Category: Car reviews

A better looking seven seater: Honda’s BRV.

Why is it that people carriers are always terrible looking? Besides Uber drivers, suburban parents will find these cars quite appealing, so it’s important for these cars to have some sort of an aesthetic appeal. I’m sure those parents don’t want to be mistaken for taxi drivers after their kids have been dropped off? Take for instance the Toyota Avanza, it’s bland and brown. The Suzuki Ertiga is not as bland, but also brown…most of the time.  What are your other choices? Well,  Honda have recently replaced the Mobilio with the new BRV and we had it for a week to see if it’s any good. Here’s what we concluded.

It’s practical:

If you happen to not believe in birth control, this is the car for you. You can fit seven people inside with some boot space leftover. If you need the boot expanded, you can drop the third bench and add more groceries, or bags, or whatever people with large families carry around. Besides offering vast amounts of space, the BRV offers one of the most modern cabins in its segment. The Elegance model we drove featured leather seats, an infotainment system and a manual gearbox. Power is supplied by a 1.5 litre normally aspirated engine which pulled the big car with ease. It’s not fast but nor is it “I can’t go up this hill” slow.

Design:

The BRV doesn’t have the dimensions of a taxi, thank goodness. It’s long and quite high. It looks like a station wagon with a raised ride height. Compared to its rivals, it also looks the most modern of the lot and for the first time, the car we had on test was not brown. So it seems like there is some sort of hope for this segment aesthetically. Don’t get me wrong, the BRV is not the car young petrol-heads will have on their wall, but it may be on the mental wall of those looking for a large car at a good price.

It’s economical:

Every new Honda we’ve driven with a 1.5 litre engine seems to not like fuel. This is good because we don’t like spending money on fuel. The BRV has a combined fuel consumption of 6.2litres/100km. These figures are very seldom on the money with most cars but we can report that with daily driving around town as well as some longer trips, the BRV never bothered us for extra fuel. In fact, we returned the car with a decent amount of fuel for the people of Honda to return to their offices with and even stop by Pretoria if needed be.

It’s comfortable:

No the Honda BRV doesn’t have amazing steering feel, nor does it turn into corners in a phenomenal way, that’s because it’s not meant to. It’s a car meant to carry people in comfort, which it does. Commuting in the BRV gives you a quiet ride and a suspension that soaks up bumps and suburban humps, that’s all that matters. For those keen on the occasional family trip you’ll be able to do so with ease. Simply pair your phone and sing along to your streamed tunes.

 Overall:  

The BRV is a car that makes sense for those needing more space. It ticks many boxes and as a result, we think it’s a good car indeed. It may not have a strong visual appeal, but last we checked visual appeal wasn’t needed to drop the kids off at school, store more luggage and fit extra human beings. Practicality does all that, for that purpose the BRV works very well. At a starting price of R238 900, that’s a lot you’re getting for a good price.

 

 

If you don’t know what to do with your money, we have just the car for you.

If you don’t know what to do with your money, we have just the car for you.

Mercedes-Maybach is the brand of choice when you want something utterly lavish. If it’s not limousines they’re supplying then its drop top G-Classes. What!? Yes, you read correctly. If you have enough money you can get a drop top G Class! If the current G-Class range was not braggadocios enough with its exhausts on the side, you can now get it without a roof. What a time to be alive.  This is the first Mercedes-Maybach SUV to be created and what a way to make an entrance.

Being the owner of a car like this means you’ll have something super exclusive as only 99 of these models will be made. The name of this convertible G Class is the G650 Landaulet, which means “a car with a folding hood over the rear seats.” The G650 is powered by a V12 engine so you can only imagine the kind of power this tank will have. If you really want to know you’ll have 463kW (620bhp) and 1000Nm at your disposal. Not too shabby huh?

This car only seats four, so you’ll have to pick your friends wisely. Those you choose to ride with you will want to sit in the back as the Landaulet has S-Class seats in the rear. If your occupants are thirsty, they can use the individual cup holders which can either cool or heat a drink up. How insane? But wait there’s more, the rear seats also have their own table and a business console which has controls for you to operate the glass partition that can separate the rear of the car and front. Last but not least there are two monitors in the rear and a feature called the G Cockpit which operates various features like the soft top mechanism.

This is not the first Landaulet created by Mercedes as they have been other types of this car in the past. One thing is for sure, there hasn’t been one with this kind of glamour in it. The funny thing about this car is that it can still off road like any other G-Class, you’ll simply be more stylish as you do it a G650 Landaulet. With 450mm of ground clearance you’ll be able to look down on the peasants in their cheap 4×4’s as you drinks are kept cold and your V12 sings your praises. Oh, how we wish we owned a mine or something that will give us many millions. Even if we did, as South Africans the G650 will not be available here. No worries then, we would park it in our Monaco home.

South Africa, give the VW Passat a chance.

I first drove the new Volkswagen Passat in 2016, the model I drove was the 1.4 TSI and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with that vehicle. Although I do remember saying that when the 2.0 TDI comes, it will probably take the Passat up another notch. I was correct.

For me, the Passat has two purposes, it’s a family car but also a highway machine. It’s built for laying down kilometres and not missing a beat. A person will look at purchasing a Passat for one of these reasons, or both.

For the family orientated buyer, the Passat is not a bad choice at all. It offers lot’s of space, modern technology, good safety and even a built in child seats in the rear. The downside is that the Passat starts at R468,200 for the petrol variant and R493,000 for the diesel model. These prices maybe out of reach for the normal South African family.

For the sales rep or businessman who uses the roads often and driving as a pivotal part of his work, the Passat is a great fit. In my home country, the Passats are extremely popular cars, mainly driven by people working for large corporations, driving my kilometres up and down the country on a daily basis.

The diesel model I drove recently, fits well into this category. With the R-line package, the Passat is striking, it has a sharp design and just oozes a professional feel.  The interior of the Passat follows suit with a clean design and good technology, such as the App Connect system and Park Assist.

How does it Drive?                

I always forget how a Passat feels until I get back the wheel of one. It feels different from other vehicles in it’s segment. It’s softer and lighter on its feet. For example, even applying the brakes is a smooth process, the same goes for its acceleration, it’s very linear. It feels refined and cautious on the road, it wasn’t designed to be driven very fast, it was designed to be driven for long periods of time. That being said, the car is very driver comfort focused and the overall feeling is one that relaxes you.

The best place then to test the VW Passat is on the open road, and that’s what I did. We had meetings for a few days in Johannesburg, so instead of flying I drove the Passat. Having experienced all the technology offered in these cars, I noticed that there were two optional extras the Passat I drove lacked. This was the Active Driver Display which gives you a digital dashboard and secondly, Adaptive Cruise Control.

The digital dashboard provides a more visual element and makes it easier to see and control certain vehicle data or elements. This means less time fiddling with the steering wheel controls, something that is important during a long drive.

The second option, Adaptive cruise control is a feature that I used on the new Tiguan and loved it. Driving to Jozi from Durban isn’t a bad drive, but over the many times I’ve done it, I find it hard to use the standard cruise control, something this Passat had.  There are lots of trucks, hills, fast cars, slow cars, speed cameras, etc. All these factors mean that cars are forever overtaking,  slowing down, speeding up and pulling out. This makes the drive frustrating because you can be on the brakes quite a bit, which deactivates the cruise control. When all is clear, you need to reactivate it again and if you hit the wrong button, it will set it to the speed that you are currently travelling, not the speed you want to be travelling. So most of the time it’s just easier to not use it at all. This is not just the standard Passat system that has this problem, these things would happen with any standard cruise control system. This is why I much prefer to have the Adaptive Cruise Control as it assists when all these factors come into play. It too is not a perfect system just yet, but it works damn well.

In terms of fuel economy, this car sips, something most people will buy the diesel version for. VW claim a combined cycle of 5 litres/100km. After arriving in JHB and driving around the city for a few days, when I returned to Durban, I got had average of 5.4 litres/100km. Pretty good if you ask me.  The 2.0 TDI performed well and it boasts 130kW/350Nm, which is more than enough for what this car was purposed is.

 

 

Just give the Passat a chance.

For such a great car, it doesn’t sell as well as it could, and you don’t see too many on the roads locally. In South Africa, we love our brands, especially when it comes to cars. When the Passat’s rivals are vehicles like the BMW 3 series, Mercedes C-Class and Even the Audi A4, you know it’s in for a hard time. The thing is, the VW Passat does quite a lot of things better than the cars mentioned above, for a cheaper price at that.

More motorists should give the Passat a chance, forget about how your friends will look at you, or what your side-chick will think. It’s a great option and will benefit your wallet too. Honestly I think it even looks better than some of it’s rivals. It’s not up to me though, it’s your money. The old car was certainly more grandfather-like in appeal, but with this new one, grandad is dead and his much cooler son has taken over.

The Volvo evolution continues: S90 is here

I guess we didn’t really know what to expect from the new Volvo S90. On pictures, it looked a bit underwhelming, pretty but nothing to ride home about. You can imagine then what went through my mind when I saw the car in the flesh because it completely took me by surprise. The car has a stately presence that can’t be captured on paper properly as it looks much smaller, but in reality, it’s a big lady. So much so that Volvo felt it appropriate to have us chauffeured in the cars from the airport to the launch destination in Franschhoek. Being only 5ft7 I can sit at the back of most sedans with ease. What I can’t do in most sedans is stretch my legs, something I was able to do in the Volvo S90. So far so good as this car is going to compete with the likes of BMW’s new 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz’ E Class.

Aesthetically the S90 shares similar features to the XC90, in fact it’s almost a sedan version of the SUV.  Many commented that the rear of the vehicle was the acquired taste of the design but I feel the retro taillights suit the overall look. It’s looks somewhat concept car-like but not overly caricatured. The interior design again shares a great deal with the XC90 as well. The central tablet controls various functions such as entertainment, safety, air-conditioning and much more. Overall trim is of a very high quality featuring real leather and very little plastic, making you feel comfortable as a car of this size deserves to have the best in terms of trim levels. A few minutes in the car will make any driver realise that the Swedes pulled out all the stops with this car, which should make the German’s nervous.

This nervousness shouldn’t be about sales figures as the reality is that we live in brand conscious South Africa. This means that brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW will always have the majority market share in certain segments. Rather the nervousness should be because there is a rise in not being mainstream. In certain cities like Johannesburg, every second car is a BMW or Merc so for those looking to be different, the new Volvo’s offer an appealing package. The playing fields are being levelled and driving the new S90 confirmed this. Sitting in the S90 gives a feeling confidence and the dynamic attributes to match. The 4WD systems on the cars also allowed us to exploit Franschhoek pass with ease, too much ease at that. In fact, the S90’s chassis is the most impressive aspect of the cars’ driving experience. The derivatives offered on launch were the T6 featuring 235kW Drive E engine and the D5 with Power Pulse with 173kW, so there was no shortage of power where that is concerned.

Being a Volvo, safety always come first so even though the cars produce a healthy amount of power, it’s delivered very safely. This makes any driver capable of driving the car fast as it doesn’t evoke any fear behind the wheel. The focus is not on speed, though, it’s on refinement, technology and innovation. The biggest innovation for me was the newest iteration of Pilot Assist. An individual can now drive in semi-autonomous mode up until 130km/h depending on the road condition. Steering inputs, braking and acceleration are all controlled by the car whilst you simply place your hands on the steering wheel. Other features such as pedestrian detection, cyclist detection and even animal detection are just some of the safety features of the car. To list everything would turn this write up to a spec list and we’re not here to do that. We’re here to tell you that this Volvo is probably one of the best we’ve driven since the new XC90 which has won many accolades. There is very little you can fault on the car, it’s really a job well done by the Swedes.

Pricing on the car starts at R678 500 which is also a reasonable range considering what you’re getting. That price of course is minus things like Bowers & Wilken sound system and you’ll pay more depending on what package you choose. There is the choice of the standard Momentum, Inscription and R-Design packages. We had Inscription’s at our disposal and some were specified with some rather appealing features which added to the good looks. Again though if you want it, you must pay for it.

Overall, I personally feel that the S90 is a car that can coexist with its rivals, as it’s a niche offering. Niche brands such as these are great because they offer exclusivity. They answer the question that many motorists have, that of “do I have to have what everyone else has?” What the car has done is match the rivals in terms of comfort, luxury and even dynamics. It’s the executive sedan for the elusive, those that don’t want to be like everybody else. For those looking to purchase one, Volvo’s new guaranteed future value scheme will give you piece of mind as this alleviates the perception of bad trade in values. So this entire package becomes even more appealing. The S90 experience is one that proves that things don’t always have to stay the same. It proved that the big three don’t always have to be on top. Now it’s only a matter of seeing how the South African market responds to this car. We wish it well.

 

 

Volvo South Africa’s new S60 Polestar is here: Say hello to Superman.

Volvo South Africa’s new beast

Clark Kent is the character that most people forget about in the Superman story, with good reason too. He doesn’t do anything that makes you say “wow that is amazing”. All he does is unbutton his shirt, revealing a large “S” logo and then the real action happens. Off with the glasses and the boring suit, and on with the red and blue spandex and out comes a superhero.

The thing is, poor Clark Kent is probably a good person, we just never get to hear about him because he blends into humanity like everybody else. He is likely to be an excellent employee that pays his taxes and helps old ladies cross the street. If the creators of Superman had focused on Clark Kent, though, the story of Superman would have probably not been so famous. People want action, drama and a hero to look up to.

The Volvo S60 finds itself in a Clark Kent-like scenario; it is a good quality sedan with a brand fixated on safety behind it. The car is comfortable, the engines in the range are good, and reliability is not a problem. So why isn’t the S60 the car everybody talks about?

Well like Clark Kent, the car doesn’t do anything spectacular, it doesn’t “wow” you. It’s conservative, understated and if it were a human, it would probably pay its taxes too. So what would Volvo need to do to make the S60 exciting? A small company in Sweden called Polestar have recently been bought by Volvo to officially add spice to the S60. The result? Volvo’s very own Superman. Say hello to the Volvo S60 Polestar edition.

What has changed?
To jump right into the meaty part, the Polestar edition Volvo S60 produces 258 kW and 500 Nm from a 3.0 litre turbocharged in-line six cylinder engine. Yes, the glasses are off, and it’s time to save the world. The new Volvo S60 Polestar is really good. Polestar has gone through a tremendous effort to turn a safety focused sedan into a high-performance vehicle that is usable in almost every scenario. It comes as no surprise then that the Polestar is running a 4WD Haldex suspension system. That same system also has 80% stiffer springs than the standard Volvo S60. That being said, the vehicle is no back breaker, it’s firm but comfortable.

To stop all that power very quickly, the brakes on the Polestar have been upgraded to a Brembo/Polestar set and the 20-inch wheels wear sleek Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Visually the Volvo S60 Polestar is easy to differentiate between the standard S60, partly because it is Smurf blue in colour. The other reason being that the car has different bumpers, wheels and aero, making it look more in tune with its superhero theme. It looks fantastic. Without even starting up that mighty powerplant in the front, the S60 Polestar sits quietly in the pits of Red Star Raceway, waiting to be opened up like a piece of bright blue candy.

How does it drive?
The power delivery from that sonorous six cylinder engine is linear and exciting. The twin-scroll turbocharging has made a great impact on the responsiveness of the engine. The gearbox in the Polestar is a six-speed automatic which allows you to hold a gear in manual mode. This has proved useful on the race track, and even though the gearbox is not the fastest unit out there, it gets the job done.

In a normal driving scenario, the transmission in the Polestar will be more than adequate, keeping true to Volvo’s goal of creating a car that can be used 365 days a year. With weather conditions changing so frequently, the use of a 4WD system in the car further adds to that sentiment. On the race track, the system worked very well under heavy pressure, allowing the vehicle to grip immensely through tight corners and chicanes. Understeer was very minimal in the car, instead, the S60 Polestar is very predictable and light on its feet on the road. So the modifications can clearly be seen and felt on the Polestar compared to the normal S60.

Verdict

This Volvo is still an S60 at the end of the day, and Polestar has not sacrificed comfort or practicality while developing this car. If anything, they have created something that can be used in the real world, something that makes sense.

The interior has a premium feel to it with nubuck leather and silver and chrome bits placed here and there. The vehicle is also spacious enough to drive the family along in it when you’re in Clark Kent mode.

Surprisingly, the Volvo S60 Polestar costs R735 000, which is cheaper than a BMW 340i with some spec on it. It doesn’t matter though because Volvo South Africa is only bringing in 28 units, and there are already sold.

The real question is, who would this car appeal to? That is always something to think about when a brand not known for something decides to explore a different side to their usual persona. The Polestar seems to be the car for the conservative who has a wild side to him/her. The kind of person who is calculated and precise. If Clark Kent were real, he would probably drive a Volvo S60 Polestar. For everyday life, the car is a normal S60, but when the time comes, and it’s time to unbutton that shirt, the S60 can quickly transform from Clark Kent to Superman.

Opel South Africa’s new Adam: Does it really Rock?

Opel South Africa’s new Adam Rocks

Since Opel’s transformation, they have released some great and innovative cars. One of those cars being the ever so fun Opel Adam, a car that has been a big hit for Opel South Africa. The slick and hip city car which is unique to the driver. The Adam has done fantastically well in a short period, selling over 1200 cars in South Africa. Everyone likes their cars to be personable to them, and Opel hit the nail on the head in that respect. The Adam can be customised in so many different ways that it’s possible not to find another Adam like yours on the road.

So we have the Adam, Adam Jam and Adam Glam but now it’s time for these current cool cats to welcome their new sibling to the world, The Adam Rocks. The car does rock, and it boasts the same three-cylinder turbo engine found in the Jam and Glam which is perfect for city driving. It’s also packed full of useful features such as Blind Spot Assist, Advanced Park Assist 2, auto-wipers and City steering. What separates the Adam rocks from its brothers and sisters, is very much a difference in its visual appearance. For starters, the vehicle has been raised by 15mm, and there is added exterior cladding to the wheel arches, fenders and bumpers. This immediately gives the Rocks a more bold, tough, off-road crossover look, which I think is great.

Another standout feature of the Adam Rocks is its canvas roof which opens up with the touch of a button, giving you that airy feeling. This is one very cool car; it has got the whole “image is everything” look just right.

After driving the Rocks, you realise that nothing has changed regarding the ride quality. You still get the feeling that this is a very well built car, small and nimble for city streets but with enough oomph for highways and longer drives. The 7-inch Intelli-Link system is simple but smart; you can even set the rear wiper to flick once when you select reverse gear.

The Adam Rocks start at R270 000. We know, it’s not cheap, but you’re not buying something cheap when you buy any Opel Adam. You’re buying a stylish, unique, German engineered vehicle packed full of features and fun. If the Adam Rocks is out of your price range, don’t fret too much, you can check out the other Adams in the range with prices  starting at R190,000. If the small 1.0-litre engine is too soft for you and you’re looking for the Adam style but with a bit more performance, don’t worry the Adam S is just around the corner with Opel South Africa launching it soon. Stay tuned.

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

Something different: The Kia Cerato Koup.

Dare to be different, the Kia Cerato Koup.

Sometimes in life, we all long for something different. Whether it’s a different flavour of ice-cream, a different restaurant to eat at, or even a different car to drive. In the car department, choosing something different to what many people buy can be a risky thing. The reason being that firstly, the fact that many people drive a specific car means that the car is a good. If that weren’t the case, many people wouldn’t buy it, would they? Secondly, having many of the same brand of a car on the road means that when the time comes for you to sell the vehicle, it will fetch a good trade in value because there will be a demand for it. So usually sticking to the norm is the safe way to go about things. The problem with that is that the norm can get boring at times. Sometimes, having something that is different to everybody else is exciting because of just that, it’s different. Take for example the Kia Cerato Koup.

When you think of a good looking coupé car to buy, your mind doesn’t automatically think Kia does it? Usually, we all want something German, something with some status so we can casually put our keys on the table during a night out and watch our friends reactions when they see we drive a…No one can blame you for taking this route when buying a car, because, besides the bragging rights, the German’s do have a good reputation to fall back on. A reputation that is not usually cheap, unfortunately, and if you don’t have the budget for that reputation, what do you do? Do you buy the very basic model from that brand simply because of the brand, or do you try to look for another option?

If you’re someone who falls part of the latter group, then perhaps the Kia Cerato Koup is something you would consider. The fact is that this car is very good at what it does, it looks good, drives very well and lastly, it won’t cost you the same amount as your mortgage. In fact, after spending time in the Kia Cerato Koup, we found ourselves wondering why there aren’t many more of these cars being sold in South Africa. For R370 000, you get 152 kW/265 Nm of power, a short-throw 6-speed manual gearbox, a comfortable ride and some good features too. Yes, the car does not cost chump change, but it certainly offers a great deal of car for the money. The engine is punchy and refined, the car has a sporty nature to it and it has a feel good factor about it that makes you smile. The dashboard is quite basic but the seats are great and supportive.

We live in a visual world, so things must look good in order for them to have appeal. The Kia Cerato Koup ticks that box six love, with one of its strongest points being that it looks great. It’s no dumb blonde though, if it needs to get up and go it will do so willingly. At the same time, it’s not built cheaply either, it feels premium. Even though it’s a coupé, it’s not a tight fit too, so your passengers can feel just as glamorous as you do when driving in it. The Koup is one of those cars that make you think before going the “normal” route. It makes you question why you should be like everybody else. All we’re saying is that there’s nothing wrong to be different at times, and if you can look good whilst doing it, why not?

Volkswagen South Africa’s new launched Passat, is it a game-changer?

Not just a great personality: Volkswagen South Africa’s new Passat.

Most people have experienced what it’s like to be set up with a potential boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. When this happens, there is usually a build up to the first “date” and this build up often involves a great deal of selling. Your friend or friends that are facilitating all this tell you about all the good things and they omit the bad. At this point, it’s a known fact that if the phrase “he/she has a great personality” is the biggest selling point, chances are the person you’re being set up with is not good looking. We’re not supposed to be shallow in life and focus purely on beauty, but it’s always easier to get to know somebody who is easy on the eyes. The person does not need to look like a model, but it’s nice to see that he/she tries to do the best with what they’ve got.

This has been part of the problem for Volkswagen South Africa when it comes to the Passat over the years. The car has always been the one in its segment with “the great personality” and as a result in South Africa, it’s always battled to get a date to the matric ball. As mentioned before we shouldn’t be shallow when looking for relationships but when it comes to cars, we have every right to be. A car needs to have a want factor, something that makes you say “that’s hot” and the Passat has lacked that over the years. Not to say it’s been an ugly car, but it can be likened to the introverted girl or guy who doesn’t put much effort in presenting themselves to others in an appealing way. This has been the opposite with its competitors, the “big three” who have always made an effort to be dolled up and present themselves as the “cool kids”, making them the popular ones in school or in this case, the roads.

The new Passat has been launched by Volkswagen South Africa recently and it has undergone an extreme makeover. The nerdy glasses have been replaced with contact lenses, the old polo neck and sweatpants have been done away with and replaced with a new wardrobe. The results? A car that makes you say “that’s hot”. This is especially the case when the new Passat is kitted with the R-Line Package, this package acts as the little black dress that makes everyone look. The “think new” slogan that’s marketed with the new Passat shows that Volkswagen has thought deeply about the importance of creating a “want one” factor for the car, something the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Audi have accomplished over the years with their cars.

So we’ve established that the car looks good, but besides that, what’s new in the B8 Passat? Everything. The car is built on the MQB platform, which makes it lighter through the use of more lightweight materials such as metals found in the engine and suspension. The total weight difference between the new and old model is 85 kg’s. Despite the car’s new physique, it’s longer on the inside yet shorter on the outside as well as lower than the car it replaces. As a result the car offers great interior space for its five occupants. The extra space comes with a great view as the cabin is a great place to sit in physically and aesthetically, with modern lines and good quality materials creating a premium feel.

To add to the interior experience, the new Passat comes with a host of new features which modernise the car even further. One of the most notable being the optional Active Info Display which is a fully digital instrument cluster that offers the driver various modes to view such as  navigation, entertainment and economy. The cluster adapts to whatever mode it’s set in and is automated with the centre 6.5 inch colour infotainment system which comes standard with Bluetooth. The option of Head Up Display is also available in the Passat, which enhances the technological prowess of the car too.

Since the new Volkswagen Passat has undergone such drastic changes, does it mean that the car has lost its great personality? Not at all. The new Passat retains a comfortable ride quality but adds some nifty driving aids such as Automatic Multi Collision Braking System (which applies the brakes on the car after an accident has occurred to prevent a secondary collision), Adaptive Cruise Control and Driver Alert System. Driver Profile Selection is standard on all Passat’s, allowing you to choose between economy, sport, normal and individual mode to suit your driving style.

The engines in the Passat are very refined and quiet, with a 1.4 TSI (110 kW), 1.8 TSI (132 kW) and the current flagship 2.0 TSI (162 kW) being the choices to choose from at the moment. A 2.0 TDI option will be available mid 2016. The current offering is well matched to the car, with all the engines providing enough power to get the car moving smoothly and comfortably. All models except the 1.4 TSI are fitted with the DSG gearbox as standard, with the 2.0 TSI being given the faster 6- Speed DSG found in the Golf GTI. In the case of the 2.0 TSI, the Golf GTI DNA has been imprinted in the car, giving it a sporty edge that the other engines cannot match.

The 2.0 TSI also comes as standard with lovely the R-Line package, but the R-Line kit is available from the 1.4 TSI up-words. The new Passat’s handling characteristics are impressive, combining suppleness with sportiness very well. At speed the vehicle is quiet, giving you the illusion that you’re doing much slower speeds than you really are. Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) which adjusts vehicle damping is standard in the top of the range 2.0 TSI which also comes standard with the XDS limited slip differential to improve handling dynamics. The 2.0 TSI is a sure rival for the likes of the BMW 330i, the Mercedes C300 and the recently launched Lexus IS 200t. Whereas the other models are sure to create some competition for the big three’s lower end models.

Overall the new Passat is a wonderful vehicle in its segment. It has already claimed the title of Eurpean Car of The Year 2015 which speaks for the car immensely. This comes as no surprise as the car offers a great deal of features and quality for the segment it operates in. The new Passat also happens to be priced competitively compared to its rivals. Being that as it is, the deciding factor is how the market receives this new Passat in South Africa. Has it managed to get out of the “old man” stigma it has carried for a long time now? We certainly think so. Now it’s up to Volkswagen South Africa to market the car as something hot and not the fact that it only has a great personality. If they can succeed in changing people’s perception of the Passat, maybe people can finally see that blind dates aren’t always a bad thing.

 

Prices:

1.4 TSI Comfortline 110kW Manual                                                                                R378 800

1.4 TSI Comfortline 110kW DSG                                                                                     R398 800

1.8 TSI Highline 132kW DSG                                                                                           R444 200

2.0 TSI R-Line 162kW DSG                                                                                              R476 800

Why we all love the Chevrolet Cruze.

Chevrolet Cruze 1.4 T LS:

A Chevrolet Cruze is not a poster car, let’s just be honest. You don’t wait long for one nor is it a car that makes you say “oooh, that’s nice.” It’s one of those cars one sees on the roads often and wonders why there are so many of them. We soon learned why this is the case, when a “hatchback” version of the car arrived to be test driven by us. The model provided was the 1.4 T LS manual, which makes 103 kW and 200 Nm.

Upon looking at the car, one doesn’t realise how big it is until you’re sitting in it. Space is not a problem in this car; space is what this car offers a lot of, especially in the “hatchback” with its wide opening boot. The reason why we keep saying “hatchback” sarcastically, is because this car is just as big as any sedan but has a funny hunchback thing going on at the rear, making it a “hatchback”. Anyway.

As mentioned before, we wouldn’t be rude to say that the Cruze is not an exciting car but after spending time with it, one does get a great deal of satisfaction from it. We don’t really know why, because it’s not as if it’s ludicrously fast, nor is it fun to drive. The biggest reason why we think it’s so good and it sells so well in South Africa is because to put it simply, it works. For starters, the seats in the Chevrolet Cruze are made of the same material found in your grandmother’s couch. The level of comfort you find in this car is brilliant. To top it off, driving it around Sandton for a week, we forgot that speed bumps existed, the car just swallows them up and for a second we even thought the government fixed the roads.

Secondly, the engine. Even though its a small 1.4 turbo carrying a big body, the engine works. Very well we must say. It gives you just enough power to happily drive it around without thinking it’s underpowered at any point. Besides, you’re too busy relaxing in the seats to even think about going fast. Another great aspect of having a small engine is better fuel economy. The people at General Motors were very surprised to receive their car back with half a tank of petrol in it, something unheard of from a journalist. The “Eco” mode with its stop-start feature came in handy.

As the week came to its end, we realised that we were quite sad to see the old Cruze leave. In the stressful city we live in, as nice as it is to have a high-performance car or a big SUV, it can be a bit limiting since there isn’t much of an opportunity to use those type of cars to the best of their abilities. With the Chevrolet Cruze though, you simply pair your phone with the radio, sit back, relax and enjoy just how effective the car is. Yes, it may not attract stares or impress your girlfriend or boyfriend, but that was not Chevrolet’s intention when making the car. For what it’s made for, being a large, comfortable and fuel efficient sedan/hatchback, the Chevrolet Cruze is one of the best in its segment. With a starting price of R 262 500, you get a whole lot of car for the money. So next time you see a Cruze on the road, you know why.