Tag: New

Nissan Navara Launches In South Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pricing and range

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

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

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

 

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

 

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R Line – First Drive

Rewind 20 years and anyone claiming to have had a vehicle with a 1.0 – litre 3-cylinder motor producing 81 kW and 200 N.m would have been labelled a madman. If they were to continue, stating that this revolutionary vehicle would sip just 4.4 l/100km and exhibit refinement to match the then contemporary E39 5 Series, the automotive community would have locked them away in a Corolla in solitary confinement until they came around.

Having now grown accustomed to the trend of downsizing, most of the above doesn’t really come as a surprise to both the public and motoring scribes alike. What does come as somewhat of a surprise is that the vehicle boasting all of the above figures isn’t even a brand new vehicle, but rather an updated version of a car that’s been on sale in South Africa for the past 8 years. There’s no denying that the Volkswagen Polo is the most impressive vehicle within its segment and now it has been given quite a nice little final hoorah if you will.

Its full name is the Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line and it features VW’s hugely impressive 3-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, mated to the 7-Speed DSG gearbox we’ve come to know and love. Along with its the drivetrain, the Polo has also been visually tweaked with a smattering of R-Line goodness in the shape of R-Line design front and rear bumpers, R-Line sill extensions, a rear diffuser, chrome exhaust tip and 17” alloys. 8 years on, the Polo is still a handsome thing and while the interior on this model is much the same as the rest of the range, it remains a superlative example of build quality and tactile pleasure.

Set to make its way into a number of VW Group Products, the 1.0-litre unit features active balancing shafts which cancel out the inherent vibrations within a 3-cylinder motor. It’s a very smooth unit which delivers maximum torque from just 2 000 rpm.  Due it being lighter than the locally produced 1.2-litre unit alongside which it is offered, it’s a free-revving and spritely motor and is surprisingly characterful thanks to the triple thrum emanating from behind the bulkhead. A claimed consumption of just 4.4 l/100km is 0.5 l/100km less than that of the 1.2-litre motor, yet 25 N.m more torque is on offer.

While pottering around town, the low-down torque and the slickness of the DSG transmission really do make it all a bit effortless and brisk bursts between traffic lights actually bring a smile to one’s face. Dynamically, the chassis handles the twisties with aplomb and the sometimes rough and constantly undulating roads along our test route in the countryside of Port Elizabeth were where the Polo did better than expected. Its high-speed stability is far superior to that of its competitors and again, this is all thanks to a well-sorted chassis and incredible refinement, as well as the use of Volkswagen’s XDS Electronic locking diff which you can certainly feel doing its bit in the corners and comes as standard on this model. If I were to briefly sum up how the Polo drives, I would have to say that it is confidence inspiring and effortless, and can be different things to different people. The R-Line package adds an impressive duality to the Polo in that it can be sporty and playful if that’s what you ask of it, as well is comfortable and docile if its economy and a leisurely drive you’re after.

Other standard features include the usual raft of safety features, rest assist, 4 airbags (6 optional), air-conditioning, multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, sports seats with drawers beneath them and a front-centre armrest with storage compartment.

Priced at R290 200, it comes in at the same price as the already available 1.2 TSI Highline Auto but offers a different box of frogs to that vehicle. Yes, it is rather pricey, but you certainly get your money’s worth – just remember that if you were to tell someone in 1998 that your Polo would be able to match their 523i in all but size and thirstiness, it’d be back to the Corolla for you!

The Volvo evolution continues: S90 is here

I guess we didn’t really know what to expect from the new Volvo S90. On pictures, it looked a bit underwhelming, pretty but nothing to ride home about. You can imagine then what went through my mind when I saw the car in the flesh because it completely took me by surprise. The car has a stately presence that can’t be captured on paper properly as it looks much smaller, but in reality, it’s a big lady. So much so that Volvo felt it appropriate to have us chauffeured in the cars from the airport to the launch destination in Franschhoek. Being only 5ft7 I can sit at the back of most sedans with ease. What I can’t do in most sedans is stretch my legs, something I was able to do in the Volvo S90. So far so good as this car is going to compete with the likes of BMW’s new 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz’ E Class.

Aesthetically the S90 shares similar features to the XC90, in fact it’s almost a sedan version of the SUV.  Many commented that the rear of the vehicle was the acquired taste of the design but I feel the retro taillights suit the overall look. It’s looks somewhat concept car-like but not overly caricatured. The interior design again shares a great deal with the XC90 as well. The central tablet controls various functions such as entertainment, safety, air-conditioning and much more. Overall trim is of a very high quality featuring real leather and very little plastic, making you feel comfortable as a car of this size deserves to have the best in terms of trim levels. A few minutes in the car will make any driver realise that the Swedes pulled out all the stops with this car, which should make the German’s nervous.

This nervousness shouldn’t be about sales figures as the reality is that we live in brand conscious South Africa. This means that brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW will always have the majority market share in certain segments. Rather the nervousness should be because there is a rise in not being mainstream. In certain cities like Johannesburg, every second car is a BMW or Merc so for those looking to be different, the new Volvo’s offer an appealing package. The playing fields are being levelled and driving the new S90 confirmed this. Sitting in the S90 gives a feeling confidence and the dynamic attributes to match. The 4WD systems on the cars also allowed us to exploit Franschhoek pass with ease, too much ease at that. In fact, the S90’s chassis is the most impressive aspect of the cars’ driving experience. The derivatives offered on launch were the T6 featuring 235kW Drive E engine and the D5 with Power Pulse with 173kW, so there was no shortage of power where that is concerned.

Being a Volvo, safety always come first so even though the cars produce a healthy amount of power, it’s delivered very safely. This makes any driver capable of driving the car fast as it doesn’t evoke any fear behind the wheel. The focus is not on speed, though, it’s on refinement, technology and innovation. The biggest innovation for me was the newest iteration of Pilot Assist. An individual can now drive in semi-autonomous mode up until 130km/h depending on the road condition. Steering inputs, braking and acceleration are all controlled by the car whilst you simply place your hands on the steering wheel. Other features such as pedestrian detection, cyclist detection and even animal detection are just some of the safety features of the car. To list everything would turn this write up to a spec list and we’re not here to do that. We’re here to tell you that this Volvo is probably one of the best we’ve driven since the new XC90 which has won many accolades. There is very little you can fault on the car, it’s really a job well done by the Swedes.

Pricing on the car starts at R678 500 which is also a reasonable range considering what you’re getting. That price of course is minus things like Bowers & Wilken sound system and you’ll pay more depending on what package you choose. There is the choice of the standard Momentum, Inscription and R-Design packages. We had Inscription’s at our disposal and some were specified with some rather appealing features which added to the good looks. Again though if you want it, you must pay for it.

Overall, I personally feel that the S90 is a car that can coexist with its rivals, as it’s a niche offering. Niche brands such as these are great because they offer exclusivity. They answer the question that many motorists have, that of “do I have to have what everyone else has?” What the car has done is match the rivals in terms of comfort, luxury and even dynamics. It’s the executive sedan for the elusive, those that don’t want to be like everybody else. For those looking to purchase one, Volvo’s new guaranteed future value scheme will give you piece of mind as this alleviates the perception of bad trade in values. So this entire package becomes even more appealing. The S90 experience is one that proves that things don’t always have to stay the same. It proved that the big three don’t always have to be on top. Now it’s only a matter of seeing how the South African market responds to this car. We wish it well.

 

 

New MINI too mature for its own good?

Up until now, nearly every single one of my pieces on here has been a review or repost of some sort mostly cars, occasionally tech. Today, however, I write a desperate plea, a plea which I am 100% sure will go completely unnoticed by the group of people to whom it is directed…anyway!

Cult cars – people love them.The Jeep Wrangler, the Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat 500, Land Rover Defender, Mini Cooper, every single Saab, ever – the list goes on. Some of these vehicles disappeared into the abyss, only to make a retro and snazzy comeback 30 years later, except for the woeful New Beetle, while some just carried on and on and on with a bit of plastic being added to the dashboard here and there. They’re great, all of them, and each ‘cult car’ appeals to a different type of person for various reasons.

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I am a huge fan of Mini’s, and I even have one. It’s black, and his name is Sebastian, and yes he may have been made by the German’s but anyone with half a motoring brain will realise that modern MINI’s are great. Well, sort of… The original resurrection of the MINI name by BMW in the early 2000’s was a shot in the dark for them, but couple German engineering with a cheeky brand identity and you’re sure to find success. Part of this success, however, is down to how great MINI’s are at many things – they’re cute, fun to drive and have loads of appeal.

The original new MINI, the R50/R53 was BMW’s first attempt at this, so they played it safe and borrowed bits from other manufacturers. It was nippy and little and rattled a lot but golly it was a sweet looking thing and reminded us of why we loved the original Mini so. Engines from Chrysler were probably not the best idea but huge success meant that the next model, the R56, would see more BMW and less…not BMW.

Horrendously unreliable, plasticy, expensive to maintain, expensive to buy and, not to mention, VERY unreliable were certainly not the reasons why the R56 was such a success, but nobody cared. And to this day, nobody cares and R56’s are still regarded amongst MINIacs as MINI’s hay day.

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Francisco drives one too, it’s also black, and we both love how boosty and unassuming our cars are. They’re properly quick and just the right size to be thrown around, gripping in the corners just like MINI’s do., with a throaty growl and street-cred to match.

But now we arrive at the bit where I beg and plead. In my opinion, the new MINI Cooper S is too soft. The F56 is fast and reliable and finally has a BMW motor so it won’t break but it’s so big and too refined and to be honest, nowhere nearly as fun as an R56. There’s very little about the F56 that’s actually MINI and it’s a shame. As an everyday car, it’s great but having recently had the new Fiat 500 on test, I found myself lamenting in the fact that the new MINI is just too much. It’s too big, too expensive and too much (I never thought I’d ever say this) of a BMW.

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The time has come for MINI to make the Rocketman Concept – a little runabout with a punchy turbo motor, cheeky looks and MINI handling, not 1 Series handling. The 500 with its grumbly two cylinder motor, diminutive proportions and the reasonable asking price is an incredibly sensible town car. If your name is Fiona and you run a florist. I certainly do not fit that description, though and look ridiculous in a Fiat 500, especially in the sort of blue your gran would describe as ‘soothing’.

So please, MINI, make us a manly and sensible city runabout?