Category: Offroad

Built in Africa for Africa, the Nissan Navara PRO-2X

The Nissan Navara might not produce the same reverence in the bakkie game as its Toyota and Ford counterparts do, but the new locally-produced facelift may mount a more formidable opposition in the premium double cab segment. We spent a few days with the PRO-2X derivative and put it through its paces both on and off the beaten path.

Depending on how you look at it, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class may not have been the most successful product proposition from the famed German automaker. It was simply priced too far out of the reach of the typical bakkie buyer yet was still too rudimentary a vehicle for the average Benz aficionado, despite all the luxury bits added on. It doesn’t change the fact that they ventured out into an unknown market in the attempt to fill a niche. If you didn’t already know, now would be a good time to inform you that the X-Class was a badge-engineered version of the Navara (also known as the Frontier on the other side of the Atlantic).

The platform and chassis were essentially the same as its Japanese counterpart with a good aesthetic overhaul to make it seamlessly blend alongside the rest of the 3-pointed star range. That being said, Mercedes-Benz has done their utmost to elevate their brand even higher than it has been before, upholding a reputation which is synonymous with premium build quality and a plush driving experience. What I am trying to get at is that if the Navara platform was good enough to pioneer Mercedes’ first bakkie, the actual Navara is in with a shout to give the popular bakkies a run for their money.

If that isn’t enough reason to consider this as an equal if not superior to the opposition, the fact that it is now locally produced might be. As of mid-June the first batch of the Japanese designed off-roader rolled off the production floor at the Nissan manufacturing plant in Rosslyn.

Tuned for local conditions and suited to the needs of local bakkie buyers, an additional bonus of this agreement of built in Africa for Africans means that the overall pricing of the range is some of the most competitive in the country, undercutting the likes of Ford, Toyota, Isuzu and GWM for certain derivatives.

The Navara range starts from R311 000 for the base petrol powered single cab 2.5DE XE 4X2 while the range topping PRO-4X 4X4 AT double cab will set you back R740 000 and all include a 6-year/150 000km warranty with a built in service plan for 6-years or up to 90 000km.

While the range is comprehensive with workhorse single cabs and crew cabs, we spent time driving the premium derivatives including the suitably styled 2.5D PRO-2X for a few days on test as well as the 2.5D LE 4×4 on launch too. While our skill and lack of off-road adventuring meant that neither of the bakkies ventured onto hardcore trails, we still managed to put them to good use on dirt roads and some slightly technical off road surfaces.

Both managed with ease which leads me to believe that not all bakkies need to be four wheel drive to be a viable and capable option for most consumers. Sure, that extra capability may be beneficial in exclusive situations but as a whole the limited rear wheel drive performance did not hinder us. For context, the PRO-2X costs R686 000 while the PRO-4X which is identical save from a four wheel drive system costs significantly more at R740 000. 

The PRO-2X comes equipped with components that enable it to appeal to adventure orientated individuals that need both utility and comfort in a single offering which it does very well. It includes mounted rails and anchor hooks in the loadbin which can be used for hauling a whole lot of things around or to neatly secure a mountain bike (or something a with a bit more power) for a weekend morning outing.

Either way, it would be wise to spec a rubberized bin so the cool looking Warrior Grey paintwork does not get scuffed. While SUV’s and crossovers so often try to appeal to the adventure within ourselves, this bakkie does… and it does it in a stylish manner too.

The overall visual appeal of the facelifted bakkie has been improved with a more menacing, angular front end, not that its predecessor was an ugly duckling by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Nissan bakkies have always stayed true to this mantra from as early as the Hardbody, so the updated Navara is a natural evolution of the existing aesthetic. Most importantly it looks like a bakkie should; formidable, wide and rugged which is compliments of its updated plastic trim and new lights.

The chunky aesthetic comes at the cost of brick-shaped aerodynamics which naturally limit any wallet-pleasing fuel economy. After a full week of urban dominated driving we returned 10.5l/100km from the updated 2.5-litre turbo diesel motor. An average of 8.1l/100 km is optimistically claimed by Nissan in mixed scenarios. The larger engine is a vast improvement over the old pre-facelift 2.3 litre power plant, with more torque and power than before suiting the model far better. Both the LE and PRO models incorporate this motor which produces a maximum of 140kW and a 450Nm. 

The low end still produces some turbo lag but the 7-speed automatic gearbox mitigates most of this through a smooth delivery of torque. The transmission competes with the suspension bits and chassis setup as the most refined mechanical component of the vehicle, but the intuitive gear selection and faultless operation during our test made the drive ever so smooth.

Speaking of chassis and suspension, the ride is supremely comfortable on all road surfaces in comparison to the competition. The naturally high centre of gravity (particularly on PRO models’ raised suspension) still makes it prone to the sway of Spring-time highway winds, despite its hefty weight. Road vibrations and wind noise have been diminished almost completely despite its hefty weight of over 2 tons. 

Jumping into the cabin, the look and feel of the materials and the design of the components still seem less luxurious and out of date. This is ever prevalent when interacting with the operating system on the 8″ touch screen display. While it has a more utilitarian theme about it, the overall impression is a let down in the context of a what has shaped up to be a great bakkie.

But that’s the thing, it is after all just a bakkie. It doesn’t really need to be incredible luxurious and as refined as an SUV for example – that is secondary to its purpose. Remember the X-Class from the beginning of the article? The antiquated OS is equipped with cable connected Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Comfortable leather seats and plenty of room outweight the bland looking dash, which with its few recesses and details and would be easy to clean after a muddy weekend away.

While the eternal Ranger vs Hilux rivalry forges on, we forget that Nissan gave us the trustworthy Champ which made its way into the homes and hearts of many South Africans. Bakkies are an integral part of the Japanese brands heritage in South Africa and the updated Navara is a confident step in the right direction once again. With the highly competitive market constantly growing with options from manufacturers all over the world, my preference in owning less common vehicles would yield the Navara PRO-2X as my first choice. The price jump for the PRO-4X is just uneconomical for the things that I would use it for.

Isuzu’s X-Rider gains the 3Litre TD engine

The Isuzu D-Max in the popular X-Rider trim has gained the larger, more powerful engine and offers a greater sense of value, without compromising on the full-fat benefits of the workhorse motor. As we patiently await the new model, the X-Rider is a valuable reminder of the basics to the bakkie recipe.

2020 Isuzu X-Rider 3.0TD

Now fitted with the 3.0Litre turbo diesel mated to a six-speed automatic, producing 130kW and 380Nm from 1800Rpm, driving the rear wheels only. The X-Rider offers a serious value proposition to the popular mainstream bakkie choices. The X-Rider design package adds 18-Inch diamond cut alloys in either black or silver, blacked-out front bumper cladding, roof rails and running boards. The 3.0TD is capable of a 3.5Ton towing capacity and 1 Ton payload, which is enough to match the likes of the Ranger, Hilux and Amarok. Internally the partial leather seats gain red contrast stitching, and infotainment is handled by a 20.3cm touchscreen with reverse camera, Carplay and Andriod Auto.

2020 Isuzu X-Rider 3.0TD price in South Africa 

Priced from the range-topper 3.0 TD Double Cab is set at R479 217 and in the world of bakkies, that’s not a lot of money for a Bakkie that will run with the best of them.
Prices include a 5year/90 000km service plan and 5year/120 000Km warranty

Nissan Navara Launches In South Africa

We Drive The New Nissan Navara With Its 5 Link Suspension System.

Can you remember the type of person you were, or what you were doing in your life twelve years ago? In twelve years, I have left high school, dabbled in higher education, moved continents and tied the proverbial knot. I am a walking example, then, that a lot can happen in twelve years. That is the same period of time that has lapsed since the launch of the original Navara, so one could say that it was high time that they launch a new one.

Things are always on the move in the automotive world – from a brand’s perspective, being left behind can happen in the flash of an eye should the manufacturer decide to rest on their laurels or even just cease to remain relevant. This is the biggest threat to the new Nissan Navara in South Africa – have their previous customers moved on? Have consumers forgotten about the bakkie that was once considered one of the best? Making the situation worse is the fact that the South African launch on the new Navara has come nearly 2 years after it was launched to the rest if the world, so the all-new Navara certainly had a mountain to climb, so to speak.

According to Nissan, the reason for this is that South Africa has much harsher road conditions and as such, the new Navara needed to be adapted. Interesting, then, that this doesn’t seem to be a problem for every other manufacturer…

It’s fair to say then that the new Nissan Navara needs to be an excellent product in order to regain the attention of the South African market. Nissan knows this, which is why the Navara is not just newer and prettier, it also has a trick up its sleeve.

This trick is 5-link suspension system, which is a very clever trick indeed. Traditionally on bakkies, the leaf spring suspension system has always been the option manufacturers headed for. It’s an older system which consists of large steel bands which compress under load and when under this load, they also provide more brake pressure. This sort of system does decent job, but only really when the vehicle is under load.

Many can attest, however, to the rather unpleasant and bouncy nature of that conventional bakkie ride that we don’t really adore, with rearward instability being the rotten cherry on top.

Bakkies are no longer just work vehicles and have become lifestyle cars that need to tick more than just the rough and ready box. Single athletes, adventurous couples, camping families and owners of sandals all love the versatility and perceived safety as well as the spaciousness of bakkies. So it’s only right, then, that as the market for these vehicles evolves, so does the technology behind them.

The Nissan Navara is the first in its segment to feature this type of suspension system and there are many benefits, such as better handling and a more stability – we experienced this on a high speed dirt road at the Navara local launch and it felt very stable and most notable was the absence of the loose rear end.

If you’d like a little in depth detail on the 5-link suspension system, Practical Motoring explain it very well here.

Other changes to the Navara included an optional new 7-speed automatic gearbox, with the 6-speed manual being the standard option. These are both mated to a 2.3-litre 4-pot diesel, producing 140 kW/405 N.m. It’s not the most powerful bakkie on the market, but those figures are plenty, especially with the torque peaking low in the rev range at 1 500 rpm.

Overall then, the Navara is a very attractive vehicle and just as its predecessor did 12 years ago, impresses with its interior and exterior design. It’s also bigger than before, has more interior space and has a total weight reduction of 176 kg.

Having spent many hours behind the wheel of the new Navara during the launch which involved a beautiful coastal route from Cape Town to Lamberts Bay, we can confidently say that the Navara took it all in its stride. The overall dynamics, styling and feel of the car most certainly bring to mind the characteristics of an SUV.

With the pricing starting at R514 000, it is also very competitively priced within segment and I personally feel that even though there has been a very long wait for this vehicle, it has what it takes to recapture the attention of the market. This has already been proven by the fact that Nissan have sold over 300 Navaras since the launch in mid-march.

Full pricing is as follows, with the 4×2 double-cap expected to reach SA near the end of 2017.

Pricing and range

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 SE Double Cab MT – R514 900 (incl. VAT)

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 LE Double Cab –MT – R565 900 (incl. VAT)

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDT 4×4 LE Double Cab AT –R597 900 (incl. VAT)


Black leather seats with heater function optional on LE grade models for R13 000 (incl. VAT).


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.

Updated Mazda BT-50

Mazda’s goal when they first introduced the BT-50 was to supply with South Africa with a lifestyle vehicle, which would appeal to business users but also a wider range of customers, those such as families and adventurers.

This is where the Bakkie market has changed over recent years, they are not only designed with the primary function of a workhorse vehicle. Bakkies today are more stylish, with more features and technology to appeal to a wider audience, the surfers, climbers, hikers of this world Or the camping family who ventures off to various places of our beautiful country.

In light of this,  Mazda has released the updated BT-50, and it’s aimed at the recreational type of buyer.


As with most updated vehicles, the updated BT-50 has a sportier look and feel, the major changes to the Mazda include the front end, side steps, rear lights and 17” Aluminium wheels.

Personally, I’m not yet a big fan of the rear end, and we all know how important that this. My biggest grind is with the rear lights, I do not like the design and style, but maybe it will grow on me.


Technology is the biggest change here with the BT-50, on the base SLX Model options such as Bluetooth, steering wheel controls and cruise control has been added.  The SLE Models have even greater technology enhancements with options such as a rear-view camera, auto dimming mirror, electric seat adjustment, dual zone aircon, auto headlights, rain sensing wipers and parking sensors added to the standard list. The top of the range SLE models adds features such as Load Adaptive Control, Hill Launch, Decent Control, Trailer Sway and Rollover Mitigation.


The 2.2l Mazda engines in this range produce 110KW (147BHP) and 375Nm of Torque. If this is not enough, you can opt for the 3.2L engine with provides 147kw (196BHP) and 470Nm of torque.


All models come with  3-year unlimited KM warranty, 3 – year service plan and 3-year roadside assistance.

BT-50 DBL 2.2L 6MT 4X2 HR SLX 441,600

BT-50 DBL 2.2L 6MT 4X2 HR SLE 477,700

BT-50 DBL 2.2L 6AT 4X2 HR SLE 497,700

BT-50 DBL 3.2L 6MT 4X4 HR SLE 541,700

BT-50 DBL 3.2L 6AT 4X4 HR SLE  555,700

For a full spec list, visit here:

Volkswagan Tiguan Extended Review.

Much hype has been made about the new Volkswagen Tiguan. This excitement is warranted though, because the car looks and drives amazingly. So far the car has won the Family Car award from’ Consumer Awards.  It is also a finalist for the Wesbank SAGMJ South African Car of The Year 2017, so things seem to be going pretty well for the new model.  We’ve spent some time driving the models offered in South Africa during the launch, so we could confirm that the new Tiguan is indeed a revolution compared to the old car. There was nothing wrong with the model preceding it, but there was neither anything outstanding about it as well. A two day launch allowed us the opportunity to get a feel of the car, in order to report if it was good or bad.  A month long test however  helped us to better understand the true consumer experience of the new Tiguan. This is what Volkswagen gave us the opportunity to do during the month of December. As a result, we can highlight the following about the car:

Family friendly:

It may not be enormous, but it sure is comfortable. The new Tiguan has been designed for those looking for space and comfort. Most compact SUV’s are comfortable when occupied by four people, but the new Tiguan seats five in such a way that there will be few complaints in the rear. For those extra long journeys, the foldable trays behind the front seats will come in handy, provided eating is allowed in the car. The leather seats are optional and come highly recommended as they are easier to clean and give the car a much more premium interior look.

Stares come standard:

Because Volkswagen is a favoured brand in South Africa, the new Tiguan is a car that attracts a great deal of attention. Much to our surprise, people from varying backgrounds and ages had questions to ask and looks to give. This is due to the completely redesigned exterior of the car. The added R-Line Package makes matters worse as the car will not go unnoticed. Often compact SUV’s look like knock-offs of their larger siblings, but in the case of the new Tiguan, the radical design changes that recipe.

Automatic is the way to go:

Most people looking to buy a new Tiguan have added space as a priority on their shopping list. This means that you may have a little one or three. This may also mean that traffic is a reality for you. If this is the case, we recommend you spend the extra bucks on the DSG derivative of the car. The problem with the manual is that it firstly requires more effort to operate and secondly, it tends to bog off the line which may cause unnecessary stalling. In all honesty, this somewhat annoying “niggly” is the only fault we can find on the car. Besides that, nothing negative jumped out during our four week test. As small as the engine is, the 1.4 litre TSI has enough power for both city and long distance driving, which is surprising considering the size of the car.

An excuse to road-trip:

An extended test of the Tiguan would not be complete if we didn’t take the car on a road-trip. Like most “vaalies” we did the 1500km+ trip to Cape Town from Johannesburg. This trip allowed us to use features like Adaptive Cruise Control as well as the Head-Up display, both optional in the Tiguan. The biggest highlight of this car on a long trip is the comfort levels. Despite the larger rims from the R-Line package, the long trip was not back breaking at all. The inclusion of the DYNAUDIO  Excite sound system was also able to drown out snores from the passengers to and from Cape Town. It took a total of two tanks of fuel to cover the journey one way, which was very reasonable considering the size of the engine. The boot space was also more than accommodating. Having friends that don’t know what the meaning of “packing light” is, I was worried that my rear view mirror would be blocked by silly items during the drive. This wasn’t the case though as the 615-litre trunk swallowed up all the bags with ease.


Again, we cannot find anything to deter someone looking for a compact SUV from buying a new Tiguan. Instead, there is much to encourage a buyer to consider this car. What was once a more feminine car has been redeveloped into something even the most manliest men could drive with pride. The car maintains its premium feel inside and out, making it comparable to brands much more expensive to it. At a starting price of around R380 000 it’s also not financially out of reach for many. Therefore it comes as no surprise then that this car has won the hearts of many of those who have driven it. It’s a very good package, probably one of the best cars Volkswagen has produced in this segment. It drives like a slightly larger Golf but will fit more and do more. What more do you want out of a compact SUV? If it’s more power, but the 2.0-litre TSI. If it’s more efficiency you’re after, the 2.0TDI may do the trick, but overall the entire range has something that will keep you happy.




Experiencing Namibia With The Isuzu KB.

Ford Ranger 2.2 vs ISUZU KB 300

NAMIBIA. A place few in population but vast in space, a location which holds some of the largest sand dunes in the world, it’s an eye opener to the new visitor and it’s definitely a location that should be included on anyone’s bucket list, it has always been in mine. Apart from cars, landscape and adventure photography has always a great passion of mine and over the past year Namibia had moved itself up on my bucket list to somewhere in the top 5. So When Francisco called me and asked if I would like to attend the Isuzu launch in Namibia I got very excited, he already knew my answer. The original plans intended on us staying in Namibia for one night, but that would not do for me. I arranged to remain in Namibia for a further two nights so I could get out into the open and explore this great part of the world.


Isuzu would be providing accommodation for the first night, but after that, I would be on my own. I went and purchased an incredibly cheap and pretty useless two man tent, so small that I could not lie down flat inside it without stretching and busting the seams. It might also worth noting that I’m only 167cm tall, it may fit two men wide, but the only person lying down in that tent was a sall child. Good job I didn’t plan on spending much time at all in inside it.

The plans were for me to stay the night at JHB airport and fly out with the other Journalists the next day, which I did. Isuzu put me up in the “ airport hotel “ which I was fairly impressed with and got a goods nights rest. The next day involved the usual, an early rise, an easy check in and pass through JHB international security. The first issue I encountered was the small plane, no I’m not a nervous flyer. It was more the fact that I was lugging two camera bags onto a 40 seater plane with overhead storage so small I would struggle to fit my lunchbox in it.  It was amusing to see the flamboyant air steward trying to force close the door, nearly bringing down half the ceiling fascia in the process. I opted to keep the drone on my lap, if the paper plane did go down, at least I would die with my memories.



Looking out the window when Coming into land at Walvis Bay International Airport emphasises the vastness of this land. For as far as the eye can see, it’s sand,  with the odd little town coming into view as your eyes adjust and pick out the details. The first treat of this trip was unexpected one as we taxied, looking over the wing we noticed an unusually looking plane. After some consultation with the other guys, we realised that this was a legendary ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, used by NASA for atmospheric tests. An awesome sighting indeed, we even watched this machine go from standstill to airborne in somewhere around 400 meters.

After a few minor issues at the airport, such as a fire and loss of luggage, we were greeted by the Isuzu team and finally on our way. We partnered up and headed down the dusty road in the brand new Isuzu KB 300; this vehicle was the top of the range spec, apart from suspension updates, all the other updates to this vehicle are purely visual, the drivetrain options remain the same. The KB 300 features a 3-Litre turbo diesel producing 130kw and a meaty 380nm of torque. The facia changes to the KB include a newly designed bonnet, radiator grille and front fog lamps. New projector headlamps conclude the changes to the front of the vehicle, with LX models featuring LED daylight running lights. The updated design continues to the rear of the vehicle with an updated rear tailgate, and the introduction of a reverse camera integrated into the tailgate handle on LX models.  The LX model also gets updated 18″ alloy wheels, with the rest of the range receiving updated 16″ alloys. Interior changes the same throughout the range with an updated instrument cluster, gear change indicator on manual models to help keep the planet green and finally, roof mounted rear speakers.


All in all, these little changes make a considerable difference and produce a refreshed KB.  Heading along the dirt road to our first stop at the Swakop riverbed, it was easily noticed that the KB had a great ride and handled the terrain well.  This was most likely due to the time and effort Isuzu has put into refining the suspension on KB models, 4 x 2 models receive updated front and rear dampers with the 4×4 models just getting changes to the rear dampers.  Isuzu has refined the rebound control of the damper, which is when the damper is on the down stroke after being bumped or compressed up by a bump or road surface. The dampers primary job is to control the suspension spring and the speed in which it reacts, an integral part of a suspension system.

Dune Driving Day One.

We soon arrived at the tempory white marquee set up near the riverbed before our first exploration. After restoring energy levels, rehydrating and a fantastically exciting briefing, we lowered tire pressures to 0.8 Bar and headed off into the unknown, for the instructors and tour guides, it was their back garden.

It was a fairly easy route with small and moderate climbs and descents, the path through the riverbed twisted and turned as massive dunes towered on either side of us. This run was to help us find our “sand feet”, it was pleasant and an extremely enjoyable drive until we finally stopped off at one random pipe sticking about 1 meter out of the ground. A few meters behind the pipe were the remains of an old truck,  mainly the steering column and suspension lay rusted and half buried in the sand.  The story goes that in the 1970’s, a team came here to drill for water, the truck broke down and they left, never to return to collect it.  It takes around 8 seconds for a mere R1 coin to hit the bottom of the pipe, making it roughly 170m deep! After the break, we swapped drivers and headed back the way we came, although I recognised nothing.


The evening ended with us checking in at the beautiful stand hotel which looks over Swakopmund beach, Along with everyone else, I still not have my luggage. Isuzu were fantastic at this point as they had arranged fresh clothes, deodorant and toothbrushes for all, even thought the lost luggage had nothing to do with them. We settled down for a hearty meal, banter and some good conversation before grabbing an early night; we had been told that the next day would be fantastic, 8 hours in the dunes, how could it not be?



Dune Driving Day Two

The next day we rose early, full of anticipation and excitement. A quick breakfast with the team, a change of vehicles and we hit the road. We headed through Walvis Bay and-and onto the beach where we stopped and again, dropped our tires pressures to 0.8 bar.  Stretched out in front of us was miles of beach, it was a very gloomy morning with lots of fog and soft light, adding to this was the 3-foot left-hander wave running peacefully just off the shoreline. It was all very surreal.


30 minutes later we were still tearing up the sand as we pelted across the beach, a line of Isuzu bakkies seemed headed for nowhere, every now and again the odd seal would sit up and screech as we passed. The heat of the sun began to burn off the mist as we headed closer to our destination. Slowly coming into view were the sand dunes we would soon be attempting to conquer, one of the only places in the world where sand dunes meet the ocean and man, it was beautiful. The morning light hit the dunes and turned the sea blue as we headed closer, as a photographer I’ve seen many beautiful sights, this was definitely one of the best.

The convoy came to a quick stop with dunes on the left and ocean waters on the right, many have been caught out here by the rising tides, causing them to be trapped and vehicles consumed the ocean. Nature doesn’t play games. As we carried on ploughing through the sand, the beach opened out and in the distance was an Isuzu bakkie, ready and waiting with cold refreshments before we started to sweat. The excitement was in the air as we stared on at the dunes we would be facing, small jackals could be seen climbing the steep sands. They made it look easy, would the Isuzu KB do the same?


No more child play and the speed hole.

There was no easing into this day, we turned off the beach and straight into a sharp drop with a steady, long accent which needed all the momentum we could muster. A few of us got stuck here, not realising the brute force sometimes needed. This style carried on for a while, steep accents followed by very steep descents. The Isuzu handled it well although we were told that it’s not about the vehicle, but the driver. This was my first experience off road dune driving and it amazed me at how aggressive one needs to be, we were informed to feed the throttle and use every ounce of power the 3Litre Diesel produced.  Today made yesterday look as natural as a child making sand castles, more challenges lay ahead. Being here really helps to realise the beauty and sheer scale of the Namib desert, this is a place where appreciation for 4×4 systems rings true, it still blows my mind the things that man and machine can conquer.


If you asked me what was their highlight of my time with Isuzu, I would reply with a few simple words “Speed Hole”

After a few hours of negotiating drops and climbs, we pulled up on the top of a rise and jumped out of the vehicles, the view in front of us was what could only be described as a huge desert shaped breakfast bowl, steep on the sides and incredibly deep.  Another briefing came, this one was a little more interesting. ” I’m going to give you a rollercoaster experience” was some of the words mentioned. The aim : drop down and climb up the other side of this huge sand bowl, We were all offered the opportunity to give it a go and the instructor gave us a demo. The Isuzu KB Charged up to the entrance of the speed hole at full tilt and entered the decent. Once on the decent it’s all about power and momentum, at no point during this do you even slightly back off the power. They say when the vehicle reaches the bottom of the hole, it is easily doing three figures on the speedo. The daunting bit comes when the vehicle enters the climb, speed slows dramatically and the throttle stays pinned. You hope and pray that the Isuzu keeps momentum and continues over the crest.  You do not want to get stuck, be the one guy who left a brand new Isuzu KB in the bottom of a hole in the Namib desert, there is a very thin chance of vehicle recovery.


Not many attempted this feat, I was nervous, more to the fact that I didn’t want to be “that guy” especially on my first launch with Isuzu. I knew if I left the Namib desert without completing this task, I would be extremely gutted. Time was short; I teamed up with Andrew, we agreed he would do the run one way, and I would return. To this day it was one of the coolest things I’ve done, the speed, G-force and sense of accomplishment is a feeling I will hold onto, besides the fact that you feel like a badass and that you are part of 5% who had the gonads to do it.



Back to Deserting

The trip carried on, climbing and descending sand mountains,  One of the warnings we had in our briefing was about cornering too quickly. Due to low tires pressures, there is always a risk of the tire leaving the rim. This happened to one certain Isuzu man, who merely sat back and chuckle as he proceeded to tell the team it was a good job they practised this procedure before hand. The off-road team quickly rectified this issue, and we were back on our way.



There was only one point in the trip where I got really stuck, 3 times. I don’t know what it was. Apparently I wasn’t using the “full power “of the vehicle. Well unless the other Isuzu’s had more travel in their accelerator pedals, that was not the case. It wasn’t even that steep, a steady accent with thick sand and at this point we had moved into low range mode. I feel I was too close to the Isuzu in front and could not build up enough momentum for the climb. I finally got out of the mess and enjoyed catching up with the rest of the crew, it was a benefit in disguise being left behind for a short while as I got to enjoy the path head, uninterrupted at a good pace. My partner and I had some fun moments when we needed to decrease speed quickly because the a sharp drop appeared out of nowhere. Visions of the Dakar rally filled our minds, well Dakar rally wipeouts. As good a car the KB is, I don’t think it was built or designed to slide across the sand on its front end.

As the day draws to a close and we could see a simple white tent in the distance the dunes progressively got smaller but more enjoyable, a few occasions came about with the rear of the vehicle sliding out during a cornered decent. The bigger dunes were great to tackle but the smaller ones are more technical and can be taken at a greater speed, which is also very fun.


On any adventure trip like this, there are always going to be a few challenges, apart from the time above when we got stuck, there were a few other challenging times.  For me, I like to see where the vehicle is going, the path ahead, you could say. On steep descents you cannot see the dune below or where it flattens out until you have committed, it’s nice to plan ahead but this wasn’t always possible, and it takes a little faith in the vehicle to push over the edge and continue with the decent.

Another challenge was to remember which way the wheels are directing the KB in, when in the heat of the moment your attention is drawn away by other things such as the surroundings and the challenge ahead. At a quick glance it may seem the wheels are straight but more often than not you may find that you are a full wheel rotation away from the wheels facing straight ahead. This can affect you badly when out in the dunes as the front wheels scrape and sand builds up quickly in front of the wheels which can cause the vehicle to get stuck. It’s important to keep some attention on what you are doing with the wheel.


The 4×4 experience was over, and it was time for me to part ways with the team, I picked up my hire car and headed out on my lone wolf mission.  I would spend two nights at Spitskoppe, a beautiful campsite surrounding a mountain a few hundred KM’s away from Swakopmund.


These two days were spent photographing and videoing the vast landscapes and impressive night sky; it was during a new moon period which means the sky is extremely dark and the milky way shines brightly. This was a fantastic two days but can be a little lonely during the hot days, as there is not much to do. There is so much to see and experience in this part of the world; I experienced only a very small part of what Namibia has to offer and will be heading back. It’s a vast land with friendly people and it feels very safe to head out and explore. Many companies offer 4X4 Hire with endless camping equipment, if you have the chance to go, don’t hesitate, spend a good few weeks taking in everything this land has to offer.


Overview – The Isuzu KB

Overall the small changes to this vehicle make it a good upgrade, Apart from the NB 300, Isuzu has the NB 250, which is also a Turbodiesel producing 100kw and 320Nm. Also available are two workhorse models. The 250 Base Single Cab and 250 Fleetside Single Cab producing 58kw and 170Nm

I like to think of the Isuzu KB as a workman’s bakkie, it’s a workhorse, but it is not too fancy or luxurious like you might find in a Ranger Wildtrack, for example. It’s a solid vehicle, looks great and does the job. A big advantage to the KB is that it comes with Sat Nav, it’s a little finicky to use and has a terribly annoying speed warning system, that is deactivated when Navigation is not in use. Thank goodness.

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Mazda CX-5 Driven Review


The Mazda CX-5 is a great looking vehicle, albeit slightly feminine. Climbing into the CX-5 for the first time was a pleasant experience – I was welcomed with black leather, a clean and classy interface and aluminium trim. It’s a lovely interior and what stood out to me in this car was the build quality of the little things like volume adjustment and the menu scroll. Milled from metal, they both felt well built and using them was luxury esqe. A small but notable feature was the dual USB ports sitting under the display in a small cubby hole – I can’t remember how many times this would have been extremely useful when on road trips with family and friends but it would have been many!

The CX-5 I’ve been driving is the 2.2L Akera Diesel, AWD and automatic. This is the highest spec that Mazda offer and it comes with its fair share of features such as a Bose Audio System, Sat-Nav, Power Lumbar Support, LED Adaptive headlights, blind-spot assist and much more. It’s a very long list, and even the entry-level model has a few nice extras, so I’m not going to list them all here. I did find myself on more than one occasion hitting the boot handle and waiting for it to open, only realising soon after that it’s manually operated. It would have been nice to have had an electronically operated one, like many of its competitors and its something that is probably expected for the R533 400 price tag.


The diesel engine on this CX-5 in an interesting one, it almost feels like it is Naturally Aspirated, but it does, in fact, have a two-stage turbocharger. The Mazda engine features a lower compression ratio which means they can use lighter parts while reducing friction. This is seen in the performance as it has a very linear power delivery and doesn’t mind working in the higher RPM ranges.  Producing a very acceptable 129Kw and 420Nm of torque which enables the CX-5 to pull quite nicely, and once it gets going, it flies.

Regarding driving dynamic, I was expecting a little more. The initial turn in response is a little slow, and at times I found the CX-5 experienced a little too much body roll in the corner. Apart from this, though, the ride quality is good, and after taking the CX-5 on a little off road adventure, it soaked up the lumps and bumps there as well. It surprised me because the CX-5 can come across a little soft from the exterior, but it’s actually a robust vehicle which holds itself well and can handle some rough terrain.


During the time I had the CX-5 on a test, the new facelifted model was released, which is expected to arrive in South Africa around mid-2017. The new CX-5 features the same engine variants but has an updated, more aggressive design. This new model also features G-Vectoring Control, a new technology under Mazda’s SKYACTIV-VEHICLE-DYNAMICS which controls adverse vehicle motions during cornering.

If you’re interested in purchasing a CX-5, there are a few things to consider – you could very well get a great deal on the current model, but you may want the latest facelifted CX-5, in which case you are just going to have to wait a little longer.


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

Fiat Fullback Driven Review

Motorist Digital Magazine – Edition 08

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


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.


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.


Single Cab Petrol

:R 232,900

Double Cab 4×2

:R 402,900

Double Cab 4×4

:R 468,900


A Mercedes-Benz Bakkie – Would you buy one?

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

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



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



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

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