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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

2015 Hyundai i20 1.4 CRDi Glide

Putting a turbo on a 1.4 litre petrol engine has become common practice with most manufacturers recently, and with amazing results. In the past VW attempted a 1.4 diesel turbo, which turned out to be not what they expected. Since then we haven't seen any attempts at a small capacity diesel turbos again. But in recent years there have been some successful attempts such as Ford's 1.4 TDCi Figo and again VW's 1.2 TDi Bluemotion Polo.

But where the Figo comes in short on features and power and the VW overshoots the mark on price, the Hyundai i20 1.4 CRDi slots in nicely, with a full house configuration and affordable pricing. The 1.4 litre turbo diesel produces 66kw of power and 220nm of torque, which gives it that little bit extra when needed.

Styling hasn't changed much but the minor differences in the face lift gives it a fresh new look by abandoning the rounded headlights and fog lights, which were replaced with sharper and more defined lights. Although there is going to be a complete shape change coming up soon, there is talk that the pricing is going to change dramatically due to the i20 moving over onto the luxury side of hatchbacks.

On the road my initial thought was that the engine was under powered, and running through the gears was not making the car move any better. I then abandoned trying to drive the car like a car and drove it like an old Isuzu 280DT instead. Amazingly the little 1.4 diesel came to life accelerating quickly and efficiently. I then started to enjoy the drive and was actually having a lot of fun, the power was on demand and it didn't hurt the fuel economy that much, in fact after doing our usual route and a bit aggressive driving we only managed to push the consumption up to 5.8l/100kms from the manufactures claimed 5l/100kms on a combined cycle. Normal driving brought the consumption back down to 5.2l/100kms.

The comfort levels have definitely improved from its predecessor. The instrument cluster and the centre console is now smarter looking with a new climate control setup with a LCD display. The one thing that annoyed me, just as the old i20 had, was the placement of the display for the on-board computer. It was a bit too far way and not convenient to look at as it is situated in the middle of the dash board. But other than that everything else has a good quality feel to it.

Pricing is a what we like most about the 1.4 CRDi, which gets off the mark at R215000 (Jan 2015). As standard you get a 5 year/150000km warranty and 3 year/60000km service plan, pretty decent stuff considering the price. The car has performance, luxury and economy in a hard to find realistic price tag.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

2014 Kinsey Report

Every year the Kinsey Report is released telling us what we need to know about car parts prices. The report tells us what the actual maintenance costs will be in terms of parts pricing, as well as panel parts prices. This is a good indicator if your vehicle doesn't come with a service/maintenance plan, so you have a good idea of what your services are going to cost or if you are looking to buy a  used vehicle out of warranty.

Parts are priced locally and overseas from the manufacture, so whatever figures that are listed, are for genuine parts. There were some interesting releases this year with the French taking top honours in the Super Mini category. Citroen, Peugeot and Renault have come out top of the log with really impressive figures, breaking the old adage that the French were ridiculously expensive. I must say that this was genuinely the case in the past, but after looking at the figures in the Kinsey Report, I have to say "Why not?", to a French car for my next purchase.

In the Family Favourites category, if you want low maintenance then the Kia Cerato Hatch came in first, but turned out to be a bit higher on the panel beating side. On the flip side the Toyota Corolla Prestige turned out to be better priced on the body panels but higher on the maintenance side. Although these comparisons show minor noticeable price differences when pitched against each other, they are far better value for money vehicles compared to all manufacturers in the category.

In the City Cars or Entry Level category things were pretty close, but the Ford Figo set a significant margin against the other top vehicles. The next best is the VW Polo Vivo, which although comes in slightly higher priced on parts than the Figo, tends to have a better resale value. But this can change as time goes on, usually if the maintenance cost is low then the resale picks up, but only after a couple of years.

All in all the 2014 Kinsey report has turned some heads and it will be exciting to see where the market turns to in the coming year.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Datsun hits South African Shores

Nissan has brought back the Datsun brand to cater for the budget segment, serving the sub R100k market, the launch model will be the Datsun Go. There will be two models available, the entry level Mid which will retail at R89500 and the higher Lux version will retail at R99500.

The difference between the two is, in the Lux version you will get power steering, central locking and electric windows, both models come standard with air-conditioning. There is only one option for engine capacity in the form of a 1.2 litre 3 cylinder petrol, which cranks out 50kw of power and 104nm of torque. As you can see Datsun is not selling any performance here, but for the price tag you get a big brand name, thats backed by an even bigger brand name. 

The Datsun Go will be appearing in Nissan showrooms from 20 October 2014. After sales service is also backed by Nissan. A big plus is that both models carry a 3 year/100 000km warranty. The brand is hoping to take up the market that Toyota Tazz and VW Citi Golf left behind. That being said both variants of the Go fail on safety equipment, there are no airbags and ABS and there is no indication of this being included in the future.

But as the Tazz and Citi did in the past, Datsun hopes to achieve the same with the Go. With a solid build and minimal electronics to cater for technical glitches, the Go looks like it will do well to serve as a cheap reliable vehicle. Lets hope that it will hold good resale value as well, I just checked Gumtree and there are still people that are selling their old Tazz's for around R59k!

But let's wait and see how the market reacts to the Go, so far it looks promising.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Volvo 330kw Triple Boost Drive-E Concept

Have you noticed that almost all manufacturers have shrunk their engines in the past couple of years? Although they have dramatically reduced engine capacity, power output has not suffered in the least.

We saw Nissan release the 1.6l Dig-T in the Juke, which delivered 140kw, and Ford with the 1.0l EcoBoost in the Fiesta, which churns out an impressive 92kw. This type of power was not even dreamt of 10 years ago from such a small engine. Well get ready to have your minds blown away...

Volvo has developed a 2.0l four cylinder triple boost engine, in their Drive-E concept range, that is capable of a whopping 330kw of power. Bear in mind that this concept engine will very soon make its way to production passenger cars in the Volvo range and is going to cause quite a bit of commotion once it's on the market. I'm positive that you will find a variant in the form of a hot hatch, which will be competing against the VW Golf R and Opel Astra OPC.

The fact that the engine capacity is only 2 litres, makes the engine versatile to improve power to weight ratio in any chassis and body form, be it hatch, sedan or SUV. The engine has a  unique triple turbo layout, with a parallel twin turbo feeding the intake and then a larger third turbo, which is actually and electric powered booster similar to a hair dryer, which assist the twin turbos to spool up faster, which in turn eliminates turbo lag. In short Volvo has invented the perfect turbo charged engine.

The trend at the moment in manufactures is to have one power plant that can be tweaked to cover the entire range. We see it in the new range of VW Polos, with their 1.2 litre power plants, which have been tweaked for each variant in the range. Volvo has achieved a high output engine that can be fitted to anything from a hatchback to an SUV. Another plus that we will see from this development is fuel efficiency.

Volvo hasn't announced an expected release date yet. For now all we can do is wait for this engine to hit our shores.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Dassie the Diesel Rat

There's a car restoration project down in KZN that has started quite a stir amongst Mercedes Benz enthusiast all over. It's the revival of an old Mercedes Benz 180 Diesel nicknamed Dassie the Diesel Rat.

Born in 1956, 58 years later, Dassie was almost put to rest in a scrap yard in Johannesburg. It was discovered that Dassie had been a resident of the scrap yard for more than 25 years and if it wasn't for  the intervention of Maxim Erdman and Chris Carlisle-Kitz, Dassie would have been reduce to a 1 meter squared block of metal on its way to become the next KOO beans can at your local grocery store.

Dassie was then brought to KZN were a team from the Mercedes Benz Club of South Africa, and a few others, are busy working on restoring it. The project is a learning curve for some and just another fun project for others. Just by looking at the pictures, you can immediately see that the car is going to cost more to restore than the value it will hold when it's actually done. But these guys saw more than monetary value and are doing it more for the fun of it.

Dassie made quite an appearance at the Pietermaritzburg Cars in the Park show, where it was on display. The highlight of the display was when the guys from the Mercedes Benz Club tried to start the car. After some onsite chop shopping and repairs they managed to get the diesel engine running and not only did they get it started, they managed to get it going around the show grounds as well.

A bit of history as an FIY: The 180D was one of Mercedes Benz's first passenger vehicles manufactured
post World War 2, and was nicknamed Ponton, derived from the German word pontoon, which was used to describe the type of fenders used in the styling of cars in that era. Ultimately pontoon styling is what defines the shape of cars today, which is full fenders that house the wheel arches in the car as opposed to fenders that merely just cover the wheels which is generally attached to a torpedo or box shaped body.

The team that's running with the project are:

The man who discovered the car: Maxim Erdmann
The guy who brought the car "home": Chris Carlisle-Kitz

Team Leader: Chris Carlisle-Kitz
Mechanical fundis: Avish Maharaj and Justin Arnold
Electrical men: Dave Roux and Warren Geyser
Scribe and photos: Des Armstrong and Pat Smythe
Welder panelbeater: Warren Benecke
Enthusiasts: Richard Edwards, Jaco van der Walt, Klaus Pieper and Carl Joubert de Villiers.
And I'm sure that there are dozens of others that have had a hand in this project as well.

The project is going to be quite a financial task, as no doubt parts are going to be rare and expensive for the 180D. Dassie has a Facebook page running where you can follow the progress of the project, and there are requests done for spares. So if you have an old Ponton lying around and would like to assist in making this project a success please feel free to contact the guys through their Facebook page.

2014 Honda Brio 1.2 Comfort

Super compact hatches are trending at the moment with a very diverse buyers market, no matter if you are a doctor, mom or student, practicality is what people are looking for. Maybe it's not for your long distance country run or family outing, maybe you are just looking for a run about, but want all the bells and whistles. A lot of manufacturers have tapped into this market but have all of them got it right?

Well Honda has almost got it right, with the new 2014 Brio 1.2 Comfort. I say almost because, although the formula is almost there, the Brio does fall short on a few things, but on the other hand some may look at it as a positive.

When I saw the Brio, the first thing that I thought about was that it will look wicked in a set of 17's (I've add a picture from a Google search, not too shabby...), the Comfort comes standard with 14" alloys. Although the car is somewhat stumpy, it's attractive in its own way. For some, maybe a little less, but it does grow on you. The headlights, grille and air scoop on the bumper are boldly designed, which make it look serious and elegant at the same time.

The rear end has an almost flat back look, which I'm not a big fan of, but it works with the overall design of the car. The boot lid is the actual rear window, which gives you good access to the bin type boot space that was created to maximize the interior cabin area.

The inside is very basic and retro at the same time, with rounded controls, dials and vents but with a touch of modernisation. Air-conditioning and front electric widows are standard equipment. Choice of materials for the interior is where you get let down a bit, although it looks good, once you touch it you realise that everything is made from hard plastic. But this may be a good thing, because this interior will last you a very long time, if not forever. But I must say, from all the super compact cars in its segment, this is by far the highest quality.

You get satellite controls for the radio on the steering and Honda has taken an interesting step with the radio here, which is the exclusion of a CD/MP3 player. The only form audio input is a USB/MP3. so I don't think that this wouldn't hurt sales.

Then it was time to put the car on the road and really see if 65kw and 109nm of torque is enough to for the little Brio. The take off was sluggish, but once it got going it seemed to be fine, I would also take into consideration that there were a total of three adults on the car and the model that I was driving was an automatic.

On the freeway it did good to keep up with the speed limit, although overtaking had to be planned in advance due to the lack of power. Once we got back into the urban areas of Umhlanga, the Brio seemed more at home, bobbing and weaving through traffic effortlessly. Even parking was a breeze, you just zip into the bay without thinking too much about it.

And that's what the Brio is all about, it's a city car with just enough spunk to get you around while doing a cool 6.4l/100kms, and giving you maximum comfort while doing so. The automatic sits at R153 900 (Oct 2014), which is higher than it's competitors such as the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107, but the Brio sets itself apart with it's unique styling and standard comfort features, you also get a 2 year/30 000km service plan and a 3 year/100 000km warranty.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Kia Rio 1.4 Tec Man - Long Term Review

As stated in my previous review on the Kia Rio, from the first time it was introduced to South Africa as the ugly duckling and to what it is now, it is something else. With sales figures climbing over the years this hatchback has become a force to be reckoned with, and the evidence is clearly visible on the road as these smart looking hatchbacks become more and more popular.

The best part of being so popular as a fairly new brand in South Africa is that the after sales service and support gets better, and although the general gossip is that parts are expensive, this isn't true. It's more or less in line with other manufacturers in its class.

In December 2012 I took ownership of a new Kia Rio 1.4 Tec Manual. It was the first time that I have stepped out of my comfort zone of the big manufacturers, like Toyota and VW. Before purchasing I researched like crazy, from tyre prices to clutch replacements, perfomance to economy and of course resale value.

It's been almost 2 years and 60000kms later and the Rio is still going strong without any issues. Initially I had concerns about the fuel consumption, which averaged around 8.4l/100kms, but as time went on after the engine settled in and I got used to the power bands on the 1.4 litre engine I managed to bring urban travel consumption down to 7.1l/100kms and long distance to a super low 5.5l/100kms. Which was pretty good considering the hilly terrain of Durban.

There are a few things that I didn't really like, the biggest being the fuel range on the instrument cluster display turns off once you hit your last 50kms on your tank, this means that when you only have 50kms of fuel left in your tank the Rio stops counting down the kilometres and you don't know how far you can go thereafter. The second annoying thing is the leather that was used to cover the steering and gear lever started to peel, but I've looked at a 2014 Rio and they have started using another type of leather. Other than this the car is great.

Overall the car is built well, paint and panels are put together properly and you do get a sense of quality in the build. Although a quick internet search shows that trade-in and resale value isn't very competitive, I believe that this is will change. The Rio is a smart looking car that comes fully loaded, which is something that youngsters are looking for nowadays, it will take a bit of time before the Rio second-hand market starts to boom and pick up momentum in demand and price. A quick browse through Gumtree showed me a few Rio Tec's with low mileage going for +- R160000, and new list price is R207000.

Final say: "So far, so good!"

Thursday, 31 July 2014

2014 Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI Highline DSG

When VW announced the release of the new Polo, I decided to attend the launch at Alpine VW in Pinetown. Displayed on the showroom floor where the various models available. Initially you don't see much of a difference, that's because cosmetic wise the new Polo is just a facelift of the previous version.

Well, it's not much of a facelift either, basically it's just a new front bumper. Although the chrome trimming does add a new flare to the design. But the main reason that the new Polo has been launched is so that VW can introduce their new power plant to the range, bringing power and economy to their compact hatch segment. Across the Polo range you will have only one engine capacity option in the form of a 1.2 litre engine block. All of them turbo charged but producing 66kw of power and 160nm of torque and the Highline and Cross versions are tweaked to push out 81kw and 175nm of torque. 

Our test drive option was the TSI Highline DSG, and we were accompanied by Senior Sales Executive, Bronwyn Morgan, from Alpine VW in Pinetown. Like I said earlier, theres not much to talk about when it comes to the exterior, save a few changes, like the Highline comes standard with a smart set of 16" alloys and 215/45 tyres that give it a sporty look. Across the range the brakes have been upgraded to discs all around.

Inside you get the same layout, however the radio has been upgraded to a touch screen media centre, supporting usb, SD and auxiliary inputs over a six speaker system. Pretty decent setup, a bit of high end technology to bring out the youngster in you. You still get the feel of quality and comfort, and the leather finishes are soft to the touch. The one thing that I really liked, was the inclusion of the card holder. This used to be a feature in the '06 Polo, and I found it very conveinient as I used to travel a lot. The whole range comes standard with various versions of cloth interior, and I don't see leather being offered as optional, if you want leather the dealership will probably offer it to you as a after market optional. Another big change inside the car is the front centre armrest, which gives it a sort of luxury feel. Although I feel that this in reality makes the cabin look a bit cluttered, considering the already restricted room.

This time our test route was the infamous M19 highway a.k.a. Back Stretch. I like the route due to the winding uphill and downhill, you really get to test all aspects of the cars performance, handling and economy. Modern technology and the numerous small engined cars out in the market gave me an insight of what to expect from a 1.2lt turbo charged engine. However the Highline is tweaked a bit further and totally blew me away from the word go and the best part was that the 7 speed DSG transmission did well to make the drive seem like the the M19 was a walk in the park.

Power and handling fused well together and resulted in a driving experience that you'd expect from the Polo's bigger brothers like the 1.4TSI and Highline versions. Although 81kw seems not so impressive, you must take into consideration the power to weight ratio here and appreciate what VW have accomplished.

Halfway back on the uphill of the M19 I decided to see what the 1.2lt engine can do for me on the economy side. The manufacture claims a combined 5.1l/100kms, and I managed a 6.9l/100kms, and this was done on the steep uphill of the Back Stretch, ...amazing!

The build is just as solid as it's predecessor and includes high quality finishes making the Polo great value for money and giving it excellent resale value. The 2014 VW Polo 1.2 TSI Highline DSG crosses the finish line at R247 800.00 and will get you a 3 year/45000km service plan, a tad bit short if you ask me, but it's something, considering previous models didn't come with any. I would suggest that you spring the extra R10000.00 cash to upgrade it to a 90000km/5 year service plan, and I'm sure you can negotiate the final cost on your vehicle. If you're considering a compact hatch, do yourself a favour and book a test drive with the new Polo range, I'm sure you will be impressed.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

2014 Toyota Corolla 1.6 Prestige

I will begin this review with one word that you have to keep in the back of your mind throughout this article - "different".

I've driven almost all Toyota Corolla's that were released in South Africa, and they all followed the same distinct formula that seemed to work over the years, reliable, affordable, comfortable and some would say boring, that is if you exclude the RXi, RSi and Twincam versions of course. Amazingly what you paid for, in comparison to the competition, you fell short on features. This, however, didn't stop South Africa from supporting the Corolla badge, because at the end of the day you still had a damn good resale value.

In the latest version of the Corolla, Toyota has changed it's tune a bit when it comes to features. Right from the starting line with the 1.3 Esteem you get all comfort features, minus a few high end technology bits found in the Prestige versions. We were setup with a 1.6 Toyota Corolla Prestige by Rishi from CMH Toyota in Umhlanga. 

From the moment that you lay your eyes on this car you know that it is different from all the other Corolla's that have come and gone. Styling is bold and new, with a hint of "I mean business" attitude built in there somewhere, yet it still has that prim and proper stance about it. The Prestige comes standard with colour coded bumpers and mirrors, and 16" alloys, but lacks a front fogs, making it just short of being complete.

Inside it literally feels like opening up a Christmas present. You expect to see similar trends that Toyota has been following for years but you are met with an unexpected surprise. The interior has broken away completely from tradition and gone off on an adventure somewhere. Bringing back with it a sleek and sophisticated design that's packed with technology.

A totally revised dash board combines high gloss finishes with chrome trimmings and a sophisticated but simple layout that's easy for you to navigate through. The highlight of the centre console is a 6.1 inch touch screen media centre that is bluetooth and usb compatible which is coupled to a six speaker sound system. Vehicle stats are still isolated to the instrument cluster. But the main attraction about that 6.1" LCD is it also doubles as screen for a reverse camera. Leather is standard and the white stitching makes the Prestige all that more prestigious. On the safety side there are driver and passenger front and side torso airbags.

So, now let's find out how 90kw and 154nm of torque can handle the 1.7 ton dead weight of the Corolla... 

As expected take off isn't too exciting, you run through the six speed gearbox on the highway and you feel nothing, just plain and simple driving, but you literally feel nothing, if you could apply the saying to this situation I would say that the ride is as smooth as a babies bottom. But during my discussion with Rishi along the highway I never thought to look down at the speedo, and I could not believe what speed I was doing. I slowed down and started accelerating again just to see if I missed anything during acceleration, and I couldn't believe it, you don't feel it but it's there on the speedo, 154nm of torque launching the car forward. But this is what the 1.6 Prestige is all about, it's about the comfort and the enjoyment of the drive. The 1.6 litre power plant is claimed at doing 6.6l/100kms combined cycle.

And now the price tag. For R241 900-00 (2014) I think that Toyota have finally got their price to features ratio right. As was standard on it's predecessor you will get a 5yr/90000km service plan and  3yr/100000km warranty. Just a note on the previous Corolla, Toyota SA has decided to continue this model as their budget sedan and rebranded it as the Corolla Quest, and I must say, for what you get at that price, it's value for money.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

2014 Opel Corsa 1.4T Enjoy

The mid level market is changing for the compact hatch segment with the introduction of small capacity turbo charged engines. Almost all manufacturers are offering this and they all have their variations of what a turbo should do in a smaller engine. Some offer more power and some offer better fuel economy. But what about both?

Opel might just have the answer in the form of the Corsa 1.4T Enjoy. With the engine capacity of 1398cc that is assisted by a not so serious turbo they have achieved a sweet 88KWs and a pretty decent 175NM of torque. The combination of these figures give you an inconceivable 5.5l/100kms!

Thanks to Kerry from CMH Umhlanga for setting us up with the test drive. The look is more or less the same as its predecessor with minor face-lift upgrades. This might make the shape look a bit dated in a year or two, but don't get me wrong here, the Corsa is still a good looking car and I guess GMSA is sticking to a formula that has worked for them in the past. You get colour coded bumpers and mirrors and 15" alloys as standard as well as front and rear fog lamps. There is also an attractive chrome tailpiece on the 1.4T.

Inside Opel has given you the same basic layout but with all the extras, you get satellite controls on the steering, bluetooth radio, electric mirrors and front electric windows, both with one touch open and close. The driver seat is height adjustable and allows for excellent all round visibility.  Leg room for the driver and front passenger is ample, but if you're tall, your rear passengers are going to have a problem, it will be ideal for kids to sit in the back. The boot is quite spacious as well, which is unusual for a compact hatch.

And now for the unexpected, the road test, which told a different story about the Corsa. When taking off you don't really notice that this is a turbo charged vehicle, there is no burst of power when taking off, it feels sort of standard, but as you approach the 2000rpm mark in second gear, the turbo hits the power band and the car launches forward and literally doesn't stop that turbo fed acceleration right up until the fifth and last gear.

On the freeway fifth gear was all you needed, and it's a very long fifth gear, others may have introduced a sixth gear but, the way Opel has setup the Corsa's turbo and gear ratio, there is no need for it in this car. Over taking and hills were handled with no problem at all and the best part was fuel consumption was minimal.  Handling and comfort was also balanced, making you feel confident while driving. Braking was also improved by including all round discs.

Overall the car is easy to drive and the introduction of the turbo made it exciting as well. The 2014 Opel Corsa 1.4T Enjoy will cost you R199 990.00 and this will also get you a 3 year 60000km service plan and 5 year 120000km warranty. Finance offers from GMSA also make this car affordable.