Category: Car reviews

The Bigger MINI Countryman is back in South Africa and it’s better

The New MINI Countryman is back – We attended the South African launch. 

The Countryman was the car that made MINI lovers question the brands direction. How can a MINI be a four door hatchback that wasn’t “mini” by any means? That question troubled die-hard fans that only associate the car with Mr. Bean and the overused “go-kart feel” line the brand used for many years. The reality however is that the MINI audience has changed. The people who fell in love with the reincarnated post millennium MINI, probably have different needs than they did when the brand re-launched approximately  15 years ago.

Those same MINI lovers now probably have children and need more space and comfort. Before the Countryman, those people had to move on to other brands. This wasn’t the case when the first generation MINI Countryman launched and now we’re on the second generation, which keeps the same recipe but bettered of course. For starters the exterior design has been individualised, making it distinct compared to other MINI models. This is great because all the MINI models looked the same, so some variety in design is welcome. What is most notable is the front headlights, which feature standard LED lights, giving the Countryman a modern presence. The rear sees the number plate section moved to the middle of the boot (Or trunk if you’re American) and the taillights have been revised too. The overall look of the car is fuller, longer and wider, giving the Countryman a crossover stance, which is what the cool kids want nowadays.

The chicness doesn’t stop on the outside, the inside is much roomier and dolled up too. The cramped feeling you get in a MINI is completely gone, but the signature MINI feel remains. A circular infotainment hub gives you various bits of information such as driving data and media. The choice of different screen sizes is available, with the option of navigation giving you the largest screen option and the nicest too. The rear legroom has been improved greatly and the rear seats are able to move backwards and forwards by 13cm.Nice.

Powering the MINI Countryman Cooper is the 1.5 litre turbocharged 3 cylinder engine used in the BMW 318i and other modern  MINI Coopers. This small yet powerful engine produces 100kW/220Nm. The big boy S variant uses a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine which is good for 141kW/280Nm. Both cars are available with manual gearboxes and the preferred ZF automatic gearbox. If auto is what you’ll opt for, be advised that the Cooper use a 6-Speed whereas the Cooper S uses an 8-speed Sport Automatic with paddle-shift. Both variants are very smooth compared to their smaller siblings and they also offer more refinement, something needed in this segment. We’re happy to state that sharp dynamic handling is apparent in the new Countryman, but in a more grown up way.

The vehicle still has that childish get up and go manner about it, but much more civilised. The added power of the S model is a nice to have, but the standard cooper won’t leave you sorely wanting, especially during the everyday commute. The most revolutionary model is yet to come however, this being the Cooper D, a first for the South African market. Better fuel economy and more torque will probably make this upcoming variant the Countryman of choice for many.

Overall the new Countryman is a great step ahead for the brand. The outgoing car had started to feel slightly long in the tooth, so this newer model came in the nick of time. With competition like the Audi Q2, the Countryman has got what it takes to square off with the rivals whilst maintaining a unique flair. MINI lovers needing more space can happily stay in the brand with the new Countryman. With more models on the way, we look forward to seeing how it sells in the SA market. Starting at R422 000, this price point is in not unattainable for those looking at the crossover market.

 

Is the Rolls Royce Dawn Worth Its R10 Million Price Tag in South Africa?

The creme de la creme of motor vehicles, you don’t get better than a Rolls-Royce. It falls into the same category as the private jet in air travel or the luxury yacht that parks off at Clifton beach. So when TheMotorist was offered the chance to sample the best that money can buy in the ultra luxury segment, we looked forward to experiencing what it feels like to be part of the one percent.

The Rolls-Royce Dawn was the variant we had the keys to and that said vehicle has an approximate price tag of R10m. Yes, for that kind of money expectations are high. A buyer of such a car demands the best in comfort and quality on the road. That buyer expects unrivaled luxury and prestige, but even then, does all that which comes with owning such a car justify the cost?

For starters, there certainly isn’t anything like this on the road. It’s distinctively long bonnet and large square face, (all centered by the Spirit of Ecstasy) give the Dawn a look that’s hard to miss. When driving this vehicle or even being a passenger, you feel like you own every square cm of tarmac that you grace with your presence. You will have no problem then committing minor road offenses, such as cutting in front of people in traffic. When you do, no one even questions your actions. The rich really do have it good. It’s quite a pleasant experience really, because instead of the usual middle finger protruding from the driver’s side window, many attempt a wave similar to that of the Queen herself. Charming.

The exquisite exterior styling and design of the Dawn is rather elegant yet simple. It doesn’t shout with crazy lines, noises or colors like a supercar, because it doesn’t need to. It’s like a work of art – the epitome of class.

The team discussed the fact that whatever car parks next to the Dawn at a traffic light, be it a Ferrari or even a Maybach, the Rolls-Royce trumps it, every time. It would have to be a very special car to take attention off the Dawn. In terms of luxury, not much comes close.

The interior really is a sight to behold, soft cream leather covers most surfaces and the Rolls we drove had an optional wood finish called “Canadel”. It was designed to give the effect that you were aboard a luxury yacht. The result is a very modern and chic appearance, created by merging metal, leather and wood. The subtle trimmings in the vehicle are sublime, from the glass numbered buttons used for selecting radio stations, to lambswool carpets so thick that you can run your hands through them like a L’oreal shampoo advert.

Our favourite feature on the Dawn however is the doors. They open in the opposite direction to a normal vehicle, meaning that the hinges are behind the passengers, rather than in front of them. Closing the doors happens at the touch of the button, with motors bringing the doors in and closing them for you as you maintain a blasé look as if it’s the norm.

This design of the doors is actually ingenious. We all know that when exiting a vehicle one sometimes knocks the lower door panels or sills with their feet. With this design though, that problem is totally eliminated, thus leaving your perfectly chromed door-sills unscuffed. Entering and exiting the car is a much easier experience.

Driving

From our personal experience, we have never felt road comfort like we did in the Rolls-Royce Dawn. It felt like the suspension had been replaced with large bubbles as we floated merrily on our way. When the throttle was applied, one doesn’t think that powering the vehicle is a 6.6L V12 engine because the throttle response isn’t sharp, it’s not supposed to be. The power is fed in smoothly, allowing the car to comfortably gain speed. If you think the V12 is a loud, gurgling, fuel eating monster, you would be wrong. It’s a silent fuel eating monster. When the taps are opened from standstill, the Dawn will hurry along from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds, which is impressive for a 3 tonne car.  The same goes for the braking system, it feels different to other luxury vehicles. Whatever the speed, it comes to a completely smooth stop, almost as though it is tempering the brakes for you. Performance is not the reason why you buy a Rolls though, you buy a Rolls for luxury, heritage and status.

The transmission has a feature which is definitely worth noting, it uses satellite maps to read the road ahead. For example, If a sharp hill is upcoming, the Dawn recognises this and automatically selects the lower gear just in time. It will then save this information for the next time the car travels on that route. The benefit of this is a seamless ride at all times, with reduced lag in engine and gearbox response.

The transmission has a feature which is definitely worth nothing, it uses satellite maps to read ahead. For example, If a sharp hill is upcoming, the Dawn recognises this and automatically selects the lower gear just in time. The Rolls-Royce Dawn will then save this information for the next time the car travels on that route. The benefit of this is a comfortable and pleasant ride at all times, with no lag in engine or gearbox response.

So, is the Rolls-Royce Dawn worth its price tag?

In short, yes. Don’t get us wrong, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is not perfect. For example, the rear seats of the vehicle. The seating position and seats themselves are not as comfortable as the front seats and are noticeably firmer. Understandably, this is not a Ghost so rear seating is not a priority. The infotainment system is based on the BMW system and it feels a little dated compared to other luxury vehicles. But these minor things won’t deter someone looking for a car like this because from the driver’s perspective, it’s difficult to fault.

A Rolls-Royce client is not just paying for an ultra-luxury car, they are also paying for the brand and the exclusivity that comes with it. Only the wealthiest own Rolls-Royces, and they are priced accordingly.

In recent times with the Mercedes-Maybach revival, those cars may one day step on the toes of the fabled British brand. For now, though, very few cars are at the level of a new Rolls-Royce. The brand stands on its own, a level above everything else.

The Launch of the New Audi A5 in South Africa

Update: Watch Our LaunchDrive Video of the New Audi S5 Here

Hermanus is a beautiful seaside town with a vast mammal filled ocean on one side and  towering mountains on the other. Between us at Cape Town International Airport and Hermanus, though, was a driving route that involved great sections of tar, with long swooping bends, twists and turns. A fitting location, then, for the launch of the all-new Audi A5 and S5 Coupe.

The original A5 launched back in 2008 and it had a unique look with its tornado line running down the full length of the vehicle. The 2017 Audi A5 is still very recognizable as an A5, but does feature very nice enhancements in the design area. The Tornado line for example, is more defined and the headlights feature a sharper design with the “four eyes” to represent quattro. These headlights sit above a larger, flatter grill and below a bonnet which has large grooves, emphasizing its sportiness.

Audi have a new design philosophy which is inspired by the Audi prologue concept car. We have seen elements of this being introduced in recent models such as the Q2 and now the A5. One nod to this design language is flared wheel arches and larger rear shoulders, and we can see this in the 2017 models.

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

The interior has also undergone some refinement. I have always enjoyed Audi’s simplistic and uncomplicated style with regards to interior design and this is no different with the new A5.  The dashboard features a horizontal design which gives the cabin a very spacious feel and as always, the centre console features controls for audio, navigation and the like.  This console also features the drive selector, which one can only describe as looking like the thrust control in a jet – its large, bulky and fits in the hand nicely, giving a very commanding feel.

View 360 Images of the interior below. We apologize for the quality, as the light was extremely poor.

Audi S5

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Audi A5

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

In the design area then, the Audi A5 has undergone many refinements resulting in a big improvement. Another area in which the 2017 A5 has improved is in the powertrain department, with the latest engines now producing 17% more power with a 22% reduction in consumption, impressive.

The A5 coupe has four engines on offer with the S5 currently leading the way, producing a healthy 260 kW and 500 N.m. Following this is the 2.0T FSI Quattro producing 185 kW and 370Nm. We then have two 140 kW power plants, coming in the form of a 2.0T FSI which puts out 320N.m and a 2.0 TDI producing 400 N.m.

You would probably expect me to say that the S5 was my favorite variant but actually, the 185 kW A5 quattro was a car that really stood out. This car really shifts and has lots of torque from low down in the RPM range. It was just so enjoyable to drive through the twisty mountain passes but was then also very comfortable and quiet when driving in a relaxed manner.

The S5 is sharper, firmer and faster with 260 kW and 500 N.m but the difference is not night and day. It does give you a little more confidence in all aspects, though, such as high-speed cornering, as the S5’s suspension is firmer which can be felt quite a lot in the rear.

If you want more performance and styling, the S5 is a good option but it is by no means a “monster”  like an RS variant would be. What sold me on the Audi S5 is the song it sings from that beautiful 3.0-litre V6 Twin Turbo motor – wow!  It sounds absolutely fantastic throughout the rev range and this means that the S5 has a driving experience which is hard to match in its segment. It goes from being a car that is a little faster and sharper than the quattro, to a car that really makes you feel warm inside when driven – It’s not always about sheer acceleration and performance and this reason alone could mean the S5 pips the BMW 440i and Mercedes C43 to my top spot out of the three.

The higher powered A5’s are impressive, but we must not forget the smooth cruisers, the 140 kW T FSI and TDI models. These variants are very refined and easy to drive and while both cars were very nice, I feel that out of the two, the TDI is the one to go for. Power delivery is linear and it just feels like a smoother, calmer experience. Although not the most powerful variants, these two models should not be under estimated as they can really hold their own on some of the Cape Town passes against the bigger boys and are by no means boring. You can still have a lot of fun in these models and we can vouch for that.  If your main aim when looking at an A5 is not so much performance based but rather directed towards a quiet, comfortable and smooth vehicle, either of these two are the ones to go for. The  14kW T FSI comes only as FWD, but the TDI variant is available with quattro.

Which model would I personally choose? Well this decision for me is all about which rules first, the head or the heart. My consumer brain tells me that the 185 kW quattro is the vehicle to go for – it gives performance just a little short from the S5, but has the comfortable benefits of the T FSI and TDI Models and is also R170 000 cheaper. However, from a performance enthusiast’s point of view, my heart wants to hear that singing V6 whenever I drive to work in the morning, although I’m sure my wife would have something to say about that!

Its also worth noting that the A5 is available with its new driver assistance system -Traffic Jam Assist. This is Audi’s first step in the direction of autonomous driving. In conjunction with Adaptive Cruise control, the vehicle will accelerate, brake and steer the car up to speeds of 65 km/h.

Pricing

The A5 will comes standard with a range of equipment including  Audi Drive Select, Xenon Plus Headlights and Rear LED lights, 17” Alloy wheels and cruise control.

The A5/S5 Sportback will be following the same model and pricing structure below and will be available from May 2017. In June we can expect the arrival of the A5/S5 Cabriolet – we have no information on pricing as yet.

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 140kW S tronic: R 589,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 140kW S tronic Sport: R 623,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TDI 140kW S tronic: R 619,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T TDI 140kW S tronic Sport: R 653,000

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TDI 140kW quattro S tronic: R 652,500

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T TDI 140kW quattro S tronic Sport: R 686,500

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 185kW S tronic: R 723,500

Audi A5 Coupe 2.0T FSI 185kW S tronic Sport: R 757,500
Audi S5 Coupe 3.0T FSI 260kW quattro S tronic: R928,000

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line vs Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Powershift

Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line vs Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Powershift in South Africa

The newly launched Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R Line is a nifty little thing. The exterior look of this car is one that will pique the interest of many buyers. It’s marketed as a “performance” Polo despite it only having a 1.0 litre engine with 3 cylinders, but after driving it we can confirm that its nippy. The question then for you as a buyer is what’s the better buy, this new Polo TSI or perhaps the also-very-good Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost PowerShift Titanium?

 

The specs:

The Ford has been around for a while as consumers have loved the 3 cylinder 1.0 litre EcBoost engine it offers. With 74kW and 170Nm, the little Ford produces good numbers for both city and open road driving thanks to turbocharging. Equipped with the 6 speed PowerShift gearbox, it makes being stuck in traffic bearable since your left foot can rest. The Volkswagen Polo 1.0 litre TSI R Line has similar figures in terms of displacement and forced induction. It too has 3 cylinders but produces more power with 81kW and 200Nm. The difference is not huge but will be felt by keen motorists who love to drive in a hurry. Since both these cars have tiny engines, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that they would be frugal on fuel. The Fiesta has a great claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 4.9 litres/100km, but the Polo edges ahead with a claimed figure of 4.4 litres/100km, again very closely matched.

The looks: 

In this segment, aesthetics play a huge role as cars like these are aimed at youthful individuals and let’s face it, the youth “like things”. In that case then choosing between the Ford and the Volkswagen may be a challenge as they both look great. The Fiesta has ST bits on it, making it look nice and sporty. The Volkswagen on the other hand comes equipped with the R-Line package, giving it too a racier look. On the inside is where the Polo has the slight upper hand as the cabin layout is simpler whereas the Fiesta is a bit too busy. Both cars offer connectivity such as Bluetooth and USB as well as auxiliary input. The new infotainment screen on the Polo is the nicer of the two but Fords SYNC system is quite good to use as well. In terms of overall appeal, the cars are again closely matched but the Volkswagen has a disadvantage. The fact that there are so many on the road may make the car seem more “common” but the R-Line kit can set it apart. Both cars are also four doors so they’re on par when it comes to space and access into the rear.

The Drive:  

The spikey nature of the Fiesta has always been something we’ve enjoyed about the car, it’s an engine with character. As mentioned having an automatic gearbox makes the car easy to live with day to day, so it will be a dream in the city. The Polo however is more of an angry little car. The DSG gearbox in the car has changed the character of the vehicle, giving it an immediacy that’s quite surprising. The way the VW handles too is something you don’t expect from a little 1.0 litre car. The Fiesta will be the one you want if you’re of a more relaxed disposition, whereas the Polo wants to have more fun.

Overall:

Both these cars are great vehicles indeed. At the end of the day it all comes down to preference and of course price. At R290 000, the Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line is not exactly cheap, the Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost PowerShift Titanium comes in cheaper at R274 900. That price tag comes with a 4 year/60 000km service plan which is a good deal. The Polo only comes with a 3 year/45 000km service plan. So what will you buy? These cars are marketed differently but offer very similar specs. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, we recommend the Polo, but if you want to save some bucks and still have a banging little cool car, the Fiesta is a very good choice too.

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI & TDI – First Drive

 

Introduced in 2007, the Volkswagen Tiguan was an instant success and as many had anticipated, VW’s foray into the crossover segment most certainly paid off with nearly a million units having been sold globally in its first 3 years of production. There was no reason for the Tiguan to do anything but excel, especially in the South African market where Volkswagens are so highly regarded and crossovers outnumber station wagons 9 to 1, but despite all this the Tiguan wasn’t all smiling toddlers and glitter, or was it…

For many, the biggest issue with the first generation Tiguan was that it may have been envisioned as a more rugged and capable Golf, but you’d sooner find a man named Terece pulling into a Sorbet Man than the great outdoors. It was great, but more likely than not a mum’s car thanks, in most part, to its looks.

In 2016 the Second Generation Tiguan was launched in South Africa and as it’s based on VW Group’s MQB Platform, we already knew that it was going to be a meticulously engineered vehicle. Having been on sale for a couple of months now, demand is higher than supply which is a good thing and everyone is clambering for a Tiguan from rugged execs to chic fashionistas, and this comes as no surprise. It’s also a finalist in the Wesbank SAGMJ South African Car of The Year 2017. Whether in R Line, Highline or Comfortline trim, the Tiguan is a handsome and sophisticated thing and adds some character to an otherwise bland and predictable segment. For Francisco’s long-term review of the Tiguan at launch, click here.

At launch, the only derivatives available were the 1.4 TSI motors in 90 kW and 110 kW guises. The rest of the range has now made its way here and along with the 2.0 TDI and 2.0 TSI motors, 4Motion AWD is now available. From launch, the Tiguan has offered an impressive package and that’s no different here with LED Headlights and Taillights, Sport-comfort seats, 3-zone Climatronic Climate Control, Ambient Lighting, 6.5” Composition Media, Silver anodised roof rails and 18” alloy wheels all featuring as standard fitment on 4Motion models. In terms of off-roading equipment, hill-descent control accompanies the usual ensemble of driving modes, namely ECO, Sport, Comfort and Individual. 4Motion Live has three 2 modes, Snow and Off-road mode, as well as an automatic setting which will select the most appropriate of the two depending on road conditions.

The R Line Package adds a sport suspension system, 20” alloy wheels, R-Line bumpers, side sills and wheel housing flaring, a body coloured rear spoiler and black headlining.

We were afforded the opportunity to sample both diesel and petrol models, each of which have a differing appeals and are all welcome additions to the Tiguan range.

With 162 kW and 350 N.m on tap, the 2.0 TSI model really is a wolf in wolfs clothing and unlike the previous generation Tiguan’s 2.0 TSI derivative now has the looks to go with the performance. Sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, this model exhibits impressive straight line speed, but where we were most surprised was in the bends where minimal body-roll and spot-on damping make for a truly thrilling and engaging driver’s car, something which we didn’t quite imagine from the Tiguan when we initially tested the 1.4 TSI models. Claimed combined average fuel consumption is 7.8 l/100km and pricing for the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI 162 kW starts at R542 200.

The two diesels on offer are the more sensible options, both displacing 2.0-litres with outputs of 105 kW / 340 N.m and 130 kW / 380 N.m. with claimed consumption figures of 6.1 l/100km and 6.4 l/100km respectively. While you might not be surprising any GTI’s at the lights in the 2.0 TDI’s as you would in the 2.0 TSI, you will be impressed by how little engine noise enters the cabin, NVH is an area where VW has always excelled and the Tiguan benefits from this. In both states of tune, the 2.0 TDI motor offers maximum torque from just 1750 RPM which is useful for those who have large things to tow such as caravans, if you’re into that, and boats. Prices for the 2.0 TDI 105 kW Comfortline start at R523 800 and R549 500 for the 2.0 TDI 130 kW Highline.

The cabin is impeccably put together and is difficult to find fault with, and the same can be said for the 7-speed DSG to which all of these motors are matched. In fact, it is difficult to find fault with most of the vehicle, not even pricing as it is slightly cheaper and significantly nicer than all of its competitors.

A job well done to VW, then. Not only is the Tiguan the capable car that it always was, it is now one of the most desirable on the road.

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R Line – First Drive

Rewind 20 years and anyone claiming to have had a vehicle with a 1.0 – litre 3-cylinder motor producing 81 kW and 200 N.m would have been labelled a madman. If they were to continue, stating that this revolutionary vehicle would sip just 4.4 l/100km and exhibit refinement to match the then contemporary E39 5 Series, the automotive community would have locked them away in a Corolla in solitary confinement until they came around.

Having now grown accustomed to the trend of downsizing, most of the above doesn’t really come as a surprise to both the public and motoring scribes alike. What does come as somewhat of a surprise is that the vehicle boasting all of the above figures isn’t even a brand new vehicle, but rather an updated version of a car that’s been on sale in South Africa for the past 8 years. There’s no denying that the Volkswagen Polo is the most impressive vehicle within its segment and now it has been given quite a nice little final hoorah if you will.

Its full name is the Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line and it features VW’s hugely impressive 3-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, mated to the 7-Speed DSG gearbox we’ve come to know and love. Along with its the drivetrain, the Polo has also been visually tweaked with a smattering of R-Line goodness in the shape of R-Line design front and rear bumpers, R-Line sill extensions, a rear diffuser, chrome exhaust tip and 17” alloys. 8 years on, the Polo is still a handsome thing and while the interior on this model is much the same as the rest of the range, it remains a superlative example of build quality and tactile pleasure.

Set to make its way into a number of VW Group Products, the 1.0-litre unit features active balancing shafts which cancel out the inherent vibrations within a 3-cylinder motor. It’s a very smooth unit which delivers maximum torque from just 2 000 rpm.  Due it being lighter than the locally produced 1.2-litre unit alongside which it is offered, it’s a free-revving and spritely motor and is surprisingly characterful thanks to the triple thrum emanating from behind the bulkhead. A claimed consumption of just 4.4 l/100km is 0.5 l/100km less than that of the 1.2-litre motor, yet 25 N.m more torque is on offer.

While pottering around town, the low-down torque and the slickness of the DSG transmission really do make it all a bit effortless and brisk bursts between traffic lights actually bring a smile to one’s face. Dynamically, the chassis handles the twisties with aplomb and the sometimes rough and constantly undulating roads along our test route in the countryside of Port Elizabeth were where the Polo did better than expected. Its high-speed stability is far superior to that of its competitors and again, this is all thanks to a well-sorted chassis and incredible refinement, as well as the use of Volkswagen’s XDS Electronic locking diff which you can certainly feel doing its bit in the corners and comes as standard on this model. If I were to briefly sum up how the Polo drives, I would have to say that it is confidence inspiring and effortless, and can be different things to different people. The R-Line package adds an impressive duality to the Polo in that it can be sporty and playful if that’s what you ask of it, as well is comfortable and docile if its economy and a leisurely drive you’re after.

Other standard features include the usual raft of safety features, rest assist, 4 airbags (6 optional), air-conditioning, multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, sports seats with drawers beneath them and a front-centre armrest with storage compartment.

Priced at R290 200, it comes in at the same price as the already available 1.2 TSI Highline Auto but offers a different box of frogs to that vehicle. Yes, it is rather pricey, but you certainly get your money’s worth – just remember that if you were to tell someone in 1998 that your Polo would be able to match their 523i in all but size and thirstiness, it’d be back to the Corolla for you!

Audi A3 Facelift Driven Review

Audi recently facelifted the A3 and while the changes are only design based, I was still interested to get behind Audi’s entry level A3 with its 1.0-litre Turbo engine.

The updates to the A3 consist of updated designs for the headlights and taillights, with some slight bumper design adjustments which completes the changes to the exterior elements.

The overall improvements provide a sportier and more dynamic look, this can be improved further with the optional S-line kit, which I must say looked fantastic on the test vehicle I was driving.

In my opinion, the interior on the A3 has always been fairly simple. The dashboard provides a streamlined and clean design with the motorised digital screen as a central element. The controls for the Audi MMI system are all featured on the centre console between the front driver and passenger seats. The buttons and scroll dial which are situated here are very easy to access and also have a simple, non complicated layout.

Interior designs on some vehicles can seem very cluttered with buttons everywhere, and with technology inside cars increasing at a fast rate, it’s good to see that Audi have this all under control.

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

The cabin is finished with metal, leather and alcantara. It has a very premium and well-built feel, which is a very important factor in a premium hatchback. The sport seats, which are an optional extra, are a great addition in terms of the visual appeal. They are wide and support the body well with good bolstering, but I feel that the only need for them on a 1.0 vehicle is purely for the visual element. I can’t see these cars being thrashed around the racetrack anytime soon.

Earlier, I touched on the fact that technology has become a big part of the automotive industry, and Audi has its fair share. Some buyers may choose one brand over the other, depending on what latest technology is available.

The Audi A3 features the full media system with  7”screen including MMI navigation. Audi’s system works well with many features of the A3 being controlled from the system interface, such as lighting and other vehicle settings.

Carplay/ AndroidAuto also features in this vehicle – simply connecting a phone will enable it automatically, with the mobile styled display popping up on the screen and giving the driver easy access to contacts, maps, music and more. With CarPlay, hitting the voice control button on the steering wheel will activate your best friend, Siri, and as always, you can ask her anything you like. If you are unsure on how Carplay works or what it does, you can read our article on it here:

Audi Pilot Assist has to be my favorite feature.The classic dash and dials are replaced with a full digital display. Speed, rpm, fuel, economy figures, media, navigation and so forth are all displayed in digital format.The driver can change what they see and how they see it.

I enjoyed the map view, with the speed and rpm displays retracting into smaller dials in the corner. The maps/navigation then fills the rest of the display which looks very futuristic, although you can lose track of speed, it happened to me once or twice. Zooming in and out and changing views and menus are all accessed of the steering wheel controls, which becomes natural once you have used it for a short while.

 

Behind the Wheel 

I was surprised by the 1.0l turbocharged motor, the 85kw it produced was used well and at times the car had a nippy kind of feel. The power is delivered through a six-speed manual gearbox and as you can expect from an audi vehicle, it was smooth and focused.

What stood out to me with this setup was the A3’s ability to pick up nicely and gain speed when cruising on the highway in 6th gear.  The small engine did not come across as if it was straining and it made overtaking easy, without changing down to 5th.

There are, however, a few drawbacks with this engine.When pulling off, the A3 needs revs to get going, and if you short change from 1st to 2nd at low rpm or on a slight incline, the car struggles for a few seconds, before picking up again. I had this issue mainly below 1800 rpm before the boost really kicks in.  This was really the only issue I had, and overall the 1.0l TFSI performed well from a driving perspective.

From an economic perspective, though, there is another side to the story. You may have read that some manufacturers are now looking at going back in the direction of higher cc engines. It has come to light that these small turbocharged motors do give really good fuel economy figures, but only in perfect, controlled environments. In day to day life, in environments that are beyond the manufacturer’s control, they are not that great.

During my time with the A3, the figures I produced were around 8.0-9.0 l/100km. I was mainly driving in an urban environment and was at times heavy on the throttle. With perfect economical driving the figure would definitely be lower, but how much lower is the question? Driving on South African roads brings its own challenges which doesn’t often lend to being more economical.

 

The Problem

My biggest issue with the Audi A3 is the price. The starting price for this model is R390,000. For this, one gets a lot of car, a well built, reliable German machine. The list price on the test vehicle I was driving was R520,000.

Thats a big difference, the reason being is this specific vehicle had a range of optional extras fitted.  Now, not all of those optional extras are actually needed. Items such as the sport seats and S-Line suspension are not of paramount importance, especially on a 85 kW car. Some of the other optional extras, though, you might actually want.

Options such as the Premium Audi Sound System, Navigation and CarPlay, Panoramic Sunroof, the S-line exterior kit which gives the car another dimension in terms of styling. Let’s also not forget the 20” alloy wheels and Audi Pilot Assist.
This means that a buyer will be paying around R500k for a 1.0L vehicle. Yes, its turbocharged and has a power output similar to that of a 1400 or 1600 cc Naturally aspirated engine, but it is still a 1.0L engine.

This is definitely a brand orientated car, and that is exactly what you will be paying for, the badge.Saying that, the Audi A3 is a great car and vehicles across the board are becoming more expensive. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, it was lovely to drive and overall a really good experience. If you are happy to spend this kind of money, you will have a great car. Personally, though, it’s just too much for me.

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

Does the 5 Series live up to its title – the business athlete?

The Business Athlete. That’s a strong title which can be translated in many ways, for me, it’s a title that evokes a sense of presence, stance and performance. When this title represents a car, one would naturally have high expectations – a business athlete vehicle would have to do many things, very well.

Last year BMW outdid themselves with the 7 Series with looks, technology, performance and comfort few can match. As a result of this, there were high expectations for the 7th generation 5 Series.

The beautiful coastal town of George would be our playground for the two days of the launch. During this time I got plenty of time behind the wheel to sample two variants, the 540i and 530d.

Upon arriving at the Oubaai golf resort and after checking out some of the sample classic 5 Series models that were on display, we headed over to the beautiful lined up 5 Series fleet. A range of variants and colors, with all but one fitted the M-Sport exterior package. I was never a massive fan of the 5th and 6th generation 5 Series but BMW have really stepped it up with the 7th generation.

Strong, beautiful lines feature down the doors and down the bonnet giving it an aggressive, sporty look. It has a good stance – it sits strong, wide and has a presence. It definitely shares many design features with the 7 Series, but in a more compact, sporty package. The rear of this vehicle follows suit with the rest of the car with its wide rear end and large shoulders. All variants of the 5 Series will also feature dual exhaust pipes, one on either side of the vehicle. I felt this added to the sporty presence and symmetry. This has to be the most beautiful 5 Series in a long time, which only leaves me waiting to see how good a 7th Gen M5 will look.

A friend of mine said to me that the 5 series is no longer a bigger 3 series, but a smaller 7 series. This is so true, and the interior backs up that statement. Large bolstered seats are a lovely place to sit and provide good support. The M-Sport steering wheel fills the hands nicely and you are surrounded by leather, wood and metal.

A few interior features stood out to me; the multi-zone air conditioning panel is a full touch responsive digital display and the attention to detail on this system impressed me – sometimes the smaller things make the biggest difference. The iDrive system has been updated and features 6 main horizontal blocks on the home screen, providing access to options such as media, navigation and Connected Drive. I enjoyed the fact that each block or option updates in realtime and when clicked or touched, opens the feature up on the full screen.

Gesture control is also available- I had never used this before so after a few minutes of wafting my hands around at varying speeds, I finally figured it out and once I did, it responded and worked well. To sum it up, it is a very nice place to spend many hours behind the wheel.

After exploring the vehicles, taking photos and playing with features, I was itching to get behind the wheel and find out if the 5 series really was a business athlete. The first variant I drove was the 540i, which features a 3.0 straight six twin turbo engine producing 250 kW and 450 N.m of torque. This is the most powerful engine available in the 5 series in South Africa, until the M5 of course.

Power is delivered wonderfully through the 8-speed Sports auto – it’s smooth and linear. It is very well insulated from exterior noise and speed can creep up on you very quickly, but from the outside, the 540i produces a low-key but powerful exhaust note, stretching the 540i legs into the higher RPM and shifting with the Sports Auto does provide a satisfying blip which can be heard from the interior. It serves as just a little reminder that you are driving the performance based business athlete.

The double wishbone suspension on the front provides a sharp front end and cornering at speed will not make you feel uneasy at all. The 5 Series is very well balanced. On the long sweeping bends along our route in George, one can be confident to feed more power mid corner and even though the 7th generation took it in its stride, the rear end did start to twitch slightly, but never at one point did it feel uncontrollable,

The 5 Series is by no means a small vehicle and providing a helping hand to driving performance is the adaptive handling system. Under 60 km/h the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front, to a maximum of 3 degrees. Further to this, the new 5 Series weighs less thanks to the use of lighter but stronger materials. The extra agility was noticeable in tight bends, when expecting the vehicle to understeer slightly, it responded with more front end grip.

The 5 Series now feels like a good mix between the 7 Series and the 3 Series, bringing comfort, luxury and space elements from the former, and the dynamic attributes from the latter.

Would I buy a 540i? No. The main reason for this goes by the name of 530d. In my opinion from what I experienced over the two days in George, this is the variant to pick from the new 5 Series range.

You don’t get the same level of performance as the 540i, but you do get 620 N.m of torque, which is a lot. This torque also kicks in at the lower end of the rpm range which gives lovely near instant acceleration. As expected, power does fade in the higher rpm where the 540i excels but the performance is still fantastic, and being a diesel it comes with a host other benefits. One of these is the fact that it sips fuel and will give you a 4.5 l/100km rating.

It is slightly heavier and this can be felt when driving hard, but in terms of driving dynamics, there is little difference from the 540i. Apart from the 530d and 540i variants that I drove, another petrol and diesel engine are available in the from of a 530i and 520d.

There are a host of cool features on the 7th generation 5 Series, it features the ever improving Connected Drive and semi autonomous driving. The car will even pick up your scheduled meetings in your smartphone calendar, and using the built in RTTI and business navigation system, which is now a standard feature, it will drop you a message to let you know that because of traffic conditions, you will need to leave earlier. If you have a smartphone that supports wireless charging, the 5 Series will do that for you as well if you simply leave your phone in the front console.

The head up display is now also 70 percent bigger and has a better resolution, allowing the driver to have more information in front of them, if they want.

Taking the number one spot, though, has to be the smart key. With a digital display to allow for starting, opening windows and checking vehicle information, its pretty cool. What’s cooler though is the fact that you can remotely drive your car in or out of a parking space when standing outside.

In conclusion, the 5 Series lives up to its title, the business athlete. It’s a car that you can spend many many hours behind the wheel of and be a very happy, comfortable motorist. Yes, it shares many features from the 7 Series, but the 7 Series is a car you want to be driven in, the 5 Series is a car you want to drive, its enjoyable to drive and provides a host of features to make your life easier and more comfortable.

 

Pricing

530i :  R838,700

540i : R985,300

52od : R770,500

530d :  R952, 500

 

The New Audi Q2 : It Really Is Untaggable

You have probably seen the advertising campaign for the new Audi Q2 – #untaggable is what they call it and that is exactly what it is. The Audi Q2 is difficult to define, where does one place it? What do you compare it to? These were questions that all ran through my mind during the launch of the Q2 in Cape Town.

So what exactly is it?

Audi define the Q2 as a compact SUV, which fits into the premium A0 section of the market. It could easily be described as a crossover, or even a sporty hatchback. Audi South Africa don’t view this car as having a direct competitor and it’s easy to see why. Over the course of the launch, it started to become clear what this car is and the type of person it is aimed at.

The Audi Q2 has a very youthful feel about it, it’s hip, funky, extremely stylish and very “out there”- you could say.  This car is not aimed at the type of person who would buy a Q3 or Tiguan for example, those cars, although great, come across as vehicles suited for a small family, but more notably, they are not particularly exciting either.

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

The Q2 is aimed at the younger market, an audience in their twenties who are designers, creators and are starting out in the business world – these are the kind of people who I envision would be interested in being untaggable, or at least sitting in it on the daily commute.  The interesting thing about the Q2 is that it is very similarly priced to the bigger Q3, but appeals to a totally different audience. So in effect, the Q2 is not a lesser car, (albeit a little smaller) when compared with the Q3, it just has a different purpose.

Styling

The Q2 is nothing like you have seen before, it has edgy design and sharp features. Prominent design features which you will notice are the concaving lines along the side – a unique feature to the Q2 which gives it a different look to anything you will currently find on the road. An Edition #1 version of the Audi Q2 is due for release later this year, this model will feature a unique Quantum Grey Colour, which looks very similar to Nardo Grey, with a little bit of sparkle.

The Q2 is the first of new Audi models to feature this design style, and we can expect future models to follow a similar pattern. Audi have a big 2018 planned with a host of new and updated models, including the Q8.

Step inside the new Audi Q2 and it will feel very similar to the interior of the Audi A3 and other Audi models, there is nothing that would strike you as new or majorly different – it looks and feels very Audi-ish with a clean design and classy feel. The optional sports seats are a nice option to have and were comfortable, they also filled the cabin nicely and added to its visual appearance.

The Audi Q2 will also be available with Pilot Assist, which is the fully digital dash display which allows different views for Car Information, Music and Navigation. This is paired with the 12” TFT screen on the Dashboard. For the record, the Pilot Assist is one of my personal favourites. The Q2 is the only vehicle in its segment to offer a TFT binnacle and it’s an option I’d certainly tick.

The interior is let down slightly by the door cards, They look and feel a little cheap as the lower portions are covered in hard, black plastic. It would have been nice to feature some Alcantara or leather like other areas of the interior. I do understand the reasons behind it though, cost being one of them.

In terms of space, the rear seating area was limited in this regard so if you are tall, unlike me, you may find it quite cramped. The boot space is adequate though with 405-litres on offer, which expands to 1050-litres with the rear seats folded.

How Does It Drive?

The Q2’s we had for the day featured Audi’s 1.4 TFSI engine, which produces 110kw and 250Nm. This is a proven engine in other cars, such as the A3 and it performed as expected. Power delivery is smooth through both the 7-Speed S-Tronic Automatic and the 6-Speed manual transmissions. I did feel that it lacked torque at low RPM, especially in second gear, which was something that I also noticed on the 1.0L variant. This could also have something to do with the COD (Cylinder On Demand) technology which is built into the 1.4 Engine. This feature disables Cylinders two and three at loads of up to 100Nm from 1400rpm with the S-Tronic, and from 2000rpm with the manual variant.

The Chassis and the suspension is where everything comes together and the Audi Q2 really impresses, because it has a high design, one may think that handling would not be one of the car’s best assets.

The Q2 was rigid and as we drove along the bumpy Bainskloof Pass, the car did not feel unsettled with the suspension absorbing the rough surface, even under braking and sharp bends, the Q2 performed well. It has a sharp and accurate turn-in and a very neutral feel, only getting out of shape and providing just a little understeer on one heated occasion. You can enter a corner at speed and trust that the little Q2 will handle it well.

The 110kW produced by the 1.4 TFSI coupled with the great handling and chassis of the Q2 makes for a fun car, which suits its overall persona down to the ground. A young buyer will not have to be worried about getting bored with the Audi Q2.

Driver Assists

Audi have given the Q2 some of their driver assist packages as optional extras. The first of these is Pre Sense which uses a front radar system to detect hazardous situations with other vehicles and pedestrians and will apply braking if necessary. Park Assist is also available, which does a little bit more than the name suggests and will basically park your Audi Q2 for you. Further to this, Cross Traffic Rear Assist helps when reversing from parking spaces, by sensing other cars which could potentially cross your path. Audi also offer Side Assist and Adaptive cruise control on the Q2 to finalize the driver assist packages.

Powertrains

The Q2 is currently only available as the 1.4 TFSI variant. The 1.0 TFSI and 2.0TDi will be available from May, producing 85kW and 200Nm and 105kW and 350Nm respectively. Unfortunately, a Quattro option will be not available in South Africa due to market placement and cost of the vehicle, however it will be available overseas.

Price

Here is where things get interesting, with a starting price of R434 500 for the 1.0L base model and rising to R565 000 for the 2.0 TDI model, the Q2 is not a cheap car. Yet, it is aimed at a young market.

Audi plan to solve this issue with attractive finance offers and a special guarantee buy-back specifically for the Q2. Audi have done their research and I am positive that the Q2 will work for them. The price is a big drawback for the younger market, especially with a well- specced vehicle. However, Audi do feel confident that it should not be too much of an issue – only time will tell.

  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI manual: R 434,500
  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI S tronic: R 453,000
  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI Sport manual: R 464,500
  • Audi Q2 1.0T FSI Sport S tronic: R 483,000
  • Audi Q2 1.4T FSI Sport manual: R 511,000
  • Audi Q2 1.4T FSI Sport S tronic: R 529,500
  • Audi Q2 2.0 TDI Sport S tronic: R 565,000

Enquire about a new or used Audi vehicle at Audi Centurion here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Pop Star

I have spoken about cult cars before and how they somehow manage to attract both car-nuts and car-nots. There is one car, though, that I feel manages to attract more car-nots than car-nuts – the Fiat 500. In 2007, Fiat decided to go the same route as BMW with the MINI brand and Volkswagen with the New Beetle. They reinvented a vehicle which was incredibly popular back in the day, but with modern engineering and, don’t vomit, “retro” styling. I hate that term, but that’s exactly what it is.

As you can imagine, the 500 was an instant hit and while it may have taken South Africans a moment to warm to the little newcomer, the rest of the world went bananas for it. Barring the Americans, of course. While it never really appealed to those of us who enjoy driving briskly, the trendy and fashion conscious set loved how adept the 500 was at karting their quinoa salad take-away home from Tashas.

The 500 recently underwent a not too insignificant revision and goodness has it transformed the 500. I was never the biggest fan of the pre-facelift’s asthmatic motors and while the 1.4 litre NA motor’s 74 kW might sound okay, the 131 N.m offered was not. I adored the concept of the 500 but always felt that there were a few shortcomings.

Enter the refreshed Fiat 500, now available with 2-cylinder sewing machine engine (not really) and a little turbocharger. The Pop Star model we had on test offers 63 kW and 145 N.m which is in fact less power than the previous 1.4 litre naturally aspirated motor and only 14Nm more torque, but said torque is now available from just 1 900 rpm as opposed the previous motor’s lofty delivery close to the 6 000 rpm redline. The higher-spec Lounge model has the same motor, albeit in a higher state of tune with 78 kW. This punchy motor, displacing a mere 900c, makes easy work of running around town and if you’re not too heavy footed, Fiat claim a combined average fuel consumption of just 3.8 l/100km which is impressive. Of course we didn’t achieve anything close to that figure which we put down to the fact that you still have to boot it a little to get moving, hence our average of 7.0 l/100km. A 1.3 litre turbo diesel motor is also expected to join the line-up at some stage.

Aside from the brilliantly characterful motor, the minor styling upgrades have done a world of good for the Cinquecento – it’s adorable. LED daytime running lights have now been incorporated into the smaller set of headlights which are actually the high beams and minor tweaks to the rear as well as an array of new colours and wheel options come together to create a rather endearing little thing.

Inside, the air vents have been redesigned and things have been moved around a little to incorporate FCA group’s all too familiar Uconnect infotainment system. It works just as well as the one found in Ferraris and Jeeps and should you go for the Lounge model with its 7” TFT instrument cluster, you’ll have quite the techy looking 500. Sound deadening materials have also been increased to minimise cabin noise and here too, different trim options can be had to best suit the trendy human who would buy this sort of car.

Prices start at a not too heady R179 900 for the Pop model and work their way up incrementally to R280 900 for the 500C 0.9 TwinAir Lounge Auto. I reckon the 500 TwinAir Pop Star is the sweet spot in the range with nice to haves such as xenon headlights and PDC should you be unable to confidently manoeuvre your 3cm long vehicle. All models come with a 3 year/100 000 km warranty and service plan.