Category: 4×4

Why the Toyota Hilux TRD prototype would be a major seller in South Africa

The bakkie market in South Africa has undoubtedly got a very loyal fan base. Month in and month out there are thousands of pick-ups sold in the country, with the two biggest competing brands being Ford and Toyota. Ford has risen to the top recently because not only is their offering very capable, the Ranger also looks very good. It’s the closest South Africans can get to a hardcore looking truck without paying the premium of importing something like a Dodge Ram. In fact I personally know people who have bought the Ford Ranger purely based on its looks. Most of them have probably not even used low range on their cars but as long as they look the part, their happy. Some have even taken their Fords to another level by adding the infamous Raptor kit, making it even more menacing in appearance.

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The ruggedness of the Ford Ranger Wildtrack is something the Toyota Hilux is missing. The Hilux is a pretty car but note the use of the word pretty, something that shouldn’t be said of a bakkie. What the Hilux needed in South Africa was the look of the Hilux TRD prototype that was revealed two years ago in Bangkok. This Hilux is what our market needs because it looks fantastic. Flared wheel arches, a larger and more aggressive bumper and tasteful bits in black make for an aesthetically pleasing look. To add to that, there is black side skirting on the car and red stickers on the bonnet and on the side of the vehicle. The reason why this car would do well in the country is because the traditional bakkie buyer is not the only person interested in this type of vehicle nowadays.

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The traditional buyer is one that is looking for quality and reliability, something Toyota has gotten right over the years. Generally, these buyers will use their cars on various terrains and the cars will be used to their full capacity. The newer bakkie buyer though is generally more lifestyle based, so the car needs to work well for a weekend getaway whilst doing a good job as a normal daily drive. As a result, aesthetic appeal has become of significant importance for many buyers hence the success of the Ford Ranger. If the Toyota Hilux TRD were to come into production and was sold in South Africa, it would be a great answer to the Ford. The merger of the reliable nameplate coupled with some amazing looks would make for a very appealing product. The question then is will Toyota make this rugged machine? If so our Toyota lovers would be very pleased. Especially since the range already sells a boat load every month.

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Updated Volkswagen Golf R With More Power

Since the Volkswagen Golf’s introduction in 1974, it has undoubtedly been the benchmark in its segment. Now in its 7th generation, it’s better than ever and things are set to improve still with a mid-cycle update having been announced in November last year.

In my mind, the Golf is the Porsche 911 of its segment – with build quality to rival its VW Group counterpart and a breadth of capability few cars can match, does one really need more than a Golf? The answer is probably no. If you’re looking for frugal, there’s a diesel and small capacity turbo-petrols, and if you’re a sporty fellow, there’s the GTI. If none of that is enough and you feel like having more power than you’ll ever need, the Golf R has got you covered with its all-wheel drive traction and quad tailpipes. There really is a Golf for everyone.

Here at TheMotorist, however, we love a good hot hatch (Richard is the only one without one) so what we’ve been chomping at the bit for is the updated Golf R.

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First and foremost, the R sees a boost in power. It makes use of the same EA888 unit as before but where in the past our R’s and Audi S3’s had reduced power to cope with the hot-climate and feeble fuel, we have been given the go-ahead to have all the power. Offering almost identical outputs to the GTI Clubsport S, minus 20 N.m, 228 kW and 400 N.m allow the R to complete the 0-100 km/h dash in just 4.5 seconds… Now consider that the claimed 0-100 km/h time of the V8 M3 (E90) was 4.6 seconds and you start to realise that this a preposterously rapid Golf. Unlike the M3, though, it’ll catapult you just as briskly in the wet or the dry, come rain or shine. This is thanks to the crafty Swedes at Haldex who have been supplying VW AG with AWD systems since 1998.

A similar system to the one you’ll find in the Volvo S60 Polestar, the GenV AWD Coupling was developed especially for Volkswagen with versions of it seeing use in Audi, Seat, Skoda, Lamborghini and Bugatti products. What is so remarkable about this system is that it is significantly less complicated than both traditional 4X4 and intelligent AWD systems, yet just as effective. It makes use of an electro-hydraulic clutch actuator which rapidly distributes power between the front and rear axles as the integrated ECU sees fit. Essentially, as the system detects slip on either the front or rear axle, torque is then distributed accordingly to where there is grip in an accurate and Germanic fashion. This isn’t revolutionary in itself but just how compact the system is due to the fact that it requires neither a solenoid valve with filter nor a hydraulic accumulator is. Clever stuff!

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Other changes are as with the rest of the Golf range – redesigned headlights and taillights (both full LED) traffic-jam assist (not yet confirmed for SA) and a vast array of passive and active safety systems. The interior also sees a few upgrades with Active Info Display now making its first appearance in the Golf.

Expect to see the first units on our shores mid-2017.

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Fiat Fullback: Can it cut it with today’s bakkie market?

Fiat Fullback Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

That awkward moment when people ask you if you’re driving a Toyota Hilux, but your response is “no, it’s a Fiat”. This seemed to happen often whilst we had the Fiat Fullback on test, and the truth is that you can understand why people kept making this assumption. The side profile of the new Fiat Fullback does bear a resemblance to the iconic Hilux. People’s reaction to the realisation that this is a Fiat bakkie differed significantly though. Some were disappointed while others were intrigued, we, on the other hand, were more nervous than anything else.

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Knife to a gun fight?

The reason for this nervousness was because this car is in the ring with some fantastic heavyweights and naturally you want the underdog to win. With Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Volkswagen dominating the market, can the same people that make the Fiat 500 produce something that can please the local Bakkie market? The thing about all the newer Bakkies is that they work well off-road, but it’s their on-road “car-like” personas that make them so popular. The traditional bakkie has been turned into a lifestyle vehicle, and we wanted to see how good the Fullback will do as an everyday car.

The Fiat Fullback is not an entirely new car though; it is very closely related to the Mitsubishi Triton. Although not SA’s favourite bakkie, it has proved itself as tough and reliable over the years. Styling wise the Italian influence works for the car as it looks modern and somewhat good looking. The interior is still more in tune with a pick up rather than a passenger car. The infotainment is pretty average, but so are most of the competitor’s systems too. As long as we can pair a phone and plug in a USB, we’re happy, and thankfully both were possible in the test unit we received.  The Fullback’s interior is large and roomy, and one would be able to fit some adults in the front and rear with ease. The ride of the car is also very good for on-road use, even with the rear unloaded, often you tend to bounce around in an unloaded bakkie, but the ride quality was quite supple in the Fiat and on par with the some of the big guns.

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The double cab gives you two options, a 4×2 with 100kW/324Nm and a 4×4 producing 131kW/400Nm. Both use a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine; we had the latter at our disposal. The 4×4 has plenty torque and will no doubt not disappoint those looking for a powerful bakkie. The cars shortfall is the manual gearbox which is reminiscent of an old school truck. The gear changes really need some muscle to engage and when missed, the grinding noise makes you feel like you’ve failed at life. After a few days of understanding the way the car drives, it became easier to operate and more enjoyable as a result.

For those looking to get dirty, the Fullback is capable of climbing up and down rocky passes, as it has a 30-degree approach angle and a 22-degree departure angle. It can also travel laterally up to 45 degrees, so you can rest assured that the average city dweller who likes to go on excursions will be able to do so. The biggest question then with this car is why? Why buy this car over the competition? People buy the Hilux because of its reputation and the fact that you can generally get parts even in the most remote places. Others buy a Ford Ranger because it is the coolest bakkie hands down and it can still perform. The Amarok, on the contrary, is probably the best car-like bakkie you can get and even though it doesn’t sell as well as the others, it still has its place. An Isuzu buyer has probably grown up with KB’s in the house from an early age, so again we ask what makes the Fullback so special? Yes it looks good, and it’s comfortable, but unfortunately,  it’s not better than its competitors. In a segment where brand loyalty is probably at its highest, all we can do is wish Fiat the best with this car.  It’s not a bad product, but they will have to do much more to take on the best.

Prices:

Single Cab Petrol

:R 232,900

Double Cab 4×2

:R 402,900

Double Cab 4×4

:R 468,900

 

Mercedes GLC Coupe – The Sportier GLC.

Mercedes are pumping out cars like hot cakes at the moment, and I must admit, its hard to keep up. The latest German machine to hit the shelves in the Mercedes GLC Coupe.

By the sounds of it, Mercedes wanted to bring more of a sports coupe element to the mid-sized Suv, The GLC Coupe will feature none optional sports suspension, in the form of DYNAMIC BODY CONTROL which features classic steel springs, or the AIR BODY CONTROL, which features multi-chamber air suspension. Both providing electronically controlled characteristics, for example, In Sports + mode, the vehicle is lowered by 15mm to give a “sports car” feel.  A permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive is standard along with Mercedes 9 Speed automatic transmission.

The design is similar to the standard GLC, with headlights that resemble the shape and style found on the latest C and E class vehicles. The GLC Coupe is also 8cm longer and 4cm lower, but features mainly the same design features.

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Standard to all GLC Coupe models is 18”wheels, chrome exterior pack, EASY-PACK tailgate, 20 CD multimedia system ( strange one, who uses CD’s anymore?) keyless-go and man-made leather interior. Further to this, Mercedes include a lot of their assistance systems, such as collision prevention and crosswind assist.

Diesel Variants : The Mercedes GLC Coupe will feature six variants, with three diesel engines included. The range will start with the GLC 220 d Coupe, producing 125Kw and 400Nm of torque, with a price of R735 900. From here we go to the GLC 250 d – 150kw and 500Nm for a price of R754 900. Finalising things in the diesel range is the GLC 350 d with 190kw and a hefty 620Nm. The price is also hefty to at R894 900.

Petrol Variants: The GLC 250 will be the baseline petrol model with 155Kw and 350Nm, rising to the GLC 300 with 180kw and 370Nm, priced R739 900 and R794 900 respectively. The final petrol model will come in the form of a Mercedes-AMG  GLC 43, 270Kw on tap with 520Nm to back it up.

As always, when we get our hands on one, we will provide a full, driven review in our Motorist Digital Magazine.16c106_038_1800x1800

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mercedes-Benz Bakkie – Would you buy one?

Over recent years we have seen the Pickup or Bakkie market change, instead of the classic workhorse, Bakkies are used more for commercial and private sectors, simultaneously. Not only have they adapted into vehicles that look and feel great, they also have plenty of space for passengers, especially the double cab models.

Mercedes have cottoned onto this and released the first concept images of their new  X – Class. Mercedes say they will change the segment of mid-size pickups by releasing the world’s first premium Bakkie, fair enough. There are two model variants, the first being entitled “stylish explorer.” As you can see from the designs, this is a more upmarket urban vehicle which maybe gets used for a cross-border family trip once in a while. The interior is true Mercedes style with leathers, woods, and shiny metal. Although being a Bakkie, I can’t imagine this vehicle will be lugging around too much construction/building materials during its life. I feel its more aimed at the owner or big boss of a construction company or architectural firm, maybe once in a while a spanner and screwdriver might slip into the back.

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The second is the X Class “powerful adventurer.” This vehicle, as the name suggests have been aimed at those kinds of people who like to go out, explore and conquer many terrains and lands. This model is my kind of vehicle; it features massive ground clearance, big, chunky off-road tires measuring 35 inches high, by 11 inches wide, the wild offroad styling is finished off by an electric front winch. The interior is still luxurious but has more rugged, out there kind of feel. The Powerful Adventurer is the kind of vehicle which would be loaded up with surfboards and driven over the border into Namibia when the Skeleton Bay surf is firing. Both variants will contain the classic Mercedes tech such as online connected drive systems, lots of sensors, fancy suspension systems and the like. Regarding engines, Mercedes have said top-of-the-line models will be powered by a V6 Diesel, coupled with a very technical four-wheel drive system.

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Mercedes are aiming the X Class at five markets with one of them being the successful adventurer/extreme sports person.( They will need to be successful to afford one of these) Another target market is active families with an “affinity” to premium products( See above, once is a while cross-border holiday). The X class is also aimed at trend-conscious individualists, business owners and landowners in South Africa.

These vehicles are targeting for a late 2017 launch, the question for me is price, the X class is a much more premium vehicle than the R600k Wildtrack, so how much more is it going to cost? Unfortunately for most, I feel this vehicle is going to be out of their league.

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Isuzu KB Launch Namibia

Namibia; located in southwest Africa, is a country of great landscapes. A place where huge sandy hills called “dunes” stretch along the coast for miles, a relatively desolate place filled with natural beauty and minimal people.

Isuzu South Africa thought this would be a perfect place to test out their all new KB, and I tended to agree. In our November (Edition 06) of our digital magazine, we will have a full feature of the whole trip. For now, though I’m here to tell you about the updates to the new Isuzu KB.

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Updates

All the upgrades for this model come in the form of visuals, there are no drivetrain changes in any models of the new KB range.  The front end of the KB has received the most work with a redesigned front bonnet, radiator grill, and front fog lamps. The eyes of the KB have also been upgraded and now feature projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights.

The rear of this vehicle received slight changes with a newly designed rear tailgate and  the integration of a rear parking camera in the handle, which is only available on double cab LX Models. To finish of the exterior changes, Isuzu has supplied all models with newly designed alloy wheels, 18” inch on the LX Models and 16” on all other variants. Though only small, these changes do give the KB a fresh look and slightly more aggressive appeal, which every 4 x 4 should have.

There are two changes inside the cabin of the KB, with the main change being a new instrument cluster, which even has a little gearshift indicator to help keep the planet green. The second change comes in the form of roof mounted rear speakers to increase audio and volume inside the cabin.

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Driving

On launch we had the KB 300 LX models in manual and auto, this specific KB produces 130kw and 380nm of torque. I  enjoyed cruising on the road and sand; it had plenty of power and performance when tackling challenging terrain and a surprisingly comfy ride on rough road. Most likely due to the revised rear suspension changes on the 4×4 models. (4 X 2 models received revised changes to the front and rear suspension setups.)  The interior in KB is pleasant; I would not describe it as anything more to be honest. Don’t expect Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger levels of luxury; this vehicle appeals to me as more of a work/adventure 4×4, rather than a take your kids to school kind of 4×4 and maybe drive in some mud every 6 months. A massive benefit though is that the LX models come with Sat-Nav, even if it is a bit finicky to operate and has a terribly annoying speed warning system which ended up in us shouting at the screen. Turn the Sat-Nav off, and the warning stops, thankfully.

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We had been told that off-road driving is all about the driver and not the vehicle. Even still, you can’t take a front wheel drive hatchback through those dunes, and the KB  proved itself out in the sand; All modes were easy to operate and switching to 4×4 from 4×2 can be done at up to 110kph. Switching to 4×4 low range needs to be done with the vehicle at a stop, which is usually the standard process on all vehicles.  It was a fantastic trip with lots learned and great memories made.  As previously mentioned, we will have a full feature on the journey in Edition 06 of our digital magazine, which you can subscribe to below.

 

Subscribe to our digital magazine here.

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Models

KB 250 BASE SINGLE CAB (LEED) – R 235 000

KB 250 FLEETSIDE SINGLE CAB (LEED) – R 258 800

KB 250 FLEETSIDE (SAFETY) – R 285 600

KB 250 SINGLE CAB LE – R 334 500

KB 250 4X4 SINGLE CAB LE – R 386 800

KB 300 4X4 SINGLE CAB LX – R442 800

 

Extended Cab

KB 250 EXTENDED CAB HI-RIDER – R 337 400

KB 300 EXTENDED CAB LX – R 414 000

KB 300 EXTENDED CAB LX (AUTO) – R 427 900

KB 300 4X4 EXTENDED CAB LX – R 474 400

 

Double Cab

KB 250 DOUBLE CAB HI-RIDER – R 351 300

KB 250 DOUBLE CAB LE – R 435 200

KB 250 Double Cab LE – R 457 400

KB 300 Double Cab LX – R 384 200

KB 300 Double Cab LX (Cloth) – R 486 900

KB 300 Double Cab LX (Auto) (Cloth) – R 501 200

KB 300 4×4 Double Cab LX – R 549 800

KB 300 4×4 Double Cab LX (Auto) – R 563 500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grown up yet young at heart: Audi’s new Q7 driven.

Slimmer, smarter and better.

Getting older is a funny and weird thing. You start to notice changes in not only how you view the world but also, how you use it. Not only do I not drink beer any more (let’s be completely honest, it doesn’t taste nice and most of us drink it to fit in) but my choice in cars has swayed a bit too. Not only do I look at performance and how the car makes me feel, but I find myself looking at the boot space of a car and asking my wife strange questions like, “do you think a pram will fit in the boot?” and “does it come standard with ISOFIX” I mean ISOFIX, really!?

This was worsened when we had the new Audi Q7 on test. To be honest, when our editor said, “you need to drive this car!” I was a little taken back by just looking at it. The previous Q7 had left me feeling underwhelmed and it was just too big. Sure it could do what the other SUV’s could, but in my opinion it wasn’t as refined as its competitors, and it felt dated too.

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So off I went, leaving my BMW 435i in the basement and into the boxier new Q7. Man, was I surprised. What immediately struck me were the proportions of the car. Yes it’s big, but the car seems to have shrunk from its predecessor. Visually, it’s sleek and understated, it also has those lovely day time running lights due to the optional Matrix headlights that seem to have been taken straight out of the movie Tron. I walked around the new Q7 and felt like Joey from the sitcom Friends as I asked the car “How you doin?” (If you don’t get that joke, you’re too young.)

The surprises kept on coming as I got more acquainted with the car. The premium interior trim, long dashboard, ease of controls and most importantly, Audi’s biggest party trick the Virtual Cockpit all impressed me. Despite all of this I was still sceptical because I still remember how the old girl drove, surely it’s still a tank that’s an absolute mess to park? Wrong again Richard.

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This latest model, with its 3.0 TDI producing 185kW and 600Nm, made me think of the “as smooth as a hot knife through butter” cliché. It glides and gets up to speed very quickly. After a few hours, I didn’t miss my 225kW daily drive at all. There are some back roads on my adventurous route home and I decided this was going to be a good challenge for the new Q7. I dove in aggressively to the first of many sharp corners and the steering feedback as well as the suspension setup surely hides the cars’ weight and it proceeded to devour the bends in a way a 4×4 shouldn’t. It seemed to look back at me and say, “is that all you’ve got?” All of this is due to the lower centre of gravity on the new Q7 compared to the previous car, as well as a weight reduction of 325 kilograms.

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Another test was the “wife test”, since most wife’s have the biggest influence in car choices. So I picked up my wife and found an excuse for us to go out for dinner and I pleasantly found out that I wasn’t the only one to be bitten by the Q7 bug. The feature that she liked the most? The fact that the car does not feel big inside and is therefore not intimidating to drive or to be a passenger in. What didn’t she like? The fact that new Q7 didn’t look as exciting as other SUV’s on the road, something we agreed to disagree on. So the car had so far passed some key tests.

To say I was impressed by the new Q7 is an understatement. My current favourite SUV was the not so new Range Rover Sport TDV6, but this new Q7 I found was more exciting and dynamic. I’m glad that the ugly duckling now has a chance of becoming the “prom queen”, but we can’t give it the crown until we drive the new Volvo XC90, a car that is the current SA Car of the Year. That being said, the new Q7 is better at everything than the car it replaces and yes it can fit a pram in the boot and it does have ISOFIX. The good thing is that despite it making me indulge in my mature desires even more, it still made me feel young. Which is a lot to say for a car intended for families. Starting at R907 000, it’s competitively priced in its segment too.

New MINI Convertible and Clubman driven.

New MINI’s added to the range for more fun and practicality

What happens when the roof of the MINI Cooper is cut off and replaced with canvas? Or when the car goes for a butt transplant and comes out with a much bigger rear? We flew down to sunny Cape Town to find out. The two cars in question was the new MINI Cooper convertible as well as the new MINI Clubman.

Already the new MINI is as popular as the car it replaced. The new vehicle definitely has a wider appeal to both men and women, whereas the previous model was generally seen as a “girly” car. We have always loved the MINI, not because of the way it looked but rather the way it felt. It’s always had this sense of “chuckability” that many hatchbacks didn’t. So starting off with the new MINI Convertible, we had to find out if the car still retained the “fizz” with the roof off.

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After an eighteen second wait the roof was down and we could admire the stunning Gordon’s Bay scenery whilst the exhaust pipes of the MINI Convertible S served as a lovely soundtrack. Accelerate for a few seconds and lift off to hear burbles, cracks and pops. Thereafter change up a gear and surprisingly the 6-Speed Steptronic gearbox obliges with ease. 141kW and 250Nm is what propels the Cooper S and despite added weight from reinforcing  the car to handle the lack of a roof, the vehicle still feels as nimble as its hard-headed sibling. Fitted with the JCW body kit, the Cooper S has great visual appeal and a sporty stance, again making it more masculine in appearance.

Enthusiasts always lament the loss of dynamic handling in convertibles versus hard tops, but you would really have to be an F1 racer to notice any real difference in the handling characteristics of the MINI Convertible against the hardtop. Besides, this car is not aimed at the “boy racer”, that’s what the JCW is for. If anything, one could say the drama of having the “wind blowing in your hair” whilst driving through Franschoek pass is more exciting. Colleagues who drove the normal Cooper Convertible also had no ill word to say about the car, in fact they loved the lively nature found in the 100kW 1.5 litre three cylinder engine.

What MINI have done with the convertible is simply give customers a different option. It’s still the same car you would buy three months ago, minus the roof of course. For those looking for a tan or perhaps looking for some attention, why not get yourself the MINI Convertible? We do have lovely weather in South Africa after all.

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Next up was the Clubman. Where the normal cooper sits, the Mini five door sits in the middle and the Clubman sits at the opposite end. This car should be called a Maxi because it feels completely different to the three door variant. Mature is the word to use for the car as it feels like the older brother of the lot. The most noticeable visual change is the rear end, with suicide doors making loading and unloading much easier. For once in a MINI there is an actual boot, one that can actually fit groceries, luggage and even a small dog. Not only is the new Clubman longer than the five door, it’s wider too. The interior is also different with a broader instrument panel creating more space inside the car.

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This time we opted for the standard Clubman, not the S version. Despite a power decrease from the S, the way that little three cylinder engine performs is very good indeed. A Clubman client won’t be disappointed if they opted for the standard version over the S.

All in all, these new additions play very different roles and speak to very different buyers. The cars are equally impressive though with the same connectivity options and technological equipment available in both cars. One nifty option (standard in the S models) is the MINI Driving Modes which give you an option of Green, Mid and Sport mode, which changes the throttle response of the car and the exhaust note (on the S model). If you’re a die-hard Mini fan, they have created a different set of the same car so that you don’t ever have to leave the brand because of circumstance. Before a MINI was just a MINI, now you can have a MINI, a bigger MINI and an even bigger MINI.

Prices:

MINI Clubman: R343 000 (Manual) and R361 000 (Automatic)

MINI Clubman S: R415 000 (Manual)  and R434 500 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible: R368 000 (Manual) and R384 000 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible S: R433 000 (Manual) and R451 000 (Automatic)

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Audi South Africa has launched the RS3. It’s here to make noise.

Audi South Africa’s RS3: It’s here.

So the Audi RS3 has been for sale in South Africa for the last month or so and it’s causing quite the stir. It is the only super hatch available that features a five-cylinder engine. As a result, the noise that comes out of the exhausts is rather delicious and unique.

The RS3 is up against Mercedes’ A45 bruiser which has been recently tinkered with to create more power, 280 kW to be exact. BMW seems to be on the back-foot this time as their M135i only pushes 240 kW while the RS3 produces a hefty 270 kW. The Bavarians at BMW do have the long awaited M2 coming soon, and even though it’s a coupé, it will be compared to the Audi and the Mercedes. There’s more; Ford also has a hyper hatch waiting to be unleashed in South Africa, the Focus RS, so it seems like 2016 will be quite the showdown.

For now, though, we celebrate Audi South Africa’s stunning hatchback that can catapult you to 100 km/h in just 4.3 seconds thanks to the Quattro drivetrain fitted as standard. For a measly R710 000, you can give a new RS3 a loving home. Chump change indeed.

The new Suzuki Vitara: It’s back.

Little brother vs. Big Brother: The new Suzuki Vitara.

Being the older brother is what I do best. Growing up, I always got things first between my three siblings. I got to decide what we watched on holiday by “booking” the DSTV as well as the Television for the day. I also bullied my siblings into doing what I wanted by threating to expose their petty secrets to our parents. It’s safe to say; I had this under control. Yes, there were/are challenges, but in my mind, the pros far outweigh the cons. My siblings were known as “Richard’s brother” or “Richard’s sisters”, what a great title to have.

Fast forward the to the Launch of the all new Suzuki Vitara that we at TheMotorist were invited to, and my hard earned spot at the top of the sibling podium was occupied. This was done by non-other than my “little” brother, Francisco, the other half of our magazine. It all started when I met the other journalists also attending the launch. “You are Francisco’s brother aren’t you? You look just like him.” Correction, he looks like me, I’m the original. The feeling of annoyance lurked deep inside me until the sensational looking little SUV was introduced to us. It looked better in the flesh than on the promotional video they showed us.

Now that I was distracted by the car, I started to enjoy my day in beautiful George and Knysna, not worried that I was nameless, just my sibling’s brother. The day began with a drive from the venue in George,  and up the beautiful mountain passes in the surrounding areas. My first impressions in the new Vitara were how comfortable the ride was, the seating position was perfect for a 6-foot male, and the 1.6-litre engine was surprisingly peppy. My driving partner asked me to try and not kill her, as she had previously driven with my heavy footed brother before. I reassured her that I was going to show her how the older, more mature older brother drives. On the blacktop, the new Suzuki Vitara showed off by how quiet the cabin is on the road. It’s no performance car, but for a 1.6 litre four pot, it has some vooma. It had no problem getting up top speed, and once I figured how the cruise control worked, the drive was a s pleasant as a Sunday.

When we turned off onto the gravel, that’s where the Suzuki Vitara started flexing its muscles. It took on all sorted of bumps, pot-holes and rifts on the roads with the greatest of ease. Since the cabin is well insulated, despite all the dust and muck flying about; we were able to hold a conversation without any strain to our vocal cords. Things took an interesting turn when my driving partner moved to the captain’s chair. Now from what she told me about my brother I expected an easy gravel road drive, something relaxed that would give me the chance to get more acquainted with all the toys offered in the car.

What happened next was not what Francisco’s brother expected! The Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+ went from a very comfortable family vehicle to a makeshift rally car. My driving partner was very comfortable behind the wheel at these speeds. Meanwhile, my right foot was looking for the imaginary brake pedal. What blew me away was how this little car was soaking all of this in. Here I thought that Suzuki had replaced the old Vitara with a compact pavement climber, but what I was seeing here made me realise that this little car would give more expensive cars a run for their money on this terrain.

Things came to a well-welcomed halt when travellers blocked the mountain pass with a blown tyre, and that’s when I requested the driver’s seats again, but at that stage, we were at the end of the pass and were back on the tarmac. The rest of the drive was as relaxed as the scenery, and our lunch in the heart of Knysna allowed me to not only take everything regarding how beautiful our surroundings were, but also to realise that we as consumers are spoilt for choice. With more and more vehicles emerging in various segments, it comes down to personal choice.

The new Vitara truly encompasses the spirit of the original compact SUV that was launched 27 years ago. Comparing the two models made reach epiphany, I am like the original Vitara since it all started with me. The original paved the way for the new fun and exciting model that came after it. The same goes with my siblings and I. As a result; this new Vitara is as good as it is because it has learned from its older sibling and taken its traits and enhanced it. It’s only fair then to pay respects to the original. I am ready to take all the credit. Sadly if you were to compare the two models back to back, the new Vitara would win the hearts of people since it’s young and hip. Poor original Vitara, you’ve done so much for this new car yet you’re now the “new Vitara’s brother”.

 

In all seriousness, though, the new Suzuki Vitara is an excellent little car in this hotly contested segment, and hopefully, more people will have an opportunity to sample it through a test drive. Hopefully, that will get people out of the psychological rut of blindly buying cars simply because of the brand behind it. Five models are available for purchase, the GL, two GL+ models, and two GLX models. All models offer different features and options. For the GL+ and the GLX, Suzuki’s AlllGrip 4×4 suspension is available, giving you more traction on the road but especially off-road. Two-tone colour combinations are also available in the GL+ and GLX as well as the choice of a 6-speed automatic gearbox for the FWD GLX. For those looking for a small, good looking and fun to drive SUV, the Vitara is an excellent choice to buy. After all, it’s based on a really good original.

Happy Motoring

Francisco’s Brother

Models and Prices:

1.6 GL      5MT:                            R239 900

1.6 GL+   5MT:                            R269 900

1.6 GL+   5MT AllGrip               R291 900

1.6 GLX   5MT AllGrip              R319 900

1.6 GLX   6AT                             R299 900