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.

 

 

Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-DC Double Cab facelifted

What’s in a face?

Take the facelifted Triton. The nose has changed. So, new face. You either love it, or hate it.

Otherwise there is much to love about the Triton, with a nose job.

Mitsbishi Triton T2.4L DI-DC A/T 4X4

At the very least a car’s face tells us something of the intentions or plan for the car. It it a puppy dog or a bulldog?

Mitsubishi claims “The new face incorporates the new-generation “Dynamic Shield” front design concept. The high hood line and beefier-looking headlights located higher up give the new model a more powerful and imposing frontal appearance.” Moving on…

The Triton has their MIVEC DOHC Intercooled Turbo Diesel with Common Rail Direct Injection producing 133kW@3500rpm and 430Nm@2500rpm using a new 6-speed A/T box.

Mitsubishi claims 8.3L/100km for the Combined Cycle.  I got 9.8L/100km.

The other big news is the new 6-Speed Automatic Transmission with Intelligent Shift Control, delivering the optimum balance of engine power, fuel economy and interior quietness with smooth acceleration at low engine revolutions. The latest version Super Select II 4WD system has an Off-road Mode available on the automatic transmission derivatives. The Off-road mode has GRAVEL, MUD/SNOW, SAND and ROCK (in 4LLc only) settings for improved traction on different road surfaces. This system is possibly the best there is. If you get into trouble you also have a rear diff lock. Triton is rated to tow a braked trailer of 3100kg.

The 4H drive mode distributes torque in a 40:60 ratio between the front and rear wheels via a Torsen limited-slip device for safer on-road driving in slippery conditions such as gravel and wet roads.

Mitsubishi’s unique Super Select II 4WD system offers four different drive modes for improved driver control and passenger safety. The 4H drive mode distributes torque in a 40:60 ratio between the front and rear wheels for safer on-road driving in slippery conditions i.e. dirt, gravel and wet roads. 4HLc (4WD High range with CD locked) distributes torque equally between the front and rear wheels for improved traction on sand, dirt and slippery surfaces like snow. 4LLc (4WD Low range with CD locked) provides greater torque for extreme off-road conditions.

I personally like the interior and the way the Triton just works, design wise (let’s leave the nose out of it) and technically.
“The new Triton is engineered to be tough and looks the part,” says Nic Campbell, General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors South Africa. “We are confident that the upgraded version will build on the popularity of the original Triton and the 40 years of development of this iconic pick-up.”

From the gear selector to the brakes, the steering – all the elements have been honed to be spot on. A more pleasant bakkie to drive will be hard to find.

The Triton has no less than 15 active safety and driver assistance systems, too numerous to mention. Suffice to say it’s got everything you want.

A high-quality look is created with soft pad materials and stitching on the floor console, armrests and parking brake. Functions include tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column with multi-function leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control, to dual-zone automatic air-conditioning and chromatic rear-view mirror.

The electrically adjustable driver’s seat allows you to get comfortable behind the wheel. The other seats are all comfortable and there is adequate legroom at the back.

Also look at the Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50, Nissan Navarra, Toyota HiLux, GWM Steed and Ford Ranger.

The 2.4L DI-DC M/T 4×2 costs R509 995, 2.4L DI-DC A/T 4×2 – R529 995
2.4L DI-DC M/T 4×4 – R569 995 and 2.4L DI-DC A/T 4×4 – R589 995.

Triton is covered by a warranty of 3 years or 100 000km and a 5-year / 90 000 km Service Plan.

The manufacturer’s warranty is for 3 years / 100 000 km. Road Side Assistance is for 5 years with  unlimited mileage. The service plan is for 5 years or 90 000 km. Service Intervals: Every 10 000 km.

Opel Combo Cargo LWB

Remember the three bears and the porridge nursery story? The one bowl was just right. Not too hot or too small. Well Opel has pulled off a similar beautiful story.

Enter the new Combo Cargo Long Wheel Base, a van that is not too big, nor too little. I checked with an electrician, plumber and a carpenter, and they all thought it was just the right size and also priced right.

A bigger sister, the Zafira will be launched soon and will be similar in size as the previous Opel Vivaro van.

Opel Combo Cargo LWB

It is rated for one ton and offers two metres in length and 1.2 high, with 1.2 between the wheel arches in the cargo area. And yet the outside is small enough to fit into a normal parking bay or garage. Braked towing capability is 850kg, while unbraked is 720kg.

The other excellent feature is the cabin. Clever, in one word. It is the World Van of the Year after all.
Above the window is a ‘ledge’ or shelf which would be ideal for a clip board or A4 diary. In the dash is an old fashioned cubbyhole, a slot for something like an order book and a cubicle above the instrument cluster which has a lid and is ideal for keeping petty cash and slips and finally two cup holders. Forward of the gear lever is a space for your phone or tablet, slots for coins, a cavity for a remote and small circular holder.

The doors have the normal space with place for a water bottle and between the seats there is a receptacle for a wallet and a further two cup holders. There is also an additional 12v socket.
The bluetooth telephone system is geared to serve both driver and passenger.
I found the seats to be comfortable and the driving position good. The steering is adjustable for rake and height. The instrumentation and controls are functional and effective.

The cargo area is large (3.9m³) and long enough to hold two motorcycles or four or more mountain bikes. There are six tie down anchors and plenty of notches and holes to attach permanent fixtures and brackets. Fixing points for a roof rack are standard. There is a sixty/ forty full height rear door and doors on both sides in the LWB model. The Short Wheel Base has only one door and a few other minor differences.

Performance is good with a smooth five-speed manual box coupled to a willing 1.6L turbodiesel mill doing service. This van has more than enough power and 230Nm torque. Combined cycle fuel consumption is claimed to be 5L/100km and I think you will get under 6 in general driving and less than 5L/100km on the highway. This van is easy to drive and is more car like than commercial. The speed sensitive steering is almost too light for my taste but is a pleasure in town and makes manoeuvring simple. Speaking of which, I would have liked a rear view camera, but I am sure one would get used to the length very quickly.

It is actually comprehensively equipped with for example hill start assist, stability control, aircon with pollen filter, halogen lights, bluetooth and radio.

Opel have hit the sweet spot with this van, getting the price point, size and capability just right.

The five-seater bus version known as the Life will be available in September.

Warranty is three years or 120 000km and a three year or 60 000km service plan is included.

The direct competition is probably the VW Caddy Maxi and the Nissan NV200. All the other vans are smaller or bigger and easily R100 000 more expensive.
The Opel Combo LWB is listed at R350 000. The little sister short wheel base is R315 000, but remember it only has one side door and can handle a payload of 650kg.

The official website is: https://www.opel.co.za/cars/combo-cargo/model-overview.html

Originally published in Autosold.

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

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.

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.

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.