Tag: Cars South Africa

Stacking up the new Kia Rio against its older sibling

Is the updated fourth generation Kia Rio an upgrade from its predecessor? We recently got to spend some time with the new Rio where we were able to stack it up to its preceding sibling that arguably catalysed a rebirth for the brand not only in Mzansi but globally too. 

Although Kia, the largest manufacturer and exporter of vehicles from South Korea, has been in existence since 1944, our local market only got to experience what the Seoul based marque had to offer in 1997. The first generation Rio was introduced two years later, just before the turn of the century but was ridiculed for its poor build quality and driving experience. In more recent generations, the Rio nameplate has evolved and improved over the years and has turned out to be a strong local contender that has helped carry the brand, specifically in the past decade. 

The third generation, according to sales numbers, was the most successful of its kind averaging just under half a million units per annum since its inception in 2011. It is one of the cars that led to the upward sales trend of the brand and elevated the perception to consumers with improvements in styling, safety and comfort. The most recent fourth generation, originally released in 2017 has not fared as well, with annual sales numbers just above half that of its predecessor. Even with the mid-cycle refresh from 2020, the restyled offering can’t seem to generate the same momentum from before. So why exactly is that? 

The third generation set the benchmark high. It was an affordable, quirky, funky and young-at-heart subcompact car that was easily accessible and comfortable to drive. Perfectly suited and priced for yuppies or students. Its stylish exterior and comfortable cabin could be paired with a selection of petrol and diesel engines with an assortment of trims according to budget, although the local market was only afforded with petrol motors. 

Our time was spent with the more modestly priced but less kitted-out 1.4 LS variant mated to a conventional automatic 6-speed gearbox. From the outside, the updated range has undergone extremely minor changes with a reprofiled bumper and updated grille. It is still distinguishable and easily recognisable as a Rio from the modish design legacy from the preceding third generation shape. This is a good thing, it is one of the better looking contenders in the B-hatchback segment but the styling has the same issue as the rest of the car. Kia seems to have rested on their laurels with no significant progress from its predecessor.

Naturally, the new generation includes well integrated technology and creature comforts that were not obtainable a decade ago. The facelifted derivatives all feature a suitably sized 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Standard USB charging ports can be found in the front and the back of the cabin, while bluetooth connectivity and streaming is available through the infotainment display which reverberates via 4 speakers and 2 tweeters around the cabin, even on the base models. 

In comparison to its predecessor, the quality and solid interior materials make for a welcome improvement while retaining its durable nature for years to come. That being said, there is an abundance of hard plastic on the LS model, but subtle leather details are standard on the more expensive derivatives. The dashboard and drivers dials are sensibly laid out and intuitive to use, but seem to be a simplified evolution to its predecessor’s interior which I prefer, particularly the scoped speedometer and rev-counter. Despite some vacant buttons reserved for higher end units, the interior was still a comfortable place to spend time in, with both drivers and passengers furnished with upscale spaciousness and amenities. 

While the new platform that the fourth generation Rio is built upon is sharper and more rigid in handling, it comes at the compromise of additional weight coming in at as much as 50 kilograms. This does not sound like very much but the 1.4-litre motor with a maximum power output of 73kW (6kW less than before) can often feel lethargic when paired with the limited air pressure at Johannesburg altitude making it feel less spritely than its predecessor. The conventional 6-speed automatic gearbox trundles around comfortably with the occasional jerk and does the job without much complaint. I would personally recommend the manual option with the same number of cogs which makes the motor feel alive and controlled. The brakes are sharp and direct with immediate response from pedal input like before but the lower end derivatives have interestingly enough done away with rear discs from the previous generation and now incorporates drum brakes.

The fuel economy on the Rio for combined driving is rated just below 8l/100km while we saw just over that amount from our travels. A number which is simply too high if it is competing with the smaller displaced turbocharged variants from Ford and VW. The salvation of this funky looking Kia offering is its price tag, with our model priced at just under R310 000 with a fair amount of standard equipment, it is competitively positioned in one of the more cut throat segments in our local car market. Regardless of price, I would opt for a derivative with the projection headlights which provide more nighttime visibility than the outdated halogen reflector counterparts. 

Having driven the previous generation Rio while I was still a student and epitomising the typical young driver that it was intended for, I had an excitement of experiencing what the latest offering was all about. While it feels much the same as before, inadvertently supplementing my nostalgia, I can’t help but feel that it was not enough of a step forward living in the grand shadow cast by its older sibling. However, this is still a great car, one that is comfortable and familiar for just about anyone of your younger family members or immediate friends to become acquainted with and start blasting their music through. 

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.

Good Made Better: Audi’s New A3 Range Updated

Good made better: Audi’s new A3 range updated.

If you stood next to the first generation Audi A3, you would be shocked to know that it was introduced to the market nearly twenty years ago. Yes, it’s been almost two decades, and it’s been an excellent run for the brand. Locally, a total 51 400 units have seen themselves into the homes of new owners. The car has also grown from the simple days of the 90’s to a very refined product. The A3’s refinement has been its major selling point for years now. With competitor brands marketing a more sporty persona and others selling a more “people’s car”, the Audi has always retained a certain level of class. That class though has often made the brand seem a bit blander compared to similar products. For those who have driven Audi’s though, they tend to stick with the brand for a very long time. The question is why?

We had the opportunity to answer that question for ourselves when we were reacquainted with the latest iteration of the A3 hatchback and sedan. Subtle changes make for a more streamlined look,  but the same shape remains. New front headlights and taillights make the car look modern, and its refreshed looks are welcome as this segment is very competitive.

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Internal changes: The most notable changes in the new A3 range are the engines which have been overhauled to produce more power and be more fuel efficient. Naturally, petrol-heads will gravitate toward the 228kW Audi S3 but more on that later in another article. What interested us most was the entry model to the range, which now has a 1.0 TFSI three-cylinder engine powering it. With 85kW and 200Nm, the baby A3 offers enough torque to drive happily. For any city dweller, this configuration makes the world of sense.

On the other hand, if you’re worried that the 1.0 litre is too small you can have the 1.4 TFSI with features 110kW and 250Nm. Again if you feel that configuration is too little power, you can then have the 2.0 TFSI which shares the same power output of the new A4 at 140kW and 320Nm. A personal favourite of ours was the 2.0 TDI variant which only has 103kW but features 340Nm; that surges you wherever you need to go. It also only consumes 4.5 litres/ 100km on average while doing so.

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Comfort throughout: Whatever A3 hatchback, Sportback or sedan you choose, you’ll be happy to know that the entire range feels as solid as Audi’s reputation. There’s a distinct level of silence that you experience while driving the new A3 and it creates a rather soothing feeling. The standard dynamic suspension does well to soak up bumps while not also feeling to “couchy” on the road. The interior may not be the most inspiring to sit in, but it cannot be faulted in terms of quality.

There is a wide array of options to choose from, but many features come as standard on each model.  Things such as Xenon headlights, cruise control and Audi’s MMI plus system are features that you don’t have to pay for.  The most notable new feature in the updated A3 range is the option of Virtual Cockpit, something we have all loved to use in the A4 and Q7. This digital dashboard is probably the most intuitive system out there and it’s a “must have”  for any tech-loving driver. If you want to make your Audi A3 more visually appealing too, you’ll be happy to know that you can still specify your car with the S-Line package which gives it a more aggressive look and some larger wheels.

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To answer why many Audi drivers remain loyal to the brand. We personally believe that it’s about assurance. Yes, excitement is great and it always nice to drive something that sets your hair on fire. The reality though is that our day to day lives are not exciting unless you’re a race car driver. What Audi offers then is the option of excitement in cars like the S3 and RS3, but for the everyday person the updated A3 is a car you would love to wake up to every day and live your life.

 

 

Hyundai Increase Tucson Range with Diesel Models

The Hyundai Tucson has proven to be a very popular car in 2016 and was also recently named a finalist for the SGMJ Car Of The Year 2017. The Tucson may now appeal to an even broader market as Hyundai have introduced a further two models in the Tucson range.

The first of these new diesel models is the Tucson 1.7 executive turbodiesel producing 85kw and 280Nm of torque, which will peak between 1250 – 2750rpm. The 1.7 Executive is fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox and will have a starting price of R439,000.

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The second model is the Tucson R2.0 Elite, featuring a 2L turbodiesel producing 130kw and 400Nm of torque, peaking low in the rev range between 1750-2750rpm.  This model will feature all the standard options which are supplied with the Elite petrol variants, including 18″ alloy wheels. The R2.0 Elite model will feature a six-speed automatic gearbox and will start at R519,000.

Hyundai’s 5-year/150 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, enhanced by the additional new groundbreaking 7-years/200 000 km drivetrain warranty, comes standard with the all-new Hyundai Tucson package, as well as roadside assistance for 5-years or 150 000 km.

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