Nissan Navara 4×2 review

Nissan Navarra 2.3D LE 4X2 AT DC

After building bakkies for 77 years for its own brand, among them the evergreen NP300 Hardbody and the 1400 of my youth; and now building bakkies for Renault and Mercedes as well you would be forgiven for thinking they know how to build the things. Judging by the Navara, they do know.

The Navara is very close to the complete bakkie. Space, performance, poise, great fuel consumption, comfort and very capable, this Nissan does it all.

Nissan Navara LE 4×2 Auto

The specification level on this bakkie is very high. From things you expect like fog lights to some more exotic items like heated door mirrors. It is a match for any SUV when it comes to equipment.
Leather seats, power steering, climate control, infotainment centre, it has all the stuff you may want. A nice touch is a hollow in the dash with a power point, ideal for any powered electronic equipment from GPS to dashcam.

This Navara has no less than 37 safety and security items from ABS to VDC (vehicle dynamic control) check them out on the website for yourself at https://www.nissan.co.za/vehicles/new/New-Navara/Specifications.html#grade-D23-3|equipment.

I particularly love the rear camera with sensors and the 360° camera system which displays a rear image and an overhead image in the rear mirror. It makes this rather large and very long bakkie much more manoeuvrable and somehow smaller.

The cabin has been well designed and appears to be well screwed together. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and very comfortable. Rear legroom is good. There are a number of storage bins and places to keep things.

The highly capable 2.3 L twin-turbo common rail direct injection diesel engine pushes out a very respectable 140kW and 450Nm. Coupled with the smooth optional 7-speed automatic transmission as was the case in the bakkie we tested, it is a joy to drive and much more like a car than a truck, but you can still tow a 3,5 ton braked trailer and you have 229mm ground clearance.

The heavy duty 5-link coil rear spring suspension probably helps to make it act more like an SUV as well.
Nissan claim a combined average fuel consumption of 7 L/100 km, and the bakkie I drove indicated a lifetime economy of just that, but I drove mostly in town and averaged around 11 L/100 km. Still good for a vehicle this size.

At the back the Utili-track tie down system in the 1,5 m loadbay is a boon. The 1,36 m wide tailgate can be opened with one hand and appears to be very sturdy.
We previously tested the 4×4 and found it to be capable off-road. We can say that this 4×2 is really capable on road. Not having to lug the extra 4×4 kit wherever you go means all round performance is better and fuel economy even more so.

Nissan Navara LE 4×2

The Navara competes directly with the Mercedes X class, Volkswage Amarok, Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux. The Isuzu D-max is more truck-like and the Mitsubishi Triton slightly smaller and more wieldy. Don’t forget the super tough Mahindra and the capable and extremely good value for money GWM Steed 5 and slightly bigger Steed 6.

Prices start at R484 900 for the SE Manual, we tested the 4×2 LE Auto at R575 500.
Three years or 90 000 km is the warranty you get.

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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.

Mahindra KUV 100 Nxt review

Mahindra KUV100 NXT

Small crossovers are becoming all the rage in town. There still only one real small off-road SUV, the Suzuki Jimny. All the others are on-road cars.

Just under, or around R200k you actually get a few choices. Alternatives include the Suzuki Ignis (R180k), Honda BR-V (R249k), Renault Sandero (171 900), Haval H1 (R177) and the Mahindra KUV 100 starting at R160k. My pick of the bunch is either Sandero or Ignis.

Autotrader says the KUV 100 “cleverly sidesteps the pothole of trying to compete against the exceptionally popular Polo Vivo or similar – instead, it aims to offer buyers the lowest-priced new cross-over SUV on the market. “
Mahindra’s KUV is bigger inside than you think, excluding the tiny boot which has a very high sill. In short, it has the cabin space of a small SUV-size vehicle, but the length of a hatch.

Mahindra have been building jeep-like vehicles and bakkies for many years and do know what they are doing. The little three-cylinder 1,2 mFalcon D75 turbo-diesel engine produces 57 kW and 190 Nm. The car feels gutsy and once the turbo kicks in, has lots of go. The gearbox and clutch combine well with the engine and are more than adequate for the job on hand.

Mahindra KUV 100 NXT

The steering is quite light and more than a little vague, but you can turn on a tickey.
In the cabin you quickly see where they saved money. I found the seats a little thin and almost flimsy.
The centre console is a large hang-down panel, with 3 rotary controls for the aircon. The gear lever is on the console next to the steering wheel, within easy reach and with short shifts.

The parking brake is really old-school and like bakkies of twenty years ago, you pull a handle and twist to engage. The audio switch is small and fiddly, and the centre controls screen is small, flanked by buttons which have the set menu access like Info and Phone, and 4 inner buttons which correspond to the current screen menu displayed.

There are steering-mounted controls for audio and Bluetooth phone, and a USB port on the upper console.
The Mahindra KUV100 comes in 3 spec level options: K4+, K6+ and K8.
All KUV100 Nxt models ship standard with dual front airbags and ABS, with K6+ and K8 variants adding EBD, automatic door locks and an alarm.

Although there is an ECO button it is best ignored. Keep the KUV in PWR mode, which is normal power anyway. Otherwise it is super pap.
You can switch the stop/start mode off with a button to the right of the steering wheel marked ESS.

The model we drove was the top of the range Mahindra KUV100 Nxt K8 Diesel at R219 999.
We have not driven the petrol version, but can say the diesel is a joy. Expect around 5 L/100km in mixed driving.

This car is not meant for long-haul highway driving, off-road excursions are large framed people.
Expect a cabin facelift in 2019. The centre panel will be upgraded.

A three-year/100 000 km warranty comes standard, while K6+ and K8 models also feature a three-year/50 000 km service plan.

Originally published in AutoSold.

Volkswagen Crafter review

VW Crafter 35 2.0-litre TDI

Driving the new Crafter van from VW is easy. The systems and engineering built into this bigger van in the VW range make this commercial vehicle almost car-like, except of course the sheer length which is something which you have to get used to.

The cabin is comfortable and has a host of storage bins and features to make the life of the crew as easy as possible which includes as standard electric windows, central locking with wireless remote control and practical and ergonomically designed storage features for a mobile phone, laptop and tablet, folding rule and working gloves.

The seats ate really comfortable, the steering two way adjustable, and the visibility good. The steering wheel and instruments remind one of an earlier generation Golf. There is a rear camera available as an extra.

Acceleration is surprisingly nippy for a big van but the top speed is governed at around 105 km/h. The roofline is quite high so you have to learn to watch the height of where you want to go. The length means you have to plan your parking and bear in mind how you ‘cut’ your corners.

As a panel van and Kombi, the new Crafter is available in various lengths (5986 mm, 6836 mm or, for the panel van, 7391 mm as well) and heights (2355 mm, 2625 mm or, for the panel van, 2637 mm as well).

Customers have a choice between front and rear wheel drive. The Crafter has 103 kW of power. The 4-cylinder 2 litreTDI engine has a torque of 340 Nm and fuel consumption of between 7.3 to 7.6 litres/100km depending on the model according to VW.

Safety features include a side-wind compensation system, Hill Hold Assist and Automatic Post-Collision Braking

System and a steering wheel with height and telescoping adjustment.

Available as an option are a second compressor for refrigeration or fresh produce applications, four variants of a second battery and a second air conditioner.

Costs for the range start with the Crafter 35 (MCV) Panel Van at R509 700.
The long wheel base 50 LWB Panel Van costs R625 800.
The top of the range 50 LWB with overhang Panel Van is R635 800.

The new Crafter comes standard with a 2 year unlimited kilometre Manufacturer Warranty, 5 year or 120 000km Genuine Automotion Service Plan and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. The service interval is 20 000km.

The competition includes Iveco Daily, Mercedes Benz Sprinter, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato.

VW Crafter

Volkswagen Polo Vivo GT review

Volkswagen Polo Vivo GT

VW Polo Vivo GT

GT – the term evokes visions of past automotive glory in the sense of a roomy, performance, luxury car capable of high speed and long-distance driving. Probably a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-door coupé with either a two-seat or a 2+2 arrangement, historically. Think Aston Martin DB4, Maserati Gran Turismo, the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GT of 1929…

To test if the Volkswagen Polo Vivo GT qualifies as a real GT I packed it to the brim with camping gear and took it on a short road trip up the N7 via Piekenierskloof to the Jamaka Organic Farm in the Cedarberg. A good combination of mild mountain passes and long straights with a little twist in the tail.

The Vivo GT is based on the previous Polo range and has the same features as the Vivo Highline but with a few items fitted to justify the rather steep asking price. The GT also gets ‘Space’ cloth sports seats (although our test car had optional ‘leather’ seats), a rear tailgate spoiler, GT lettering wherever they would fit, a black side moulding, sporty single-pipe exhaust system with chrome trim, cruise control, lowered suspension (by 15mm), shiny ‘sport’ pedals and floor mats!

VW Polo Vivo GT on Piekenierskloof.

Optional extras on the test car included ‘Vienna’ leather seats (R9382), storage package (R2017) and smokers package (R252), which appears to be simply a lighter. The GT we drove costs R256 651 with optional extras.

You almost immediately realise that the Vivo GT has been built to a strict cost price target. It appears that where corners could be trimmed, they have been, especially the trim, if you get what I mean. As a result the car neither feels nor looks above average quality, to me. It drives OK though.

On tar, around town the GT feels nippy and handles well. The little 1.0 Litre mill does not like hills when fully laden and in sixth gear. But shift down to fourth and work the gears and you are soon moving along quite smartly if a little bumpily.

I found the suspension a little too aggressive and stiff for my personal tastes, but it certainly gives the car a boy racer feeling. Part of the ‘problem’ are the very low profile tyres. Young men will love it, probably.

Did it pass the GT test? I am not so sure. Does it pass muster as a budget Polo GTi? Probably. Just don’t go camping in the Cedarberg with all your outdoor kit. The car does not like gravel when loaded.

If you love VW and are on a budget you will be able to overlook the trim shortcuts. The basic car is well sorted and can be fun to drive. The ‘old’ Polo lives on in the new Vivo albeit slightly trimmed down. The interior though, still looks good from the driver’s seat.

Fuel consumption is very good and a sub 6L/100km can be achieved provided your right foot behaves.

Not a bad package but also look at the Highline, which I think gives much better value, good performance and a softer ride.

The Vivo range starts with the 1.4 55kW Trendline at R179 900, 1.4 63kW Comfortline at R192 000,
Tiptronic is R221 900, the smarter 1.6 77kW Highline starts at R214 900 and the base price of the 1.0 TSI 81kW GT is R245 000.

The Volkswagen Polo Vivo Hatch comes standard with a 3 year/120 000km warranty and a 6-year Anti Corrosion warranty.

A Volkswagen Automotion Maintenance Plan (starting at R7128 and topping off at R24 168 for the 5 year 100 000km option) as well as a Volkswagen Automotion Service Plan are available as options.

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Comfortline Review

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Comfortline

Polo is big in SA. I mean the car, Volkswagen’s small car to be specific.

We get two broad versions of Polo here, the new model is called Polo and the previous Polo gets a little makeover and is a little stripped down to be called the Vivo. We will be reviewing the Vivo, but first let’s take a look at the new Polo, and concentrate on the Comfortline, which we drove.

Volkswagen Polo

The sixth generation Polo is the first Polo based on the modular transverse matrix (MQB) A0 platform which has a 92mm longer wheelbase than the previous Polo (which is now the Vivo). The wheelbase, exterior length and width (by 69mm) have all grown while the car’s height remains nearly identical. This results in a sleeker look. And more space inside.

This new Polo looks really great inside and out. The styling department at VW has done a superb job, may I say, as always. It feels as big as a Golf 3 inside.

A new dashboard and cockpit layout puts this new model at the front of the pack, it is that good. A joy to behold.

VW Polo dashboard

Several dashpad colour trims are available; Limestone Grey Metallic on the Trendline and Comfortline, Deep Iron Metallic on the Highline and Velvet Red on the “beats” model which has a 300-watt sound system.

The dashboard and the centre console are slightly angled towards the driver.

This is the first Polo with digital instruments. The second generation of Active Info Display debuts in the new Polo. All key modules – except for the air conditioning unit – have been integrated on the upper cross-panel of the dashboard locating the infotainment system much higher than before into the driver’s direct line of sight.

This layout is excellent, and I can argue, class leading, but at a price.

In the top trims the new Active Info Display and the new 8-inch touchscreen are combined to form a modern, glass-encased functional unit.
The Active Info Display is an expensive option on the Comfortline and Highline models, though.

There are six packages, from the very basic Trendline, to the Comfortline, Highline, GTI, beats and R-Line.

The beats special edition is especially colourful and loud with, for example, the dashpad a hectic “Velvet Red”, a massive sound system by Dr. Dre.

In the Comfortline trim level, the Multi-function Display “Plus”, the Composition Colour infotainment system with six speakers, leather multi-function steering wheel, Driver Alert System and front and rear electric windows are included.

The swankier Highline gets additional features such as the Composition Media infotainment system, App Connect, Voice Control, Sport seats, Cruise Control with speed limiter and white LED ambient lighting (front doors and instrument panel).

New features for the Polo include the lane change system Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, semi-automated Park Assist system for exiting parking spaces, the proactive occupant protection system and a manoeuvre braking function, but these are optional extras which can cost quite a lot.

The 0ptions fitted to the car we drove include the following: Front armrest (R1 412), cruise control (R1 815), smoker’s package (R251), App Connect (R1 513), voice control (R756), Active Info Display (R8 675) Composition Media (R3 026) with iPhone interface (R1 513), light and sight package (R3 883), Discover Media (R12 104).
Total of optional extras fitted to the car reviewed: R34 398.
Park distance control is an option at R4 690. Really?

The boot is quite a bit bigger than the previous Polo at 350 L. As a general comment you could say it is a big, little car. It feels spacious.

The smallest TSI ( 3-cylinder, 999cc) for the new Polo has an output of 70 kW (at 5 000 rpm)and 175 Nm and is standard for both the Trendline and Comfortline. Even at the coast you run out of steam quite quickly, so it will be best to go for the 85kW engine option.
VW claims 4,5 L/100 km. I think that is very optimistic. An 8km stretch I drove in town returned 11L/100km but expect around 6 L/100km on average if you do not push on.

The real cost of the Comfortline we drove is R299 098. A difference of R34 398 to the basic price as listed below.
Recommended Retail Prices (VAT and emissions tax included)

1.0 TSI 70kW Trendline R 235 900
1.0 TSI 70kW Comfortline R 264700
1.0 TSI 70kW Comfortline DSG R 280700
1.0 TSI 85kW Highline R 286200
1.0 TSI 85kW Highline DSG R 302200
All Polo models come standard with a 3 year/45 000km Service Plan,
3 year/120 000km warranty and a 12 year anti-corrosion warranty.

Also look at the Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio, Mazda 2 and Renault Clio. The Mazda 2 Individual, in particular, at R238 00 looks like a bargain in comparison.