Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line review

Ford has been both generous and clever with the Kuga ST line. They offer the driver a responsive fun car to drive with sporty looks and fairly sporty performance and then add dollops of luxury items as standard for a very fair price.

It is both a luxury mid-size SUV and a sporty feeling car at the same time. And very good value for money in its segment.

I really enjoyed driving the ST Line ( note: not ST) Kuga and could live very happily with it even though it is not terribly economical in turbo petrol guise although Ford claims 8.7L/100km. I think most users will average around 10L/100km, although the diesel will be lighter.

Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line

The ST Line badging implies it is not a real ST high performance derivative, but rather has more performance and upgraded suspension than the standard models, a bit like Audi offers the S-Line trim, Mercedes-Benz the AMG Line, and a number of BMW derivatives bear M badges.

The interior is restrained but smart and practical. A very pleasant space to spend time in. The Synch3 infotainment system is one of the best out there. Nothing to fault in that department.

An electric tailgate is now standard on all Kuga derivatives and includes a leg-swing opening function, a feature that allows for hands-free operation of the tailgate (even if the car is locked), as long as the key is in your pocket. The function is activated by swinging your foot under the rear of the car to open the tailgate. The technique needs a little practice, but once mastered its pretty useful.

A nice surprise was the  240-Volt two-pin plug port provided for the rear passengers. Very nifty, I thought.

A reverse camera is standard across the range, so parking is easy. The view from the very comfortable and adjustable driving seat is commanding.

The suspension easily soaks up imperfections in the road and rough surfaces and, on smooth tarmac, the Kuga offers a premium, luxury experience. It drives and feels like a car, albeit higher of the tar.

While the suspension has been tweaked to be firmer for better handling, the engineers have achieved an admirable balance between comfort and sharper handling. Its really very good.

Available in Ambiente, Trend and Titanium specification levels, with 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines or 2.0 TDCi diesel.

The 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine has power and torque figures of 177 kW and 340 Nm, while the diesel gets 132 kW and 400 Nm with up to 40% less consumption than the petrol.

All Kugas have a four-year or 120 000km warranty.

Pricing is from R403,700 to R576,700. Fortunately they are well equipped, so what you expect is what you get.

The KUGA ST LINE SUV 2.0P 6AT AWD we drove costs R561 300, the diesel is R576 700. The model I like is the KUGA 2.0 TDCI TITANIUM POWERSHIFT 6AT AWD SUV at R530 600.

The Kuga is a good size, not too big, but also not cramped. With the the extensive specification, the above average handling and road holding and the great feel in mind, the Kuga must be on your list if you are looking at a medium sized SUV.

 

 

Defender gets a new look

It looks svelt, but can it do veld?

 

Land Rover Defender 110

The off-road icon is back, well soon anyway.
At the heart of Land Rover, the brand, is the Defender. A tough no-nonsense workhorse in the past. The big question with the new one is: Is it as tough as the old Landy?
Hard to say just yet, but there is much to be happy about, on paper at least.
New Defender will be available in 90 (short wheel base) and 110 (long wheel base) body designs, with up to six seats in the 90 and the option of five, six or 5+2 seating in the 110.

Defender remains a beast of burden with a maximum payload of up to 900kg, static roof load of up to 300kg, dynamic roof load of 168kg, towing capacity of 3,500kg and wading depth of up to 900mm. The wheels are still in the corners allowing for excellent approach and departure angles.
A dash-mounted gear shifter is used to accommodate an optional central front ‘jump’ seat, which provides three-abreast seating across the front just like early Land Rovers.

Alex Heslop, Director of Electrical Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover, says: “The new Defender is a future-proofed 4×4 for the 21st century, using the latest technologies to optimise efficiency, enhance capability and revolutionise connectivity. With software updates that are sent over the air and next-generation always-on touchscreen infotainment, new Defender is every bit as pioneering today as the original Land Rover was in 1948.”

The new Defender has Land Rover’s (also new) Electrical Vehicle Architecture, which includes a state-of-the-art forward-facing digital camera, advanced ultrasonic sensors and 3Gbit/s onboard network supporting a comprehensive suite of driver assistance technologies. These include a 3D Surround Camera providing both 360-degree plan and new 3D exterior perspective views of the surrounding area, both off and on road providing enhanced augmented on-screen visualisation when using Tow Sensing, Wade Sensing and Land Rover’s ClearSight Ground View transparent bonnet technology, to improve visibility of the vehicle’s surroundings.

The new body architecture provides ground clearance of 291mm and world-class off-road geometry, giving the 110 approach, breakover and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees (Off Road height) respectively. Landy no longer uses the old ladder-frame chassis but has opted for a new lightweight aluminium monocoque construction to create a much stiffer body structure, they call D7x (for extreme).

When launched locally, diesel power will be provided by a 177kW D240 engine, with sequential twin turbo technology providing 430Nm of torque and fuel economy of 7.7 l/100km and CO2 emissions of 204g/km (NEDC equivalent). Acceleration from 0-100km/h comes in a leisurely 9.1 seconds.
Petrol power comes from a powerful 3.0-litre P400 featuring mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) technology with 294kW and 550Nm. The in-line six-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine features a conventional twin-scroll turbocharger and delivers 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds and claimed fuel consumption of 9.9l/100km with CO2 emissions of 226g/km (NEDC equivalent).

The engines are coupled to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox with high and low range , centre differential and optional Active Locking Rear Differential.

HyperFocal: 0

A new Satin Protective Film option makes the exterior paintwork even more durable. The sustainable, solvent-free and completely recyclable wrap helps protect against everything from car park scratches to bramble rash and will be available as a factory-fitted option with Indus Silver, Gondwana Stone and Pangea Green colours, providing a unique contemporary finish as it protects. Opting for this finish is a no-brainer.
No less than four Accessory Packs are available: The Explorer, Adventure, Country and Urban Packs. I recommend the Adventure pack which features an integrated air compressor, exterior side-mounted gear carrier, seat backpack, portable rinse system, spare wheel cover, bright rear scuff plate and mud flaps.

In addition to the Accessory Packs, new Defender is available with a wide variety of accessories from a remote control electric winch, rooftop tent and inflatable waterproof awnings to more conventional tow bar systems and roof racks.

Prices for the Defender 110 at launch, in the first half of 2020, will start at R910 400. While the expected price of the 90, to follow in the second half of 2020, will start at R830 300 (TBC).

The direct competition is the Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Patrol and various Toyota Land Cruisers.

 

Nissan Micra 2018 review

Nissan Micra

When is a Micra not a Micra? When it is the new Nissan Micra. Then its more like a Renault Clio.

Nissan Micra 2018

The new Micra is much bigger than the original Micra and is effectively the same size as its sibling , the present Clio and a B segment contender. So, new car, new shape, new size. Only the name remains the same.

I personally like the more assertive look and additional space.

The rear three quarter view is particularly striking and pleasing to the eye. The rear door handles are integrated into the black C pillars and almost disappear. The whole rear design has been well executed. The new look in front is more serious and is also a big improvement on the previous model.

The noise levels in the cabin are more than acceptable as is the general ambience. It has a premium feel to it.

The two tone interior is pleasing to the eye and very functional, except for the driver’s seat which I found tended to numb the nether regions on slightly longer drives.

The infotainment system is simple but up-to-date and very easy to use. Bluetooth connectivity for the phone is easy to set up and works flawlessly and is very clear. The air conditioner is not very powerful but will cool the car down after a while and then keep it cool.

The fully functional steering wheel is just right as is the weight of the steering. The clutch, gears, brakes are all well set up except in a particular situation, more of which below.

Fuel consumption will vary between 5L/100km on the open road to slightly over 7L/100km in general driving. Going uphill is a different kettle of fish. The engine only delivers really usable power around 3000 rpm to about 4500. As a result you have to change down probably two gears on a hill to get the revs up so that you can actually go up the hill, and in so doing your consumption will shoot up to 16L/100km or more.

This is perhaps due to the Renault-sourced 0.9-litre, 3-cylinder turbopetrol engine which offers 66 kW and 140 Nm of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, just not having enough grunt.

The new Micra comes well equipped on the safety front with 6-airbags, ABS with EBD, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist and ISOFIX child seat mounts.

The boot is okay and the space for the spare wheel will accommodate a full spare if you don’t like a marie biscuit space saver spare. The new emergency wheels are very good though and will allow you to drive a few hundred km at a safe 80km/h.

Pricing starts at R233 500 for the base model, the mid-level Acenta costs R257 500, while the top-of-the-range model is R272 400. I think the mid-range model hits the sweet spot.

Cars in the same category include the Mazda 2, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio and Peugeot 208.

You get a 6-year/150 000 km warranty and a 3-year/90 000 km service plan thrown in.

Suzuki Dzire 1.2 GL review

Small sedan, big Dzire 

Suzuki is very good at making very good small cars. They confirm this status with the new second generation Dzire, in effect the sedan version of the popular Swift, with which it shares a platform and everything up to the “A” pillar.
Many manufacturers have the two shapes. For example Ford Figo and Toyota Etios have both hatch and sedan versions and the Honda Brio is called the Amaze in sedan guise. But Suzuki deals with the twin style and personality best.

Suzuki Dzire 1.2 GL

“The Dzire is a smoother, smarter design with a character that’s quite different from the Swift hatchback,” Deon Schoeman says in Daily Maverick. He gets it spot on.

An interesting differentiation is used in the trim colour. Swift models have a red and a more sporty theme, while the Dzire has silver accents and is more conservative.
Economy

The tried-and-tested 1.2-litre 4-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol engine produces 61 kW and 113 Nm, which seems a bit pap, but the low kerb weight of under 900 kg and a smooth, quick 5-speed manual gearbox gives the Dzire almost nippy performance. There is enough oomph for safe overtaking, and highway cruising at the legal limit is fairly effortless.

Expect around or just above 5L/100km in normal usage. I got 5.4L/100km which included very windy conditions, hills, town driving and highway cruising at the legal limit.

A new almost classic instrument cluster with a multi-information display is standard. The GL version adds a tachometer, rear air vents, extra 12V socket, audio system with USB and easy-to-use Bluetooth support, steering wheel-mounted controls and electrically adjustable, colour-coded side mirrors. GL specification also includes a foldable rear armrest with integrated cup holders.

The rear legroom is the best in this class, The rear accommodation is generous. It’s spacious, even for adults, with plenty of leg and shoulder room, giving a big-car feel which would be ideal for a taxi or Uber. Or a soccer mom.
The boot can hold 26% more luggage than the old model with 378 L, limited only by the rear seat which cannot fold down to enlarge the boot, but does add security.
At the rear there is an air vent and a separate 12V socket. There’s also a fold-down armrest with two cup holders.

Safety is good for this class with dual front air bags, and ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution.
According to cars.co.za, “The Suzuki Dzire [has a] low price, generous space, and ease of use, the Dzire makes a great argument for simple motoring.” The Dzire is a very capable small car for people wanting to get from A to B easily, reliably and without fuss.

The impression one gets is of a car which is very well put together, solid, frugal and reliable.

The Suzuki Dzire 1.2 GL costs R177 900, which includes a very reassuring 5-year or 200 000 km mechanical warranty and 2-year or 30 000 km service plan.

Some alternatives include the Toyota Etios 1.5 Sprint sedan at R184k, Honda Brio 1.2 Trend sedan at R175, Ford Figo Ambiente 1.5 at R187 200 and of course the slightly more expensive VW Vivo Sedan.

Peugeot 3008 GT-line reviewed

Peugeot 3008 GT-line THP 1.6 Auto

Peugeot 3008 GT-line THP 1.6 Auto

Comfortable. Capable. Chic.

That about sums up the Peugeot 3008 GT-line, except perhaps one should mention it is absolutely loaded with a full-house of tech and it offers good space for a family of four and fuel consumption figures are pretty good. The 3008 must be close to a perfect family car.

All the new Peugeots are good looking cars and the 3008, especially the GT-line is no exception. The flowing lines and proportions are pleasing to the eye. The interior is also successful but different. Inside and out the styling is top drawer, functional, efficient and easy on the eye.

I particularly like the small steering wheel, the beautifully stitched seats, the double row of control buttons (which means the i-cockpit touch screen need not be used all the time) and the general ambience of the cabin.
The interior is very close to being class leading, especially at the front. Brilliant use of space and ergonomic design means that the impression is one of space and comfort.

The i-cockpit infotech system is very up-to-date offering a full digital display which is highly personalisable and offers a user-friendly digital dashboard.

This segment of the car market is a little difficult to pin down as its edges are very blurred. These cars are something between a crossover, sports utility vehicle, softroader and a truncated station wagon. Or even an expanded hatch! Take your pick. Let us call the 3008 a crossover.

On the softroader side the competition includes the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Qashqai. Other crossover/ SUV type vehicles include the Audi Q3, Mazda CX5, VW Tiguan, Haval H6 C, Honda CR-V and Ford Kuga. I am not to sure what to call the BMW X1, a jaded motoring scribe said the first generation was a mistake. But, let’s step on.

Most of these cars are really on-road cars, as is the 3008.

Peugeot 3008 GT-line THP 1.6 Auto

The 1.6 turbo-petrol engine, coupled to the six-speed auto box, is just right for this car giving the right balance between performance and consumption. Peugeot claim 7 L/100km average consumption and a top speed of 201km/h. I don’t know about the top speed but I can say acceleration feels almost nippy and cruising at the legal limit feels effortless. I got a credible 8.4 L/100km. This refined engine is the gem of the PSA stable and is also used in the 308.

With this car Peugeot appear to have taken a giant leap in quality control and engineering. It always feels poised and willing.

As is to be expected the 3008 has a full suite of active and passive safety features.

The 3008 GT-line costs R519 000 which includes a very full specification advanced tech suite and the usual three year or 100 000 km warranty with a 4 year or 60 000 service plan.

Ford EcoSport revisited

When most people think of a compact sports utility vehicle, the EcoSport will come to mind. It was one of the original compact SUV’s.
With the facelifted EcoSport, Ford has wisely not messed with a winning formula. They updated the electronic systems and refreshed the interior. The rest they left mostly as is.

Ford EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium

“Ford has sold more than 45 000 EcoSport units in South Africa since it was launched in 2013, and it has been a major player in its segment ever since thanks to its great looks, impressive space and versatility, superb all-round performance and exceptional value for money,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. He has a point.

What else is there?

For a few rand more the super competent Mazda CX3 is a really good smaller SUV. I am a big fan of the rugged and practical Renault Duster and the quirky Jeep Renegade. Opel offers the Mokka, Honda the interesting BR-V and Toyota the Rush. Peugeot’s 2008 is a different almost left-of-field option.
Newcomers include the Hyundai Kona and Creta, Haval H2 and soon to be launched VW T-Cross.

Whats new?

Ecosport now gets floating central touchscreens up to 8-inches based on Ford’s brilliant SYNC®3 system, which provides connectivity with Navigation, Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiter.
Electronic Stability Control, a minimum of six airbags and rear parking sensors are all standard across the range.

Ford Ecosport

The interior is now more up-market and user-centric, but will still be familiar. I particularly like the 12v power point at the back, the two USB ports in front and the blue lighting at the base of the central cup holders.
The new seat designs are more comfortable (and supportive) for both front and rear occupants and the front seats nogal get warmers.

New alloy wheels complement the rugged, sporty character, and are offered in Gunmetal grey five-spoke 16-inch versions on the Trend series, or striking 17-inch rims on the Titanium. I prefer the former with slightly fatter 55 ratio tyres.

The adjustable boot floor has a new height adjustable floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres. It is a kind of shelf.

Driving safety has been stepped up with standard fitment of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control (TC), as well as Roll Stability Control (RSC) in the EcoBoost range, that adjusts engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control. Additionally, the 1.0 EcoBoost-powered models gain Hill Launch Assist (HLA) that makes pulling off on steep inclines easier, along with Ford’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

 

Trend and Titanium versions offer either six-speed manual gearbox or the latest-generation six-speed automatic box. The fuel consumption during the time I drove a Titanium automatic model was just over 8 L/100km. With a light touch, under 8 L/100km should be easily achievable and nearer 5 on the open road.
The car never feels under powered or unstable. It is really user friendly.

Prices start at R 264 500 for the base 1.5 TDCi Ambiente manual diesel model. The 1.0 EcoBoost Trend six-speed manual is priced at R 287 500 and the automatic at R300 700. The Titanium automatic at R339 800 is R12 000 more than the manual. The later all turbo-petrol engines.

Ford Protect is a four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A four-year/60 000km service plan is included.

Haval H9 reviewed

Be prepared to be surprised with the new big SUV from Haval.

Haval H9 2.0 Petrol 4WD Luxury

The H9 2.0 Petrol 4WD Luxury from Haval breaks new ground in our market. It is an apparently tough offroad capable, luxury seven-seater, real SUV with all the bells and whistles you could wish for. Let’s say it immediately. The H9 is by far the best Chinese vehicle I have ever driven. If it had a Toyota or Hyundai badge it would already be selling hundreds of units a month possibly. It really is that good. Watch this space.

I predict that in five years Haval will have the brand recognition and cachet which Hyundai so richly deserves and enjoys now. Already the H9 outperforms the Sant Fe in some areas, bearing in mind that the new big one from Hyundai has moved upmarket and grown a bit in size.

Competition for the Haval H9 is divided into two camps. Those with real 4×4 capability and softroaders.

Haval H9

The real offroaders include the Suzuki Grand Vitara, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Prado and Fortuner, Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Isuzu mu-X.

Softroaders will include the Kia Sorento, Toyota Rav4, Discovery Sport, Nissan X-trail, VW Tiguan Allspace, Peugeot 3008 and Volvo XC60 AWD.

Looking at the list you can see that the competition is stiff in this segment, so value-for-money will be key.

Viewed from a little distance the H9 looks a bit like a cross between a Land Cruiser and a Patrol, so it looks the part, but it is technically more like a Fortuner. It is a big car but not out of proportion, more fit for purpose.

Haval H9 2.0 Petrol 4WD Luxury interior

Inside the Haval is impressive. The leather front seats offer both heating and cooling and are electrically adjustable, the driver’s eight ways. It is easy to set up a really comfortable driving position. The dash is well equipped and laid out, with an eight-inch touchscreen with satnav, personalisable LCD instrument cluster, three-way climate control and a good sound system. The drive mode controls are on the tunnel between the seats. It has a long list of standard features in both the luxury as well as safety departments. All-in-all an impressive cabin with high perceived quality levels.

You may wonder, can a Chinese brand deliver high quality? Well, Haval is part of GWM which sells a million vehicles a year and their Steed bakkies have been holding up well locally without many complaints from owners. They have around 35 dealers in place already and the list is growing rapidly. In the Cape they have dealers in Malmesbury, Claremont, Goodwood and Cape Gate.

The H9 only comes with a 2.0 L direct-injection turbo-petrol engine delivering 180kW and 350Nm through an eight-speed ZF gearbox and a 4×4 system with eight modes. Borgwarner provides the transfer case, Eaton the limited-slip differential and Bosch the electronic stability control system. Pretty big names backing the off-road performance. It is a pity they do not offer a turbo-diesel variant.

Haval H9

Expect fuel consumption of just under 12 L/100km unless you are off-road when all bets are off. The car is relaxing to drive due partly to the good driving position but also the good marriage between the drivetrain and engine. The H9 will make a Grand Tourer, especially if you are going to the game parks and wilder areas. On highway she just steams along happily at the legal limit.

Safety is taken care of by a full complement of active and passive safety systems.

If value-for-money is important to you, the H9 should be on your shopping list if you require real off-road capability.

For peace of mind the H9 comes with a five year or 100 000 warranty. The five-year or 60 000 service plan and a long and complete list of features is included in the R599 900 list price.

Originally published in AutoSold.