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The New Volkswagen Polo – Brand Wins

2022 Volkswagen Polo in South Africa

It seems like only yesterday I was at the launch of the 5th generation Volkswagen Polo – a vehicle that was a brand new model. Fast forward four very fast years and I found myself attending the launch of the updated facelifted version – the 2022 VW Polo. 

The Polo is a vehicle entrenched in SA’s heritage and many South Africans will have either owned or desired one at some point in their life. For this reason the Polo usually manages to drum up quite a bit of media attention, and before you’ve even read this article I’ll take a shot that you know what the new Polo costs in South Africa and have a strong opinion about it. 

2022 Volkswagen Polo Specs – What’s Changed?

From a technical standpoint there’s no huge changes to the Polo range. It still retains the same powertrains in the form of the 70kW Manual, 85kW DSG & 147kW GTI. 

Most of the updates to the new range come in the form of design & technology updates. For example, an updated front end comprising newly designed LED lights & bumper, as well as the LED light strip running across the bottom of the grill – first introduced on the Golf 8 GTI. When you see this during dark in your rear view mirror, it looks fantastic. On the rear, new LED lights bring a totally different look – one which I really like in the flesh. 

On the inside, the new items are an updated Multi-Function steering wheel, Digital Cockpit & updated infotainment system.  The new Polo is now available with IQ.Drive Travel Assist, which combines Active Cruise Control & Lane Keep Assist to create a semi-autonomous driving experience. Also available on the VW Polo are Front Assist & Pedestrian monitoring systems. 

VW has also changed the naming conventions of the range. Trendline, Comfortline & Highline are now replaced with “Polo” as entry-level, “Polo Life” coming in the middle and “R-line” replacing Highline. GTI is GTI. 

Along with a slightly cleaner & more streamlined interior, all models feature a separate cluster under the digital screen for operating A/C & Climate Control – if selected as an option. On the higher specced R-Line & GTI, the knobs and buttons have been replaced with a touch/slide interface like the Golf 8 GTI. 

Personally I’m not a fan, for the pure reason that it can be a little fiddly and seems to take more attention and eyes off the road to figure out or adjust than the classic setup. 

How does the new Polo drive?

Not much has changed from a driving perspective with the new Polo range. We tested the entry-level 1.0 TSI 70kW Manual as well as the GTI. 

You can expect a pleasant, comfortable and peaceful drive from VW’s entry level polo. The manual gearbox is smooth and precise, cruising is easy and the 1.0 engine lives a little punch when needed.  The digital cockpit & updated infotainment system add a little more driving ease. It’s great for city driving & nipping around when doing errands but it will also hold its own on the open road. 

I feel the best way to describe the Polo GTI, is to simply describe it as a smaller Golf GTI, and I’d argue the Polo is more fun to drive. When combining the very responsive engine (147kW & 320Nm) with a light & nimble chassis the Polo GTI is a joy. There’s a great tone too when you put your foot down which seems a little more present than before. 

The new Digital Cockpit Pro & other bits of tech such as Matrix LED lights & IQ.Drive bring the Polo GTI very close to it’s big brother in terms of offering. The Golf GTI is more refined, more grown up and more sofiscaited, but if you don’t need the extra space & comfort that a Golf GTI offers, I don’t feel you’d be missing out on much at all in the Polo GTI. 

Is the 2022 Volkswagen Polo too expensive? 

One reason for the increased pricing in the new Polo range is down to the increase in standard features available on all models in the range. For example, the entry-level Polo 1.0 TSI 70kW Manual comes standard notably with LED headlights & rear lights, multifunctional steering wheel, power adjustable & heated exterior mirrors, rear electric windows and the famous Digital Cockpit. ( We cover the full list of new standard features for each model at the end of this article.) 

I feel like tech such as LED lighting & the digital cockpit are very strong, key features to include in an entry-level model. Especially with a modern focus on safety & technology. 

 In comparison to competitors, the Ford Fiesta offers low beam LED across its range. Renault offers Full LED headlights across the Clio range There’s no LED Headlights to be seen on the Hyundai i20 or Kia Rio, even on the R375,000 TEC SR model. On the Opel Corsa, you’ll need to spend R400k on the Elegance model to access LED headlights. 

Each brand prioritizes different features but LED Lighting is a safety feature as much as a lighting feature, so it’s good to see this on every Polo model. 

When you consider that on the previous entry level models, LED headlights were a R13,200 Option, as well as Active Info Display at R9000, Multi-function Steering Wheel at R3,900, and the fact that some other standard features were not available, the estimated +- R52k increase on the Polo TSI 70 kW manual doesn’t seem so bad. This pattern continues throughout the range, an increase in price on all models, but with a much stronger standard feature list. 

There are other factors for price increases coming into play here as well. Firstly, South Africa had big economic issues through Covid & the rioting which had a big knock on effect. Secondly, South Africa produces a huge amount of Polo’s for other markets and nearly all Polo GTI’s for the world. This sometimes dictates the spec packages required on the vehicles for other markets.

There is a positive to these price increases. The new standard features would most likely be very common option extras if not standard. Having them as standard features is a big plus for one reason – residual value. You see, if you try and sell a used car loaded with optional extras, the original cost of those are not included in your resale price which means you have essentially lost even more money. 

However, if they come standard on the vehicle, they are included in the residual value and thus you’ll sell your car for a better price. 

To say the new VW Polo is too expensive is an out of context statement when compared with direct competitors. Most vehicles in the A0 Segment in which the VW Polo sits range from around R280k up to R400k. Apart from the Opel Corsa, only the Polo R-Line, GTI & push past this number (not including the GR Yaris). The Polo & Polo life models sit firmly in the middle of this segment in terms of pricing. While the Polo is the premium option in the segment, it certainly isn’t too expensive. 

The Polo Isn’t your First Car Anymore

One of the reasons why the Polo is such a popular car in South Africa is because once upon a time, your first car was a Polo. I’ve seen many a comment relating to this with the launch of the updated car. This is no longer the case and is wise to keep in mind when slating the increased pricing. The new VW Polo is arguably a premium vehicle in it’s segment, this shows us that the market positioning has changed. It’s no longer your first car, but more likely to be your second or third as you grow in your career. This is clearly seen by VW’s vehicle positioning. 

While this may be a sore point for some given the vehicle’s heritage, Volkswagen are in the business of selling cars and they feel this is the right market placement.  All is not lost though, as the Polo Vivo will continue and remain a great option as a first vehicle and entry into the VW brand. 

Brand Wins

Across social media, many have seemed to vent their upset and frustration at the pricing of the VW Polo range. When compared to competitor vehicles though, the pricing isn’t actually too bad at all.  For example, let’s take the Ford Fiesta with a price ranging from R322,500 – R382,900. 

If we compare the Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 7AT to the VW Polo Life 85kW DSG, you’re probably getting a better package overall for your money with the Ford Fiesta. However, there’s one thing that Ford or any other competitor doesn’t have as strong as the VW Polo, and put simply, it’s “brand”. 

Why do you think so many people now buy an iPhone over Samsung? A Samsung is cheaper and arguably has more features, but they don’t have the same brand power Apple carries. In this era we live, if you have brand power on your side, the consumers will come. 

This is exactly the reason why VW sold over 1455 units of the new Polo in the first month, and has led this segment for years.  It’s the same old question for the Polo target market, which vehicle would you rather roll up to a party in? A Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Hyundai i20, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris, Opel Corsa or a VW Polo? 


The Polo has once again grown in terms of safety, technology and offering. What was once your “first car” is now more likely the car you buy later down the line as you grow as a young professional. It’s more expensive, but it’s more premium and carries with it brand power in bucket loads. Is it worth its price tag? If you view the Polo in the right light and compare it with direct competitors, I believe it still offers value for money and brings with it a big bag of social currency. 

Volkswagen Polo Pricing in South Africa & New Standard Features

Polo 1.0 TSI 70kW Manual – R311 800

  • Eco LED Headlights and tail lights
  • Multi-function Steering Wheel
  • Power Adjustable and heated exterior mirrors
  • Rear power windows
  • Digital Cockpit

Polo Life 1.0 TSI 70kW Manual – R350 000

Polo Life 1.0 TSI 85kW DSG® – R370 700

As above including: 

  • Folding Exterior Mirrors
  • Park Distance Control ( Front and Rear) 
  • Cruise Control 
  • 15-Inch Alloy Wheels

Polo R-Line 1.0 TSI 85kW DSG® – R421 900

As above including: 

  • Digital Cockpit Pro
  • 2-Zone Climatronic A/C
  • Leather Multi-function Steering Wheel with Shift Paddles
  • 16-inch Alloy Wheels

Polo GTI 2.0 TSI 147kW DSG® –  R489 400

As above including: 

  • IQ Light LED Matrix Headlights
  • Part Leather Heated Seats
  • Front Assist
  • Dynamic Chassis Control 
  • Dynamic Cornering Lights

The new Volkswagen Polo comes standard with a 3 year/120 000km warranty, 3 year/ 45 000km EasyDrive Service Plan and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. The service interval is 15 000km. Customers have the option to extend EasyDrive Maintenance and EasyDrive Service Plans up to 10 years/ 300 000km.

What 2022 holds for the South African car market

While 2021 kicked off without much affair, albeit with mild hesitation and looming uncertainty for event planning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it eventually gathered momentum into what many industries would deem as normal. Despite a contagious wave of Omicron ravaging the world in the last quarter, this year has commenced in a confident and assured manner which has us holding thumbs that normality will soon return. Secondary effects from the pandemic are still hampering supply chains with the automotive industry struggling to meet the demand of the semiconductor microchips needed in the increasingly technologically-oriented vehicles but despite this, new vehicles are scheduled to be introduced to our shores with launch events being planned on our local roads. Here is what Mzansi has to look forward to in 2022!

Local favorite Volkswagen will kick the year off by introducing the new Caddy and the facelifted, and locally produced, Polo and Polo GTI models which feature mild updates to a familiar silhouette and a refreshed interior which will share some similarities to the Golf. 

Speaking of the popular hatch which may have already been on sale in our market for a few months now, the all wheel drive giantslayer sibling Golf 8 R will touch down in Q2 alongside the novel Tiguan R and 7-seater Tiguan Allspace facelift.

Other facelifts expected before the midpoint of the year include the T-Roc while the all new Spanish built Taigo will join the lineup and slot between the T-Cross and Tiguan in Volkswagen’s SUV range. The remainder of the year is scheduled to be quiet with the new Polo Sedan expected in Q3 but the all-new Amarok is in the pipeline, we can expect its global launch sometime before the end of the year too. 

Another brand that has grown in popularity and portfolio over the past is that of Renault who have a bustling year ahead. The new Clio 5, which subtly evolves the exterior design language of the Clio 4, is expected as soon as Q1. Since Alpine have absorbed all RS models over the past year, we are awaiting news with bated breath if South Africa can expect a Clio or Megane RS derivative. 

While the Clio and it’s more family-orientated Captur sibling have both experienced delays of over a year due to the Covid-19 related issues. However, Q2 will see the brand new Captur SUV enter our shores.

While we are awaiting confirmed dates for the second half of the year, Renault has committed to launching the refreshed Kwid, Triber and Trafic MY22 models into the range, while anyone eager to see the Duster based Oroch single cab will be dismayed to know we will only be expecting it in 2023. 

A brand that has taken South Africa by storm is Chery after their rebirth into our market late last year. The affordable and well-specced Tiggo 4 Pro arrived in our market and was lauded for improved build quality and comfort. This resounding success has seen the Chinese brand expedite the launch of the highly awarded and much larger flagship Tiggo 8 Pro range which we can expect within Q1. 

DRIVEN Chery Tiggo 4 Pro Turbo CVT

The new Tiggo 8 Pro range will be available in two options for the consumer and both will be fitted with an award-winning 1.6 TGDI petrol-engine delivering a peak of 136kW and 290Nm. No news on whether this engine will also include the impressive 1-million-kilometer mechanical warranty just yet.

The much larger flagship SUV will continue Chery’s trend of interior luxury and technology which we sampled on the Tiggo 4 Pro. This includes an Around View Monitor, an 8-speaker SONY sound system, two high definition TFT displays (with a third in the flagship model) and dual-zone climate control with pharmaceutical grade N95 air filtration. It will also come standard as a 7 seater which should make it appealing to growing families.

2021 was a busy year for the Bavarian-based super-manufacturer but product planning for 2022 seems to be more tranquil. BMW SA will welcome the anticipated 2 Series Coupe range in Q1 which includes the 220i, 220d and M240i xDrive. While styling may divide opinion in this range once again, the M2’s ability will surely silence any critics when it lands sometime in 2023.

On the electric side of things, BMW’s 4 Series based i4 and mainstream crossover iX3 are expected to land in the second half of the year and cement themselves as viable electric models for our market. 

On the other end of the spectrum for premium German brands is Mercedes-Benz who is also hoping to be at the forefront of electrification in our local market and has their whole EQ range ready to be released. While exact dates are yet to be stated, we can expect the EQA, EQB, EQE, EQS and EQC. 

For those that still enjoy the sensation of fossil fuels burning beneath the accelerator pedal, the facelifted A-Class, B-Class, GLC SUV and CUV, S-Class and C-Class will be welcomed locally while two Maybach orientated models will arrive in the form of the S-Class and GLS. 

In terms of South Africa’s preferred form of transportation, two new bakkies will be put on sale in our market this year. Isuzu will usher in their sharper looking flagship D-Max in Q2, a model which shares a platform with the newly released Mazda BT-50 and will attempt to gain market share from the popular Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. 

That being said, the existing and long-serving Ford Ranger will be retired for its modernized successor which is expected to be on showroom floors by Q4. The highly anticipated Ranger which shares a platform with Volkswagen’s Amarok will continue to be built in Ford’s Silverton facility and is expected to continue at the forefront of local bakkie sales. 

In terms of what the Japanese and Koreans have to offer, we can expect a substantial offering in 2022 from Hyundai. The Tucson and the futuristic looking Staria Nautica are expected in Q1 while the Staria Panel Van will arrive in Q2. The refreshed Creta is yet to be confirmed but can be realistically expected to hit sales floors in the second half of the year. 

The performance orientated branch of Hyundai will also welcome the Kona N and the lauded i30 N DCT which are expected before Q2. 

Toyota will be dabbling in performance models too when the brand new GR-86 hits our market in Q3. The souped up versions of the Corolla Cross are expected in Q1, and the Hilux will also enter our markets in Q2, both under the new GR-S guise. Q1 will also see Toyota expand their RAV4 and Corolla Quest model lineup.

Subaru on the other hand have only signalled two new models for their portfolio in 2022, the new WRX, which is steeped in rally lineage is expected in Q2, while the Forester SUV has been revised and has been on sale for the past few days already.

On the performance side of things, amorous Italian brand Alfa Romeo has received a consignment of limited edition Giulia GTA and Giulia GTAm models which feature an uprated V6 engine, Sauber engineered aero bits, roll cages, racing suits and a hefty price tag costing around R4 Million depending on the model. With only 8 of 500 coming to our shores and a handful already sold, the saloon based racecar is fast set to be an appreciating future classic.

Porsche will also be launching their track-oriented model in the form of the 911 GT3. While no dates have been confirmed, what we do know is it comes equipped with the traditional Porsche 4.0 flat-six motor which is capable of redlining at 9000rpm. 

While the GT3 model makes up few sales numbers but excites owners and pedestrians alike, Porsche will also be introducing the updated models that yield the Stuttgart automakers bread and butter; the Cayenne Turbo GT and Panamera Platinum Edition will arrive in Q2. 

Rounding out the list with what many consider the brand that epitomises passion and performance, Q2 will welcome the first ever road going V6 that adorns the Prancing Horse. While it may be the first of its kind for the famed Italian automaker, the Ferrari engine is claimed to produce the specific highest output of any production car engine. Rated at 488kW solely from its 2.9 litre displacement. 

The iconic Ferrari V12 isn’t dead however as we can expect to hear the sonorous 812 Competizione in Q3.

Is the updated Renault Koleos the right family pairing for the holiday season

Renault has increased their SUV portfolio extensively in the past few years, this experience has put them in good stead with the highly contentious segment. While offerings scattering the price range such as the Kiger, Captur and Duster compete well in their segments, Renault were in need of their own entry into the premium SUV C market. This is where their Koleos fits into the equation. After being on sale in our market for only 2 years with mediocre sales, minor updates to the vehicle have been implemented in the hopes of compelling consumers for what can be described as a handsome, spacious and comfortable option. 

While the Koleos nameplate has been around for 15 years, the second generation was first presented to the world in 2016 as a collaboration between Renault and Nissan. Using the Common Module Family (CMF)-CD platform as a basis, much of its underpinnings are shared with the Nissan X-Trail which includes its 2.5l naturally aspirated 4 cylinder motor, revelry to consumers terrified by the thought of French made mechanical machinery. 

Since its debut, this is the solitary engine our market has received which is mated to a CVT and now powers only the front wheels as opposed to a four wheel drive option from before. While figures are stated at 126kW of power and 233 Nm of torque, the powertrain selection feels sluggish and lethargic at highveld altitude. 

Combined fuel economy isn’t particularly stellar either when compared to its turbocharged competitors, with claimed figures of 8.1l/100 km while our real world test which was dominated by urban routes yielded 9.2l/100km. Expect a much lower number when travelling on the open road to far away destinations as the motor comes into its own after getting up to cruising speed with the X-Tronic CVT optimising efficiency.

While the upward trend for smaller displacements coupled with forced induction dominate the more premium SUV market, what the seasoned naturally aspirated motor in the Koleos provides is robust reliability and less moving parts packaged in a quiet and relaxing driving experience. This is a strong selling point in a vehicle that should on paper be cost effective to maintain into future ownership.

While the Koleos is there or thereabouts in terms of performance when compared to chief rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan or Toyota Rav4, where this particular drivetrain excels is cruising on the open road which is done quietly and comfortably. In fact, the entire on road experience presents any occupants with a plush and pleasant journey which is compliments of the commodious interior and smooth CVT. 

When it comes to handling and ride quality, the Koleos enters a league of its own. The steering in particular is one of the standout experiences. Feedback to the driver is an applaudable balance in directness and weight; it is not too heavy to navigate in tighter spaces at slow speed but also not too light in higher speed scenarios. 

The suspension confidently soaks up anything you throw at it too. On any road surface we presented to the sizable SUV the imperfections and dirt paths were effortlessly rebuffed by the chunky tyres and supple suspension setup at moderate speed. While it is only front wheel drive, the 210mm of ground clearance and approach and departure angles of 19˚ and 26˚ degrees respectively makes the Koleos highly capable of traversing through some minor undulating terrain or mounting urban pavements without damaging the skid plates and rugged black trim which lines the base extremities of the lengthy car. 

On the topic of length, the Koleos holds the title for the longest wheelbase in class measuring in at 2704mm. Its overall length of 4672mm also creates a generously spaced interior allowing for ample head, arm and legroom of which passengers in the second row can easily equate to the experience of a first class airline seat. 

Unlike the X-Trail derivative on which it is based, it does not have a third row of seats but its voluminous boot area is rated at 464l and can grow to an impressive 1700l with the rear seats folded down. This can be done conventionally with seat-top mounted levers or with the assistance of boot mounted levers. The electronic Powerlift tailgate when fully raised does hang too low and requires physical maneuver for the height gifted to prevent any unpleasant encounters.

When it comes to exterior updates, not much has changed other than slightly re-designed bumpers and skid plates, revised head and taillights and two tone 18” alloy wheels for the top spec model. Most of the significant improvements have been implemented into the interior and operational features.

In terms of interior technology, the Koleos is available in two trim levels – Expression and the top of the range Dynamique which we had on test. Of the two, the Dynamique is well equipped with all the niceties a family would desire for the duration of a holiday. The comfortable front row of seats are equipped with six-way power adjustment and lumbar adjustability while an easy to reach vertical 8.7” touch screen utilizes R-LINK 2 Sat Nav and Multimedia system which is also operable through a voice recognition system activated from the steering wheel.

While the user interface of the system is an improvement from before, it still doesn’t feel as modern and smooth in operation as some of its competitors. The entire infotainment display as a whole also alludes to an aging design. Smartphone replication to familiar UI’s is available through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via cable which can be done through either USB port which is now located under the center console.

Other niceties which are standard on the Dynamique trim include dual-zone climate control, smart-keyless entry, park distance control and a reverse camera which provides good resolution for navigating the lengthy SUV in small spaces. Occupant safety and driver aids are another impressive selling point of the Koleos, the 6 airbags enable an impressive 5-star EuroNCAP crash rating while the driver has ABS/EBD, blind-spot warning, stability control and a tyre pressure monitoring system to help keep things in check. 

While the Renault Koleos may have had a hard time lamenting a formidable competition to its chief rivals before the updated model arrived, the well-specced and inexpensive pricing of the brand new Haval H6 will make it even more difficult in the future.

The Expression 2.5 CVT 4×2 model has a retail price of R484 900 while our test model, the Dynamique 2.5 CVT 4×2 will come in at R534 900. Optional metallic paint will cost a meagre R2 522 but keep an eye out for specials Renault dealerships may be running which may present a discounted price. While the Haval may have the price advantage, the additional km in the Renault 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty and 5-year/90 000km service plan may compel reliability conscious buyers in favor of the Koleos.

So where does that leave the flagship French option? Sadly, the changes implemented to the Koleos are mostly superficial in what remains an aging option in the segment which has revolutionized at an alarming rate. It will continue to sell, albeit in smaller numbers than before as it still provides a comfortable and enjoyable experience to those that give it a chance. The expected reliability and ease of maintenance of the Koleos make it a car that has the ability to remain with those who choose it in the years to come. For consumers looking for a mid-sized family hauler that is great for open road journeys and comfortable enough for tatty urban roads, the smooth and relaxing personality of the Koleos is worth giving a chance.

The NEW Polo GTI is coming and we have pricing!

Did you know that South Africa is the second largest market in the world for sales of the Polo GTI? Although we trail Germany in sales, if that doesn’t prove that we are die-hard GTI fans then i’m not sure what will! 
With that in mind, we are here to announce that pricing has been confirmed for the upcoming GTI, whilst also revealing what the rest of the Polo range will set you back

Arriving in dealers in January 2022, the range will comprise of 3 models:A 70kW 1.0TSI manual variant, which will retail for R311 800.Next up is the Life model which has all the same attributes as the above model, but with an increase of price by almost R40 000, retailing at R350 000.Lastly, and the one you’ve been waiting for, the GTI has a retail sticker of R489 900. 
In comparison to the outgoing model, the base Polo now comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, a new multi-function steering wheel and a digital dashboard display. App-Connect is now a standard feature in the new Polo, as well. 
Over and above the standard Polo, the Life model now comes with four additional standard features, which includes a digital dashboard display, Park Distance Control (front and rear), electric folding mirrors, and lumbar support for the driver and front passenger. 

The range topping GTI now includes the premium IQ.Light LED matrix headlights. Other standard features include Dynamic Chassis Control, dynamic front cornering lights, and the two-zone climatronic system. Autonomous emergency braking with is another welcomed standard feature in the new Polo GTI. 

But the news doesn’t end there! During Q2 of 2022, VWSA is planning to launch an all-new SUV called the Taigo. The newcomer is intended to slot in between the T-Cross and T-Roc. The Taigo was originally intended for Latin American markets but VW saw the potential in offering it to the other markets in the world. 
Based on the Polo platform, the Taigo will be powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, which produces 85kW and 200Nm. It will be paired exclusively with a seven-speed DSG dual clutch automated gearbox. Further details, such as local spec and pricing, will be announced closer to the launch date. 

Defining ludicrous in the BMW M4 Competition

The polarizing BMW G80 M3 and G82 M4 have been in the market for quite some time now. Originally stirring up the automotive world at their initial unveiling with what BMW considers a bold choice in design, their imposing aesthetics have become subordinate to an overwhelmingly positive reception for their ability on the road. We spent a few days with the impressively quick M4 Competition model so we could understand just how ludicrous the new range really is. 

Since the exterior of the car seems to have been covered in more depth this year than the entire Covid pandemic was reported on last year, I thought it would be a good idea to first dabble on the overall driving experience. I spent two fleeting days with the M4 before being whisked away to Cape Town.

The entire flight to the Mother City consisted of reliving experiences behind the wheel, either bringing the S58 motor alive or simply trundling along in an attempt to keep the fuel consumption at a reasonable number. In both scenarios, onlookers simply can’t get enough and encouragingly spur the pig-nosed beast along. It remains a staple of Mzansi car culture despite its looks.

The most ludicrous portion of the driving experience is how easily it can pick up speed, which means any innocent jaunts on the highway or open road can very quickly turn into a run-in with law enforcement.

It may not be the segments most confident off the line with a 3.9 second sprint time but the strong 3.0-litre, twin turbocharged straight six very easily and effortlessly pushes the speedometer over and beyond the designated speed limit on any stretch of road you happen to traverse.

Power and torque is rated similarly amongst its chief rivals, an identical 375kW to the Mercedes Benz C63s while the Bavarian is equipped with 650Nm of torque, 50 more than the RS5 but also 50 less than the V8 powered Mercedes. Despite all of the power from the traditionally sonorous motor, I can only help but feel that it should sound better for the performance it produces. 

Where the new M4 Competition feels vastly superior is with its free-revving motor which has lightweight motorsport inspired components installed. The turbochargers provide peak torque from as low as 2650rpm while maximum power arrives at 6250rpm, ultimately rendering the experience identical to that of a naturally aspirated motor. This encourages the use of the full rev range and makes driving predictable and surprisingly easy to do considering the power on tap underneath the right foot. 

Helping the S58 motor shift into warp speed and into the clutches of the periled speeding cameras is done with the help of an automatic 8-speed ZF gearbox. This choice is the only disappointment in this unrivalled driving experience so far.

Not only is it a step backwards from the violent, but engaging dual-clutch transmissions (DCT) from the generation before but also a far more numb and docile experience of what drivers expect. BMW have incorporated a drive logic selector button on the shifting knob which adjusts the level of aggression accordingly but even the harshest setting provides no match for the bygone DCTs.

The one advantage this provides however, is the ability to use this car comfortably on a daily basis. In fact, the time spent shifting in slow moving traffic or mindlessly accelerating and decelerating from robot to robot on urban commutes is where the smooth transmission selection shines brightest.

The same can be said for the suspension, the three available driving modes dial it into the desired setting but in its most plush, it is unfazed by mild road imperfections. 

The good character balance continues when more exciting settings are selected. More lively steering, throttle input and suspension presents a car that is impressively capable of handling the twisties as much as it is for straight stretches of tarred surface. The firm suspension mitigates body roll around corners while the lightweight and lively rear-end characteristically tend to swing around, requiring a touch of counter steer to keep things in check. Its many capable personalities make it a highly usable performance car that is inherently fun to drive, even on a day-to-day basis.

As enjoyable as its on road experience is, this wouldn’t be an article about the new M3 and M4 if there wasn’t an insert about the exterior aesthetics. While the worst of the memes and jokes are behind us, the ludicrous statement that BMW intended to make was achieved. It doesn’t look like anything else on the road and has potentially forged a future design direction that the Bavarian brand is yet to perfect. 

That being said, the black on Sapphire Black Metallic finish seemed to conceal many of the niggles with the design choices. The imposing, air inhaling front kidney grilles are more concealed while the over-emphasised masculine linework stretching from the grille onto the bonnet is slightly more subtle. BMW purists who embrace tradition would also despair to know that the iconic Hoffmeister kink which is prevalent on the side glass on the C pillar of all that have come before this M4 has been inverted and looks generic rather than traditional.

In the time since its launch, many have become unperturbed with the imposing grilles. While this will always remain a subjective topic, a car that costs as much as R2 million should have you falling in love from the very first time and every subsequent occasion thereafter. Speaking of the price tag and remaining with the ludicrous theme, an entry level M4 Competition will come in at R1 957 388. It’s hard to believe that the once affordable performance vehicle, which stemmed from the humble roots of the original M3 E30 is now a smidge under R2 million without options. 

Keep in mind that add ons can push the number as high as R2.5 million, which is more or less where our press unit was priced at. With the M Carbon Exterior Package valued at R100 800 and the M carbon bucket seats coming in at R82 500, it is easy to understand why. Just like the styling on the exterior, the interior has been turned up to 11 and is a continuation of the ludicrous design theme.

Wild colour combinations, sunk-in seats and carbon fiber dominate the cabin but it simply doesn’t feel as plush and luxurious as something that is R2.5 million should. This is a number that quickly encroaches on the likes of a well specced BMW M5 Competition which for that price feels like better value for money.

That being said though, the experience in the cabin is completely immersive, especially in those carbon bucket seats which are tightly slung to the floor. The firm seat bolsters keep the front occupants secure albeit with limited comfort while anyone with the misfortune of sitting in the second row of seats will develop scoliosis during any journey from bending their neck to fit into the low slung C pillar.

There are other questionable choices with the M4 Competition that make me feel like it is neither here nor there. Obsessive amounts of lightweight carbon fiber have been used throughout the construction of the car while counter intuitive add-ons defeat its intended function.

For example; the racing inspired carbon bucket seats which allude to pure, lightweight racing interiors make use of heavy electric motors for adjustment. The same can be said with the electric tailgate while carbon fiber features in the form of a spoiler and rear diffuser are perched above and below it. 

The nonsensical thinking does not end at the comfort orientated features while we are on the topic of the rear diffuser. The intricately shaped, bumper mounted carbon fiber rear diffuser doesn’t really serve a functional purpose since a peak beneath the rear end will expose all the mechanical components and a bare underside which is incapable of producing aerodynamic advantage.

As good as this car may be, you can only begin to feel that it could be much better if it wasn’t trying to appease buyers who wanted comfort as well as buyers who wanted an experience.

While this is a car that can be used daily, real world fuel economy may inhibit this. Particularly with the price of petrol surpassing the R20 mark. I mentioned earlier in the article that sedate driving can keep the efficiency of the motor at a reasonable number but that is all relative. A claimed combined driving cycle can yield 8.8l/100km but any momentary spurts of excitement will position the optimistic claimed number out of reach. Even though automotive journalists commute more enthusiastically than most, our experience yielded double the claimed economy. Besides, if you wanted to drive sedately you would have made a sensible decision and bought a compact SUV.

This is still in essence as much a performance car as all of its predecessors were but it has priced itself further out of the range of a younger person who would purchase it purely for the experience. With the development of the M4 Competition, BMW has gone all out and chased numbers which are only truly attainable on track from its competition. With the aesthetics aside, there really isn’t much wrong with the car until you start going through the pricing. I think better value for money can be had elsewhere with enough leftover to buy a fun-to-drive hot hatch. Speaking exclusively coupes, I would rather spend my money on an Audi RS5 which may not have the all out performance of the M4, but can still provide as much fun for the majority of the driving you will do in it. The leftover cash as a bonus can complete the two car garage with the engaging BMW 128ti as a daily driver.

China’s real Great Leap Forward with the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro

The motoring world has undergone a complete transformation over the past few years with the emergence of the subcompact SUV. In this time, Chery has become somewhat anonymous with introducing new vehicles to the market, selling their last new car as long ago as 2018. Instead of rushing a lacklustre option into our market (which has been done in bygone times) to appease the demand of this new segment, the Chinese manufacturer has taken its time to refine its offerings for an affordable yet premium experience. Say hello to the rebirth of Chery in South Africa with their launch of the new Tiggo 4 Pro. 

Over the past month or two, Chery has been gearing up for this day. Providing the motoring press and their marketing teams with snippets and teasers of the cards they hold in their hand. We attended the performance testing of the Tiggo 4 Pro at Gerotek recently and now we have been afforded the grand opportunity to be a part of this extravagant experience of essentially witnessing the rebirth of their automotive brand into the South African market. 

While our time before was considerably fleeting, we spent the better part of the day getting to know the top spec Tiggo 4 Pro 1.5T Elite SE CVT which is China’s real Great Leap Forward. 

From the outside, the silhouette of just about all subcompact crossovers are easily interchangeable to the untrained eye. They all share similar lines, lighting designs, overall dimensions and the Tiggo 4 Pro is no different with a design language that mimics those of their Korean and Japanese counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bad-looking car. It has good proportions, an array of different exterior textures and materials and it utilizes a logical but safe design approach which will appeal to those shopping in the segment.

Where the new Tiggo 4 Pro really excels is with its plush interior. It is almost impossible to believe that the brand that was responsible for the sub-par QQ (which was in essence based on a Daewoo Matiz) has now produced something more attractive and pleasant to be inside than any VW offering in the segment. 

You are met with an array of soft touch plastics, leather surfaces, piano black finishes and commodious seats while the tech side of things is equally as noteworthy.

A digital 7” TFT dashboard display is recessed behind the steering wheel while a 10.25” central infotainment screen compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth sits above the air conditioning vents and minimal instrument buttons. A voice command system that actually works is equipped in the range and select models include a sunroof which sits above the first row of seats. The reassuring message which was echoed during the presentation of improved quality resonates strongly in the cabin. Everything feels sturdy and well assembled while driving produces a rattle free experience.

You have your choice of either a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine producing a maximum of 85kW and 141Nm or a turbocharged derivative of the same displacement with 108kW and 210Nm. The naturally-aspirated motor is coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission or CVT while the turbocharged motor is paired to either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 9-step CVT.

We only sampled the turbocharged CVT Elite model and the motor was sufficient in its use and the transmission was comfortable, quiet and seamless which is not always the case with a CVT. After learning that the Tiggo 4 Pro weighs in just under 1800kg we can speculatively say that the figures produced by the naturally-aspirated motor may not cut lugging the sizable body around as comfortably as the turbocharged motor. For such a compact yet heavy car, the roadholding warrants a stable drive while the suspension setup comfortably soaks up any road imperfections and dirt roads. 

Throughout the route which was dominated by sedate open road driving, our test unit was displaying an unusually high fuel economy which averaged between 11-13l/100km. This can be partially accredited due to the fact that all of the vehicles had come straight off the showroom floor with less than 100km on the clock and still needed to be run before revealing their true performance and economy. Chery claims that the Tiggo 4 Pro equipped with the 1.5T motor can achieve as low as 7l/100km but Chinese manufacturers have a knack of greatly understating their fuel consumption. Take these numbers with a grain of salt since motoring journalists tend to have a heavy foot but the true figures might lie around 9l/100km. 

This is still a massive discrepancy between the Tiggo 4 Pro and chief rivals like the Kia Sonet, VW T-Cross and Suzuki Vitara Brezza/Toyota Urban Cruiser which average between 5.5 and 6.5l/100km. This can possibly be accredited to the Tiggo 4 Pro’s sizable weight which is almost 600kg more than its competitors. 

While economy numbers may not be impressive the pricing and after-sales figures are. The Tiggo 4 Pro pricing ranges from R269 900 and tops out at R359 900 which places it exactly in the middle of the segment. Chery are so confident in their R&D that every Tiggo 4 Pro sold will include a 5 year/60 000km warranty with a 5 year/150 000km warranty while the engine will include a 10 year/1 million km warranty. While there are many terms and conditions that accompany this bold claim, this should provide potential buyers with assurance that the Chinese brands’ quality has been improved and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. 

In conclusion, Chery have made the right decision returning to our market full time with the Tiggo 4 Pro. While the next 2-3 years will see their model portfolio grow with larger SUV’s and even a bakkie, their 30 dealer strong national network and opening of a Gauteng parts distribution center have provided the brand with the correct foundations for their rebirth.

In a saturated market where youthful and aspirational buyers are spoiled for choice, the Tiggo 4 Pro simply can’t be ignored. While more trusted brands like Renault’s Kiger and Nissan’s Magnite can be had for slightly less money, the Chery seems to be punching above its weight in terms of quality and refinement.

Is bigger better? The new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Automotive brands are no strangers to pulling at the heartstrings of buyers. One such method is to revive a revered nameplate as a more commercially viable vehicle. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross does exactly this. While it may have been reincarnated as a coupe SUV in 2017 to entice younger buyers who were familiar with the Eclipse of the 90’s, three years on and it has already received a facelift. The extra length and updated looks are intended to make it a more approachable option for buyers with an itch to explore. We spent a few days with it in the Lowveld to find out if the updates have allowed it to grow into what it was intended to be. 

Most of the buying demographic of a compact SUV like the Eclipse Cross are young, adventure-orientated individuals that prioritize versatility when shopping for a car. Options which do away with low profile tyres and focus more on ground clearance plays into the hand of automakers with a broad portfolio of SUVs. It is no secret that affordable sports cars and coupes are a dying breed with SUVs being at the forefront of the culling, so combining traits of both into one should be the solution to appease those who want both, right?

The Eclipse Cross could be categorized simply as a Compact Crossover SUV but Mitsubishi insist that their derivative is a coupe SUV, which is claimed to combine the best of both worlds. The intention is to morph an athletic and sporty aesthetic into a practical and usable vehicle that is not restricted by any road surface it may encounter.

The aesthetics are intended to be sporty, so both the front and rear have been significantly redesigned to encompass this methodology. The rear-end is the most significant change, it has gone under the scalpel and comes out 140mm longer than before. This not only affords bonus boot capacity but the rake of the reshaped bootlid creates a much sleeker looking design from the side profile which alludes to its supposed coupe DNA.

The Pontiak Aztek inspired split rear-screen has also been ditched for a minimal and neat LED rear tailight design that runs vertically adjacent to the rear screen. While it may not be something that Walter White would spend his money on, it does create a pleasant looking rear end that has greatly improved on its predecessor.

At first glance, the front end may seem similar from before but it has undergone a few aesthetic changes which create a much more cohesive and futuristic appeal. The imperative was to fully embrace Mitsubishi’s dynamic shield concept which is their internal design language that is intended to express powerful and dynamic design.

The split headlight configuration that is becoming more common on newer cars has been well executed on the Eclipse Cross while chrome accents frame the large plastic grille which feed into the sleek DRL’s. 

While it will always remain subjective, this is one of the more attractive offerings in comparison to its competition. The angular dynamic shield inspired front end from Mitsubishi, which is becoming a more prominent feature on their new offerings, also distinguishes the Eclipse Cross from the general monotony of the segment.

In terms of driving appeal, an SUV will always struggle to recreate the dynamics of a coupe or sportscar. While it is internally categorized by Mitsubishi as a coupe SUV, it simply lacks any true sportiness to set the world on fire. Marketing strategy and classification aside, it drives and corners very well for an SUV of its size despite its height and ground clearance of 180mm.

The front wheels are powered by one of two options, one of them being the latest turbocharged powerplant on offer by Mitsubishi; the MIVEC 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which delivers peak performance of 110kW with 250Nm. Alternatively, the less desirable but slightly cheaper 2.0L GLS CVT 4×2 naturally aspirated derivative is equipped with 110kW of power and 198Nm of peak torque. In the solitary driving mode, both are claimed to achieve just below 8.0l/100km but our turbocharged derivative averaged 9.1/100km in extra-urban conditions while stretching its legs on the open road achieved a lower average of 7.2l/100km.

Our test car was equipped with the 1.5-litre drivetrain which is more than sufficient and undoubtedly the option you would want to drive. The power is readily available in all driving conditions and occasional but mild torque steer from full throttle pull aways can result in some unwarranted tyre shriek.

It comfortably managed with low speed, sedate urban commutes as well as comfortable open road cruising and this is credit to its transmission. As far as CVT’s go, the 8-step variation in the Eclipse Cross is the best one I have experienced so far. It is comfortable, refined and well suited to the turbocharged motor which is relaxingly quiet throughout most of the rev range. 

The chassis and suspension is more suited to the SUV side of things than anything coupe or sports car-like and that is ok since the rest of the experience inspires as much tranquility as the drivetrain does. Traversing on a multitude of surfaces including highways, rough countryside tarmac and even dirt trails exceeded comfort expectations.

The suspension confidently soaks up rough surfaces and potholed roads with very little disturbance to the cabin. Roadway noise is generally unnoticeable until speeds of 100kmh are exceeded, which even then remains ambient. 

Speaking of the cabin, it is a well laid out and comfortable place to be in – particularly from the driver’s seat. There is ample spaciousness in both rows with the driver and passenger receiving fully electric seat adjustment. The second row has angle adjustment only while isofix anchorage is concealed within the crevices of the seats. With these seats in their most upright position, the boot has a capacity of 437l while folding the 60/40 seats down allows for an impressive 1074l of cargo space. This is all without compromising on the spare wheel size but it does present a high loading lip and boot floor which is awkwardly shaped. While most new cars include many unnecessary gimmicks that add to the weight figure and price tag, the Eclipse Cross is a car that would have been well suited with an electrically operated tailgate since the redesign and sweeping profile make it heavy and difficult to interact with.

Other updates to the interior include a new 8” infotainment screen which has most of the functionality that you would expect in a new car. The overall user experience is let down by bootup latency and laggy operation but screen mirroring via USB cable is its saving grace. Once your music device is connected, the audio is projected through an impressive 8 speaker sound system which has enough bass to get the rear view mirror vibrating at full blast. The screen also projects a mediocre resolution reverse camera while park distance control is displayed on the drivers dials.

Other creature comforts for the front row include dual zone climate control with heated seats while a retractable Mitsubishi Motors Intuitive Technology (MiTEC) HUD is positioned just above the dashboard.

There are some gripes that the interior instills such as the hard to reach trip-meter buttons and a clumsy to interact with phone slot in front of the gear shifter but the worst offender of them all is the excessive use of piano black plastic and faux brushed aluminium which after a few thousand kilometers has already been tattered to the point where the car looks a decade old. That being said, there is still a premium feel within the interior, with soft touch points in every direction and a plush look dashboard.

While cheap, bottom of the barrel SUVs will continue to dominate sales charts, the more premium, value for money derivatives like the Eclipse Cross offer a more unique and high quality option that come loaded with standard features. The range starts at R459 995 for the 2.0L GLS while our top of the range test car, the 1.5L GLS comes in just shy of half a million at R499 995. Both models include 3-year/100 000km manufacturer warranty with a 5-year/90 000km service plan.

In comparison to some of its chief competitors which includes the likes of the Mazda CX-30 or Kia Seltos, the Eclipse Cross may be slightly down on tech but provides a superb ride with a high quality interior and an equally unique option in the generally monotonous looking market.

A Short and Sweet Taste of the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro

We braved the wet weather on a cold Monday morning to get our first taste of the new Chery Tiggo 4 Pro! 🌧

So what do we know about the latest Chinese entrant? Well, not much really. Chery South Africa were tight-lipped about any specification or price of their new crossover, which will make its official launch next month. So all we can report on is what we can see, touch and hear 👀

Our time with the car was also quite fleeting and tightly controlled at Gerotek Testing Facilities, where we made use of the skidpan, a light off-road course and quick bash up the twisty mountain pass. Environments in which Chery believes their Tiggo will perform well and we’re glad to report that it did! ✅

The one piece of intel that we do have is that under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that produces 108kW and 210Nm. A naturally aspirated version will also be available with just 85kW and 141Nm. The turbo charged engine performed well under acceleration and had enough poke to get us up some of the steeper hills on the mountain pass, while the CVT gearbox seemed decent enough. It did struggle to optimise the revs when going uphill and sometimes landed up in the middle of the rev range when you needed max rpm to get you to the top.

Around the corners is where the Tiggo impressed most as the suspension did a good job of keeping the body from swaying all over the place while there was a surprising amount of grip. It didn’t feel as flustered and out of depth as you may think in this environment. 👏🏽

So what didn’t we like? ❌ The brakes don’t seem to give you a whole load of confidence. There isn’t any significant bite when you stomp on them nor any gradual feel when applying different pressures. In fairness, the conditions were less than ideal and this is still a front-wheel drive crossover in the end of the day. On that note, while your Chery could possibly do a bit of the dirty stuff, I wouldn’t suggest getting stuck in the mud with this one. This is a subjective point but the styling is attractive but generic. The front end reminds us of a Ford Kuga. Anyone else see that?

In what seems to be an abrupt u-turn in our conventional thinking, the latest crop of Chinese cars have exhibited better fit and finish on the inside than some of its more mainstream competitors 😎 The same can be said about the Tiggo’s interior! There’s a good use of quality materials that appears to be well-glued together, plus a host of tech features. But we can’t help but feel we’ve seen similar climate control buttons in a VW Tiguan before! Or maybe it’s the other way round? Who knows.

The centre screen measures at 10.25-inches and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The graphics are crisp and the operation is relatively quick, but it did lack the fancy 360 degree camera system that you would find in a Haval Jolion.

Speaking of the Jolion, that is who we believe Chery has their eyes firmly set on as their main competitor. The Tiggo will compete in the now saturated crossover market where you might also consider a Hyundai Creta, Ford EcoSport, etc. Although, it is interesting to note the differences in size. The Tiggo has a 2 610mm wheelbase and an overall length of 4 318mm – making it almost exactly the same size as a Hyundai Creta, but shorter than a Jolion which has a length of 4 472mm. The likes of the Nissan Magnite and Suzuki Vitara Brezza fall into a smaller category as their dimensions can’t compete with the cars above.

On first impressions, it seems that the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro will have more than a fighting chance in claiming a stake in this pie if they are able to get the pricing right.

But the true test comes on the open road and we’ll report back when we get to spend a bit more time with the car! 👀

Welcoming the sweetness of summer with the Fiat 500C Dolcevita

Timeless design is something that can often be subjective, but there are a few things that the majority of designers can agree on that are not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion. The few things that come to mind for me are dominated by Italian creations, from the more mundane like the intrinsic shape of a piece of pasta to the colossal 2000 year old Colosseum. Italians know a thing or two about style, longevity and tradition and the Fiat 500 is a modern day epitome of exactly that. We dropped the top on the new Fiat 500C Dolcevita for a few days to see if it’s fresh and funky attitude was a step forward for stylishness. 

It’s small but deceptively big. While this is the definition of an oxymoron, if you haven’t had the opportunity to sit inside one, the first thing that you think to yourself is how spacious the interior is. It might not be palatially sized like the inside of a Rolls Royce but there is a wealth of head, arm and leg room despite its compact dimensions. Even height gifted people can commodiously sit in the rear without having to contort themselves into their most compact form, and this is all with the canvas roof closed shut. 

This is something that the 500 has stayed true to when other pioneers of the supermini segment over a half century ago have opted to produce not-so-mini cars in the modern era. The imperative of the post-war era saw automotive manufacturers in European countries scrambling to create accessible mobility. The original Fiat 500 predating 1957 was the solution of Italy. It was a car that was affordable for the masses, could fit a family of 4 and was compact enough to navigate the traditionally narrow streets of cities like Rome and Naples. It was the packaging miracle of the time.

The modern derivative dwarfs its original counterpart with all the additional safety requirements and the general upsizing to appeal to international markets but it still maintains its cute proportions from before. While the size definition is a contradiction in itself, so is the automated manual transmission.

From the driving perspective, this is the biggest let down. The 2-cylinder engine is punchy and has sufficient torque throughout the rev range, the suspension is plush over urban Johannesburg road surfaces and the compact dimensions make it nimble in corners while the short wheelbase allows for rapid direction changes. 

The automated manual transmission struggles to cooperate with all of the other moving parts of the drivetrain and dulls the sweet experience somewhat. The engine revs hang before the transmission up or downshifts, the actual gear changes have been modelled on the slowest change in history and it struggles to engage on steep inclines. This is simply the nature of AMT gearboxes as a whole, regardless of what car they are implemented in. Either automatic transmissions or manual gearboxes would be my preference but unfortunately the 500C Dolcevita is only equipped with the 5-speed AMT.

That being said, when driven in a sedate manner (as this car typically would) these gripes are far less noticeable. The experience is smoother and the gear changes are less obvious. It comes into its own trundling around stylish city centers at low speeds, almost as if it wanted pedestrians to take notice. Nevertheless it can still cope on highways. While the ratios of the 5 speed gearbox were initially a concern, the gearing is capable of national speed limit cruising too with plenty of grunt from the 2-cylinder 875cc turbocharged petrol engine to go beyond. 

It’s hard to grasp the performance figures for this car. The power plant only produces a maximum of 62.5kW and 145Nm but it also only tips the scales at just under a ton too. While you won’t be winning any drag races, it’s off the line acceleration and sprightly traffic spirit make the numbers seem inaccurate and irrelevant. Where you will be winning is with its frugal economy and compact ability to park anywhere. An optimistic 4.0l/100km is claimed from the manufacturer but our combined driving conditions without implementing the power-sapping eco mode yielded just above 5l/100km.

When it comes to the interior, it is difficult to believe that the only significant update to the fascia has been its HD 7” touchscreen bluetooth radio. It still looks timeless by today’s standards!

The retro styled tachometer and driver displays are vastly different from anything else but engaging and usable. The central bluetooth infotainment system includes hands-free operation, voice recognition and most importantly; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility which means you can easily play your favorite tunes while having your hair blow in the wind with the top down. 

The cabrio version of the 500 range comes with far less boot space and a highly restrictive boot opening which still manages to be sufficient for groceries and limited luggage. While the original Fiat 500 came out with a canvas cabriolet top to reduce production costs on metalwork, this Cabriolet Dolcevita is the opposite.

A base Fiat 500 Cult can be had from as little as R219 900 while the range topping 500C Dolcevita comes in at R324 900. All models in the range include a 3-year/100 000 km warranty.

The visually enhanced aesthetic of the Dolcevita does add subtle hints of bling and tech to the overall package but it just seems slightly too out of budget for the small, city car that it is. It does however make a stylish statement, unlike any other A-to-B runabout and that is where the 500 range reigns supreme. Despite its faults, it induces a grin from start to finish especially with the top down and sunny skies above. Its longevity in production means that it has been at the forefront of the Fiat lineup for over a decade, with each minor update containing as much character and charisma from the country of its origin. This is la dolce vita (the sweet life), just in time for summer.

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.