough conditions to provide a 50:50 split between the drive to the front and rear wheels.

LED daytime running lights on the Seduction and Exclusive models are integrated vertically into aerodynamic vents and make a vertical light signature, visible by day and night, in the same way as it does with the DS3 and C1 models. The rear windows are dark tinted.

This new model features a raised driving position giving a clear view of the road, with the controls and instruments ranged around the driver in an efficient, ergonomic fashion. The steering wheel houses controls for the audio system on all models, with cruise control and Bluetooth hands free telephone operation on Seduction and Exclusive models.

A multi-function onboard computer provides the driver with information regarding the current and average fuel consumption, range on remaining fuel, average speed and distance covered.

Comfort and convenience features include manual air conditioning on the Attraction, with climate control in the other variants, together with automatic switching of the headlights and windscreen wipers, rear parking sensors.

The big appeal of the interior is its spaciousness. Besides up to five occupants it houses a host of storage compartments. The large glovebox is lit and chilled (by the automatic air conditioning), while the front and rear armrests have two cup holders each.

A 12V socket, USB port and auxiliary audio jack are all included in the standard specification on the top two variants. The audio streaming function allows music stored on a Smartphone or compatible audio drive to be played through the audio system using a wireless Bluetooth connection.

The front seats provide excellent support and are multi-way adjustable. The rear seat backrest has two rake positions, while the rear seat backrests are split 60:40 and can be folded flat to increase luggage space, which is already generous at 384 litres with a full size spare wheel chosen especially for local road conditions and consumer demand.

A large, glazed panoramic sunroof with UV protection and a one-touch electric blind is an optional extra on the Seduction and Exclusive models. It not only lets the occupants enjoy a view of the sky and adds to the feeling of spaciousness, but at night there are LED lights built into the guides of the sunroof that turn it amber. This novel ambient lighting can be adjusted for brightness of turned off.

The running gear of the C4 Aircross has been fine tuned to provide the ride comfort one expects from a vehicle bearing the Citroën logo, while still providing very good road holding.

The front suspension is of the Macpherson strut type with a coil-sprung multi-link system at the rear that incorporates a substantial (18mm diameter) anti-roll bar. Steering is by an electrically-assisted system. The Attraction and Seduction variants are fitted with 16” Flinders-style alloy wheels, while the Exclusive gets 18” Kanji-style wheels.

Anti-skid ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) are standard on all models, while the Exclusive also get an electronic stability programme (ESP) with hill start assist.

All models have front fog lamps, while the Exclusive is fitted with Xenon headlamps. Headlamps are manually adjustable in the Attraction and Seduction variants and automatically adjusted on the Exclusive.

“The Citroen C4 Aircross is the first foray for Citroen into the compact SUV market on South African soil as a segment of vehicles that currently reflects the second highest growth percentage behind the B segment. As a country which shows a buying bias towards SUV, this product is significant and essential to place Citroen on the map and thus a fundamental access card into the South African buying psyche,” says Grant Bowring GM Marketing for Citroen South Africa.

“With a booming compact SUV segment, the timing could not have been better to capitalise and further strengthen our position and build on the exciting products within the Citroen stable that have graced our shores in recent years. The introduction of a compact SUV has worked remarkably well for many Brands locally and we believe the C4 Aircross will allow us to reap the benefits that this type of vehicle is reflecting in our market.”
The Citroën Aircross range is covered by a 3-year/100 000km warranty and a 5 year 100 000km service plan with the option to upgrade the warranty to 5-years/100 000km, while FreeDrive, includes the extended warranty and also incorporates a 100 000km maintenance plan.

Pricing: (including VAT)
2.0i Man Attraction 2WD                   R269 900
2.0i Man Seduction 2WD                  R294 900
2.0i CVT Seduction 2WD                  R309 900
2.0i CVT Exclusive 4WD                   R369 900

Ford Kuga 2.5 AWD Trend review

Ford Kuga 2.5 AWD Trend review

The Ford Kuga is the perfect wheels for the urban warrior and the mom on her taxi runs. It works well in so many ways and on so many levels. There are two models, Trend and Titanium.

I really enjoyed the Kuga for the week that I drove her. Reminded me of  my wife’s Freelander 1, just a much updated feel.

It’s a smooth SUV which does everything effortlessly. It also feels just a bit more spacious than its direct competition. A premium car.

Bad points

The Kuga is not very light on fuel, but having said that I thought consumption was acceptable especially considering the power and performance available. Pity there is no Diesel available yet.

Opening the bonnet is quite a little operation. First you have to disassemble your key. Then you have to try opening the bonnet lock with the tiny metal key that you removed in step 1. After a few fiddles, some choice language, perhaps a few laughs you do eventually get the bonnet open. Do not try this at night, in the rain or wind.

This Ford is a little pricey.

Good points

I discovered the seat warmers on a cold damp Cape winters evening. Lovely stuff. The rest of the interior is just as good. Switches are in the right places, work the right way and look and feel good.

The seats are very comfortable and highly adjustable as is the steering.

A good point of the Kuga is the handling and its road manners. This vehicle is a real pleasure to drive.

The Kuga has a feeling of space augmented by a number of cup holders and storage spaces.

Driving impressions

Volvo’s T5 2.5 5-cylinder turbo petrol engine is a classic bit of engineering. It is called the 5-cylinder 20V Duratec Turbo in Fordspeak. It fits very well into the Kuga scheme of things. It sounds suitably growly, almost like a V6. It pulls amazingly when on full song but is docile when pottering around the parking lot. Produces 147kW @ 6000 and torque of 320Nm @ from 1600 to 4000 rpm. You can feel it.

The power on tap translates into a 0 to 100km/h time of 8.8seconds and a top speed of 205km/h. Ford claims an average fuel consumption of 10.3 litre per 100km. I got around 10.

I loved driving this car. In slightly dodgy conditions it comes into its own with amazing grip, excellent acceleration and stunning handling even though its a tall SUV style car.

Steering is well weighted and accurate. The brakes feel as if they mean business.

It is very difficult to find fault with the on road performance of the Kuga.

Summary

Cost R385 580 as tested. The Titanium model costs R406 850. Special deals are available at many dealers.

Competition includes VW Tiguan R340 000 , Land Rover Freelander 2 R458 995, Kia Sportage R307 995 , Toyota Rav4 R370 000, Audi Q3 R500 000

The Kuga is very competent and a pleasure to drive. An excellent iteration of the SUV niche.

It comes with a 4 yr/120 000km warranty, 3 yr/unlimited km roadside assistance and 4yr/80 000km service plan.

GM Trailblazer starts production

The first production units of the all-new Chevrolet Trailblazer are now rolling off General Motors Thailand’s (GM) production line in Rayong.

The range-topping LTZ model has the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine. The Rayong plant is the first in the world to build the new Trailblazer, which will be sold in Thailand and exported to more than 50 markets across Southeast Asia and beyond, including South Africa.

Based on General Motors’ new global body-on-frame midsize truck architecture, the Trailblazer is a seven-seater. GM says it has superior off-road capabilities.

“The Trailblazer is strong and capable. Ready for rugged off-road conditions but equally well-mannered for city and long distance road trips,” said Martin Apfel, President of GM Thailand/Southeast Asia. “It’s yet another world-class Chevrolet product that demonstrates the capability, commitment and attention to detail of our dedicated Thai workforce.”

“The Trailblazer will be built in Thailand for Thailand, and soon also make its way into the rest of the world. And delivery of the Trailblazer to our customers in Thailand starts right now,” Apfel continued.

Chevrolet Sonic Sedan 1.6 LS review

2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Chevrolet have been launching new models at quite a pace in recent years, often improving and refining models and then renaming them. The Sonic is very much an Aveo upgrade. When launched in 2011 GM offered a 1.3 diesel option, which sadly is no longer available.

The Sonic is built by Daewoo in Korea, so build quality is good.

The Sonic is just the right size for a starter family, with a decent boot and fair space in the cabin. It is a quite sporty looking car.

The bad

The ugly dash with the most idiotic instrument binnacle you have or will ever see. It does not work too badly though.

The steering is really odd. It works well except when you really want it too, which is round corners on a mountain pass and on slightly corrugated roads. It instills no confidence on the former and jumps and wobbles on the latter.

Hopefully the test car was set up badly, with overinflated tyres and marginal wheel balancing and alignment.

The cabin is filled with to me, unsightly hard plastics. Not a cabin to fall in love with.

The good

In spite of the bad points above the overall package is quite pleasing. The car comes with all the basic equipment as standard. You do not need to add anything. The Sonic comes well equipped with a list of interior accessories such as CD/MP3/Aux input, electric windows and a trip computer.

The Sonic looks good from all angles but especially the front. The dimensions are right.

The seats are very comfortable.

Driving impressions 

The engine clutch marriage is a good one and acceleration in the context is fine. It is easy to drive.

The 1.4 produces  74 @ 6000 (kW @ r/min) and 130 @ 4000 (Nm @ r/min)  of torque, while the 1.6 does  85 @ 6000 and  155 @ 4000.

Summary

Competition includes the Suzuki Swift, VW Polo and Ford Fiesta, not to mention Geely .

The Sonic faces tough competition.

Costs

The prices range from R159 900 for the Sonic Sedan 1.4 LS, right up to R181 600 for the Sedan 1.6 LS AT.

Warranty & Roadside Assistance – 5 years/120 000km, Anti-Corrosion Warranty – 5 Years/Unlimited km
Service Intervals – 12 Months/15 000km and Service Plan – 3 Years/60 000km

Daihatsu Terios 1.5 Diva review

Daihatsu Terios 1.5 Diva

Daihatsu has been making brilliant little off-road vehicles for quite a while, and it shows in this generation Terios. The Diva is a 4×2 version with fancy leather seats, park control with camera, and a few other little extras.

So, what is a Terios? It is a smallish, high riding, tough, four door jeep type vehicle of the SUV ilk. Some are 4×4, others 4×2. It will be a great little car for 2 people to go to a games reserve or do an extended road trip in.

The 1.5 petrol engine  produces power of 77kW @6000 and 140Nm @4400. Ground clearance is an excellent 205mm.

Interior  

The seats and driving position in the Terios are just right. The leather seats in the Diva are extra comfortable and have orange stitching to look good as well. Everything has been kept simple and straightforward. Dials and switches are where they should be and function well.

The sound and Garmin navigation unit is neat and works well. It is also easy to use.

There is nothing fancy about the interior, but although plain the cabin is a pleasant place to be.

The boot is small for four people, but if you fold the back seats down two people can easily get all their camping gear in.

Exterior

The Terios is very unassuming and plain, functional on the outside. It is what it is. The Diva model has swirly orange decals and badges to differentiate it from other models.

It is a good looking vehicle in an unassuming, balanced way.

Driving impressions

The Terios drives more like a bakkie than a car. Its not unpleasant or harsh, it is just not refined.

Everything works well. The brakes do what they are supposed to, the steering has good feel and as long as you are not in a hurry it goes well.

Top usable, comfortable speed is around 110km/h, but she will go to 140 and can cruise at 120km/h. Acceleration is truck like. Still, I find the Diva comfortable and pleasant to drive.

The driving position lets one see all round and the height makes for superb visibility. The seats and steering are adjustable.

The good things

The build quality is excellent. This car will last a lifetime.

All round visibility is excellent. The cabin is very functional. It is a nice sized car, its got attitude, a great ride height and has personality.

The bad

The Terios is a tad noisy at speed, which in a Terios is anything above 100km/h. It sounds and handles like an off-road vehicle. A bit more sound proofing is needed.

It works quite hard at 120km/h but will cruise in fifth quite happily. 110km/h is the best cruising speed. If this car had a little turbo fitted it would be awesome. It just needs a little more grunt. Fuel consumption could be better.

Summary

It is one of those love it or hate it cars. I like them. They are honest little workhorses that should give years of hassle free motoring. There is also a long wheelbase version.

The Nissan Juke is better value for money if you do not need a 4×4. The Jimny is small but will go anywhere.

Competition includes:

Nissan Juke – R203 925 to R261 925

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 4×4  – R 192 900

Costs  As tested R244 995  TERIOS 4X2 Manual Diva with HSWC with 3yr / 75 000km Service Plan.

The top of the range model is the 4WD Manual off-road with 3yr / 75 000km Service Plan @ R274 995.

The warranty is 3 year / 100 000km.

MG6 Saloon 1.8T Lux Review

MG6 Saloon 1.8T Lux

MG is back in South Africa, this time via Chinese manufacturer SAIC Motor.

The MG6 is a traditional English style family car in the tradition of a Ford Granada or Rover75, with which it shares basic engine and chassis technology and design re-developed for today’s demands. It was developed at the MG Motor UK Technical Centre. Although also built in the UK, the models we get come from China. There are two body styles, a coupe and a saloon. We tested the mid level saloon.

I am slightly ambivalent about it. There is a lot to like, but there are also some things that don’t quite make the grade.

The MG6 is marginally bigger than the Elantra and Jetta competitors. This results in a huge boot and loads of space inside the car. I like the look of the car. It is smart and tends to the sporty.

At night a red light shines down on the gearstick area from the roof.  The instrumentation is clear and gives you the information you need.

Power is claimed to be 118kW @ 5 500  and torque  215Nm @ 2 500 – 4 500, which is class leading.

Driving impressions

The MG6 drives a lot like the Rover75. Solidly planted and sure footed.  I found the car easy to drive except for a little stalling problem, more of which later. Gear changes are fine, provided you are not in too much of a hurry.

Acceleration is claimed to be 0 to 100 in 8.4seconds with a top speed of 193km.

The car handles well and feels firm with little body roll. Steering is good with enough feel and weight. Brakes feel fine.

Good points

The fuel consumption is quite good. Expect around 6.5 litre/100km on the highway at around 100km/hour.  This rises to around 7.3 at 120km/h at which point she is doing 3 000rpm in 6th gear. I averaged 8.1 litre/100km on my normal route which include some high speed driving and an eight storey parking garage. It will be possible to average below 8 litre/100km. The MG6 has a good engine and chassis.

I found the seats really comfortable and could easily get a good driving position.

The boot is big and the seats split and fold down to accommodate longer objects. The passengers in the back enjoy good leg room.

The MG6 comes with a full house specification, including  air con, cruise control, park assist, Multi-Function Steering, lit vanity mirrors, substantial door pockets, a spacious central storage box, hill stop control , 4 airbags and the usual safety gear.

Bad points

I managed to stall the car 4 times on pulling away. The clutch action is a little odd. After you stall the car you have to remove the key completely and then push it in hard till the car starts.

The hand brake lever is rubbish. Rubbish to look at, to feel and to work with.  You can easily jam your thumb between the lever and the central tunnel. It feels plasticky and not very solid.

The demister button is behind the gear lever when in 6th. The driver cannot see it.

The interior has its good points but there is a super flimsy spring loaded cup holder which protrudes from the dash when you need it. I felt it would not last more than 6 months.

The buttons and roller switches on the steering feel cheap and are counter-intuitive and need attention from the designers.  Most of the other knobs and controls fell and look slightly dodgy.  Some of the plastics on especially the lower sections appear to be quite soft and will scuff quickly.

The electronic key is flimsy and feels very cheap.

Summary

This is the first Chinese car that I was comfortable driving and can comfortably recommend to be considered when looking at cars. You get quite a lot of car for your Rand. It really drives well. But…

With competition like the Corolla 1.6 Advanced R232 500, Elantra 1.8 R224 900 , Jetta 1.4 TSi R244 500 , Mazda3 2.0 R288 920 , Focus GDi 2.0 R245 430 and Civic Elegance 1.8 R159 900, all the MG6 has going for it is good road manners and size.

Fortunately the MG6 pricing is almost competitive. With the interior fixed it would fly of showroom floors.

Costs  R239 900 as tested. Prices range from R229 900 to R269 900.

Warranty 36 months or 80 000km, service plan 36 months or 90 000km, with 24 month service intervals.

Alfa Giulietta gets automatic TCT gearbox

Alfa Romeo’s innovative (Twin Clutch Transmission) system is now also available in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

The transmission works in either a full automatic or sequential mode. The driver can manually change the gears either up or down utilising the paddle shifts on the steering column or gearshift for complete control. In addition, the driver can customise the car’s personality using the Alfa D.N.A. driving selector to enhance its features of comfort, performance, safety and efficiency.
The new Alfa TCT consists of “two gearboxes” in parallel, one for even gears and one for odd gears, each with its own clutch, which allows the selection and engagement of the subsequent gear while the previous one is still engaged. The gear is therefore changed with a simple, smooth yet very fast switching of the corresponding clutches, guaranteeing continuous torque delivery and therefore traction.

Consumption is reduced by up to 10% with respect to a traditional automatic gearbox. Alfa TCT uses dry clutches allowing, natural integration with Start&Stop, a function which is not always available with traditional automatic transmissions, and which guarantees a further benefit in terms of fuel consumption, particularly in cities.

The operation of the Alfa TCT is also designed to integrate the engine and the various onboard systems in the best manner. To allow for the best performance on the road, depending on the driving conditions and on the driver’s wishes, the transmission interacts with the Alfa D.N.A., braking system, engine control and vehicle stability control system (VDC).