Opel Driving Dynamics advanced driving course

Opel Driving Dynamics advanced driving course
The advanced on-road driving skills course presented by Yokohama Driving Dynamics at Gerotek is something I have wanted to attend for quite a while now.

Opel Adam S on the skid pan at Gerotek

Opel Adam S on the skid pan at Gerotek

A day at Gerotek with the Opel training team of Marius Janse van Rensburg and Barry Ingle is the stuff of petrolhead dreams.
High speed oval, skidpan manoeuvres, development track runs are all in a day at the on-road driving skills course.
So. Why would you want to spend a day driving fast; losing control, on purpose and practicing high speed lane changes on a very slippery wet surface, nogal; when y0u could, well, read a book, or mow the lawn.

Let me tell you.

You will learn so much about your own driving style and about being a better driver that you will kick yourself for not doing the course earlier. Besides which, its a whole load of fun.
Here’s another good reason. Some insurance companies reduce your premium on proof of attending an advanced driving course.

Marius, our instructor.

Marius, our instructor.

The facilities at Gerotek are simply brilliant. From the lapa where you have lunch and attend the morning briefing to the various tracks and skidpans, everything is top class.
The fleet of Opel cars, from Astra OPC to Adam S to Mocha, provide a car for every taste. I really enjoyed driving the Adam S round the tight development track.
My day on the Yokohama Driving Dynamics driving skills course which was sponsored by Opel started with a briefing which covered the basics of attitude, awareness and defensive driving principles.
We then moved on to the skid pan where we spent the rest of the morning practicing high speed emergency lane changes, regaining control of a vehicle and correcting over- and under steering.
After lunch we went to the development track where we learned about steering, gearing, braking and cornering. We then did 4 sets of 3 laps in the different cars during which the instructors helped us to improve our driving.
The cherry on top was the high speed oval where we workshopped seating positions and steering techniques. The team then demonstrated braking and the distances involved at the various speeds. This was quite an eye opener.

Opel Astra braking hard.

Opel Astra braking hard.

Our final exercise was a set of three 2 lap runs around the oval at high speed. Scary stuff. Its amazing how one develops a kind of tunnel vision when you are on the steep slope on the banked corners. The armco barrier looks very close. I got new respect for Nascar drivers.
During the day we discussed the K53 rules in the context of today’s cars and best practice. Some of the rules are no longer correct. For example K53 says: When coming to a stop, the brake pedal shall be depressed before disengaging the clutch, in order to prevent coasting. In other words K53 tells you to first use the clutch then brake. With modern systems (and at speed) its far better to engage the brakes first and then the clutch. It’s high time K53 was revised.
opel-5-braking-distancesIn South Africa we experience 23.5 accidents per 100 000 people, while the international norm is 17.4, and its only 9.2 in developed countries. Just as scary there is a death every 37 minutes on our roads. 80 percent of the deaths on the country’s roads comprise of adults and males between the ages of 19 and 34. The safest time to travel is between 01:00 and 06:00.
The normal training schedule will be something like this:
08:30 Theoretical presentation
10:00 High speed oval
11:00 Ride and handling
12:00 Straight track
13:00 Lunch in lapa
14:00 Skidpan
16:30 Debrief
The one day Opel Driving Dynamics advanced driving course costs R2250, which includes the cars, the training and lunch.
The Yokohama Isuzu Off-road one day course costs R1140 and the weekend course R3420.
It is best to contact them by email on info@drivingdynamics.co.za, or alternatively phone the office on 011 431 2000.

The grid at the development track

The grid at the development track

Mazda MX-5 2.0L Roadster Coupe STP review

Mazda MX-5 2.0L Roadster Coupe STP

It’s not practical.

Who cares, with the roof down, sun shining, the road open and you are piloting a MX 5 Miata. mazda_mx5_thumbMotoring bliss. Officially its just an MX-5, but I love the Miata moniker; forgive me.

It is a mobile grin generator. You can’t help it.

But does it have a boot?

Well sort of. If you only have a tog bag and a laptop, no worries. Its big enough for a two basket shopping trip. Who needs more? The MX 5 will never pass any pram test, but you could fit one large pack of disposable nappies, but nothing else, in the boot.

If you and your paramour went on a romantic weekend breakaway you would have enough space, just pack sparingly.

Is it very fast?

No, not super fast. On paper 216km/h and 0 to 100 in 7.6 seconds. But its more about how you get there. It feels fast and sure. It sits on the road, with a light touch. I found my self tootling along at a ton quite happily and enjoying the slow lane quite often. The thing is, if you want push on, you can go for it and enjoy that side of this little devil as well. As TopGear said: “A complete sweetie of a roadster… It dances along difficult roads.

Mazda MX5

Mazda MX5

The suspension is set up for overall driving so may be a little soft for outright cornering performance but I like the compromise. It just soaks up bumps and rough spots. Speed bumps don’t worry it at all.

The MX-5 has very good brakes.

Is it noisy?

TopCar says of the MX-5: “It’s got a decent noise to it, zingy and bubbly all at once, none of that active exhaust or dashboard acoustical nonsense here.” I just say it sounds sporty and growly when it should and otherwise just purrs. Perfect.

What, no turbo?

No turbo. Just the smoothest, willingest 2.0 litre four cylinder petrol engine coupled to a slinky short throw 6-speed gearbox and a brilliant clutch which when coupled to a light body of around a ton gives a stunning power to weight ratio. The power output is 118 Kw @ 6000 rpm and max torque is 200 Nm @ 4600 rpm.

Is there space in the cabin?mazda_mx5_dash

What for? Its got two very comfortable seats, a place for your phone and a small cubby between the seats. Oh, and two cup holders. But beware, an almost empty cup can be sucked out of the holder when at full song.

The interior is smart and practical and appears to be well put together, as with all of today’s Mazdas. The heated seats are great, especially with the top down. The steering wheel is highly adjustable and is a comfortable size. There is not a lot of foot space for the driver but the pedals are well set up even if you want to heel-and-toe.

mazdfa_mx5_roof-foldingThe MX-5 is very well equipped with 203 watt Bose audio system, cruise control, a very good air-conditioner, heated leather seats, 7-inch touchscreen (MZD connect), Bluetooth and heated mirrors.

I just loved the fold away canvas roof which takes about 30 seconds to stow or to raise, using one hand and one locking lever.

What else?

Equipment fitted as standard includes automatic LED headlights, daytime running lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, hill hold and idle stop, limited slip differential, as well as all the normal safety tools. In other words  the car is fully equipped straight out of the box.

mazfa_mx5_roof-up-bum

A word of warning. There is no spare wheel. Instead they give you a full tyre repair kit with a compressor.

Biased?

I got a second opinion from my wife in case you thought I was perhaps too emotional about this little motoring gem.

To say compact or small is a severe understatement, so is the word “cute”.
A midnight trip with the roof down and the seat heater on is Sooo incredibly nice it feels totally illegal, actually each and every trip is a mmm (memory making moment)!
Smooth gearbox, very agile, clinging to the road together with an extremely good brake- and sound system is awesome beyond.
I must admit that being so low scares me a bit when changing lanes and there are big delivery vans and buses to take into account. It cannot be easy to see such a little car in your rear or side mirror. It is also quite a scary feeling that you will not stand a good chance of walking away from an accident unscathed. Aluminium is lightweight etc but it feels a bit flimsy when you stop next to something like an Amarok! Even so…..eye candy with illuminated LED eyeliner, super sexy…I really enjoyed this adorable little funmaker…oh yesss!!!

Housekeeping

Mazda claim a combined fuel consumption of 6.7 litres per 100km, I got 6.9L/100km, including some spirited driving, so as far as sports cars go its amazingly frugal.

The Mazda MX-5 must be one of the best toys you can get yourself. Midlife crisis? Nah. Life in a Miata is just too much fun.

Suggested retail of the MX-5 2.0L Roadster Coupe STP is R441,779. For the moment you only get to choose the colour. Simple.

mazda_mx5_frontish

In the second quarter of 2017 a folding hard top or targa model called the Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback, will be launched locally with a choice of automatic or manual gearboxes.

The Mazda MX-5  won the 2016 World Car of the Year award and the World Car Design of the Year, the first time one car has won both awards since the wards were established in 2004.

Price includes a 3-year unlimited km warranty, 3-year service plan, 5-year Corrosion Warranty and 3-year roadside assistance.

There is no real direct competitor to the MX-5 on our roads, but also look at the Toyota 86 (R474 200), Audi TT (R602 000), BMW Z4 (R612 945), BMW 2 220i (R465 554) and VW Golf Cabriolet 1.4 Tsi (R391 800)

Naamsa vehicle sales data for November

Naamsa vehicle sales data for November

Wesbank’s take on November sales. The graphic tells the story.

Locally manufactured vehicles continue to top sales charts. Year-to-date sales indicate that the most popular vehicles are volume sellers from mainstream brands, while the five top-selling vehicles for the year are all built in South Africa.

Ford really struck a chord with SA consumers when they introduced the automatic 2.2 bakkie range. Ranger outselling HiLux by 1 200 units.

Naamsa November vehicle sales

Naamsa November vehicle sales

 

Mazda CX-3 2.0L Dynamic automatic review

Mazda CX-3 2.0L Dynamic automatic

Mazda is back in SA in a big way, with overall sales increasing by over 60% year-on-year. Already their compact SUV, the MX-5, is a best seller and now its smaller sister the CX-3 joins the fray. Expect to see a lot of CX-3s on our roads too.

Mazda CX-3

Mazda CX-3

It looks different to its direct competition, the result of what Mazda called ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’. It is more crossover than SUV.

A highlight is the really very good body supporting, comfortable front seats. The best on a car I have tested the last year, at any price.

The interior is well thought out and has all the things you would want, especially the top two trim levels. The command controls for the audio and information system work well and are easy and quick to grasp. With just the right amount of soft and bright trim to make it pleasant and plenty of storage the cabin matches the promise of the outside. Two prams in the boot if you squeeze a bit.

The CX-3 crossover comes in three trim levels, manual or auto and with the excellent Mazda 2.0 skyactive petrol engine.

This gem of a crossover has sport mode which spices things up immediately. A 2,0 litre four cylinder engine has rarely sounded better. And it goes, due to its 115kW and 204Nm of torque; using as little as 6.5 litres of fuel every 100km. I got 6.9 Litres/100km on my usual route, which is very good. But beware the sport button.

MAZDA_CX3_D_rear

Mazda have produced a sublimely smooth six speed dual clutch automatic gearbox which make the paddles almost superfluous. Working with the paddles in sport mode is fun but they are rarely really needed.

This Mazda feels good on the road. Needless to say it has all the safety and roadholding kit expected of a topnotch car.

I got the impression the car is well put together and should give many years of trouble free motoring. After 90 years of making cars Mazda should know a thing or two about making good cars.

For a second opinion about the first of the new Mazdas we have tested I asked my wife for her thoughts.

I really like the clean lines and profile of this car, it looks cheeky, playful and willing.
The doors feel nice and solid when you open and close them. The interior design is smart and straightforward, from the stitched leather look on the dash to the layout of the instrument panel. Everything is exactly where it should be; easy to control or change during your oh-so-smooth ride. The seats are extremely comfortable, the view is pretty good and I love the growl of the really willing engine.
Although a smaller car, the feeling is of space, especially for the driver.

The Mazda CX-3 2.0L Dynamic automatic is R310 700 as listed.

CX-3 prices range from R274 400 to R351 000.

A 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty, a 5-year Corrosion Warranty and a 3-year service plan is included.

This segment, the small crossover/ SUV, (or stationwagon to use its old name) is brimming with competition. From the funky to practical. Take a look at the Jeep Renegade and its sibling the FIAT 500X, the best selling Ford EcoSport, Renault Captur and Duster, Opel Mokka and the Nissan Juke.

MINI One review

MINI ONE

The MINI One is like a Mini Cooper, only not quite, it’s been trimmed down a bit.

Mini One

Mini One

In its way closer to the original Mini than any of the other modern Minis. So on one level it is a winner. It has a certain stylistic integrity and nostalgic feel to it.

But then you look at what else you could buy and keep a bag full of change and you wonder.

What do I really get in the package MINI calls One?

The engine you get is a three cylinder twin turbo 1.2 unit delivering 75kW and 180Nm. Not too Mini_one_outlineshabby. They claim a very optimistic 4.9litre/100km. I got just under 7 L/100km, which is not bad, but its not even close to 5.

You get a really pleasant driving experience. It’s fun and feels sure footed. I think it sounds fabulous. I just loved the roar of the three cylinder mill being fed by the two turbos.

You get a funky looking car on the outside.

You get a ‘nice’ interior, but nothing to write home about.

You get to drive a MINI. Nice badge.

That’s what you get.

You do not get climate control, onboard computer with consumption figures, front fog lights, multi-function leather sport steering wheel, and so on as standard. You have to buy additional expensive Chilli and Wired accessory packages.

You do not get a big boot or rear doors or windows that can open or that children can see out of.

Mini_one_Jordans

I am a little ambivalent about this ONE. So I got a second opinion, from my wife, Danita.

I grew up with Minis when they were still King- of- the road on the racetrack and the fast forest stages in the Monte Carlo rally.

I fondly think about them as cute, fast and very “agile”. I was extremely excited when we signed for the funky looking tomato red test car.

The outside is still a chubby road clinger look and a real eye catcher. I just love the headlights that “stay behind” when you lift up the bonnet.

Mini_one_dashUnfortunately I was quite disappointed with the interior of the car. The speed dials and layout of the dashboard looks outdated and just too basic. It just did not keep up with the hightech look of the outside. The armrest on the console and inside of the doors are way too high in comparison with the very low bucket seats. The safety belt is not easy too reach, it is too far behind you.

Surprisingly the legroom at the back of this two door car is good. A real pity that the back windows cannot open at all, quite claustrophobic!

But then…we hit the road….Yes yes yesssss!!!! I just love it – fast and footsy, oh man! So…yes you pay big time for the Branding and yes, there are many other options in this price range but oh man if I had that kind of money to spend on toys THIS would be it for sure!!!!!

So there you have it.

The manual costs a whopping R272 000 and the auto an eye watering R290 000. That’s a lot of money for a quite basic little car. But it is different and may be worth a bit of a premium.

Also look at the Mazda 2, Suzuki Swift Sport, Audi A1, Ford Fiesta, VW Polo GTI, Renault Clio, Opel Adam and Fiat 500.

Warranty is 2 years, with no distance limit but 3 years for the paintwork. A service motorplan is available at extra cost.

SAGMJ COTY – Car of the Year South Africa

Semi-finalists for the 2017 COTY

Following a vote by the full membership of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ), on new vehicle ranges introduced to the South African new car market within the COTY eligibility period, the SAGMJ is proud to announce the semi-finalist contenders for the 2017 WesBank South African Car of the Year competition (COTY), in alphabetical order:

· AUDI A4

· AUDI Q7

· BMW 7 SERIES

· BMW X1

· BMW M2

· FORD FIGO

· FORD EVEREST

· HONDA CIVIC

· HYUNDAI TUCSON

· JAGUAR F-PACE

· MAZDA CX-3

· MAZDA MX-5

· MERCEDES E-CLASS

· OPEL ASTRA

· RENAULT KADJAR

· SUZUKI VITARA

· TOYOTA FORTUNER

· TOYOTA HILUX

· VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN

· VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT

What do you think? Is this list a fair and true reflection of the new cars that made a difference this year?

Toyota HiLux 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider review

Toyota HiLux 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Raider

HiLux is dead, long live HiLux. The king of the bakkie world is back with a bang.

Toyota HiLux 2.8

Toyota HiLux 2.8

The latest HiLux is a big improvement over the previous model in almost every way, but especially in the important aspects like ride quality, handling and fuel consumption.

My wife, Danita, was impressed by how much better the ride is of the new HiLux. She says it does not feel like a truck anymore. She could even see over the bonnet.

“What I really liked was the smoothness of going from wet muddy conditions onto gravel, thick sand and the brutal climbing power in very windy conditions on the slippery slopes of the mountains above Kleinmond! I really like it’s versatility … a stylish loyal workhorse clad in an elegant suit.  I felt safe inside,  protected by the powerful engine and strong body. I have never been quite so relaxed during a 4×4 trip in challenging weather conditions!”

HiLux_2.8-dashVisibility is good for a double cab. The whole aspect of handling and control has been taken to a new level and is now much easier and you feel more in control. Although it is substantially bigger it doesn’t feel clumsy or vague to drive.

HiLux is selling very well, so it must be ticking the right boxes. I thought the Toyota engineers have done a good job of refining what was in its day a highly competent bakkie.

The new Hilux is available in four grades, from workhorse to Raider with SRX in the middle. There is also a specialist SR spec for the mining industry. In total there are 23 models.

Drive Mode Select (Eco and Sport) with iMT

The gearbox is really good. Toyota is using an intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) on top models.  iMT effectively incorporates rev-matching technology on both up- and downshifts, to provide a smooth drive as well as assisting drivers with smooth take-offs.

Using the 4WD change-over switch, the driver can select between 2WD, 4WD and 4WD with low range. The system allows the driver to switch between 2WD and 4WD ‘High’ on the fly, up to speeds of 50 km/h

HiLux_2.8-rear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Active Traction Control system (A-TRC) found in the Land Cruiser family of vehicles is now also fitted to top HiLux models. A-TRC uses a combination of engine torque control and brake pressure modulation to provide maximum traction under most conditions.

Toyota claims 7.1 litres per 100 km. I got just over 8L/100km, making this bakkie light on fuel.  The 2.8 diesel delivers 130 kW and  420Nm from 1600 to 2400 rpm. The 2.8 GD-6 4×4 models allow a solid 3.5 tons of towing capability.

The eighth-generation HiLux, Toyota says is fit-for-purpose. After a week at the wheel that is my overriding impression. They know how to build bakkies having sold HiLuxes since 1969.

Little nitpick niggles

The rear bumper sticks out quite a bit from the body and may snag things especially in the veld butHiLux_2.8-nose also add wind resistance.

The rear legroom is still tight and not as good as the competition.

The infotainment screen and instrumentation is much better than the previous model but has not quite caught up to the Ranger and KB.

The bakkie we tested cost R529 900.

Pricing is as follows: Single cab:  From R228 900 to R 435 900
Xtra cab: From R333 900 to R470 900
Double cab: From R 377 900 to R593 900

There is a 5 year or 90 000 kilometre service plan. The standard factory warranty provides cover for 3 years or 100 000 km, but you can extend it to 6 years or 200 000km for R7 200.

Bear in mind four new bakkies are coming to market in 2016/17. They are the new Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navarra as well as the launch of the FIAT Fullback and Mercedes bakkie.

The Ford Ranger and Isuzu KB series are formidable competition. VW Amarok will catch up when it gets its facelift and new engines soon.

Also have a look at the two Steed ranges from GWM. You may just be very surprised.