Nissan X-trail 1.6 dci Tekna 4WD review

The X-trail has been a firm favourite for many years. And rightly so. It filled the niche and largely created the soft SUV segment, although it has now become a crossover.

Nissan X-trail in Onrus

I reviewed the Alfa Romeo Stelvia at the beginning of January. Many people stared at the car as I drove past. Admiring the really beautiful lines of the Stelvia, which can be described as a work of art, on wheels. Interestingly the new ‘facelifted’ Nissan X-trail, which I have been driving this week got as many , if not more ‘stop and stares’. Especially men. They looked at the car and when they saw the badge they smiled, I suppose in approval.

Inside the X-trail is in its own way every bit as good as the Stelvia.

Nissan call it a crossover. No claims to real SUV ability. I like that, even though it has arguably more off tar capability than many “SUVs”. Nissan are a market leader and pioneer in this segment and it shows.
This new medium Nissan crossover has the class leading cabin and dash. Design, layout, equipment, materials, fit and finish are all top class in the range topping Tekna configuration, which I tested.
If you are looking for a premium crossover that offers comfort, versatility and smart technology, look no further. It is really that good.

I particularly liked the data display in front of the driver which has 7 different pages which you scroll through with a button on the multifunction leather steering wheel. The bigger display is only used for the maps, setting your radio and phone up, manoeuvring and cameras.

X-trail has the following new generation tech:
Blind spot intervention which alerts the driver to the presence of vehicles in blind spots diagonally behind the car.
Lane intervention which alerts the driver when it detects that the X-Trail is straying from its lane.
Cross Traffic Alert which can detect and warn the driver of vehicles that are approaching behind the X-Trail, especially when parking or leaving parking.
Emergency Braking which uses radar technology to keep an eye on your speed and proximity to the vehicle in front of you, and will alert the driver before engaging the brakes.
Forward Collision Warning helps alert drivers of an impending collision with a slower moving or stationary car.
Auto Headlights which automatically changes between high and low beams when it detects oncoming vehicles at night.
Around View Monitor with moving object detection – a support technology that assists drivers to park more easily by providing a better understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings.

Nissan X-trail

Nissan claims a combined consumption of 5,3 L/100km. I got about that on the open road, but a still very good, 7.6 L/100 km in general urban use including a trip to Onrus where I took the pictures. The 1.6 turbodiesel puts out 320 Nm, which means you have oodles of power, which combined with good road holding, a well balanced steering and a slick gearshift makes for a very good touring and town car. Why spend more to have a fancy badge on the bonnet? Did I mention that the seats are really comfortable over longer distances?

Even cats like the new X-trail

In addition the new X-trail is fitted with active trace control, active ride control, all the latest braking tech and a lovely suspension setup. You can even go a little off the beaten path. The car has 209mm ground clearance and 50/50 4×4 lock to get you over fairly gnarly routes, but it is not a hardcore offroader, although it will tackle small dunes with aplomb.

The boot, with the sears up holds 550 litres and a full spare. With the 60/40 seats flat at least double that. Space, in general, in this X-trail is generous. There is a 7-seat version available, but the additional seats are for GOT’s Tyrion Lannister and his ilk or primary school children, but you will have almost no boot.

The new Nissan X-Trail comes with Nissan’s class-leading 6-year/150 000km warranty, a 3-year/90 000km service plan and 24-hour roadside assist.
Service intervals are at 15 000km and the new X-Trail is priced as follows:
2.0 Visia R 369 900; 2.0 Visia 7s R 374 900
1.6 dci Visia 7s R 392 900
2.5 Acenta CVT 4WD R 425 900; 2.5 Acenta CVT 4WD 7s R 429 900; 2.5 Acenta Plus CVT 4WD 7s R 444 900
1.6 dci Tekna 4WD R 457 900 (which we tested)
2.5 Tekna CVT 4WD 7s R 469 900
The best value is possibly the 2.5 Acenta CVT 4WD at R 425 900.

The X-trail is bigger inside than most of its apparent price rivals, but also look at the similarly sized Suzuki Grand Vitara if you need real 4×4 ability, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan and Toyota Rav4.

Duster aiming for COTY 2015

One year after its launch in South Africa, Renault’s New Duster SUV has earned its place as a finalist in the WesBank/South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) 2015 Car of the Year (COTY) competition.

Renault Duster 1.5 DCi AWD

Renault Duster 1.5 DCi AWD

“We are very honoured and would like to thank the COTY jury for nominating the New Renault Duster as one of the 11 best cars recently brought to market in South Africa,” says Niall Lynch, managing director of Renault South Africa.

At 4.32m long, 1.82m wide and with a generous wheelbase of 2.67m, Duster offers more interior space than any other C-segment SUV. It comfortably seats up to five adults with plenty of space to spare – front and back. Its boot capacity (up to 475lt) is nothing short of amazing making the storage and carriage of family luggage an absolute breeze.

The low first gear (5.79 km/h at 1 000 rpm) allows for driving over rough ground, starting on a slope and with heavy loads, or holding the vehicle back when going downhill. With its intuitive 4×4 control system, the Renault Duster adapts to all situations, making the driving experience that much more easy and pleasurable.

Already a success story, with 4 500 Dusters sold in just one year, Duster is the 5th most sold SUV in South Africa, behind the Toyota Fortuner, Hyundai ix35, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Kuga

Suzuki Jimny updated

Suzuki has updated the Jimny with changes and upgrades to both the exterior and interior, while an equipment upgrade has also been introduced.

An automatic transmission is being offered as an alternative to the manual gearbox for the first time.

Changes include the fitment of new 15-inch alloy wheels, boasting a dark silver finish and two new colours: Bison Brown, and Khaki Pearl Metallic.


The cabin has also been spruced up, with an all-new instrument cluster the primary feature. The cluster features main dials for speed and rev count, with a third, intersecting instrument hosting a digital display.

The display includes fuel tank level and engine temperature readouts, as well as a digital clock, ambient temperature display, gear and transfer case indicator, a fuel economy readout, and a trip meter.

The Jimny’s interior features upgraded seat upholstery aimed at boosting both comfort and durability, while a new steering wheel design has also been introduced.

The introduction of a four-speed automatic transmission option for the Jimny will please owners seeking the convenience of clutchless operation, especially in urban traffic conditions, while also making access to the Jimny’s legendary off-road capability even easier.

As with the manual gearbox version, the automatic transmission is still partnered by a transfer case offering low-range operation.


The Jimny is still powered by a lively and economical 1 328 cc four-cylinder engine, with a maximum power output of 63 kW at 6 000 r/min, linked to a torque peak of 110 Nm at 4 100 r/min.

Equipment includes remote central locking, a CD receiver sound system, electric windows and air-conditioning. Safety features include dual front airbags, head restraints, inertia reel seatbelts, and ABS anti-lock brakes.

Both the manual and automatic transmission-equipped versions of the Jimny are covered by a three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a four-year/60 000 km service plan.

BMW X5 xDrive 40d review

BMW X5 4.0BMW X5 xDrive 40d

Classy, cool, collected… that sums up the X5, BMW’s mid-size SUV.

We tested the 40d, which is actually a 3.0 litre but with not one, but two turbos. We were quite blown away! Actually its total overkill, but what the hell, if  you’ve got it spend it and watch the other guy in your dust.

The X5 is not a Jeep or Land Cruiser wannabe. Its more at home on roads, tar or gravel. It functions like a performance car on tar and rally car on gravel. Amazing road holding and handling.

BMW X5 4.0d

BMW X5 xDrive 40d

Fast. What is fast? This car goes like the wind. Fuel consumption is even something to smile about. Astoundingly good compared to SUV’s of only a few years ago. Expect under 8 litres/100km unless you go racing.

BMW-X5-4d-Ongegund-002I liked the interior and found the seats to be very comfortable and supportive. This is like  a little luxury limo. You are cosseted in safety, comfort and relative quiet. Nothing to complain about. Even the fiddly multimedia control paddle has been improved.

A first for me was the 3D park sensors. A combination of sonars and four cameras create a 3D image of the car and its surroundings. This is the best parking aid I have used. Works like a charm.

The BMW X5 is a vey good SUV. It is not an off-roader. Think of it more as a sport station wagon.

Also look at the Audi Q5, Lexus , Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes ML, Mitsubishi Pajero, VW Tuareg and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

X5-4-Elim-Onrus-262List price for the basic model is R986 000. The car as tested had the following extras: aluminium running boards (R5 400), tow hitch (R9 900), surround view (R9 600), lumber support (R4 500), active cruise control (R17 900), comfort access (R10 800), hud (R14 700), B&O sound system (R32 000), rear seat dvd (29 100). That’s pretty much R120 000 for the extras.

To me it is a lot of money for a car, but then it is a lot of car for the money. Get the 3.0d.

You get a five year / 100 000km maintenance contract and BMW on call support.


Kia Sportage CRDi AWD review

Kia Sportage CRDi

Kia Sportage CRDi

Kia Sportage CRDi AWD

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

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

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

Kia Sportage CDi

Kia Sportage CDi

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

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

Kia Sportage CRDi

Kia Sportage CRDi

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

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

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

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


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

The Sportage is practical, good value and smart.

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

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

Sportage 086

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

Sportage crdi  016


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.


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.