VW Caddy Maxi Trendline 2.0 TDI DSG review (Republished)

Caddy Maxi Trendline 2.0 TDI DSG (Previously published)

VW dominates the small van and minibus market in SA. Just look around and see how many couriers and locksmiths and so on drive them.

VW Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI DSG

VW Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI DSG

The Caddy (micro) bus gets that balance between workhorse and leisure vehicle just about right.

VW Caddy Maxi

VW Caddy Maxi

I found it a very comfortable, easy to drive, powerful, multi purpose MPV. Although based on the commercial van it is very car like and even mildly luxurious in its fit and finish. You don’t feel as if you are in a bus. It handles well even in high wind and rainy conditions.

Noise levels are also well controlled.

Interior equipment is typical VW as is the look and feel, if slightly old school compared to their latest cars, but nothing to bother you.

If you have a big family or have to move a team the Caddy could be very handy especially this slightly bigger Maxi version.

The manufacturer says you can get to 186km/h and 100km/h in 10.9 seconds. I can tell you that this 103kW diesel performs very well and makes driving effortless, especially with the 6-speed DSG box.

VW claims 6.3 litres/ 100km, but I could only manage 6.8L/100km, which is still excellent and gives a range of around 900km+ on a 55 litre tank in highway conditions (or 6L/100km, or better).

VW_Caddy_open

Options fitted to our test car include Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, Multifuction steering wheel, park distance control with rear camera, comfort package, Fortaleza alloy wheels and towbar.

Price as standard: R431 600. The panel van starts at R315 000.

We tested the Maxi version. There is also the smaller standard Caddy which is R50 000 cheaper, but the space and ride quality of the Maxi gets my vote.

Its nearest competition is the much cheaper Ford Tourneo Connect or Nissan NV200 , its sibling the VW Touran and maybe the slightly smaller Suzuki Ertiga.

It comes with a 3 year or 120 000km warranty and 3 year 60 000km service plan.

VW_Caddy_Maxi_CapePoint

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Ford Raptor hatches

It’s fierce, it is fast and it is furious. It is also wider, rides higher and is brilliant in sand and on fast Kalahari tracks.

It is the new Ford Ranger Raptor. The ultimate big boy’s toy.

Ford Ranger Raptor

Although the new Raptor is based on the Ranger platform, it is a very different beast. The development team were given a blank cheque and told to make the fastest off-road bakkie, perhaps inspired by the very rapid US F-150 based Raptor.

Ranger Raptor suspension

They started with the chassis, which they widened by 150mm, strengthened and stiffened. An entirely new suspension was developed by Ford Australia which includes high performance Fox shocks Position Sensitive Damping, a Watts linkage at the back (from the Everset), forged aluminium upper control arms and cast aluminium lower control arms. This gives the Raptor 32% more travel at the front and 22% at the rear. An enhanced version of Ford Stability Control incorporating Roll Mitigation Function and Electronic Stability Control; Trailer Sway Control; Hill Start Assist; Hill Descent Control and Load Adaptive Control helps keep things under control.

“The standout experience of the Ranger Raptor, hands down, is how far you can push it off-road versus any other available standard production road vehicle, and still provide amazing ride comfort on-road,” says Damien Ross, chief program engineer, Ford Ranger Raptor. BF Goodrich developed new 285/70 R17 all-terrain tyres specially for the Raptor.

Top speed is governed at 178km/h due to the tyres. The Raptor cabin is exceptionally quiet when cruising on the highway.  This is due to a combination of good tyre design, noise cancelling technology and double glazing for the side windows.

The new suspension and tyres give the Raptor a ground clearance of 283mm and a wading depth of 870 mm.

Ford Ranger Raptor at full tilt

The 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo engine gets quite growly when pushed, but pleasantly so, producing a very useful 157kW and 500Nm and is mated to Ford’s advanced new 10-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters. A unique transmission calibration also includes a Live In Drive (LID) function enabling prompt manual gear selection override.

During a drive from Upington to Goera Pan we got 9.7 L/100km at a steady 120 km/h but consumption  goes up to 16 odd at 160km/h. That is still not bad for a big bakkie.

This bakkie handles beautifully both on and off-road.  Three drive settings –  2H, 4H and 4L and six modes provide the magic. If you want to have fun you select Baja mode, which is one of the 6 modes of what Ford calls the Terrain Management System: normal, sport, sand, snow, mud and fun, er, Baja. Systems such as Traction Control are pared back to allow more spirited off-road driving, while gear selection is optimised for maximum performance, holding gears longer and downshifting more aggressively.

Driving on the Goera Pan on a specially laid out “rally” track with a variety of surfaces, bumps, dips, very soft sand, hard stoney packed stretches was an eye opener. Especially when Gareth Woolridge took the wheel of the Raptor.

The interior of the Raptor is about function. It is effectively a sports car. The blue stitching on the top of the dash and on the  really comfortable and supportive seats which are covered in technical suede add a light touch. The instrumentation is top notch, especially the “trip computer” which is actually a whole lot more. Ford’s Synch 3 infotainment system is good and easy to use and has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto . The navigation is by “Maps for Africa”  and comes with an update licence for 5 years.

There are extra ports at the back.

The Electronic Power Assist Steering (EPAS) is also linked to the TMS, providing varying levels of assistance and responsiveness according to the specific drive mode selected

The exterior is quite butch but bakkie like. Personally I think it fits the bill, especially in grey and white, although most of the media contingent like the blue version. Raptor looks the part, the big bruiser from the blue oval. Other bakkies just look peh in comparison.

The actual colours are: Ford Performance Blue, Colorado Red, Absolute Black, Frozen White and Conquer Grey, with contrasting Dyno Grey accents.

The Raptor is about going very fast over sandy or open terrain. It is a high performance vehicle. The looks, the interior, the finish, (good as they all are) are somewhat immaterial. It is the go that counts.

Raptor has all the safety systems and equipment of the normal Ranger.

The retail price of R786 400 is reasonable in the context of the delivery.

All Ford Rangers come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90 000km service plan is included, with 15 000km service intervals.

Ford Fiesta Diesel

Driving Ford’s little oil burner is a real pleasure. It is an example of a design and engineering team getting it right.

The balance between performance and comfort, power and economy, price and value seems to be spot on. The driving dynamics are superb and build quality is very good.

Ford Fiesta Diesel

The new Fiestas look and are bigger than the old model, which is now called the Figo. It feels that the usable space is both bigger and more practical as is the boot. Overall this new little Ford looks good inside and out.

The Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend 6 MT is the model name of the Fiesta I drove. That means it is a 6-speed manual turbo diesel with the Trend or standard trim level. The top specification is the Titanium, but is not available with a diesel engine.

Ford’s Synch III infotainment system with voice control and Bluetooth is a joy to use. It is easy to set up, easy to understand and easy to use. There are two USB ports with charging functionality, integration with you cell phone and a colour touchscreen. Directly in front of the driver is an additional trip computer display with several options.

Standard equipment includes controls on steering wheel, daytime running lights, halogen headlamps, airconditioner, hill launch assist and auto stop – start.

Safety kit is comprehensive and includes ABS brakes with brakeforce assist and distribution control, traction control, airbags, front fog lights, cornering lamps and reverse parking sensors.

Fuel consumption is claimed to be 3.3L/100km but expect 4L/100km on the open road and around 5.5L/100km in town, which in real terms is good.

Fiesta is fun to drive, with excellent road manners, nicely weighted steering and brakes, a feeling of woema when you put foot and an oh-so-smooth gearbox.

This Fiesta raises the bar and is the benchmark for how a small car should drive.

Equipment included in the standard price surpasses that of most of the competition which means you are actually getting good value for money.

This is a car I have really enjoyed to drive. I would also consider the automatic 1.0 T turbo-petrol model which is priced at R277 300 and may be the sweet spot of the range.

The diesel Trend Fiesta is listed at R292 500. The range starts at R261 900 and tops out at R310 600.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120 000km and the base price includes a 4 year or 60 000 km service plan.

The direct competition includes its own sibling, the Figo which is the previous Fiesta, the VW Polo and Vivo, Mazda 2, Suzuki Baleno, Kia Rio, Honda Jazz and Hyundai i20.

Nissan Navara 4×2 review

Nissan Navarra 2.3D LE 4X2 AT DC

After building bakkies for 77 years for its own brand, among them the evergreen NP300 Hardbody and the 1400 of my youth; and now building bakkies for Renault and Mercedes as well you would be forgiven for thinking they know how to build the things. Judging by the Navara, they do know.

The Navara is very close to the complete bakkie. Space, performance, poise, great fuel consumption, comfort and very capable, this Nissan does it all.

Nissan Navara LE 4×2 Auto

The specification level on this bakkie is very high. From things you expect like fog lights to some more exotic items like heated door mirrors. It is a match for any SUV when it comes to equipment.
Leather seats, power steering, climate control, infotainment centre, it has all the stuff you may want. A nice touch is a hollow in the dash with a power point, ideal for any powered electronic equipment from GPS to dashcam.

This Navara has no less than 37 safety and security items from ABS to VDC (vehicle dynamic control) check them out on the website for yourself at https://www.nissan.co.za/vehicles/new/New-Navara/Specifications.html#grade-D23-3|equipment.

I particularly love the rear camera with sensors and the 360° camera system which displays a rear image and an overhead image in the rear mirror. It makes this rather large and very long bakkie much more manoeuvrable and somehow smaller.

The cabin has been well designed and appears to be well screwed together. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and very comfortable. Rear legroom is good. There are a number of storage bins and places to keep things.

The highly capable 2.3 L twin-turbo common rail direct injection diesel engine pushes out a very respectable 140kW and 450Nm. Coupled with the smooth optional 7-speed automatic transmission as was the case in the bakkie we tested, it is a joy to drive and much more like a car than a truck, but you can still tow a 3,5 ton braked trailer and you have 229mm ground clearance.

The heavy duty 5-link coil rear spring suspension probably helps to make it act more like an SUV as well.
Nissan claim a combined average fuel consumption of 7 L/100 km, and the bakkie I drove indicated a lifetime economy of just that, but I drove mostly in town and averaged around 11 L/100 km. Still good for a vehicle this size.

At the back the Utili-track tie down system in the 1,5 m loadbay is a boon. The 1,36 m wide tailgate can be opened with one hand and appears to be very sturdy.
We previously tested the 4×4 and found it to be capable off-road. We can say that this 4×2 is really capable on road. Not having to lug the extra 4×4 kit wherever you go means all round performance is better and fuel economy even more so.

Nissan Navara LE 4×2

The Navara competes directly with the Mercedes X class, Volkswage Amarok, Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux. The Isuzu D-max is more truck-like and the Mitsubishi Triton slightly smaller and more wieldy. Don’t forget the super tough Mahindra and the capable and extremely good value for money GWM Steed 5 and slightly bigger Steed 6.

Prices start at R484 900 for the SE Manual, we tested the 4×2 LE Auto at R575 500.
Three years or 90 000 km is the warranty you get.

Mahindra KUV 100 Nxt review

Mahindra KUV100 NXT

Small crossovers are becoming all the rage in town. There still only one real small off-road SUV, the Suzuki Jimny. All the others are on-road cars.

Just under, or around R200k you actually get a few choices. Alternatives include the Suzuki Ignis (R180k), Honda BR-V (R249k), Renault Sandero (171 900), Haval H1 (R177) and the Mahindra KUV 100 starting at R160k. My pick of the bunch is either Sandero or Ignis.

Autotrader says the KUV 100 “cleverly sidesteps the pothole of trying to compete against the exceptionally popular Polo Vivo or similar – instead, it aims to offer buyers the lowest-priced new cross-over SUV on the market. “
Mahindra’s KUV is bigger inside than you think, excluding the tiny boot which has a very high sill. In short, it has the cabin space of a small SUV-size vehicle, but the length of a hatch.

Mahindra have been building jeep-like vehicles and bakkies for many years and do know what they are doing. The little three-cylinder 1,2 mFalcon D75 turbo-diesel engine produces 57 kW and 190 Nm. The car feels gutsy and once the turbo kicks in, has lots of go. The gearbox and clutch combine well with the engine and are more than adequate for the job on hand.

Mahindra KUV 100 NXT

The steering is quite light and more than a little vague, but you can turn on a tickey.
In the cabin you quickly see where they saved money. I found the seats a little thin and almost flimsy.
The centre console is a large hang-down panel, with 3 rotary controls for the aircon. The gear lever is on the console next to the steering wheel, within easy reach and with short shifts.

The parking brake is really old-school and like bakkies of twenty years ago, you pull a handle and twist to engage. The audio switch is small and fiddly, and the centre controls screen is small, flanked by buttons which have the set menu access like Info and Phone, and 4 inner buttons which correspond to the current screen menu displayed.

There are steering-mounted controls for audio and Bluetooth phone, and a USB port on the upper console.
The Mahindra KUV100 comes in 3 spec level options: K4+, K6+ and K8.
All KUV100 Nxt models ship standard with dual front airbags and ABS, with K6+ and K8 variants adding EBD, automatic door locks and an alarm.

Although there is an ECO button it is best ignored. Keep the KUV in PWR mode, which is normal power anyway. Otherwise it is super pap.
You can switch the stop/start mode off with a button to the right of the steering wheel marked ESS.

The model we drove was the top of the range Mahindra KUV100 Nxt K8 Diesel at R219 999.
We have not driven the petrol version, but can say the diesel is a joy. Expect around 5 L/100km in mixed driving.

This car is not meant for long-haul highway driving, off-road excursions are large framed people.
Expect a cabin facelift in 2019. The centre panel will be upgraded.

A three-year/100 000 km warranty comes standard, while K6+ and K8 models also feature a three-year/50 000 km service plan.

Originally published in AutoSold.

Volkswagen Crafter review

VW Crafter 35 2.0-litre TDI

Driving the new Crafter van from VW is easy. The systems and engineering built into this bigger van in the VW range make this commercial vehicle almost car-like, except of course the sheer length which is something which you have to get used to.

The cabin is comfortable and has a host of storage bins and features to make the life of the crew as easy as possible which includes as standard electric windows, central locking with wireless remote control and practical and ergonomically designed storage features for a mobile phone, laptop and tablet, folding rule and working gloves.

The seats ate really comfortable, the steering two way adjustable, and the visibility good. The steering wheel and instruments remind one of an earlier generation Golf. There is a rear camera available as an extra.

Acceleration is surprisingly nippy for a big van but the top speed is governed at around 105 km/h. The roofline is quite high so you have to learn to watch the height of where you want to go. The length means you have to plan your parking and bear in mind how you ‘cut’ your corners.

As a panel van and Kombi, the new Crafter is available in various lengths (5986 mm, 6836 mm or, for the panel van, 7391 mm as well) and heights (2355 mm, 2625 mm or, for the panel van, 2637 mm as well).

Customers have a choice between front and rear wheel drive. The Crafter has 103 kW of power. The 4-cylinder 2 litreTDI engine has a torque of 340 Nm and fuel consumption of between 7.3 to 7.6 litres/100km depending on the model according to VW.

Safety features include a side-wind compensation system, Hill Hold Assist and Automatic Post-Collision Braking

System and a steering wheel with height and telescoping adjustment.

Available as an option are a second compressor for refrigeration or fresh produce applications, four variants of a second battery and a second air conditioner.

Costs for the range start with the Crafter 35 (MCV) Panel Van at R509 700.
The long wheel base 50 LWB Panel Van costs R625 800.
The top of the range 50 LWB with overhang Panel Van is R635 800.

The new Crafter comes standard with a 2 year unlimited kilometre Manufacturer Warranty, 5 year or 120 000km Genuine Automotion Service Plan and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. The service interval is 20 000km.

The competition includes Iveco Daily, Mercedes Benz Sprinter, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato.

VW Crafter

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.