Wheelswrite car of the year 2018

The year of the SUV – 2018

We started 2018 on a pretty high note with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. In many ways just what you would expect an Alfa SUV to be. A big step up for Alfa. What could top it?

Nissan X-trail in Onrus

The next car we tested to really impress was the new Nissan X-trail. At the time I said: “Interestingly the new ‘facelifted’ Nissan X-trail, which I have been driving this week got as many , if not more ‘stop and stares’ (as the Stelvio). Especially men.”

Early in February we reported on the very capable Mitsubishu Sport and later in the month the seriously facelifted Mahindra Pik-Up.

At the end of March we drove two very good SUV’s the “new” Kuga and Mazda CX-5 of which I said at the time: “The Mazda CX-5 is not just another crossover SUV wannabe. It is a refined, well rounded car which leads the way in so many ways.”

Nissan Navara LE 4×2 Auto

In March it was the turn of two very good bakkies. Nissan’s new Navara and Ford’s fancy FX4. The Navara is burly and it’s a bit of a beast and is the basis for a whole slew of models from several brands.
And then perhaps the cat among the pigeons. The Peugeot 3008. The 3008 comes with high specification levels and exceptionally good exterior and classy interior design. It not only looks stunning, it is very clever.

You will notice a lot of SUV’s and crossovers in this list.

The year of the SUV – 2018.

In May we had the pleasure of sampling two German examples of the crossover wave. The spacious Tiguan Allspace and the Opel Grandland. The Allspace is pleasant and easy to drive in town and out touring. VW have created a really comfortable, spacious cabin. The Grandland is based on the same platform as the 3008. Similar substance but very different style.

Mazda MX5

In the spring the fresh new VW Polo GTi really impressed. At the time we said: ”A few months ago we reported about the Mazda MX-5 and how it had a grin factor. You just can’t help grinning while driving it. Well, this new VW Polo GTi also has a huge grin factor.” We really loved the Polo GTi. It gives the Golf GTi a run for its money.
The Peugeot 208 GT was another pleasing car. Similar to the Polo GTi in some respects but very different in others.
I like Suzukis so really looked forward to the new Swift. It is new from the wheels up. I thought it a delightful little runabout.

Early in December I drove two astounding SUV’s. Peugeot’s touring oriented 3008 GT-Line and Haval’s off-road toughie, the H9. Both cars do the job required of them extremely well.

Probably the sweetest car I drove this year is the Mazda MX-5 Targa. A driver’s joy, but a strict two-seater and really a toy, in the sense that it’s whole reason to exist is fun, nothing more, nothing less. The most focused car was without a doubt the Ford Fiesta RS200 Limited Edition,

Ford ST200 LE

fun, fast and almost practical.

So, which to pick?

Must be a SUVish type of vehicle. Surely.

I am tempted to pick the Haval H9, it really is that good, especially if you need low range. The Mazda CX-5 is just such a good car though.
The Peugeot 3008 GT-Line was a pleasant surprise and oh-so capable in its context. Mmmm. Let’s not forget the X-trail and the Allspace.

Damn.

May I pick the SUV as car of the year?

Or just go with the Polo GTi.

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Ford Fiesta ST200 Limited Edition review

Ford Fiesta ST200 Limited Edition

You get the Fiesta. Then you get the Fiesta ST. And then the ST200 Limited Edition. Only 160 of them were brought into SA and they are available in “Storm Grey” metallic only.

The difference between the “normal” ST and the limited edition includes the power output which has been raised from 134 kW to a mighty 147 kW for such a small body. Maximum torque, meanwhile, goes up from 240 Nm to 290 Nm.

Do you really need 290 Nm in a Fiesta? If you want to kick ass you do, oh yes. By the way, a further 11 kW and 30 Nm are available for up to 20 seconds thanks to the engine’s overboost function. Yummy.

This means zero to 100 km/h in 6,7 seconds and a top speed which is electronically limited to 230 km/h.

Enhancing the handling, the limited edition has a rear twistbeam with a claimed 27% more roll stiffness.

Inside are Recaro heated sport seats with partial leather and two-tone seatbelts, nogal.

The interior is well designed and appears to be well put together. The Sony based infotainment system is good but is not the new Synch3 system. Space at the back is limited.

Cars.co.za said of the ST200LE that it is “pointy, agile and heaps of fun. There’s more to the Ford ST200 than just a hot hatch label. It allows the driver to feel the limit better through its steering, the suspension is set up to tip the car into corners from the rear.” We concur.

This limited edition ST200 is designed to put a smile on your face. It really is fun to drive. Handling heaven. The gearbox is oh-so-smooth and is near perfectly mated with the clutch. You will have to look long and hard to find a better combination.

The steering is also just right, not too light and with plenty of feedback. Ford have got the whole package right, I think.

I found it a little “hard”, for everyday use though, bearing in mind that I have been around the block. I think you can tell the difference between an old and a new R5 coin if you drive over them. So I can safely say it is a young man, with petrol in his veins, type of car.

Dynamite, and so a handful when given rein.

Possibly the best little hot hatch in SA, especially at the price.

The ST200 Limited Edition costs R339 900, which is R14 000 more than that standard Fiesta ST.
It comes with a four-year or 120 000 km warranty and a four-year or 60 000 km service plan.

The competition includes the soon to be released Volkswagen Polo GTI which has a 2.0 petrol engine putting out 147 kW from 4 000 rpm, and 320 Nm of torque from just 1 500 rpm. Expected to cost R387 500. To be confirmed next month by VWSA.

The very hot Renault Clio RS220 Trophy puts out 147 kW and 230Nm, does 0 to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds, and hits 230 km/h in a car weighing only 1 170 kg and enjoying a taut and grip-focused chassis, for R434 900.

Ford ST200 LE

Ford Everest 3.2 TDCi Limited 4×4 6AT

Ford Everest 3.2 TDCi Limited 4×4 6AT

The beast from big blue. Revisited

Ford Everest Ltd

Ford Everest Ltd

The model we tested has huge 20″ tyres which may slightly inhibit you in rough terrain. I drove it on soft sand and on a muddy Helderberg 4×4 trail and experienced some slipping on the steep wet sections due to the highway orientated tyres and the, in my opinion, too low profile tyres. But I could go anywhere and with the right tyres, effortlessly.

The engine is the same one as in the bakkie and pushes out 147kW of power and 470Nm of torque. The terrain management system lets you shift-on-the-fly to maximise traction and stability. With 225mm ground clearance, 800mm wading depth, low range and the electronic locking rear differential, going anywhere is just the push of a button away. The system automatically transfers torque between the front and rear wheels with the most grip to provide maximum traction on and off-road.

Ford Everest Interior

Ford have put in Pull-Drift Compensation technology which measures the driver’s steering input, adapts to changing road conditions and helps compensate for slight directional shifts caused by factors such as crowned road surfaces or steady crosswinds. This together with the Watt’s linkage suspension and a silky smooth gearbox makes for an extremely competent ride. Much better than the bakkie, especially on fast gravel roads.

To get a better picture of this slightly bigger car I got my wife to drive it a bit. Here is what Danita has to say:
When I first set eyes on this vehicle I was quite intimidated by its bulk, so my immediate response was a bit on the negative side. I have made up my mind that this was a perfect example of the car that I would NEVER buy.
I nevertheless looked forward to a morning drive on sand, followed by a bit of 4×4.
We started to take pictures and the monster turned out to be quite handsome…beautiful lines and well designed. It stood there…a good height from the ground…proud and ready to please. The word “capable” is such an understatement!
Sooo…I decided to be bold and take it through it’s paces on the Helderberg 4×4 trail, come hell or high water. Well, during the past week it really was hell and high water, which made it….challenging for me and the beast.
I change my tune…I really stand in awe of the sheer power, willingness and capability of this lovely vehicle. It is such a pleasure to drive and not for one moment did I feel scared or in a panic…this was an adrenaline dream!

Ford claims 8.2L/100km but I was getting 10.8, so with its 80 litre tank it has a range of about 750km. Not bad for a vehicle of this size and with this power. It is rated to tow up to 3 tons braked and 750 kg unbraked.

The SUV is loaded with adaptive cruise control with collision warning, pre-collision detect, active park assist and a blind spot information system, not to speak of the automated lights and wipers. Its all top class stuff.

The car has front seat warmers, and seats which fold flat right to the front seat, which would make a great bed in lion country. Something you can’t do in the Fortuner with its silly fold-up third row seats.
Ford’s SYNC® 2 infotainment system has active noise cancellation, Bluetooth and all the goodies you would want in such a system.
Oh, there’s a 230 volt inverter too.

The Everest as tested is R698 900. The moon roof is an extra R10 360. The base model costs R459 900. The top model starts at R706 900.  For both models the warranty is 4yr / 120 000km and comes with a 5yr / 100 000km service plan.

Ford Everest Ltd

Ford Everest Ltd

The Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner are  very different. In town and on the road the Everest completely outboxes the Fortuner, but meets its match off-road. I think the Everest takes it.
Also look at the Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sorent and Hyundai Sante Fe (the latter two not offering low range).

 

Ford-Everest-Ltd-nose

Ranger 3.2 TDCi Double Cab XLT AT 4×4

Ranger 3.2 TDCi Double Cab XLT AT 4×4

Ranger 3.2 TDCi Double Cab XLT AT 4×4

We tested this bakkie before in 2.2 and 3.2 guise but I have to say this facelifted version is even better. Ford has really pulled out all the stops to improve an already good vehicle. The interior sets the standard for the bakkie sector.

You can move effortlessly between 2WD and 4WD high mode or low mode with what Ford calls Shift-on-the-fly. It waltzes over any obstacle effortlessly.

I really like the e-Locking Rear Differential, ESP braking system and the clever underseat storage.
The big turbo diesel puts out a massive 470 @ 1500 – 2750 and achieves a claimed 8.6L/100km. I got just over 10L/100km.

It is a pleasure to drive on and off-road. It has the power. To do almost anything… a bakkie should.

There are a number of trim and equipment levels to choose from

Base – Fleet workhorses: manual windows, vinyl flooring, no ABS or air-con
XL – Mid-level: ABS, ESC, radio with bluetooth, electric windows
XL plus – Heavy duty: like XL but adds 4×4, dual batteries, expanded wiring harness, 17” wheels and AT tyres
XLS – With instrument panel incorporatingSYNC® with a CD player and Bluetooth.
XLT – With even more goodies for the leisure market, and dual colour 4.2-inch TFT screen.
Wildtrak – Top of the range is our equivalent to the Raptor in the bigger US Ford bakkies.

The Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux are somewhat different but they are equals. One does some things better than the other and vice versa.

I personally prefer the Ranger above the HiLux.

The bakkie as tested costs R570 900

Ford Ranger XLT TDCi 3.2 Auto

Ford Ranger XLT TDCi 3.2 Auto

Servicing my car – who is best?

Purchasing & Servicing quality awards

Ipsos, the market research company, measures the Competitive Customer Experience of car owners each year.

Its divided into the buying experience and the quality of servicing. It is split between cars and LCV’s (or bakkies and vans).

Here are the car results for this year.

PURCHASING

Ipsos interviewed more than 23 000 customers about their purchasing and servicing experience in 2015, representing more than 75% of all cars sold, or 15 of the locally available brands. The missing brands include BMW and Hyundai/ Kia.

The biggest changes over the previous survey include a 3.7% improvement in the free of faults result but a 4.7% drop in the handling of queries or faults. So the dealers need a bit of polishing, but the manufacturers are improving.

Over time the quality has been improving and now sits at almost 95% for the industry, up from around 90% in 2004.

The gold medal achievers in the sales department are VW and Audi. GM, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Toyota come next. Ford, Lexus, Renault and Honda also did well.

sales time

“The achievements by the industry overall in our ongoing study over the past four years have been outstanding and are a tribute to staff at the manufacturers’ head offices who are responsible for training and supporting the dealers as well as for the commitment of the dealers themselves. In particular the consistent excellence of Audi, Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen brands must be highlighted for special praise,” said Patrick Busschau, the Ipsos SA Automotive Business Director. “It is amazing how the retail industry manages to lift the bar ever higher each year.”.

SERVICING

The Servicing Experience over Time has improved by 1% a year over the past decade and has now reached 90%.

Customers feel the are more appreciated and  are happy that they are offered transportation to the next destination. They are unhappy about the preparation of the staff and contact about progress.

Interestingly there is no difference between men and women concerning their perception of the servicing experience.

There are big differences between the races.

Servicing Race

Asian, not Indian, customers are the most unhappy while whites are happiest.

And the servicing awards go to:

Servicing winnersAudi received a platinum award for sustained customer satisfaction in both the passenger car purchasing and servicing experience categories, having won gold awards every year from 2012-2015. The Volkswagen brand received a platinum award for the purchasing experience with cars and LCVs from 2012-2015.
Other brands to receive platinum awards were Isuzu for the LCV purchasing experience, while Toyota and Nissan received these prestigious awards for LCV servicing in the period 2012-2015.

It is interesting the BMW withdrew from the research and that Hyundai may be sure of their product quality but not about their customer relations.

 

Ford Ranger line-up gets 2.2 TDCi Automatic

Ford has announced that from July 2016 the 2.2 Duretorq TDCi range will include automatic models.

A total of nine 2.2 TDCi Auto variants will be offered, boosting the revised Ranger line-up to a total of 36 models. It will be available across all three body styles.

Ford_Ranger_XLT_dash

The existing manual version of the Ranger.

“The success of the automatic transmission option on the Ford Ranger is unprecedented, with almost 70% of buyers opting for the auto instead of the manual in the powerful 3.2-litre models,” says Tracey Delate, General Marketing Manager, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“The latest refinements, increased performance and enhanced fuel efficiency of the New Ranger, particularly with the updated 2.2 Duratorq TDCi engine, has led to growing customer interest in the option of an automatic transmission on these models.

In addition, customers will be able to select from all three trim and specification levels in the case of the Ranger Double Cab 2.2 Auto, comprising the entry-level XL, the mid-range XLS and the top-end XLT which provides a peerless combination of luxury and convenience. The Single Cab and Super Cab can be specified in XL and XLS guises for the 2.2 Auto.

Prices will be released later.

Ford Ranger 2.2 XLT

Ford Ranger 2.2 XLT

Ford B-Max review

Ford B-MAX

I have been enjoying the parade of new cars from big blue. The new Ford B-MAX is no exception. Its a cleverly designed premium compact car which can double as a micro van.

The pretty unique feature is the rear doors which slide open, which is great in a garage and in a parking lot and because the middle (or B) pillar is built into the door the opening is as big as a van, or 1.5m wide. Ford calls it the easy access door system, and it is just that.

Ford B-Max

Ford B-Max

The B MAX is built on Ford’s B platform on which it shares with the Fiesta and EcoSport, but the interior feels bigger than that of the Fiesta and the boot is really bigger, squeezed into a just over 4m long car. The boot space is 304 litres when rear seat is being used but enlarges to 1 372 litres with the rear seat folded. The rear seats have seven folding combinations giving a 2.35m long load area.

Ford-B-Max-297_dashIt comes with a choice of one engine in two power outputs and three trim levels, Ambiente, Trend and Titanium but only in manual, at least for now.

The engine is the very efficient and effective 1 litre 3 cylinder EcoBoost unit which provides a zippy 92kw and torque of 171 Nm. The cherry on top is that you can expect around or just above 5 litre/100km.

Electronic stability control and hill launch assist are standard as are all the expected safety systems.
Nice to have items include electric windows, rear parking distance sensors, rear fog lamps, follow me home lights and daytime running lights, and a 1.5 litre bottle holder.

Ford-B-Max-252-bumThe fuel computer displays distance to empty, average fuel consumption, average speed, outside temperature. Included as standard is a rear power point and rear view mirror with reverse camera display, except in the base model.

The sound system includes a good Radio, CD, USB & Aux, Bluetooth, 8 speakers, 4.2″ TFT colour screen and the SYNC Gen1 interactive connectivity system.

I liked this car. It is practical, comfortable, handles and performs well and is a good size being small enough to fit small spaces but big enough to take a proper load and have good road manners. It drives almost as well as the Fiesta.

The Titanium model we drove had the panoramic roof, which gives an impression of space. The interior feels bright and airy.

The range is priced from R223 900 to R274 900.

Possible alternatives include the Ford Ecosport, Toyota Avanza, Honda Mobilio, Kia Soul and Suzuki Ertiga. A direct competitor is the Fiat 500L.

All B-MAXs have a warranty of 4 yr / 120 000km and a service plan for 4 yr / 60 000km.

Ford-B-Max-263-side