Which bakkie should I buy?

Owning and living with a bakkie is more than just walking into a dealership and paying for your truck. Your experience of and with the dealership can make or break your attitude to your bakkie and the brand.

If the purchasing and servicing experience is important to you this is going to help you decide which brands to look into.

The best buying and servicing experience is measured continuously by an independent research company, called Ipsos, for the industry.

Historic data

The owners of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in South Africa are getting a very good deal in terms of their purchasing and servicing experience according to the results of the 2015 Ipsos customer satisfaction market research of the local automotive industry.

The good level of customer satisfaction in terms of the LCV purchasing and servicing experience in South Africa is underlined by the fact that four brands; Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen, won gold awards for purchasing and three; Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota  won gold for servicing in the 2015 survey. So the top brands to own are Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota.

Chevrolet and Ford got silver awards for purchasing, while Chevrolet and Volkswagen earned silver for servicing. Ford was the only recipient of a bronze award for LCV servicing. This may be down to the massive growth of their market share last year.

The results of the survey are subjected to four separate checks and balances or so-called quality gates to ensure validity.

bakkie sales q

The servicing winners are:

bakkie servicing

“These 2015 figures are absolutely outstanding,” commented Patrick Busschau, the Ipsos SA Automotive Business Unit Director. “The very impressive results show that both the buying and servicing experience provided by dealers franchised by the participating brands in South Africa is world class.

“Buyers of light commercials are also not short-changed from a product, as well as a sales and after-sales experience perspective, and this is very important in view of the large number of people who now buy top end LCVs for both personal and leisure use. They pay a lot of money for many of these vehicles, which are now competing with mid to high-end SUVs in the quality and comfort stakes, and it is good to see that the manufacturers, importers and dealers are putting a lot of focus on providing excellent service to those buying and operating LCVs. The Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen brands, in particular, in the LCV segment are to be commended for the consistently excellent service delivery when customers purchase or service these vehicles”.

Servicing over time

The servicing experience has improved over time as can be seen from the graph. Satisfaction has increased from 80% to 90% over the last few years.

Latest data from 2018

Bear in mind that this research is always a year behind and many bakkies have been upgraded or renewed in the last 12 months. This is just a rough guide as to the perceived quality.

In the graph below the lower the score the better.

The smaller bakkies have the disadvantage that they are noisier and have smaller engines. It is actually wrong to compare them with the bigger bakkies.

Safe motoring.

Chevrolet Orlando LS 1.8 review

chev_orlando-thumbChevrolet Orlando

GM’s smaller multi purpose vehicle, the Orlando manages to be a little van, 7 seater bus and car all in one. And all in a neat, versatile  package. It would make a great taxi.

Think of it as an upmarket Avanza. It is slightly wider and longer than the Avanza and feels much more solid.

In SA we only get only one model. But GM has chosen it well. It is a 1.8 petrol manual with standard but good hard working trim and a good specification level.

Interior Chevrolet Orlando

Interior Chevrolet Orlando

The vehicle has 16 different seating combinations, meaning  you really can fit seven adults into the Orlando or when in van mode, a driver and a jumbo load.

Passengers will find the inside of the Orlando is surprisingly roomy with more than enough leg- and headroom. Access to the third row is OK, but headroom a little limited.

Load volume at the back is between 100 and 800 litres depending on how you have folded the seats. Fold down the rear seats and you’ve got a 1499 litre load space.The  cabin feels like a car, with neat finishes and a plethora of map pockets, armrests with cup holder, and quite a few nooks and crannies to keep things in.

Power windows for driver and front passenger are standard as is a good sound system, cruise control and power steering.

The interior is upmarket compared to the cheaper Avanza and is pleasantly finished reminding one of the Cruze, its sedan sibling.

Chevrolet Otlando

Chevrolet Otlando

The Orlando does not lack safety and security systems.  It comes with anti theft alarm and immobiliser.

An  ‘Electronic Stability Control’ system provides traction control to help avert slides, by automatically applying corrective braking to appropriate wheels to help you quickly regain control. It also has ABS and electronic brake distribution with an additional brake assist system.

Driving the Orlando is easy and pleasant. All round visibility is surprisingly good and it handles well in the context of an MPV. Road holding is above par for this category. The Cruze roots shine through.

Chevrolet Orlando 1.8 LS

Chevrolet Orlando 1.8 LS

GM claims 7.2l/100km but work on 8 in general and around 6 on the open road, which is very acceptable.

Priced from R287 000 you get real value for money.

The Warranty & Roadside Assistance package is  5 years/120 000km.  The Service Plan is for 3 years /60 000km.

Also look at the Toyota Avanza 1.3  from R190 000, Suzuki Ertiga 1.4 starting at around R160 000, VW Caddy 1.6 from R190 000 or the Nissan NV200 1.6 Combi R254 800.

First published in Small Business Connect.

Chevrolet Spark Pronto review

Chevrolet Spark Pronto

Chevrolet Spark Pronto

Chevrolet Spark Pronto

The Spark Pronto is the smallest commercial vehicle on our roads. Basically a box on wheels.

GM have taken the Spark and made a tiny van, much like FIAT did with the Uno years ago, just much better. This is possible because the Spark is built in South Africa.

Basically they have stripped the seats out of the back and made a proper load box with a flat floor and a partition to the front. There are little burglar bars over the rear windows. This translates into a 275kg payload and 876 litres of space.

Chev Spark load area

Chev Spark load area

The Pronto is just right for the businesses that require nothing more than the smallest, cheapest delivery vehicle they can find, with absolutely no need for bells and whistles. Very importantly it retains air conditioning. Ideal for florists, chemists, pathologists and any load that requires cooling.

The cabin at the front is unchanged from the normal Spark. The car also retains the two back doors, so access is excellent.

This little Spark will get small and light parcels as well as documents to clients quickly and inexpensively. It is also ideal for security companies, florists, pathologists and for medical deliveries.


The Spark Pronto uses Chevrolet’s basic 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, like almost every other Spark. It’s a quite perky, if a little noisy. It produces 60kW at 6400rpm and 108Nm at 4800rpm, and propels the light-weight Pronto from 0 to 100km/h in a little over 13 seconds, with a top speed of 164km/h.

GM claims fuel economy of only 5,4l/100km. Expect around 6 litres/100km.

Driving impressions

Around Cape Town I found it more than adequate, almost nippy. The car keeps all the equipment of the normal Spark except the radio, but the wiring and speakers are installed. It still features the same high levels of passenger comfort and safety as found in other Spark models, with dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, power steering, remote central locking and air conditioning.

Chev-Spark-Pronto-014The Chevrolet Spark Pronto costs R103 000. If you are registered for VAT you can claim back the VAT on the vehicle.

The Spark range comes standard with a 5-year/ 120 000 km warranty and comprehensive Roadside Assistance, as well as five years’ anti-corrosion cover.

A service plan is available as an optional extra on purchase.

Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D 4×4 LTZ review

Chev-Trailblazer-thumbChevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D 4×4 LTZ

The question is: Is the Trailblazer as good as, or better than the Fortuner?

Mmmm. That depends.

It is certainly very capable and comfortable. A pleasure to drive.

General impressions Chev-Trailblazer-liftfront

The Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D 4×4 LTZ is big, she’s bold and has a huge GM bowtie on the grill. Chuck Morris’s SUV.

The ‘blazer is basically built on a shortened new Isuzu KB chassis so remains a bakkie at heart. She even sounds like an Isuzu bakkie, but of course has a completely new engine.

The Trailblazer has the power and torque for towing big caravans and boats. And going straight over mountains if needed.132kW @ 3800rpm and 470Nm @ 2 000rpm.

Space for seven , with three rows, or fold the seats down and load a few bikes. The third row seats fold flat into the floor creating a cavernous “boot”.

Although a big car she is easy to drive and park.


The Trailblazer has space, and uses space cleverly. The cabin gives the impression of airy room, partially a result of the light trim used for the seats and most interior surfaces.

GM claims there are 11 cup holders. I believe them.

There is ample headroom and space for your legs and shoulders.

It has a very uncluttered look. There are quite a few power points scattered around the cabin.

The third row of seats are easy to use and work really well. They fold completely flat when not in use.

The steering wheel is great to use with cruise control on the right and audio controls on the left.

The second and third row of seats also get aircon, a nice touch.

The steering wheel is great to use with cruise control on the right and audio controls on the left.

The second and third row of seats also get aircon, a nice touch.


She looks a lot like a Fortuner on steroids. Big and bold. I like the lines.

Chev-Trailblazer-leftbackDriving impressions

This is one big SUV that is a joy to drive.

On jeep trails the Trailblazer comes into its own. It has the grunt, the gears and the go to keep going. I tested it on the Helderberg 4×4 Trail just outside Somerset West. It passed with flying colours.

The ‘blazer comes as standard with highway orientated tyres, so if you are going to spend time in the bundu it is recommended you get A/T tyres.


The very light leather upholstery looks great when new but I am not sure it will wear well if used for off-roading.

The biggest niggle for me is the lack of diff lock.

The bonnet is quite long when driving on 4×4 trials. You can’t see the trail directly in front of the vehicle.

The Trailblazer has loads of usable power and is very easy to drive.


The Chevrolet Blazer is going to give the Fortuner a bit of a run for its money. It feels more stable on gravel roads, a weak point of the Fortuner. In many ways it improves on the Toyota.


2.5 LT 4X2 MT           R364,000.00

2.8 LTZ 4X2 AT         R429,900.00

2.8 LTZ 4X4 MT         R461,300.00

2.8 LTZ 4X4 AT         R476,900.00

3.6 LTZ 4X4 AT         R486,700.00

Service Plan 5yr/90 000km, warranty 5yr/120 000km



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.”

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.


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

The Sonic faces tough competition.


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

Chevrolet Aveo the entry level Chev

The Aveo complements the new Chevrolet Sonic in GM’s small vehicle pricing structure with the two models satisfying distinctly different sub-sectors of the segment.

The Chevrolet Aveo model range offers a choice of three Hatch and three Sedan variants with a choice of either ‘L’ or ‘LS’ trim. All are powered by a 1,6 litre 16-valve DOHC engine that produces maximum power of 77 kW @ 5800 r/min and peak torque of 145 Nm @ 3600 r/min. Electronic throttle control and multi-port fuel injection ensure excellent fuel economy and low emissions. By way of example, tests conducted by Chevrolet engineers delivered a combined cycle fuel consumption of just 7,3l/100km for the Aveo Hatch.

Drive is via a 5-speed manual transmission on L and LS models with a 4-speed automatic option offered for the LS level Hatch and Sedan. The Automatic transmission is electronically controlled and has a “Hold Control” feature that assists in reducing the tendency of the transmission to hunt between ratios.

Standard specification on all models includes: Variable rate power steering; ABS braking; 14 inch steel rims fitted with 185/60 R14 tyres; air-conditioning; tilt adjustable steering wheel; driver’s side airbag; transponder key immobiliser system; and colour coded bumpers.

On the LS specification models the following are included: Roof spoiler; height adjustable driver’s seat; power operated front windows; central locking; passenger airbag; MP3 compatible radio/CD combination with auxiliary input.

The service interval for the Chevrolet Aveo is 15 000km. Warranty cover with Roadside Assistance is for three years or 100 000km.

Chevrolet Cruze review

Chevrolet Cruze

The Chevrolet Cruze is positioned as the quintessential family car. It takes its place in a long mine of Chevrolet cars in South Africa. Think Bel Air, Biacayne, Impala, Kommando, 3800/4100, Lumina. Chevrolet was at the centre of the car business and had the jingle  “braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet”, to establish its position.

When GM left the country, Delta took over, concentrating on Opel, Suzuki and Isuzu. But now Chevvy is back.

The Cruze completes the basic line-up of the Chevrolet range in SA. From the small Spark, to the Aveo, Sonic, Optra, the SUV Captiva, Cruze sister Orlando and big car, the Lumina. Watch out for the hatchback version, which is on its way.

The Cuze comes with ABS and 4 or 6 airbags, remote keyless entry, air-con, power steering and so on.

The good

The Cruze does what it sets out to do. It provides spacious, comfortable, safe and pleasant transport for a family, with a touch of style. It’s a great car, in its context. It is just a little bigger than the Corolla, which is a good thing, because it does not feel like a small car.

GM have tried hard to get it right, and I think they have succeeded. It is a smart looking car, with clean lines and an uncluttered appearance. The same is true of the interior. The cabin is a pleasant place to be. It is well laid out and well put together. It is slightly let down by some hard plastics.

It has a slightly narrow but biggish 450 litre boot.

Prices of the Cruze range are really good as standard specification is comprehensive.

The bad

GM have made a mistake with the 1.8 automatic model. It is not a happy combination. The box is slow and the set-up is somehow not right. The manual cars are all fine.

Although the overall impression of the interior is good, there are a few bits that disappoint.

Driving impressions

In spite of the reservations about the 1.8 auto the Cruze actually behaves very well on the road. It is set up for comfort so there is a bit of body roll if you push her along but she has no obvious vices. Steering is responsive, brakes work well and the drive is smooth.


The Cruze starts from R197 400 for the 1.6L manual petrol model to R280 100 for the 2.0 diesel. The 1.8 automatic in LT trim is R266 500. There are 5 models to choose from.

Warranty & Roadside Assistance – 5 years/120 000km

Service Intervals – 1 Year/15 000km
Service Plan – 3 Years/60 000km
Anti-Corrosion – 5 Years/Unlimited km

Chev Trailblazer on it’s way

General Motors South Africa has announced that it will be launching the new Trailblazer into the South African market before the end of this year.

The Trailblazer will be an all new entry for General Motors South Africa in the large Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment of the market, says Malcolm Gauld, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for General Motors South Africa. “This great product will further strengthen our Chevrolet product portfolio offering which has rapidly expanded over the past two years. The response from customers has been very favourable with our Chevrolet sales volumes growing by over 50% in 2011 versus 2010.”

The Trailblazer, which is Chevrolet’s toughest and most refined SUV, made its global debut last year at the opening of the Dubai International Motor Show in the Middle East. “We are very excited about the addition of the Trailblazer into our already strong line up of Chevrolet products in the South African market.”

The Trailblazer is a robust seven-seater SUV, providing superior third row seating, exceptional ride comfort and a modern and fresh design.
The vehicle combines the hauling and towing capability of a body-on-frame SUV with the ride comfort and efficiency of a crossover.

Gauld said that the Trailblazer model line-up and pricing would be announced closer to the time of launch.

Chevrolet has recently launched a string of new products, namely the third generation Chevrolet Utility, the Sonic Hatchback (including a diesel model), Sonic Sedan and Captiva Diesel model. “Since its launch in July last year, the Chevrolet Orlando, has already gained a 24% share of the MPV segment,” emphasised Gauld.