Month: Mar 2021

Affordable Adventuring in the Toyota Urban Cruiser

More recently, people have had an inherent yearning for adventure as a result of being cooped up under months of lockdown – getting out to experience the world around us seems more of an imperative now than ever before. Carmakers have paid attention and through the advent of the SUV segment have made adventuring into uncharted territory more accessible than ever before. However, capable SUVs that retain the comforts of normal cars cost a fortune, until recently that is. Alex Shahini spent some time with the new Toyota Urban Cruiser to determine if it can fill the gap and be a cost effective solution to adventuring. 

Small, nimble and cost effective SUV options that share underpinnings and technology with front wheel drive hatchbacks have flooded the market in recent years and while they are less capable in treacherous conditions, they still tick all of the boxes for amateur explorers in search of affordable adventuring. This is where the Urban Cruiser comes in, the most recent addition to Toyota in Mzansi. Significantly smaller than the RAV4 and CH-R models, the new option in their range has pricing starting at only a quarter of a million Rand. Which, considering what is included as standard equipment on the car, provides a strong argument for its value for money. 

This affordability comes at a price though. While the exterior holds a pleasant aesthetic with attractive proportions, there are certain comforts and amenities that have been sacrificed for cost saving. The high driving position and seats are comfortable with all dials and buttons in good reach of the driver but the cabin still felt slightly shortchanged. The dashboard and dials were composed of a small selection of cheap finishes while lack of interior illumination at night would leave me constantly fiddling around to find the window switches and steering stalks.

The list of features are commendable however, with our range-topping XR model getting additions such as automatic headlights, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, dual 12-volt power outlets, front armrest, a touchscreen infotainment system, leather steering wheel and the inclusion of two tweeter speakers.

The driving experience on the other hand proved to be extremely comfortable for me and any passengers or pets I happened to ferry around. With elevated ride height providing ample visibility over the bonnetline any unavoidable potholes and road imperfections were accordingly dealt with by the surprisingly soft suspension. While the revvy naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder motor had a comfortable and constant power delivery to its redline at around 6500rpm, it never felt greatly insufficient in its overtaking or pull-away ability, even with passengers on board and the limited torque it had. Where it did fall short on the road was its lack of a 6th or overdrive gear. At 120kmh the engine whine of 3800rpm would become audible in the cabin. Overall though, this compact option emulates some of its larger SUV siblings extremely well with its comfort characteristics. The passenger pooches wagging tails were a sure sign of an enjoyable journey. 

A combination of city and highway driving yielded just below the meagre 6.5l/100km figure albeit with very reserved driving. This is not a car that encourages or enjoys spirited bursts of open throttle and hash braking but rather instills a very calm and comfortable cruise – which is likely where it inherited its name from. Its short wheelbase made venturing tight parking lots and narrow paths a breeze while the rear-facing park distance control would automatically quieten the radio or media player so that the sensors would become clearly audible. This is an intuitive feature since there is no radial volume knob to reduce volume and repeatedly clicking the touch-capacitive screen can be a frustrating and arduous task. 

The angle of the infotainment screen occasionally caught a reflection from the rear passenger side window which would limit its usability, but most of the functionality on the device including Apple Carplay and Android Auto was simple and intuitive to use even with this limitation. The boot comes with ample space at 314 litres while the rear seats can fold down in 2 configurations. However low light situations would prove to be tedious with no illumination in the boot – even on our range topping XR model. 

From our time with the Urban Cruiser we experienced many livable niggles and limited refinement that enables this compact B-SUV to be so affordable, but how exactly is it so cheap? While the obvious answer from above would implicate the cheap interior materials for its low base price it actually has to do with Toyota’s global alliance with fellow Japanese automaker Suzuki. Both brands have gone into a mutually beneficial agreement of platform sharing which some may have already noticed with the local sales of the identical Toyota Starlet and Suzuki Baleno models. In exchange for technology and R&D, Suzuki provides Toyota with fantastic and affordable vehicles to slot into their range. Since these two automakers are in partnership, this also means part and die costs are shared which inevitably lowers the risk and end price of the final product.

The Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Toyota Urban Cruiser are two identical cars save from the bumpers and badges. While I believe the overall aesthetics and light features of the aforementioned models share a much more similar design language to the Suzuki Vitara Brezza.

Suzuki Vitara Brezza

Toyota have nonetheless incorporated their SUV design language from the Fortuner and RAV4 successfully into their iteration making it seem more like a butch SUV. 

Affordability and adventure should go hand in hand which the Toyota Urban Cruiser offers very well, if you can see past some of the livable niggles – this may be the right choice for you. The final result is a fantastic, accessible runabout, with a competitive price tag.

The BMW M3 & M4 Competition

Say what you want about the looks, this is still a proper M car! Shaun Korsten reports from launch in the Western Cape

It’s been the butt of the joke and the subject of enormous social media ridicule ever since BMW unveiled the concept version of the new M4 in late 2019. Some went as far as saying this is the end of the BMW – a bit over the top, I know, but BMW loyalists are apparently a tough crowd to please.

Yes, the styling isn’t BMW’s finest work and their riposte to all of you calling for the designer’s head to be on the chopping block will be ‘you’ll get used to it’. And admittedly, I think I have…it’s purposeful and aggressive – it doesn’t look like anything on the road. I think that was their main objective and they got it spot on. But my opinion on something that I’m sure you all have your own isn’t the point of this review. So, let’s get into the meat of things.

Under the bonnet, there’s still a six-cylinder twin turbo sending power to the rear. The all-wheel drive (xDrive) model should make landfall by the end of the year. Outputs of 375kW and 650Nm are significantly higher than the F80 generation – 44kW and 100Nm to be exact. Our market is of course only getting the Competition version which means it is paired exclusively to eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Which rules out the possibility of getting your hands on the manual version, but how many of you were actually going to buy the manual?

But let’s talk about the gearbox quickly: the previous F80 M3 used a M-DCT ‘box that was very responsive and rewarding when driving spiritedly but less so in traffic and day-to-day situations where it would be cumbersome and jerky. And while you do lose out on the rather enjoyable snap-like response when changing a gear, the new eight-speed ZF is an all-round improvement. It manages the hustle and bustle with more comfort than before, and the changes on upshifts and downshifts are still dramatically quick! The whole experience has been numbed slightly but I’m sure the majority of owners will appreciate this move.

The route we followed on launch took us through picturesque towns like Tulbagh and Ceres in the Western Cape and trotting along at the indicated speed limit was a pleasant and enjoyable experience. The adaptive M suspension and electronic controlled dampers did a great job of soaking up most imperfections, but the harsher bumps will be quite jarring in the cabin. On both the M3 and M4, standard fitment is 20-inch wheels at the rear and 19-inches upfront.

The interior is what you would expect from a BMW: inch-perfect build quality, top-tier materials with tasteful finishes and a smorgasbord of tech. In my opinion, BMW has been the segment leader for years in interior ergonomics and quality. Although, the crown of tech king must be given to Mercedes-Benz as I am still disappointed at the lack of configurability on the digital drivers display. Nitpicking aside, the cabin truly is a wonderful and luxurious place to be in – but now with a splattering of carbon fibre all over the place.

Our final destination was a private racetrack in the Cape Winelands where we were able to get a short, 3-lap stint around the circuit in both models. If you’re wondering, I didn’t notice any discernible difference between the M3 and M4. The the first I noticed was how composed it felt around the corners – there was just bucket loads of traction and grip. Although the G80 is carrying an additional 150kg in weight over its predecessor, the strengthening to the chassis meant the body always felt composed and it coped with strain and pressure extremely well. You can get an M Race Track Package that sheds 25kg.

The steering is now electronically controlled and unfortunately it is another numbing aspect to the new M3 and M4 . But in saying that, it is lazar sharp and extremely accurate and gives you a sense of confidence in your ability to correctly position and react to the car.

On the straights, you will reach a 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds – although I suspect that it is slightly quicker than that. BMW have also integrated a new braking system with two settings for pedal feel and response.

All in all, the new BMW M3 and M4 Competition are truly fantastic drivers’ cars that push the yardstick even further – they remain the brand to beat in this segment. With Mercedes-AMG opting for a 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain for the next generation C63, I’m sure we can all look past the Halloween mask and appreciate these types of cars before they are all gone.

Is The Petite BMW 218i Gran Coupe Worth Its Salt?

The original BMW 2 Series Coupe made its global debut in 2014 with its trendy styling and desirable coupe proportions. In 2019, BMW changed the recipe and seemed to start from scratch launching the front-wheel-drive (FWD) F44 generation 5 door as its replacement. Alex Shahini spent time with the 218i Gran Coupe specced in the M Sport package to determine if this has been a success for the Bavarian brand.

While the current 2 Series generation is approaching 2 years of production it is by no means a new car but seeing one on the road can give it that impression. Not only is its imposing styling more aligned with the existing brand identity of current BMW models, but their uncommon presence on the road can provide naive passers by with an illusion that it is a brand new release. This was the Bavarian-based manufacturers attempt at creating a more affordable and attainable model to the heavier and larger 3 Series sedan. It was developed with the intention of retaining loyal customers by providing an expedient, downsized BMW alternative to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3 Sedan.

So, the recipe has changed but how has this influenced the driving experience? The first elephant in the room that I need to address is that this is the new era of FWD BMW’s. While the topheavy looking mommy wagon-esque 2 Series Active Tourer was the first of its kind to do away with rear powered wheels in 2014, our 218i Gran Coupe proved to be an engaging car to drive in more enthusiastic scenarios, albeit with a healthy amount of torque steer. A welcomed surprise because most consumers set on purchasing the 218i may be less focused on its driving appeal and more fixated on its amenities and comfort. 

While the downsized turbocharged 3-cylinder motor with a total displacement of 1.5-litres sounds underwhelming, its 103kW and 220Nm means that it is nippy in most environments it finds itself in – especially considering it has a dry weight of only 1345kg. While this is by no means a fast car, only reaching 100km/h from standstill in 8.7 seconds, it does trundling around extremely comfortably with smooth power delivery compliments of a seamless automatic gearbox in comfort mode. The smaller displacement begins to take some strain with additional passengers and luggage but nothing the additional mass can’t handle. 

While most of it is good there are a few operational issues including a jerky stop-start function, lack of low end torque while accelerating and unintuitive gear shifts in sports mode which makes spirited drivers like myself yearn for paddle shifts. Due to its light stature, windy days on highways can also make the car feel unstable with its light steering input and soft suspension.  

The 218i Gran Coupe can be aesthetically considered as an amalgamation of several different BMW models. The wheelbase, track, interior and front end of the car are identical to that of the new F40 generation 1 series on which its platform is based while its proportions are indicative of a shrunk version of an 8 Series Gran Coupe with much smaller wheels. At quick glance, you may even confuse the silhouette of the two. While the looks can be subjectively polarizing, I find that there is a strong disproportionate element towards the rear ¾ panel of the car that simply doesn’t look correct. Almost as though the 1 Series hatchback has had an improvised tailgate stuck onto the rear as a complete afterthought and without refined integration. Regardless of this, this 218i Gran Coupe comes with a highly useful 430-litre boot with a false floor and easily foldable rear seats. 

The cockpit, while indistinguishable from the 1 series, feels largely more cocooned with its faster raking A-pillar, frameless doors and lower roofline. While this has been done to achieve the recognizable silhouette of a Gran Coupe it comes at the price of rear head room, even with shorter passengers. Its overall interior is an appealing and elegant but busy place to be, with many intersecting joints and a multitude of different textures and touch points. After spending time with the BMW 128ti earlier this year, we were highly impressed with the forward strides BMW have taken in their interior aesthetic and the 218i is no different. The interior dials are all sensibly laid out and all have a familiar tactility to them however the central radio console below the air conditioning is completely redundant with the intuitive haptic rotary infotainment controlling device needing to be used. 

It’s interesting to note how it stacks up against competitors, particularly in terms of price. The cheapest Audi A3 Sedan currently on sale is the 30 TFSI which retails for R520 569. But you must remember that the all-new A3 unveiled internationally in 2020 is yet to reach our shores. Over in the corner of Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 has a price tag of R661 000. The BMW 218i Gran Couple slots neatly in between the two at R581 900. 

Even with our generously-specced press unit which had a sticker price nearing R650 000, it still undercuts the entry-level Mercedes-Benz. So in that aspect, it is certainly worth its salt and should be a tempting buy for consumers shopping in this segment. But in my opinion, the smart money is a demo model 3 Series for similar outlay and equal spec. Just don’t tell BMW I told you that!

We Drive the New Mercedes-AMG E53

Is it worthy of the the AMG badge? Alex Shahini reports from the launch at Zwartkops Raceway

Mercedes-Benz recently launched the updated version of their top-selling, 5th generation E-Class line-up in early March. Coming in multiple variations including 6 models and 9 derivatives, there is sure to be a style and powertrain for every consumer’s taste and preference wanting to combine luxury and sporty into a single package. While the more refined and comfortable cruisers may dominate the sales figures of the E-Class line-up, the stalwarts of the range will remain to be the AMG powered hooligans.

The trend of internal combustion engine downsizing is fully underway with most automotive manufacturers reducing cylinders and displacement in favour of more efficient alternatives. Mercedes-Benz has in some way kept true to their bewildering AMG roots and retained the iconic V8 in their range (albeit for now). Their additional incorporation of a 3-litre, in-line 6-cylinder turbocharged motor falls under their umbrella too featuring in models bearing the E53 nameplate. The motor is a compromise featuring the best of both worlds, but is it a true AMG?

Testing the E63 brute on the same day can provide an underwhelming feeling when getting behind the wheel of the E53. While it must be understood that they are not internal competitors, the E53 functions more as a stop gap for buyers wanting to step-up from the base model but without the need for the ludicrous nature of its 450kW bigger sibling. It has sufficient power rated at 320kW and comfortably delivers it through a 9 speed automatic gearbox into the standard 4Matic all-wheel drive system while mild hybrid tech assists in the form of a 48-volt battery. Despite this, the engine lacks punch at the top end and the gearbox feels slightly more lethargic when shifting. While the 520Nm that propels it to 100km/h in over 4 seconds makes it no slouch, the experience of it all feels underwhelming and dumbed down. It simply lacks that expectation of something adorned with the AMG badge.

This theme is continued when it comes to the suspension and overall handling characteristics, it feels a lot looser when cornering but as a result, more comfortable and negotiable. While it may not be as rigid as the E63, the pliant nature suits it well for comfortable use as a daily driver that can still traverse pothole-littered roads and undulating surfaces. And with combined efficiency rated below 9l/100km when driven sensibly, it won’t require a private oil refinery either.

The E53 remains a comfortable model in the line-up, ideally suited to urban cruising and trundling around in style but it lacks the raw, unadulterated character synonymous with larger AMG models. This is not to say it is bad at its intended function, but rather that the rapport of all AMG models that have come before it instil such an expectation to those that get behind the wheel that anything less can feel underwhelming. 

While it is well priced at R1 618 000 between the base E-Class model and the significantly more expensive R2 423 000 E63S 4Matic+ sedan, the E53 4Matic+ coupe should still comfortably fill a gap in the Mercedes-Benz sales catalogue.

It is expected that as we stray further from 6.2l V8 behemoths of yesteryear and gravitate closer to smaller displacements, Mercedes-Benz is likely to continue capitalising on the Affalterbach-based AMG division by branding models that can induce a sporty appeal to the consumer. The verdict is that the E53 is a good car, just perhaps without trying so hard to be something that it is not: a large AMG brute.

Adding to Renault’s arsenal of SUVs – the new Kiger

Renault South Africa is looking at increasing their range of SUVs with the new Kiger. This recently unveiled addition will complete Renault’s offering, joining the ranks with the likes of the Kwid, Duster and Triber. Although the Kiger is intended for the Indian market, we should see it arrive on our shores as early as Q3 of this year.

So what does the new Indian designed and produced B-SUV have to offer? For one, it has an almost identical, familiar face to the unique looking Kwid, making use of a divide in the front lighting setup, with the LED DRL’s in their own compartment above the pure vision LED headlamps. The symbolic Renault logo remains a large, bold statement intersecting the grille and the bonnet line. Rugged black plastic trim lines the bottom extremities of the car and it boasts 205 mm ground clearance. Which should give it fair capabilities over uneven terrain. An angular rear wing is seamlessly integrated above the rear windscreen while C -shaped LED tail lamps create a friendly looking aesthetic superimposed onto the available 6 base colour coats with dual tone customisability as well. 

A sensibly laid out interior surrounds the driver with creature comforts including a configurable 7” TFT driver display cluster and an 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Boot space on this sub-4-meter car is impressive at a claimed 405 litres capacity, while optional extras can include a front parking sensor, rear parking camera and a wireless charging bay.

Powering the Kiger is either a 1.0 liter three cylinder turbo-petrol engine with ratings at 74 kW and 160 Nm or a more affordable 53 kW, 96 Nm naturally aspirated (N/A) 1,0-litre petrol engine variation. The turbo is available in either a five-speed manual gearbox or a CVT while the N/A motor is paired to a five-speed manual or a five-speed automated manual transmission. 

The local market is yet to receive an official spec list and price sheet and while it is on sale in India, the country of its origin, for between 545 000 and 972 000 Rupee’s (R109 000 and R195 000 respectively), South Africa can be expected to pay a fair amount more. It should be locally priced to compete with Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Hyundai Venue and the Nissan Magnite, which it shares many similarities with. 

In A Class of Its Own – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz recently hosted us at their AMG Driving Academy headquarters at Zwartkops Raceway for the launch of their updated 5th-generation E-Class lineup. Alex Shahini spent the day driving the full range.

Few other brands have as much of a romantic relationship with the people of Mzansi than Mercedes-Benz. However their local history is ingrained in our fabric with models such as the iconic red W-126 500SE which was heartwarmingly gifted to Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison in early 1990. Despite the recent shift towards SUVs and hatchbacks, the distinguished variant remains the brands best selling model in their series lineup since the launch of its post-war predecessors in the late 1940’s. But is the E-Class in a class of its own?

The super-sedan segment remains hotly contested with the premium German brands constantly vying for the most market share and appealing to as broad of an audience as possible. This appeal to an inclusive sample group requires a range of vehicles that can satisfy every consumer’s needs which is why the E-Class lineup includes 6 models with 9 derivatives including a 4 door sedan, 4 door wagon (not applicable to our market), 2 door coupe and the 2 door cabrio. Within each derivative exists differing engine and drivetrain configurations which can be specified according to your preference. 

Despite the fierce rivalry with their German compatriots, Mercedes-Benz have remained the #1 premium brand after delivering 2.1 million units in 2020 with a relative market share of 37%, more than both local compatriots BMW (34%) and Audi (29%). The E-Class may continue to be the resolute reason for this continual success. It is proudly displayed as the brand’s best seller and with the 5th generation W213 as a basis, its 5 year refreshed facelift reinvigorated an already solid platform. 

With the AMG Driving Academy being situated in the opportune location of Zwartkops Raceway, the potent high performance E53 and E63 variants were put through their paces around the circuit and skid pan. While the impressive new 3-litre 6 cylinder turbocharged E53 has a power output of 320kW and makes use of mild hybrid technology, the earth-shaking but thirsty twin turbocharged 450kW V8 found in the E63S will remain the showstopper.

While all top tier AMG models retain the responsive steering and predictable body roll from the firmer suspension in Sport and Race mode, the more comfort orientated variants of the E200, E220d and E300 made trundling the highveld country roads a breeze. The overall dynamics between the chassis of the sedans and the coupes provided vastly differing experiences as a result of continual feedback from customers needs, with Mercedes-Benz adapting the suspension and chassis stiffness accordingly.

While the silhouette remains unchanged, the sheet metal panels and bodywork have been altered. The front end has swapped the upwards facing grille with a single horizontal feature for a downward facing grille with multiple vertical slats running across it – inspired by the AMG GT. The vehicles in the range including the AMG nameplate include more chrome features and a larger more imposing grille with aggressive front and rear bumpers. The now standard LED headlights have been refined to form a more cohesive front end with the updated grille while two-part LED tail lights run across the rear ¾ panel and boot lid. 

The interior layout remains mostly the same from its predecessor, with the most noticeable change being the aesthetically improved twin spoke steering wheel. The buttons have been replaced with touch-capacitive functionality which directly communicates with the new version of the MBUX system accessed via two 10.5” standard touch screens. While you can option a 12.3” screen for an additional price.

The overall tactile quality of the interior is high, with the selection of pleasant touch points found on the predecessor brought forward. The steering wheel feels slightly thick to grip around the thumb points while the touch-sensitive pads can often be overly sensitive to your touch. Spaciousness is however guaranteed for driver and passenger on saloon versions, with sufficient head, arm and legroom in all seats – even for taller passengers. The saloon retains all of the interior room while still being capable of 540l of cargo space too, trumping all of its competitors. 

Regardless which derivative, every E-Class has yet retained the premium interior texture and tailor made driving experience synonymous with the brand. It is easy to see why this range still falls at the heart of Mercedes-Benz sales as a benchmark of luxury and epitome of comfort. While it is often impossible to appeal to every consumer, the E-Class range certainly comes close to pleasing all of its buyers. 

The New Opel Corsa: Is It Worth the Wait?

Having launched internationally almost 2 years ago, the local arm of Opel has finally debuted the new Corsa into Mzansi! Alex Shahini took it for a spin

Opel South Africa may have introduced the initial 55kW range of the updated Corsa and Corsa Edition at the start of 2021, but they were waiting for the arrival of the range-topping Elegance derivative before doing an official press launch. So, we got comfortable with the peppy 96kW model and took it along the scenic mountain routes of the Magaliesburg earlier this month. 

While the selected route was filled with long stretches of straight tarmac and the occasional undulating hillclimb-esque road profile, the new Opel arrival made light work of it all. In addition to its sprightly-orientated handling and lightweight steering input, the expanses of tarmac filled with creviced surfaces and potholes were comfortably traversed, while overtaking slow moving traffic on single lane roads was as effortless as pushing the accelerator pedal down. The overall impression after the first 10 minutes at the wheel impressed significantly enough to immediately justify stacking it up to some of its immediate competitors; the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Hyundai i20. 

Historically, Opel have enjoyed a strong rapport in South Africa – with 86 uninterrupted years more recently winning 4 local prestigious Car Of The Year titles and selling 500 000 vehicles since 1994 (180 000 being the Corsa but excluding the Utility bakkie). This is a longer relationship than most of the aforementioned brands. This has enabled the brand to cement itself into the hearts of many locals with cult favorites such as the Superboss, OPC and GSI. 

While the 6 generations of the Corsa have successfully sold 14 million units globally since its inception in 1982, the automotive world has changed significantly since then. New market offerings from brands are seldom bad and general quality and user interface with vehicles has increased exponentially. The new Opel Corsa is a prime example of this – not that any of their previous 5 generations have been severely sub-par with the segment. 

The new generation, in line with refreshed brand identity has elevated itself, partially due to the recent Stellantis merger of FCA and PSA. What this means for the consumer is the Corsa has become the first Opel branded car to be based on a Stellantis platform – the front-engine, front-wheel drive Common Modular Platform (CMP) already proven with the Peugeot 208 and Citroen C4. This results in less time squandered by Opel developing a platform/chassis, allowing for more focus and budget on refinement and usability. Affiliations with the 4th largest automobile manufacturer by volume have their perks.

Lightness and efficiency form core aspects of the updated brand pillar of ‘greenovation’, with the entire local range making use of the frugal 1.2-litre 3-cylinder motors, our range topping 96kW turbocharged derivative sipped just over 6L/100km over a 300km open road journey. The low consumption can be partially accredited to flat underbody panelling spanning the length of the car while its drag coefficient of just 0.29 enables it to use less energy to keep its momentum. With an all-aluminum engine and weight reduction all around, the Corsa is 10% lighter than the outgoing car tipping the scales at just 980kg depending on the selected spec. This feathery automotive mass enables responsive braking in sticky situations while speeds in excess of freeway markings still feel safe with the car remaining planted to the tarmac while maneuvering. This can also be accredited to its firm but comfortable suspension which combined with its lightness mitigates excessive body roll and improves general handling characteristics. 

Powering the Corsa is a choice of 2 motors spread across 3 derivatives, both the entry-level Corsa and mid-range Corsa Edition make use of a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre 3 cylinder petrol motor with a maximum power output of 55kW coupled to a 5-speed manual gearbox mounted transversely across the engine bay. The Elegance derivative which we tested makes use of the same motor with the benefit of forced induction, the added turbo bumps its ratings up to 96kW and a smooth 6-speed automatic seamlessly takes care of the gearing. The auto-box provided a comfortable and refined journey, with sensibly laid out gear ratios and easy changes, particularly when downshifting for overtaking. 

In line with the ‘Modern German’ brand identity, the Corsa adds a bit of funk into the mixture with a selection of 7 factory colours including show stopping shades such as Orange Fizz, Pepperoncino Red or Voltaic Blue – which compliment the aesthetics of the car. A two tone option can be specced with a black roof on any of the exterior colours.

The interior amenities are adequate, with a central infotainment system capable of navigation, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The non-configurable driver screen (on the Elegance models) displays all crucial information in a rudimentary but sensible manner – more affordable models in the range get analog dials. The interior combines a selection of different materials and comfortable touchpoints creating an enjoyable environment for the driver. The rear door-well is slightly narrow and awkward to interact with but interior space once seated is impressive, with taller passengers afforded reasonable leg and knee room in the rear. 

While no 2 door variants are on the cards, Opel has confirmed pricing on the full Corsa range of 2021. Starting at R274 900 for the Corsa base model and progressing to R386 900 for the Elegance. With its handsome looks and funky attitude, it should give the usual B-Hatchback contenders a good run for their money. 

All You Need To Know About The New Volkswagen Tiguan

Excited about the announcement of the Golf GTI? Well, you should be excited about the new Tiguan too!

Launched back in 2008, the Tiguan nameplate has gone through multiple lifecycles – with some updates more significant than others. It has, however, been a firm favourite in Mzansi and Volkswagen hopes their new Tiguan will continue that success with new tech and a sharper design. 

The exterior includes a redesigned front bumper with wider headlamps which intersect the top grille creating an elongated front appearance. The Tiguan also includes IQ.LIGHT, a matrix of 22 individual LEDs per lamp which are claimed to enhance night-driving visibility. While the overall silhouette remains identical, the rear-end features a larger Tiguan badge placed centrally below the VW emblem. The Tiguan can be specced in a selection of new exterior metallic colours including Ginger Brown, Kings Red, Lapiz Blue, Night Shade Blue and Dolphin Grey.

On the inside, drivers are afforded with a refined cabin which includes a sleek steering wheel with new touch controls. The touch operated clusters have also replaced the previous variants physical climate control knobs with touch operated sliders and buttons. This new look Tiguan will also include an optional Harmon Kardon sound system for the first time, using a 16-channel amplifier, eight speakers and a subwoofer. Driver assistants will include Lane Change Assist, Side Assist and Emergency Braking with Front Assist. 

It will be available in three derivatives, the Tiguan, the Tiguan Life and the Tiguan R-Line. The base model will include 17” alloy wheels, LED headlamps, leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and the new eight speaker MIB3 Infotainment system’s Composition radio. The mid range Life model will include 18” alloys, cornering lights, Climatronic air conditioning, Park Distance Control in the front and rear as well as an electric tailgate in addition to the standard features. The highest spec Tiguan R-Line includes an aggressive exterior package, 19” alloy wheels and R-labelled leather seats. Both Life and R-Line derivatives have a small selection of alloy wheel designs to choose from as optional extras. 

Other optional extras include a panoramic sunroof, trailer hitch, exterior Black Style Package, Heads-up display and Trailer Manoeuvring System which includes Park Assist among many others. 

Powering the range is a 1.4TSI rated at 110kW mated to a 6-speed DSG gearbox while a 2.0TSI with 162kW and 350Nm includes the 7-speed DSG. For the fuel-conscious, a 7-speed DSG 2.0TDI rated at 130kW can achieve efficiency as low as 5l/100km in economy mode. 

The new German manufactured Volkswagen Tiguan, will be available to our local market from Q3 of this year with pricing to be confirmed closer to its release.

Is The New BMW 128ti The Right 1?

BMW has high hopes for their Golf GTI rivaling 128ti. Alex Shahini was at the launch in Johannesburg

Accessibility for a new, engaging and versatile car to drive can often leave consumers underwhelmed if it weren’t for the hot hatch segment. Churning out aggressively overstated and more rewarding runabout variants to their standard siblings, they have become the staple of young drivers enjoying exciting performance with the benefit of mass produced affordability. 

While the now defunct French 1973 Simca 1100TI can be given the credits of being the first traditional hot hatch, the one we all know and share a fascination towards was the Giugiaro-penned MK1 VW Golf GTI, debuting two years later. While half a century can separate us between those pioneering, fun filled vehicles – the recipe remains unchanged: take a mundane hatchback in the brand lineup, spice up performance, increase power ratings, throw in a few exciting looking exterior bits and make the cockpit feel like a boy racers dream. The new kid on the block, the BMW 128ti does exactly that and it is aiming straight down the barrel with the MK8 GTI squarely in its sights. 

It is worth noting that this is the Bavarian marque’s first real attempt at the hot hatch market. While we are in the midst of the hyper hatchback showdown, which BMW has previously dabbled in, they have never developed a typical hot hatch in the sense described previously. This has not been stated to downplay any shortfalls the 128ti may have but to also contextualize how BMW may have leapfrogged the competition. So, is it any good? 

Using the existing 1 Series bodywork and chassis as a starting point, the styling has transcended the soft looking F40 (not the Ferrari) generation into something that seems more potent and aggressive. While the new variant has lost some of the butch proportions of the F20/21 gen, it has improved in boot capacity (380l) and interior volume compliments of the transversally laid out 3 or 4-cylinder engines available in the range. 

While a colour blind person would struggle to find the differences between the 128ti and 118i M Sport Package, subtleties help to differentiate them. Red is the name of the game and it dominates details of both the exterior and interior. The 128ti decal at the bottom of the rear quarter panel, the front and rear bumper aero ducts are visually connected by a low slung side skirt, while the M-sport brake calipers are finished in the same shade of vermillion. Models specced in Melbourne Red or Misano Blue will lose these above mentioned exterior details by default. The rear end is completed with the same twin-exit diffuser found on the M135i. 


The sport cabin is comfortable and spacious, detailed with the same exterior red stitched onto the dashboard, seats and floor mats while the ‘ti’ moniker is boldly embroidered onto the centre storage armrest. The M sport colours exist in the form of a subtle line down each of the seatbelts. While the red detailing is abundant, it is chiefly there to signify that the 128ti is not simply another engine variant slotted between the 118i and xDrive M135i. It is there to reinvigorate the previously historic turizmo internazionale (ti) name first demonstrated on the classic 1960’s lines of the 2002ti. By doing so, BMW have seized the opportunity to create an attainable cult classic. 

While on the topic, the 2002ti was a machine suitable for the driving purist of the era, making use of the 02 platform to create something sportier and more engaging. The new iteration does the same, shedding 80 kilograms of weight from the M135i, incorporating a mechanical diff and doing away with xDrive and adaptive suspension. It has a more visceral and engaging sensation behind the wheel because of this, with distinctly firm steering and torque steer in sports mode while an adequately comfortable ride on the standard 18” rims without. The 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo motor is detuned from the 135i to a respectable 180kW and 380Nm, sufficient on its FWD platform. The maximum torque output is available from as low as 1500 rpm while the 8-speed Steptronic sport transmission has violently appealing (to the boyracer in me) gear shifts in sport mode.

The traction control can annoyingly inhibit some of the torque and bog power in the lower gears, disengaging the ESC allows the mechanical diff to make easy work of sharp corners, with a dash of wheel spin going into 2nd and 3rd gear – enough to put a smile on the face. There are a few pitfalls, including a noisy radiator fan, visible exhaust backbox and the fact that BMW missed the opportunity to incorporate more of the original ti’s cues but the overall package remains good enough to take on the likes of the GTI and i30N.
While the newly released M135i completely missed the mark of the previous generations legacy (view the Nwamba brothers honest critique at the link), the 128ti with its competitive base price of R687 418 may just be the right 1.