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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Renault Captur review

Renault Captur

The Captur is a sexy looking little crossover, about the same size as the Citeoën Cactus we tested earlier. You can really play with colour and colour combinations. I personally liked the warm cream colour of the test unit which Renault calls ivory white.

Renault-Captur-149-captured

The Captur is fairly meek in ECO mode but mildly gnarly in standard mode in which the car comes alive and becomes fun and fairly sure footed thanks in part to the McPherson front suspension with rectangular lower arm and anti-roll bar.

Performance is very impressive for a 898cc engine. Of course the advanced management and turbocharging make this little petrol mill a little performer in overboost mode putting out 70kW and 150 Nm.

I got 6.7 Litre/100km of mixed driving, although Renault claim 4.9L/100km, which I believe is not possible in real world driving.

Renault-Captur-122-side

It has a double layer boot above the Marie biscuit spare, with a parcel shelf about 10cm above the spare. The boot itself will just pass the pram test. The car interior overall is smaller than it appears from outside.

There is a very interesting backseat mechanism. The rear bench does not flip over but rather folds down and shifts forward. It is a bit unusual, but it is effective.

Renault-Captur-Lourensford-073-dash

Speaking of seats, as per all modern Renaults, the seats are comfortable and adjust enough to find a comfortable position. They are also a handy hip height making entry and egress a pleasure.

The Captur is a pleasure to drive but is not quite as sporty as she looks.

Prices are as follows:

Captur Expression 66kW Turbo              R219 900
Captur Dynamique 66kW Turbo             R239 900
Captur Dynamique 88kW EDC Turbo   R279 900

Renault-Captur-053-nose

Also look at the Citeoën Cactus, Renault Duster and Stepway, Nissan Juke, Suzuki Vitara.

The warranty is 5 years or 150 00km.

Renault Kadjar

Renault Kadjar

Another month, another cross-over. And so we get the Kadjar.

Renault says the Kadjar is the result of the integration of three vehicle categories: capable SUV, dynamic hatch and versatile sportswagon. So its actually a kind of cramped station wagon on stilts, and quite expensive.

The line-up comprises three models all powered by forced induction turbo engines. At the top end of the range is the turbo diesel-powered Dynamique 96kW 1.6 dCi (320Nm) 4×4 followed by the turbo petrol-powered Dynamique 96kW (205Nm) and entry-level Expression variants.

The equipment levels are quite good, especially the safety aspects, with six active devices as well as air bags, isofix points and so on.

Renault Kadjar (Quickpic)

Renault Kadjar (Quickpic)

On paper the cars appear to be powerful and frugal and should drive pleasantly.

The Kadjar lcomes standard with a 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. In addition the range comes standard with a 5-year/90 000km service plan. Services take place at 15 000km intervals.

– Renault Kadjar petrol Expression 96kW Turbo R 359 900

– Renault Kadjar petrol Dynamique 96kW Turbo R 384 900

– Renault Kadjar diesel Dynamique 96kW dCi 4×4 R 449 900

Maybe the Duster is still a better buy. Even the Stepway. You can get two Stepways for the price.

After we get to actually drive a Kadjar we will do a proper review.

Duster 1.5 dCI Dynamique 4×2 Review

Duster 1.5 dCI Dynamique 4×2

The new facelifted and updated Duster now built in Romania has a few new elements: New alloy rims. Parking distance control (standard).Patterned fabric replaces plain seat and door panel design. 7” touchscreen satnav (Dynamique variants only). Cruise control is now standard.  Leather trim and seats are optional on all three derivatives.

Renault-Duster-Facelift-dCi-4x2-022-front

Product manager at Renault SA Jeffrey Allison said: “Moving production to Pitesti provides us with the opportunity to refresh Duster within a sharper turnaround time – good for the brand and good for our customers here in SA.”

I think that the quality has also been lifted.

This car is keen to go. Its power, and more to the point, torque to weight ratio is superb. You can literally stay in sixth gear when overtaking, or change down to fifth and blast past. It is a blast.

I got 6.7  litres/100km in mixed driving on my usual route which includes town, highway and a ten storey parking garage. You may get even better figures even as low as 5L/100km.

Renault-Duster-Facelift-dCi-4x2-103-dashI found the car suitably well equipped with cruise control, climate control, a great sound system but a slightly dodgy GPS concerning Cape Town map coverage. This may be upgradable.

The balance of the Duster is just so very good. It weighs really good power with really good fuel consumption. Acceleration is better than required for normal driving and top speed is way over 120km/h. The size is also good, not too big, not too little.

I prefer it to the more expensive Captur.

Consumption claimed of less than 5,  I got just less than 7 litre/100km

Duster 1.6 Expression 4×2 R222 900
Duster 1.6 Dynamique 4×2 R249 900
Duster 1.5 dCI Dynamique 4×2 R269 900
Duster 1.5 dCI Dynamique 4×4 R289 900

The Duster is sold with a five-year or 150 000km mechanical warranty, a three-year or 45 000km service plan (service intervals at 15 000km) and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Renault-Duster-Facelift-dCi-4x2-066-rear

Also look at the Renault Captur, Ford EcoSport, Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Citroen Cactus, Suzuki SX4

Renault Sandero Turbo Dynamique review

Renault-Sandero-2-039New Renault Sandero Turbo Dynamique

The new Renault Sandero should be the car that really puts Renault on the map in South Africa. It should sell in droves.  It is good looking, handles nicely, is guaranteed for 5 years and is very affordable.

The Sandero is a budget small family car with a generous boot.

In Dynamique guise it has all the bells and whistles and is really good value for money.

All new Sanderos come with a full suite of electronic safety aids, even hill start assist, front airbags and ISO Renault-Sandero-2-012childseat anchors. They also all have central locking, electric front windows, radio fingertip controls, Bluetooth and power steering.

The top model of the new Sandero adds airconditioning, cruise control, onboard computer, rear electric windows, 2 more airbags and foglamps.

In a nutshell, the new Sandero is well equipped.

I found the seats comfortable. The fabric looks and feels good and appears to be durable. The interior is functional, smart and seems well put together. Five adults can fit in, if for shortish distances. It also has a large boot.

The multi-function steering wheel feels good and the steering is good for its class and actually gives you feedback.

The engine is a new generation turbo petrol delivering 66kW and 135Nm of torque. Do not worry that it is a 3 cylinder 900cc unit. It has a very low inertia turbo combined with Variable Valve Timing which results in exceptional performance.  All the manufacturers are going in this direction. It felt more powerful to me than a typical German 1.2 turbodiesel engine. I found it to be willing and well suited to the Sandero.

Renault-Sandero-2-112

Handling and roadholding is good and at least matches its competition. It is based on the same platform as the fourth generation Clio so inherits the good road manners of its sibling.

The first three gears are quite close, giving you lots of grunt when you need it, but the last two are designed for the open road and good economy.

Renault claims a mixed cycle fuel consumption of 5.2 litre per 100km. This is very optimistic. Expect between 6 and 7 l/100km. Top speed is 175km/h and you will get to 100km/h in just over 11 seconds.

The plus factors for this car are:Renault-Sandero-2-077

Interior space and a big boot

Great price, exceptional value

Good looks, modern design

Expansive standard equipment list

I think the new Sandero has shifted the goalposts in the affordable small car market. It is a very good affordable small car with space to seat 4 adults in comfort. You get a lot of car for your money.

It should make a good business car, especially considering the five year warranty.

Price as tested: R141 500. The base model Expression is R123 900 (R133 900 with aircon).

Warranty is a very good 5 years or 150 000 and the service plan is for 2 years or 30 000km.

Also look at the Toyota Etios, Volkswagen Polo Vivo and Ford Figo.

Renault Sandero 66kw turbo Stepway review

Sandero-Stepway-thumbRenault Sandero Stepway

The original Stepway was the best-selling model in the previous Sandrero range as its raised ride height, adventure aura and value proposition made it the most desirable model. I predict the same is going to happen with these new cars. Renault have a winner, and we as consumers also get to win. A good car, great features and excellent price.

The Sandero Stepway is an affordable yet classy small car with a tougher than usual stance, more ride height, pleasant handling and well equipped interior with fair space and good finish . It is great value for money and surprises with its comprehensive levels of equipment and good handling for a slightly tall car.

Sandero Stepway 66kW 2014

Sandero Stepway 66kW 2014

The interior of the Sandero is very practical and comes with electric windows, air-conditioning, sound system, finger tip controls, Bluetooth, cruise control and central locking. A nice touch is the chunky leather clad steering wheel and gear knob. A major step up from the previous generation. The cabin is much more upmarket than the original model. It also appears to be well put together.

Sandero Stepway 2014 dash

Sandero Stepway 2014 dash

The cloth covered seats look great and are comfortable over normal distances. The back seats fold down in a 60/40 split while the boot offers luggage capacity of 292 litres.

The new cutting edge three-cylinder 1-litre turbo beats the 1.6-litre engine used in the previous Stepway in every way – power, fuel consumption and performance. This is the future. Together with Ford’s amazing little three cylinder these engines show the way forward. Acceleration is better than average for B segment cars and fuel consumption much less than average at around 6 litre/100km. A win-win situation.

The Stepway has all the required safety features from the basics such as Emergency Brake Assist, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability programme to hill start assist and rear parking sensors.

The Stepway will make an excellent little workhorse that will be equally at home on gravel roads as in town. I enjoyed the week I spent driving it. There was always enough power and it is big enough to sit properly on the road. Renault have done well with this one.

The Stepway costs around R15 000 more than the standard Sandero. You get extra ground clearance (29mm), roof rails, skid panels, styling differences, 16” wheels and rear parking sensors. You also get a better looking car, in my opinion.

Renault Sandero Stepway

Renault Sandero Stepway

Alternatives include the Ford Ecoboost, Renault’s own Duster, VW VivoMaxx and the Toyota Etios Cross; all (except the Etios) substantially more expensive.

The Renault Sandero Stepway costs R159 900, that’s not much of a premium over the Sandero Dynamique at R141 500.

The Stepway comes with an excellent five-year or 150 000km warranty and a two-year or 30 000km service plan.

 

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