Tag: Car Reviews

Living with the legacy of a local legend – the VW Golf 8 GTI

It takes generations to build up a near-immortal legacy with an adoring customer base at the core. In Mzansi, there are staples for different types of mobility where everything else in the segment becomes an outlier. Our go-to bakkie is the Hilux while the Golf GTI is glorified in its hot hatch segment. We lived with the 8th generation of the beloved German derivative to see if the recipe has deviated from its predecessors.

Volkswagen may not have been the first automaker to culminate the recipe of the hot hatch many decades ago, but the Giugiaro penned GTI MK1 from 1975 was perhaps the most refined option to enter the mainstream market. It gained instant success for being sports-car fun with a supermarket price tag. By definition, the GTI is a fast Golf which is inherently an economy hatch built to appeal to the masses. While the sales of normal hatches dwindling in comparison to their SUV siblings on an annual basis, the hot hatch remains a symbol of success and prosperity in South Africa in a hotly contested market. None can portray this individually better than the GTI.

But is the new generation any good? If you are dreading reading an in-depth article with tabulated statistics about the performance and engine upgrades that have been implemented in the new model you will be relieved to know that the new GTI is much the same underneath as the 7th generation. That was launched in 2012 and that was a long time ago, so naturally technology has changed quite a bit. For context, we still had Blackberry as a primary cellular device when the Golf 7 GTI was launched. The trustworthy cast iron EA888 series motor resumes its service while our test car implemented the same 7-speed DSG as transmission from before. 

The 2.0l turbocharged engine now develops 180kW with a torque peak of 370Nm, an 11kW improvement in power over its predecessor. This means it has a claimed sprint to 100km/h from stationery in 6.4 seconds which is the same as its predecessor. So, where has almost a decade of development gone into? Well, Volkswagen are at the forefront of committing to future electrification, especially after the Dieselgate scandal and reprimand. This means that budget is being channelled into optimising the efficiency and longevity of their existing powertrain range as there is little interest in developing future internal combustion engines. 

In other words, the production of the 8th generation GTI has been streamlined and the build complexity has been reduced which in turn should keep true to its identity of affordable performance. A base spec GTI is priced from R669 300 while an endless list of additional features like IQ. Light, Harman Kardon Sound and a Tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof can push the price all the way up to R800k. Our test car was fortunately fitted with all of the niceties which do improve the lavish GTI experience. The price includes a 3 year/120 000km warranty, 5 year/90 000km service plan and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

While performance has been slightly improved, more strict conditions over emissions have been implemented too. This means from both within and outside the cabin, the resounding and iconic VRR-PHA has been muted significantly. The entire exhaust system for that matter seems restricted by mandated filters and catalytic converters but that is nothing that entrepreneurial locals can’t resolve with a software update and enlarged downpipes. 

The underwhelming symphony is not where it ends unfortunately. It’s just not a very inspiring car to drive. Don’t get me wrong – it’s quick and has the ability to get you into a lot of trouble very quickly but it feels numb to experience, devoid of character and enthusiasm. What the experience does yield however is a forgiving hot hatch that does not have the exciting boy-racer torque steer of its competitors but a refined and comfortable drive that is more civilized for everyday use. It will also get you a lot of nods and looks from pedestrians and opportunistic souped-up cars yearning for a highway drag race while running your errands.

While this 8th generation is the most digitally advanced generation of GTI ever produced, much of the interior tech is swing and miss. They have done away with physical buttons and replaced almost every interface with touch capacitive functionality. While they instill a futuristic aesthetic to the cabin, they can be frustrating to interact with. There are buttons directly below the infotainment screen which make operation during driving near impossible without accidentally bumping the heat adjustment function and bringing up the climate control screen.

What we found particularly annoying was the heated steering button on the steering wheel, which is inconveniently placed where the palm of the hand meets the protrusion of the thumb. Regardless of how enthusiastically you yank the steering wheel, any movement seems to engage the haptic touch surface and render the steering wheel hotter than a mid-summer Pretoria day. You will be constantly fiddling with the haptic surface to view the drivers display in an attempt to disengage the untouchable steering wheel. 

While this is still in essence still as good as you expect a GTI to be, it will always be judged not only according to its competitors but also against what the nameplate signifies in terms of the previous generations. Look at the 8 GTI as a tech elevated, although slightly gimmicky version of its all-round fantastic predecessor. It does everything really well and makes important strides in refinement and technology over its predecessor, but it doesn’t give you the fizz the way previous generations have. If you are a diehard VW aficionado looking for more thrill, your money may be better spent on a low mileage 7.5 GTI TCR, or for an out of the box, fun, boy-racer inspired hot hatch then the BMW 128ti is also certainly worth a look!

The new Kia Sonet is here to take over!

The hatchback as we know is dead! Don’t believe me? Well, Renault recently unveiled their new Mégane concept that has now morphed into a crossover of some sort. Ford only sells SUVs and pick up trucks in the USA while on the local front the only version of the Golf 8 that we’ll be getting is the GTI, because the garden varieties won’t sell. Additionally, Ford no longer offers the Focus to our market, while Toyota’s striking new Corolla Hatch finds itself at the wrong end of the sales charts.

Now, it would be foolish of me to write-off the hatchback as a whole – the likes of the Suzuki S-Presso and Renault Kwid will always find buyers in an economically-strapped country. Even VW’s perennial Polo and the Kia Rio will still litter our roads in their numbers. In other words, the hatchback will live on its cheapest form and not as the staple for family transportation we once knew it as. However, their reign might become short-lived thanks to budget-orientated crossovers, and in particular, the new Kia Sonet.

To help you to understand how I’ve arrived at this conclusion, let’s first examine the competition from within. If you’re walking into a Kia dealership with a budget ranging between R250 000 – R350 000, you’re main options would be either a Rio or a Sonet.

In terms of pricing, the former has the highest starting and end price retailing for R280 995 and topping out at R361 995. Alternatively, you can get into a Sonet for just R264 995 with range-topper costing you just R305 995.

The Sonet uses Kia/Hyundai’s new platform and architecture which you will also find in the suitably accomplished Venue. On the other hand, the Rio utilizes a much older platform with outdated engines to match. The main power unit on offer in the Rio is a 1.4-litre naturally aspirated unit that churns out 73kW and 135Nm. The Sonet on the other hand gains more power though its additional cubic capacity with power rated at 85kW and torque at 144Nm from the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine. Another win for the Sonet then.

What else? Well, the Sonet is a larger car than the Rio, has a greater ground clearance at 190mm in comparison to 140mm, it has a larger boot capacity at 392l as opposed to the Rio’s 325l, and to top it off, it looks a lot better than its hatchback brother.


I’m in no way bashing the Rio, I think it’s a great car and competes very well within its segment, all I’m saying is that it just doesn’t make sense to buy it when you get more for less in the Sonet.

So now that we’ve established that the Sonet is the right Kia for you, is it the right budget crossover for you? Let’s look at the players: there’s of course the siamese twins of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Toyota Urban Cruiser, Ford’s Ecosport and the newly launched Nissan Magnite. You could even consider the less popular Mahindra XUV300 or the steeply priced Honda WR-V.

In the face of such stiff competition, the Sonet seems to excel. Our test unit was the EX model fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox and mated to the 1.5-litre 4 cylinder engine we mentioned earlier. Up at the reef, the engine does struggle slightly – I’ve read reports from our coastal-dwelling colleagues that the Sonet performs comfortable when supplied with additional oxygen. In saying that, it had no problem keeping up with traffic and maintaining the national speed limit. This was also helped by a slick and efficient gearbox with a light clutch action and easy gear change. Competitors like the Suzuki and Toyota only use a 5-speed manual and the addition of a 6th gear in the Sonet makes highway cruising a much more pleasant experience.
It also worth noting that 1.0-litre turbo engine will be offered later on in the year, in top-spec GT Line.

On the inside, the Sonet is sensibly laid out and nicely finished off with piano black inserts and some interesting triangles scattered about the place mirroring the exterior aesthetic.

Fit and finish is acceptable in this segment and although you’ll struggle to find any soft touch materials (except on the door arm rest and centre arm rest). The plastics are inoffensive and they don’t look as cheap as they may feel. Interior tech is also well catered for with an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. I know Kia would probably expect majority of customers to just plug their phones in to use one of those apps mentioned above, I just wish they would put a bit more effort into the look and feel of the system. It feels 5 years old already.


The driver cluster has a unique arrangement that reminds me slightly of the one found in the Renault Kwid, but it’s still a great addition to have which incorporates a small TFT screen to display crucial driving information.

On the whole, the new Sonet ticks many boxes – it’s spacious, drives very well, has decent amenities and is priced very competitively. While I have yet to pilot the new Nissan Magnite (Launch article by a colleague here), the Sonet certainly finds itself hovering very close to the top of list of recommendations in this segment.

The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

Overlooked & Under-appreciated

Oh boy, the large bakkie-based segment in South Africa is a tough market to play in. The Toyota Fortuner rules the roost while the likes of the Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport all desperately cling onto the coattails of the Fortuner’s success.

Take nothing away from the Toyota, it is a very accomplished product which dazzles consumers with its storied badge and an expansive footprint across the country.

But I suspect that the light gleams too brightly as many are blinded to the breadths of talent in the rest of the segment. Take the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport for example. It undercuts both the Toyota and Ford by more than R100 000 in their most expensive specification; is not found wanting in any particular area and comes from a manufacturer that arguably has an equally impressive reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.

I unfortunately can’t account for consumers’ shopping behaviors so don’t expect any solid answers as to why we are a stubborn, single-minded bunch. But what I can tell you is why I think the updated Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is a cut above of the rest and at the very least, worth a visit to the showroom.

Mitsubishi South Africa introduced the refreshed Pajero Sport late last year with the introduction of the range-topping Exceed model as well. You’ll notice the new face which Mitsubishi calls their ‘Dynamic Shield’ design, which brings into line with the stablemates like the Triton, Eclipse Cross and ASX. At the rear, the tweaked tail lights have been shortened and feature a new LED signature.

Handsome looks aside, the updated Pajero Sport also offers a raft of interior updates. Although the design and layout remain the same, you now get an updated eight-inch touchscreen which supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone air-conditioning including rear passenger controls, plus a leather-clad multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth and voice control. On the safety front, each of the Pajero Sport’s 7 passengers are catered for in terms of an airbag.

Our range-topping Exceed 4×4 test unit also features a sliding sunroof, Mitsubishi Remote Control connectivity, and an electronic tailgate with kick sensors.

So, you’re certainly not lacking in terms of tech, style and amenities but one area where the Pajero Sport does fall slightly short is in the drivetrain department. You only have one option for both the engine and gearbox to choose from which is a 2.4l MIVEC turbo diesel engine, producing 133kW and 430Nm and linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. And while it does a sufficient job of lugging about its large frame, there were instances where power waned and it struggled to keep up with the flow of traffic. But the majority of the time, accelerating and cruising at the national speed limit was a breeze and overall noise, vibration and harshness was low.  Mitsubishi claims an average fuel consumption of 8.1l/100 although I managed around the 8.7l/100 which is quite respectable.

While I never had the opportunity to take our test unit off the beaten track, I do have experience with Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD-II system and I can assure you that you will find very few obstacles in your path. For the average family, the Pajero Sport possesses more than enough capabilities to meet your families adventures and sum.

With pricing ranging from R624 995 for the base 4×2 model and extending all the way to R704 995 for the top of the range Exceed model, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport makes a compelling case for itself. For similar outlay, you can get into a Toyota Fortuner equipped with the updated 2.8-litre engine, however, you only get that model in 4×2 guise and an additional R70 000 is needed to hop into the base 4×4 variant with that engine.

So the updated Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is truly the smart money in this segment, and it’s worth noting that it recently claimed the title of best large SUV/Crossover in CAR Magazine’s annual Top 12 Best Buys. Need I say more? Just go and visit one of their dealerships so you can see for yourself.

Affordable Adventuring in the Toyota Urban Cruiser

More recently, people have had an inherent yearning for adventure as a result of being cooped up under months of lockdown – getting out to experience the world around us seems more of an imperative now than ever before. Carmakers have paid attention and through the advent of the SUV segment have made adventuring into uncharted territory more accessible than ever before. However, capable SUVs that retain the comforts of normal cars cost a fortune, until recently that is. Alex Shahini spent some time with the new Toyota Urban Cruiser to determine if it can fill the gap and be a cost effective solution to adventuring. 

Small, nimble and cost effective SUV options that share underpinnings and technology with front wheel drive hatchbacks have flooded the market in recent years and while they are less capable in treacherous conditions, they still tick all of the boxes for amateur explorers in search of affordable adventuring. This is where the Urban Cruiser comes in, the most recent addition to Toyota in Mzansi. Significantly smaller than the RAV4 and CH-R models, the new option in their range has pricing starting at only a quarter of a million Rand. Which, considering what is included as standard equipment on the car, provides a strong argument for its value for money. 

This affordability comes at a price though. While the exterior holds a pleasant aesthetic with attractive proportions, there are certain comforts and amenities that have been sacrificed for cost saving. The high driving position and seats are comfortable with all dials and buttons in good reach of the driver but the cabin still felt slightly shortchanged. The dashboard and dials were composed of a small selection of cheap finishes while lack of interior illumination at night would leave me constantly fiddling around to find the window switches and steering stalks.

The list of features are commendable however, with our range-topping XR model getting additions such as automatic headlights, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, dual 12-volt power outlets, front armrest, a touchscreen infotainment system, leather steering wheel and the inclusion of two tweeter speakers.

The driving experience on the other hand proved to be extremely comfortable for me and any passengers or pets I happened to ferry around. With elevated ride height providing ample visibility over the bonnetline any unavoidable potholes and road imperfections were accordingly dealt with by the surprisingly soft suspension. While the revvy naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder motor had a comfortable and constant power delivery to its redline at around 6500rpm, it never felt greatly insufficient in its overtaking or pull-away ability, even with passengers on board and the limited torque it had. Where it did fall short on the road was its lack of a 6th or overdrive gear. At 120kmh the engine whine of 3800rpm would become audible in the cabin. Overall though, this compact option emulates some of its larger SUV siblings extremely well with its comfort characteristics. The passenger pooches wagging tails were a sure sign of an enjoyable journey. 

A combination of city and highway driving yielded just below the meagre 6.5l/100km figure albeit with very reserved driving. This is not a car that encourages or enjoys spirited bursts of open throttle and hash braking but rather instills a very calm and comfortable cruise – which is likely where it inherited its name from. Its short wheelbase made venturing tight parking lots and narrow paths a breeze while the rear-facing park distance control would automatically quieten the radio or media player so that the sensors would become clearly audible. This is an intuitive feature since there is no radial volume knob to reduce volume and repeatedly clicking the touch-capacitive screen can be a frustrating and arduous task. 

The angle of the infotainment screen occasionally caught a reflection from the rear passenger side window which would limit its usability, but most of the functionality on the device including Apple Carplay and Android Auto was simple and intuitive to use even with this limitation. The boot comes with ample space at 314 litres while the rear seats can fold down in 2 configurations. However low light situations would prove to be tedious with no illumination in the boot – even on our range topping XR model. 

From our time with the Urban Cruiser we experienced many livable niggles and limited refinement that enables this compact B-SUV to be so affordable, but how exactly is it so cheap? While the obvious answer from above would implicate the cheap interior materials for its low base price it actually has to do with Toyota’s global alliance with fellow Japanese automaker Suzuki. Both brands have gone into a mutually beneficial agreement of platform sharing which some may have already noticed with the local sales of the identical Toyota Starlet and Suzuki Baleno models. In exchange for technology and R&D, Suzuki provides Toyota with fantastic and affordable vehicles to slot into their range. Since these two automakers are in partnership, this also means part and die costs are shared which inevitably lowers the risk and end price of the final product.

The Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Toyota Urban Cruiser are two identical cars save from the bumpers and badges. While I believe the overall aesthetics and light features of the aforementioned models share a much more similar design language to the Suzuki Vitara Brezza.

Suzuki Vitara Brezza

Toyota have nonetheless incorporated their SUV design language from the Fortuner and RAV4 successfully into their iteration making it seem more like a butch SUV. 

Affordability and adventure should go hand in hand which the Toyota Urban Cruiser offers very well, if you can see past some of the livable niggles – this may be the right choice for you. The final result is a fantastic, accessible runabout, with a competitive price tag.

We Drive the New Porsche Cayenne in South Africa

New Porsche Cayenne South Africa

New Porsche Cayenne Driven Review

Porsche. It’s a  name that is synonymous with racing, hard-core stripped out road vehicles and daily drivers that many a stockbroker have or are in the process of ordering. It’s a name that carries heritage and a history in motorsport that many manufacturers would love to call their own. For any petrol head, it’s been a brand that most aspire to, but come 2003, Porsche decided to branch out and for good reason. They decided that the clients who already own their sports cars needed something that they could drive daily, with spouse and children in tow. They gave us the Porsche Cayenne.

New Porsche Cayenne South Africa

Porsche Cayenne Side Shot

Yes, at first glance it wasn’t the most handsome sibling but for Porsche clients and anyone who could afford the price tag, it didn’t matter. The Porsche Cayenne was bought by the trendy, wealthy families in your estate. You know the family, the Khumalo’s and the Smiths. The family with the toned, gym focussed mother who can whip up a gourmet meal for her family. The tall and chiselled father who is not only the CEO of his international company but also coaches his daughter’s soccer team. Yes, those families. It’s because of them, that the Cayenne brand has gone from strength to strength and what we have now, in 2018 is the most one of the best looking SUVs in the market, and it’s the Cayenne.

The launch of the new Porsche Cayenne.

We all met up in rainy and very windy Cape Town for the launch of the new Cayenne. At first glance, and from a distance, you see the design team went in for a nip and tuck. In its third rendition, you would be hard pressed to see where improvements could be made as I thought the previous model was a particularly handsome vehicle – that is why I’m writing an article on the new Cayenne and not in Stuttgart, in a Porsche lab coat, submitting design drawings.

From the rear, with its Tron like LED spanning the entire boot length, along with the coupe-like roofline and front end that looks more like 911.2 that a regular SUV, I’m left with much want for this car. Inside you are greeted by a cabin that would be a technophobe’s nightmare. It’s all electric with buttons and switchgear for everything. It’s very much tuned for the iPad generation, something that I will not tire of.

Three engines are available from launch and we first sampled the “baby” Cayenne with its 3.0L V6 petrol motor producing 250kW and 450Nm. It’s crazy to think that some flagship vehicles churn out those kinds of numbers. Out into Capetonian traffic, something that the whole of South Africa could do without, we head out into the wine country. In front, we are led by the flagship Cayenne Turbo variant and I don’t know if it’s my Gauteng aggressiveness in my driving style, but the Turbo wasn’t able to show me up in the corners and sweeping mountain passes, however, he did show me what the rear of the car looked like on the straights.

Tech

The ride on the “entry level” Cayenne was plush, feedback from the front axle and steering was more than adequate and you find yourself pushing much harder than your skill set normally lets you, such is the confidence that the Cayenne gives you. What impressed me was the standard equipment that’s offered on the entry-level model and with a base of R1 142 000, it’s square in line with its counterparts from Germany and the United Kingdom.

New Porsche Cayenne South Africa

New Porsche Cayenne Interior South Africa

After reaching our coffee stop, I was now a passenger and could play with the digital driving display and all the settings that could be personalised. To say that I got lost in the varies menus is an understatement. I just love interiors that I can really make my own and in this vehicle, you can do just that. Very soon, I found myself driving what I would say is the pick of the bunch, the Cayenne S.

New Porsche Cayenne S

Powered by a 2.9 V6 Motor, punching out 324kW, 550Nm and a standing 0-100kph time of 4,9 seconds, you instantly fall in love with this variant. I was commending the normal Cayenne on its power delivery and the fact that you never really lacked for power,  this motor, however, gives you that little extra you didn’t know that you needed. Overtaking is done before you know it and if you find yourself alone, on a familiar stretch of road, the Cayenne S will stop its gallop at 265 kph, 20 kph more than its sibling. Standard options fitted to the Cayenne S are just too many to number, but the major reason for the S is the motor, and at this pricing range, you can justify the R154 000 price jump.

New Porsche Cayenne S South Africa

Porsche Cayenne S Driving

New Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

Now for the “Maneer”, the General, the Turbo S. We live in an age where Turbo motors are the way to get around emissions issues, while bringing consumption figures and down to reasonable levels. Sadly, the engine note from the exhaust is normally then lost and sacrificed.  You see, turbos swallow up the naughty noise that would make even the sharpest accountant giggle like a five-year-old, but not in the case of the Turbo S. From startup, the mightly 4.0 V8 motor, producing 404kW and 770Nm lets you know that it means business and that you should strap in, tight!

New Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

I’ve always maintained that high-performance SUVs are not practical and offer performance that you don’t need as no sane parent would drive “that way” with their kids staring at them in the rear-view mirror. But and this is a big BUT, this is the second SUV that would make me go against my cardinal rule. To say that the Cayenne Turbo is fast is like saying that an NBA player is tall. It’s a fact known by all but there is so much depth to that statement that you would need to be in the vehicle, better yet, the driver’s seat to fully comprehend the thought that I’m trying to get across here.

New Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

Gone are the days of struggling to keep up with traffic on rural roads. The string of trucks that are blocking the traffic from flowing? Gone. That “special” mountain pass that you are trying to carve and get rid of small cars and delivery vans? Gone. The Turbo S delivers power in waves that would make any sane driver a favourite paying member of the JMPD, and it’s also done without your passengers being hurled from side to side. The Turbo S is so well sorted suspension-wise that you end up feeling that you are in Panamera, rather than an SUV in the clouds.

What would I buy?

So there you have it. The new Porsche Cayenne is a fantastic vehicle. The Khumalo’s and Smiths have already ordered theirs but what about the Nwamba’s?  I have driven a diesel SUV for the last couple of years and have become very fond of driving a tank to 700 km plus between fill-ups. Interestingly, the new Cayenne isn’t available in a diesel, and with petrol being a cleaner burning fuel, you can see the reason for this. Diesel is expected to be phased out in the next decade with emission standards being strict and Porsche has now jumped ahead of everyone with this decision.

New Porsche Cayenne S South Africa

Rear of Porsche Cayenne S

So the only vehicle that would be under my consideration would be my pick of the bunch – the Cayenne S. It’s in the same ballpark in terms of pricing with the Mercedes GLE 350 AMG, the BMW X5 30d M Sport and the Range Rover TdV6 SE and to play devil’s advocate, the Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI. You can see that these are vehicles that have been giving my wife and I a headache and the introduction of the new Cayenne to further complicated this decision, a decision that we’ve decided to park till next year when we will need to play ching Chong cha! If I were to make that decision now though, I would be writing this from the seat of a Cayenne S.

Learn More here: https://www.porsche.com/middle-east/_capetown_/models/cayenne/

A True Hot Hatch – Hyundai i30 N

We Drive the Hyundai i30 N

Rewind your mind to a little over a year ago. If someone told you that Hyundai are planning to release a hot hatch, but not just any hot hatch, a hot hatch that would bring the fight to every one of the great hatches we know and love, would you have believed them? Probably not. Welcome the Hyundai i30 N.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Hyundai i30 N on a abend

You see, performance hatches and Hyundai have never really belonged in the same sentence together, it’s kind of like Ben and Jerrys offering a zero-sugar ice-cream, one would think it’s going to be a bit “pap”.

However, Hyundai have been clever and found themselves a person who knows the in’s and out’s of this performancy kind of stuff. His name is Albert Biermann and he once headed up the BMW M Performance division. This is quite a statement from Hyundai, so how does the i3o N fair?

It Means Business

Glare at the Hyundai i30 N and you will get a deathly stare back, it looks mean from every angle. Sitting low, the artic blue paint reminds me that this colour has been discontinued, which means we needed to stay far away from bushes, curbs and anything untoward that could cause damage. My favourite angle? The rear. Its small wing and diffuser complement the wide stance, dual tailpipes and bright rear lights nicely. Hyundai are not playing around.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Rear light of the Hyundai i30 N

For those who don’t know, you may think it’s all show and no go, however, if you are even just so slightly interested in cars you will know that this is not the case.  285bhp (202kW)  and 400Nm on tap means theHyundai i30 N already shows the Golf GTI it’s mother on paper, but what about on the road?

What is it like to drive?

For me, a great hot hatch is one that makes you smile. After all, they are built to be fun right? A mixture of performance, response, chassis and sound are all major components they make up the perfect hatch. Quite frankly, the Hyundai i30 N delivers in all departments.

The wave of boost that hits in the lower RPM range Is addictive. I love the surge of power and boost that kicks in and doesn’t ever seem to fade out. Coupled with the heavy clutch and clunky, solid gearbox, the feeling can only be described as real. No other hot hatch sounds like this, the crackle and pops produced literally makes people walking on the side of the road to stop, turn around and put their hands in the air – sorry love, this is straight from the manufacturer.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Hyundai i30 N on a racetrack

The i30N also lives up to its nickname “Corner Rascal” . I was going to say the front end is to die for, but that’s probably an overstatement. It is wonderfully sharp and grippy and when partnered with the balanced chassis and limited slip diff, you’d have to be doing something wild to find understeer.  Hyundai didn’t lie when they told us this car is measured in BPM and not RPM – it really does get the blood pumping. Did I mention the noise?

A choice of 5 driving modes are available, you know, the usual Eco, Comfort, Sport that seem to come on most new vehicles nowadays, but, If you want to get straight to the main action then a simple press of the blue N button on the steering wheel will do the trick – I wonder what this is similar too, it’s at the back of my mind and I just can’t remember…

Steering Wheel of the Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Steering Wheel of the Hyundai i30 N

I digress,  The N will activate everything and anything that brings out the dark side of the Hyundai i30 N’s personality. Hit it again, and the system activates your custom N settings which are programmed through the main interface.  You will probably use this if you’re fussy like Richard, as he likes everything in sport apart from steering feel which MUST stay in comfort – lame.

Technology in the i30 N

I was quite taken aback when I found technology such as wireless charging, autonomous emergency braking, collision warning and a lane keep assist technology which works much more like semi-autonomous driving.  Rev matching is also a treat, making downshifts much more pleasant as well as sounding fantastic. If you’ve been driving long enough though, you can turn this off from the steering wheel and work your magic with the old heel and toe situation. Of course, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are also thrown into the mix to end of a great bunch of tech.

Hyundai i30 N Interior South Africa

Hyundai i30 N Interior

Does it lack anything?

Dampers. It lacks dampers. Yes, the ride is particularly firm but in all seriousness, it doesn’t really lack anything. You have everything you need and more in terms of tech and performance. If you are going to compare this against a Golf or other German hatchbacks, then it won’t give you the same premium feel and trims. It’s more plastically, and obviously not as comfortable. If your looking for a fast hatch which isn’t going to break your back then this probably isn’t the hatch for you. It’s not going to be great if you undertake a long commute on a daily basis either, but if you are looking for true hot hatch experience then you won’t go wrong with the Hyundai i30 N.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Sam Ayres with the Hyundai i30 N

How does it compare to other hatches?

I’ve not driven every hot hatch ever made, and there are a few new models that I still need to get behind the wheel of, such as the Megane R.S. However, from what I have driven, it definitely provides one of the rawest, fun and visceral driving experiences. I have spent many hours and corners behind the wheel of a GTI Clubsport, they both feature very positive front ends and similar driving traits, however, the Clubsport is DSG – which leads me onto think that a Clubsport S with a manual box, reduction in weight and increase in more power might just result in a driving experience that pips the i30N.  Either way,  I’m just going to have to wait to find out.

Learn More: https://www.hyundai.co.uk/new-cars/i30n

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class – Setting New Standards

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class in Matt Grey, Overlooking Ocean and town

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Some car models evolve like a fine wine; slowly over time, each incarnation just a little better than the last. Not at Mercedes-Benz though, if other technologies progressed as fast as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, we’d be living around in a rather futuristic world. Twenty-one years ago, just after the first A-Class was launched, it made motoring headlines for failing the Moose Test, but that was actually a blessing in disguise rather than a setback. This problem forced the men in white coats to re-engineer the suspension as well as to add electronic driver aids never before seen in a compact car, forcing other manufacturers to follow suit. This was the start of a brilliant track record, amassing sales of three million A-Class cars (6 million compact cars in total) to date, each new model featuring improvements and upgrades that you’d only expect to find in top tier models.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is now in its fourth generation, and it’s no facelift, this technological marvel is an all-new affair from the ground up. The compact Benz is longer, higher and wider resulting in a sportier looking hatchback, especially when fitted with the optional 19-inch wheels. The front-end subscribes to the latest Mercedes-Benz design architecture and this new design also sees the car being the most aerodynamic in the segment. Much of this is attributed to the front and rear wheel spoilers that result in low airflow losses, in addition, wheel arches are insulated from the engine compartment and the radiator surrounds are sealed. The design of the A-pillars and the new wing mirrors also has an effect on drag, but most noticeably on wind noise. This all-new A-Class is easily the quietest hatch I’ve driven to date.

Cabin space is improved thanks to the new dimensions; so taller drivers have more comfort with better elbow and shoulder room. The boot receives a 29-litre increase in capacity, now totalling 370 litres and the taillights are now sectioned in two, meaning a 20cm wider load aperture giving your favourite set of Callaway clubs a perfect entry. Besides space, the interior of the all-new A-Class is a very premium place indeed. The retail price of these cars (which we’ll get to later) does seem high, but when you see the fit and finish of the materials and the amount of technology crammed in, things become a lot more palatable.

MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – is an intelligent multimedia system that adapts to your inputs and voice commands which is not only great to keep you company on long roads, it also keeps your eye focused ahead to keep you safe. All manner of things can be done via the voice control, such as turning vehicle systems on and off or finding you a better route through traffic.  To access this function, simply blurt out “Hey Mercedes” at any point and she’ll answer you back – sound familiar?  It’s also easy to use, however when you want your fingers to do the talking, the touch controls for all the systems are easy and intuitive, once you learn what does what of course.

Powering the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class are two new power plants; for the A200 there’s a turbocharged 1332cc 4-cylinder with 120kW and 250Nm on tap. The A250 Sport features 1991cc, also a turbocharged 4-cylinder, and produces 165kW and 350Nm available. Both engines are mated to a sublime, smooth and lightning-quick 7-speed dual clutch transmission (7G-DCT). A variety of drive modes are available, including Comfort, Eco and Sport, the latter being very responsive and firm. We were only able to sample the A200 on launch, and the responsiveness and available power from such a small capacity motor boggles the mind. It’s claimed to reach 100km/h in 8-seconds with a top speed at 225km/h, but it feels faster. Combined fuel consumption is claimed at 5.2l/100km which I’m sure it can manage, just not on launch. In this initial launch drive the A200 was put through its paces and it must be said that there’s not really any way to fault the car. With the technology on board, the new A-Class sets new standards, once again forcing others to follow. The automaker wants to target a younger, more tech-savvy buyer, and offerings don’t get much better than this. A diesel variant and the halo AMG version will come in time.

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class Pricing in South Africa

Pricing for the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class sees the A200 comes in at R499 000 and the A250 lists at R593 300.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio – fast, fun but expensive.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Driven Review

If you are familiar with the team here at TheMotorist, you will know it consists of myself, Francisco and Richard. While the latter two happen to be brothers, Francisco and myself are born within a month of each other. Unfortunately for Richard, he has passed the “fun part” of his life already. What I mean by that is, he’s older than us and he has entered a stage of life that consists of nappies and mortgages. More often than not on some of our recent video projects, a good man who goes by the name of Andrew joins us. Andrew is the editor of Top Gear Magazine SA and happens to be the same age as Richard. Together, they share notes on child rearing and finding the best family doctor.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

So I feel it’s no coincidence then that the younger two of the group fell head over heels for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, while the older bunch really didn’t fancy it that much. Maybe bigger issues in life have made them lose their sense of fun? Who knows. I’m not insinuating that the older you get, the more boring you become, I would never do that…never ever…

However, it seems that maybe the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is the SUV for the younger person even though you need older person money to afford it. It’s a catch 22 really. The Stelvio throws things at you, that you don’t expect – hot hatch driving dynamics being one of them. It’s quite surprising to be fooled into thinking you’re driving a Golf GTI, when you’re actually in a midsize SUV. Another thrilling factor about the Stelvio, is the fact that it’s rather quick. Put your foot down and you notice the digital speedometer climb rather quickly, much faster than expected – especially since it’s powered by a 2.0l turbocharged engine. Turn a corner and notice the front end turn in quite sharply. Again, more than expected. In the end, you find yourself becoming quite giddy in this vehicle, like when your parents would step out the house for some milk and you could be naughtier than usual. That’s what happens when you’re in a 206kW/400N.m Italian SUV with some heritage behind the brand.

You see, while many ( Richard and Andrew ) see SUV’s as only needing to be large vehicles with lots of space for your children, your friend’s children and the expensive bike you use once in a blue moon – the Stelvio offers more. Yes, it ticks the boxes when it comes to safety, it has a quality interior and offers modern technology. Above that, it’s also quite fast which makes it quite exciting – something other vehicles in the Alfa Romeo Stelvios league don’t offer. They may even be better than the Stelvio in other ways, but the Alfa brings with it a fun personality.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The performance SUV segment is one that often causes debate. Some lament that they “don’t need to be SO sharp, or be THAT fast”, but the question is why not? Why can’t certain SUV’s offer both the practicality and space, whilst also being a little invigorating too? In the age of extensive choice, there’s a place for an SUV such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It’s not a full-blown eye-watering performance SUV (the QV variant will fill the gap). What it is however, is a good middle ground option.  

The thing is, the Stelvio will set you back R834 000, which is not exactly cheap. If you do some scratching around, you’re bound to find more value for money products. That being said, buying into the Alfa brand is never a purchase based on practicality, but rather one based on emotion. So, if you’re an Alfa lover, this SUV is for you because it does evoke emotion and kudos to them for staying true to their brand ethos. For me, the Stelvio is a great SUV. It looks the part, feels the part and drives the part too. As a future young dad, I’d appreciate a good thrill once in a while, when the princes and princesses are tucked away in bed of course. Now it’s just a matter of convincing Richard and Andrew.

 

We Drive the New Ford EcoSport

Ford EcoSport

New Ford EcoSport Driven

What’s in a name, I mean, people have all sorts of interesting names these days and gone are the good old days of a ‘proper Christian name.’ The same can be said for cars with absurdities such as ‘Qashqai’ and ‘Superfast’ springing to mind. Imagine humans were named in the same vein as Ferrari’s – “Meet my son, Superfreckly and my daughter, Mediumround.”

 

Mind you, at least we know that the Superfast is indeed super-fast and that a 5 Series is larger than a 3 Series, yet smaller than a 7.  What a time to be alive.

Enter Fords economical and sporty EcoSport. It’s not what you might think, though – the ‘Sport’ in EcoSport suggests a more ‘sporty’ lifestyle as opposed to track day toy, but we already knew that.

Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport has been a hot seller in South Africa since its initial release in May 2013 and now having received its third and most significant update, promises to continue its streak of strong sales. The numbers speak for themselves with the Ford EcoSport accounting for as much as 14% of Ford sales in South Africa. It also leads in its segment making up for 38% of its segment, down from 49% initially. In short, the EcoSport is popular in our market so there’s no doubt that the improved design, quality and safety of this vehicle will stand it in good stead.

Design wise, the most notable differences can be seen at the front of the vehicle and in the cabin. The new hood with power dome sits above a new and distinctively Ford grille and the standard HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights (Trend and Titanium models only) contribute to more premium look up font. New colours and alloy wheel options are available, too.

Having received quite the revamp, the cabin of the new EcoSport really is a lovely place to be. New instrument clusters, SYNC screen options and a new steering wheel with standard paddle shifters (on auto models sit amongst other updates such as new interior materials, a completely redesigned instrument panel, newly designed climate control console and ambient lighting below the instrument panel.

Both petrol and diesel variants are available, however the diesel is only available in base Ambiente guise. This is because in this segment, petrol is still king and as a result, the Ford EcoSport’s line-up reflects that.

Ford’s tried, tested and triumphant 1.0-litre EcoBoost motor does service in the petrol model and having won Engine of the Year 6 times, that’s a good thing. It provides punchy low down torque and always feels eager to get going, yet returns an impressive claimed 5.4 l/100km. Figures of 92 kW and 170 N.m are more than ample and the petrol motors have been paired wonderfully with either a 6-speed manual or all-new 6-speed automatic transmissions.

For those who still insist on a bit of oil burning, the Ambiente model is only available with Ford’s 1.5-litre TDCi motor, mated to a 5-speed manual with figures of 74 kW, 205 N.m and claimed 4.6 l/100km.

Safety wise, all vehicles benefit from the usual array of standard safety equipment such as ABS, EBA and ESC. Dual front, side and curtain airbags are standard across the range with Trend and Titanium models receiving a driver’s knee airbag too.

In terms of spec, the whole range is pretty sorted. Ambiente models receive SYNC 1 with Bluetooth and voice control, electric windows all-round, steering wheel audio controls, Ford audio with 6 speakers and 2 USB ports, rear PDC, rear fog lamp, remote central locking, a trip computer and 16” steel wheels with covers.

 

In addition to this, Trend models receive a black grille with upper chrome, roof rails, body colour mirrors and door handles, SYNC 3 with 6.5” Touchscreen, LED daytime running lights, 16” alloy wheels, front and rear fog lamps, Hill Launch Assist, Roll Stability Control, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, and a leather gear knob and steering wheel.

In addition to all of that, Titanium models come specced to the hilt with silver roof rails, lower body cladding in black with chrome inserts, power adjustable folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, 17” alloy wheels, auto headlamps, rain sensing wipers, Keyless start, cruise control with adjustable speed limiter, electronic climate control, SYNC 3 with 8” touchscreen with navigation, Ford Audio with 7 high-end speakers, centre console with covered bin and sliding armrest and ambient lighting.

To wrap this up, Ford have taken what was already a popular and capable lifestyle vehicle and given it the updates needed to keep it fresh for the next while. The EcoSport is refined, fun to drive, practical and well put together, well equipped and now with its new face, handsome too.

Ford EcoSport Pricing in South Africa

Pricing starts at R264 500 for the 1.5 TDCi Ambiente manual and stretches to R339 900 for the 1.0 Ecoboost Titanium automatic.

All vehicles come standard with Ford Protect’s comprehensive 4 years/120 000km warranty, 5 years/unlimited km corrosion warranty, 3 years/unlimited km roadside assistance and 4 years/60 000km service plan. Service intervals are 15 000km.

 

New Mercedes-AMG C43

Mercedes-AMG

New Mercedes-AMG C43 First Drive

For those not in the know, the Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Benz range can become quite confusing. Walk into a dealership and ask for a “fast Mercedes” and you will most likely find yourself presented with a myriad of models and a vast range of numbers – such as 65, 63, 53, 45 and 43. Fortunately, it’s articles like these that’ll hopefully provide a little insight – so that if you do go looking for a “fast Mercedes”, you’ll have done the math and know which number you’re looking for. Or at least have an idea.

Mercedes-AMG C43

 

Today we’re talking about the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s a facelift, so it’s not entirely a new vehicle, but they call it new – so let’s roll with it. To start the launch off, we embarked into some countryside areas around the outskirts of JHB, to sample these new models in a quiet setting. The model I focused on was the C43, naturally.

The 43 range offers a 3.0l V6 Twin Scroll Turbo, which produces 290kW and 520 Nm – reaching 100km/h in approximately 4.7 seconds. Driving not only a C43, but the “43” motor in general, was a first-time affair for me. While this vehicle could be classed as a “baby” AMG when compared with the mighty C63, it certainly doesn’t sound like it. In a good way.

This V6 purrs like a Cheetah being scratched by a very large garden rake. Again, in a good way. There was never really a time when I wanted to turn the Active Exhausts off, as chasing this noise through the higher rpm range through a total of 9 gears was becoming just short of addictive. Plus, it’s also slightly quieter than its V8 older brother, so when pottering around town you can leave the active pipes on and not get a headache. Do I prefer it? I haven’t yet decided.

Mercedes-AMG C43

While I could bark on about this all day, it’s time to discuss some of the new features found on the C-Class in general. While snapping at the gears and chasing that sweet V6 sound, you’ll find yourself holding onto a new steering wheel – one which was first found on the S Class and E Class. I love the finish, styling and premium feel it gives you, as it features metal, leather and these hi-tech thumb touch-pads for scrolling through various menus on the digital display. It’s also a standard feature across the whole range, not just the AMG models.

Turn you attention to the fascia and you will also notice the new 12.3-inch instrument cluster. As common as they are becoming on new premium vehicles, each manufacturer has their own take on these digital consoles. Through this system, the driver can browse and adjust most settings and features on the vehicle. AMG variants provide a striking yellow design with a layout that simulates the classic round dials that we all know and love. The display can show you pretty much anything the heart desires regarding the vehicle and while live tyre pressure and the ambient temperature is…cool? Viewing live power, torque and boost levels were something that interested me more.

Mercedes-AMG C43

From the outside, a new redesigned front bumper and diamond grille differentiate the C43 compared to other models. The new 84 LED multi-beam headlights add subtle changes too. With the option of the Ultra Range system, these provide light for up to 650m and also feature the blanking out technology which means Hi-Beam can be selected all the time without dazzling other road users. New tail-lights are also apparent, as well as various rear bumper designs – depending on the package you select.

So, what’s it like then driving the face-lifted C43? Apparently, it’s just like the pre-facelift variant, only prettier and faster. Even though it’s an “AMG”, the vehicle is pretty comfortable when the driving modes are relaxed and set to comfort, dial in the sport modes and the C43 comes alive and provides the sharp AMG driving feel. There is more power on tap, which means the trees blur quicker on a straight line. The car still features Mercedes’s 4Matic system but this time sending 69% of the power to the rear wheels which improve the vehicle dynamically. This provides a nice balance as the power is still accessible all the time, unlike it’s older brother the C63, which likes to wiggle around corners. This is actually a good thing, because only those who know how to do the “AMG dance” should try going toe to toe with one, should they be brave enough. The C43 then is the safe bet among the fast C-Class variants, so if you want to just get on it, this may be the one you should ask for at a dealership.

The new Mercedes-AMG C43 Vehicle Pricing in South Africa:

Sedan                       Coupe                                  Cabriolet

R948,500                  R983,500                             R1,100,000