Category: Digital Magazine – 08

VW GTi Clubsport Extended Review

VW Golf GTi Clubsport Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

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The VW Golf Clubsport is a car that excites the senses and I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoyed driving this car. For those who don’t know much or anything about the Clubsport, (which I find hard to believe) it’s the 40-year edition of the Golf GTi and as a result it has more power and added aggressive styling.

After a full day on track with this vehicle a few months back, I was looking forward to driving this car for a month, something I had the opportunity to do during December. With 195kWand 213kW on over-boost, it certainly has enough power, but how does this translate to the road when used as an everyday car? This was the purpose of our extended test, to find the answer to the question.

Interior & Tech

The Clubsport we drove was specified with most of the optional extras. It had the following: High Beam Control Light Assist, Adaptive Chassis Control DCC, Carplay & Andriod Auto, Satellite Navigation and the DynaAudio Excite Sound System. The only optional extra this car didn’t have was racing bucket seats and 19 inch wheels. The optional bucket seats look amazing, as they have a combination of Alcantara and piano black finish on the back of the seats, which matches the steering wheel. These seats really complete the look of the GTI Clubsport. Having spent time in the normal seats and the bucket options, I can confirm that the bucket seats hold the driver better in place, but these benefits do incur a loss of comfort.  As a result the standard options are much more suited for someone who will drive their Clubsport everyday. The standard options still support the driver well in the corners, but they don’t look nearly as good.  Personally I feel the bucket seats are worth the lack of comfort.

Like most modern Volkswagen’s, the infotainment is a joy to work with. In the Clubsport and standard GTI, it provides all the vehicle data you need. The driver can even have three digital dials up on the screen, providing live readings on G-Forces, power, engine temperature, boost pressure and more. It may seem like a gimmick, but I loved seeing all the figures. Although I was a little dismayed that on over-boost, the kW dial didn’t read 213kW as it should, instead it peaked at the standard 195kW. This wasn’t the end of the world, but a little annoying to be honest.

I don’t own an Android phone, so I didn’t test out the Android Auto connect system. I do have an iPhone though, and Apple CarPlay is a great feature. It’s a well-streamlined system which makes accessing music and maps easy. Interestingly, Siri also works with the steering wheel controls and all this connects as you plug in your phone. The optional DynAudio system also packs a punch and provides top-level audio quality. This is especially great for those days when you just don’t feel like the Clubsport Vrrrrpah! As the internet is now calling it.

For night time driving, the High Beam Light Assist picks up other cars ahead travelling in both directions extremely quickly. When it senses the other cars, it dims the high beam, even when the headlights are not in the Auto setting. This worked very well on the dimly lit road between Camps bay and Hout bay. The system actually reacts much quicker than other systems on more expensive vehicles we’ve driven. It gives the driver one less thing to think about when enjoying a bendy road such as the aforementioned one. Speaking of bendy roads, the Adaptive Chassis System (DCC), although expensive is another good investment. I have read reports online that some owners do not feel the difference between driving modes, but there is a difference. The edgy nature of the car can be reduced slightly when changing from Sport to Comfort with the DCC button. Engine noise is reduced in Comfort and the car gives you a little more over the bumps, not much but it is noticeable. It’s nice to be able to turn the car a notch down when needed. Is the system worth R12000 though? It’s a tough one, but we think its worth it.

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Performance:

The Clubsport is an experience, every time I sat low in this car and gripped the steering wheel, it felt special. This feeling increased when driven, the firm suspension and the beautiful way it turns into corners gives the car a very “racey” edge. It’s different to a standard GTI, the Clubsport is unique. Volkswagen has been able to fine tune each of their sporty hatches to feel different, as the Gold R also provides a different experience. 213kW and even 195KW is a lot of power to put through the front wheels, a little too much acceleration from a standstill will incur wheel spin, but through every gear after 1st, the power is delivered very smoothly.

It feels so much more alive and lighter on its feet than other 4wd hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R, Mercedes-AMG A45 or Audi RS3. Even though it produces less power, it’s more technical to drive, it makes you work more behind the wheel. At times it can be a little tricky to produce a driving experience you’re happy with on a tight road, because there is a fine line between under-steer and lift off over-steer. With Sport mode activated, the Clubsport’s differential works harder, so accelerating mid-corner is a pleasant experience as the front end pulls you out of the corner. The best way to drive the car fast is with all systems off. That way you have no interference and it’s all up to you. With the car unassisted, I felt so much more part of the car and it becomes a different machine without the traction control interfering when you don’t want it to. A Golf R won’t wheel spin through a bend in 3rd gear and that’s what makes the Clubsport a much more visceral vehicle.

The whole Clubsport experience is not just kept under the bonnet. It stands out from the crowd in the looks department as well. The front and rear splitters, larger chrome exhaust tips, small rear spoiler, darkened rear lights and lower stance set this apart from a standard GTI. Completed in Tornado Red, it draws a lot of attention and looks, well…awesome.

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We can go on all day about how nice the car is to drive fast, but what about traffic? bad roads and everything else you encounter everyday? Where the standard GTI can arguably be called the “perfect hatchback”, the Clubsport is more about performance, so there are things that it lacks in terms of everyday appeal. For instance, the stiffness of the suspension can be a drawback for everyday use. I drove the car for 1100km’s from Bloemfontein to Cape Town without stopping and even though it was great to do once, the comfort levels can get to you. This feeling is accentuated when sitting in the rear of the vehicle, as the passengers sit right above the wheel well and the dampers.

Another drawback from using the Clubsport as an everyday vehicle is that it will make you a hooligan on the roads. That’s a fact. The Vrrr-PAH becomes a daily craving, it goads you to behave badly whereas in the normal GTI you don’t feel impelled to drive like that all the time. Overtaking is an absolute breeze, especially in that rapid third gear. You end viewing the city as your personal racetrack, things like traffic circles become chicanes. It’s a guilty pleasure because it’s just so enjoyable. Your friends and family may end up getting a bit tired of your antics, as did mine.

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Overall:

It’s funny really, everything that makes the GTI Clubsport such a fantastic driving vehicle in the right conditions, also makes it a car that isn’t what you want to drive everyday. It’s a special car and should be treated as such. Weekends and the odd morning to work is the perfect lifestyle for the Clubsport, you will love it, and you will crave it. The standard GTI is still the perfect daily drive, especially considering the cost savings you will have since the Clubsport is not cheap. Sadly, not many of us can afford to purchase the Clubsport as just a weekend car. For those that have the R600K odd, you won’t be sorry to use it everyday though, we just hope it doesn’t lose the “fizz” as naturally, we get used to things. If that’s the case for you, always try find little safe spots to get the most out of the car. When you get this car on an empty “Chapmans-Peak” like road, it’s worth every potential speeding fine.

Of course the ultimate GTI to be launched is the Clubsport S. If you have the opportunity to get one of the 47 that will come to South Africa, you’ll have a future classic. With 228kW on tap and no rear seats, we cannot wait to see how that car drives. That being said, the “normal” GTI Clubsport was a delight and it will definitely be one of those cars that will instil nostalgia in the hearts of car lovers like us.

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Honda Civic

Honda Civic Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

There are few things in this world which are more reliable than a Honda. I have often said that not even a playschool teacher could rival Honda’s sterling reputation for trustworthiness, and that is quite a statement to make! In the same breath, though, one may argue that aside from their fast cars, of which there aren’t very many, Honda’s are a bit pedestrian. This is something which has traditionally been mirrored in their buyer base aka the zimmer-frame brigade. Granny and Grandpa love a good Honda and that’s not a bad thing! You see, unless your mum or dad were begotten of a rock and roll legend or drug abusing good for nothing, grandparents tend to be rather sensible people, and we all know that a sensible motorist is a clever motorist. Motoring is not a cheap exercise, so why not buy a car that’s both practical and reliable?

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Sensible and petrolhead are very seldom uttered in the same sentence and that can be attributed to the fact that you’d sooner find a turbocharger or a new intake in my Christmas sock than a Christmas cake or whatever normal people like as sock-fillers. I am, then, the very last person you’d ever expect to see smiling in a sensible Honda so you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to see my pearly whites gleaming back at me in the rearview mirror of the all-new Honda Civic.

The new Civic is a very good looking car with its swoopy headlights and sloping roofline – thankfully the drive is as pleasant as it is to look at. The model range is made up of three models, namely Comfort, Sport and Elegance. The Comfort model is powered exclusively by a 1.8 litre NA motor delivering 104Kw and 174Nm. It’s a powerplant with which we’re familiar and while you won’t be winning any post-bowls drag races, it does a god job in the Civic. The Elegance model can be had with the same 1.8-litre motor or Honda’s new and much praised 1.5 litre turbo unit. The Sport model is only available with this motor and what a powerplant it is. 127kW (170bhp) and 220Nm are the figures and when provoked, it’ll hustle the Civic from 0-100km/h in a not too shabby 8.2 seconds, yet return a claimed fuel consumption of just 5.9l/100km. I managed an average of 7l/100km during my week with the car which isn’t terribly far off.

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The only gearbox available is a CVT and while I generally liken CVT’s to a trip to the dentist, the low-down torque and linear power delivery of the 1.5 litre turbo-four lends itself well to the droning CVT’s efficient nature. In fact, you hardly notice that it’s a CVT while pottering around and when you floor it, you’re rewarded with a continuous surge of acceleration without the changing of gears, just like in a Koenigsegg Regera. Sort of.

What I liked most about the new Civic wasn’t its punchy motor, eye-catching looks or technology-laden interior, what got to me was just how easy it is to like. My first car was in fact a Honda. Sold as a Civic overseas and a Ballade in South Africa, the SR4 in code speak, was a real crowd pleaser in Luxline trim with its grey leather and electric windows. The new Civic reminded me of this, as well as why people buy them. My gran bought hers because she said it had “nice lines” and after she shuffled off it was passed down, eventually finding itself in my garage.  I still have it and it’s as good as new, barring a few bumps and dents from when Rosemary went blind and started driving by sound.

What I hope for this new Civic, though, is that not only the elderly and sensible will take to it, but everyone shopping in its segment. It really has come a long way from the previous generation model which was wonderful all on its own. Not only is the new Civic reliable, practical and sensible, it’s now exciting!

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Pricing:

Civic Sedan 1.8 Comfort – R330 000
Civic Sedan 1.8 Elegance – R370 000
Civic Sedan 1.5T Sport – R430 000
Civic Sedan 1.5T Elegance – R460 000

 

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Renault Megane GT :The most confusing warm hatch I’ve driven

Renault Megane GT Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

After driving the new Megane GT for a week, I was left slightly baffled. I found myself asking fellow journo’s if it was just me, or is the car one of strangest fast hatchback out there? Let me explain. Renault for years been good at making quick and visceral hatchbacks that appeal to the senses. With the new Megane that has been recently launched, the recipe seems perfect. The current range topper for now is the GT version, as the hardcore RS has not yet arrived in South Africa. A power figure of 151kW and 280Nm for the GT is enough to pique the interest of any person who loves some exhilaration. The looks of the GT adds to this as the large grille, sporty styling and sharp lines make you believe that you’re going to be in for some fun.

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Step inside the car and you get even more amped, because you’re presented with some bucket seats and a stylish cabin with dark bits and chrome. A weird heart beat type of sound plays though the speakers as you enter, almost to tell you that this car means business. The fascia is modern and features a large touch screen system that allows you to operate media and even air-conditioning in the car. I still enjoy old school switches and nobs but if you’re tech savvy, operating everything via a touch-screen may come naturally. The GT features the 7-Speed EDC gearbox and is fitted with fixed gear paddles, the same as you would get in older Ferrari’s. Hmm. Start the car up and things get interesting. The car is very quiet, unnervingly so. I looked around for a “sport” button in the hopes of livening things up and voila, I found the RS button. This lets you choose different modes in the car via a system called MULTI-SENSE. Neutral, Eco,Comfort, Sport and Perso mode are available. In Sport mode, you would expect this to unleash some sort of animalistic side to this car, but all it does is sharpen things up as well as change the dials from blue to red.

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Acceleration in the GT is also surprising because the first half of the Revs are linear and then all of a sudden there’s an extra surge of torque. When all this happens, there is a strange whirring sound which is meant to be the engine noise and the gear changes are so quick, you realise often too late that you’re travelling at an illegal speed. Driving the car in Sport mode on a straight line is something I couldn’t figure out if I liked too much, because it’s not all that exciting. Earlier we spoke of how these cars appealed to the senses, yes my sense of sight was happy because it looks good, but my sense of hearing was hampered because the cars’ engine tone doesn’t sound glad to go fast. This messed with me. What about my sense of feeling? This is the GT’s redeeming factor, it handles very well.

The Megane GT features suspension technology called 4Control, which is a four-wheel steering system. At lower speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels to make cornering faster and nimbler. As you travel at higher speeds, the inside wheels corner the same direction as the front wheels, creating the feeling of a longer wheel base. This system ensures that the Megane GT handles like a beauty, which it does. The driving position of the car and the bucket seat quality is one of the best in the segment. The only thing I would get rid of are the fixed paddles, as it gets confusing to change up and down whilst cornering. And yes I know one shouldn’t be changing gears mid corner anyway, but I’m no racing driver and neither are most people who will buy this car.

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Personally, I enjoyed driving the Megane GT in the normal mode. As a quick daily commuter, you get more joy from it as a regular car than a hot hatch. If you divorce yourself from the hot hatch mentality the car sells you, you start to like it more. It’s firm but not back breaking, it has plenty torque for overtaking and it has enough space for you, your friends and shopping bags. The concept of a “sleeper” is always appealing, which is what I think Renault should’ve done with the GT. Take for instance the new Opel Astra 1.6T. On the outside it looks like a slightly fancier standard Astra, but underneath the hood there’s a quick engine that shocks you as you accelerate. With the Renault, you look at it and expect it to be a baby RS, but it’s not. It’s a quick Megane that handles well and looks very good. It’s not a snarling beast that you can hear from a distance like the older cars. We’ll have to wait for the new RS to fulfil those fantasies.

 

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

Fiat Fullback Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

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

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Knife to a gun fight?

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

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

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

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

Prices:

Single Cab Petrol

:R 232,900

Double Cab 4×2

:R 402,900

Double Cab 4×4

:R 468,900

 

BMW 340i with the PPK pack

BMW 340i  Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

When we first started our online magazine, we first did a section “Modded Monday”. This article is the same, but different.

Throughout the year we have sampled BMW’s fantastic 340i and love it.  It had the right power, the right feel of comfort and overall a brilliant vehicle for everyday use.  Now, we get to sample the car again, except this one is slightly modded.  BMW South Africa now offer a sound and power kit for the vehicle, which now has a new B58 inline 6-cyclinder motor and can be operated on, from your local dealer. Power jumps up from 240kw to 265kw and torque from 450nm to 500nm.  Now this doesn’t sound like much, but in the real world, it goes from a very fast and capable 340i to “do I really need an M3.”  Now before you fall off your chair, and rush to the comments section, hear me out…

The M3 is a fantastic, in fact, an iconic vehicle.  For road use every day the car does become challenging.  It doesn’t like being driven slowly; it urges you to explore the rev range and basically wants to get you arrested in every short burst.  The 340i with the PPK kit is just easier to live with on a daily basis. Yes, it still does 0-100 in +/- 4.7 seconds, but with its suspension setup and slightly less aggressive temper, I find myself wondering if this is not the perfect sedan in this guise.

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What got me thinking about this was the actual noise from the new M performance back silencer, yes this is from the standard PPK kit.  The noise is addictive and holding the vehicle in over run at just before 4 000rpm gives off a snap, crackle, and pop from the exhaust tips that’s sure to give your neighbours something to talk about at their weekly neighbourhood watch meeting.  I even got a message from my body corporate for “incessant revving”.  Standard feature on the PPK kit. The best one in my opinion.

In a world where most people want more performance, more sound and more kilowatts, BMW South Africa now offer something for the petrol heads who haven’t made the mental jump to spend over a million rand on their daily commuter. It’s the perfect midsize sedan with enough performance only to leave a car length between itself and its older brother, the M3 Sedan.  This was proved in a safe environment on Rivonia Road late at night.

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Pricing on the power and sound kit on the 340i is R 53 000 incl. VAT for the system with the carbon fibre exhaust tips and R 48 000 incl. VAT for the chrome tips and the kind people at Club Motors Randburg BMW very generously waivered the fitment charges of this fantastic system.  Question is, will this be an optional extra from the standard ordering guide as it should be?!