Robert’s Car Stuff
Kyalami International Race Track, Midrand, Johannesburg: With a fourth win for the revered German manufacturer, the Opel Astra took top honours at the 2017 WesBank South African Car Of The Year announcement at a cocktail dinner hosted by WesBank, the competition’s headline sponsor, on Wednesday.
Facing prodigiously tough competition in this year’s 10-vehicle strong line-up – vehicles that all represent the best of the best from a cross-section of segments and price points – the popular Opel Astra is a worthy contestant, ultimately taking South Africa’s most prestigious motoring prize.
Car buying patterns of the South African public are changing and the Opel Astra reflects those changes in terms of offering both value for money as well as innovative technology. Being the fourth Opel (following the Opel Astra 160iS in 1995) and the 22 small sedan/hatch in the competition’s history to be crowned the winner. The Opel Astra has proved tremendously popular globally and has won numerous awards.
Powered by new-generation 1.0-, 1.4- and 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines which are available in either manual or automatic, the Opel Astra impressed the COTY Jury with its incredible road holding and build quality This year’s Jury selected the Astra as overall winner with 2,370.25 points, and most impressively, 94.8% of its points were awarded in the 5 to 10 scoring range. This clearly indicates that the Opel Astra is a brilliant all-rounder Continue reading
We all love premium German cars and I know this is said often, but it’s seriously time that someone warn the Germans about the Swedes.
With the XC90 SUV, Volvo blew the established players out of the water. The Volvo XC90 is officially the new benchmark for seven seat premium SUVs. Now Volvo throws this new S90 at an already struggling large sedan segment and I want it to do really well despite knowing that the premium D-segment loses customers to large SUVs every single day.
Then you realise Volvo has been doing large, premium saloons all its life and you sit up. Volvo knows how to build big cars, but Volvo never knew how to make them look really good. The S90 fixes that because this thing looks gangsta! In a darker hue sporting the optional 21 inch twisted five spoke alloy wheels draped in comically slim low profile rubber, this Volvo S90 looks menacing. When last did a Volvo look menacing? It insists on your undevided attention as it seemingly glides by. German it may not be, but another benchmark it certainly could be based on looks alone. In a word it’s breathtaking while somehow remaining understated. It’s classy and grand and completely sumptuous. You feel almost presidential while driving or being driven around in one, but not Zuma presidential. Pick another country’s president please. Respect what Volvo’s managed to achieve here.
The S90 is low, wide and long, but more importantly it has presence. I would consider this over an S-Class Mercedes or 7 Series BMW even, and that speaks of presence. It not as fast or dynamic as the competition, but with the S90, Volvo had no sportily dynamic aspirations. It handles very well, don’t get me wrong, but the focus here is obviously on comfort and luxury. Volvo looked to its customers, mostly Chinese and gave them what they wanted which is opulence and grandeur with a splash of occasion. Experiencing this behemoth certainly is an occasion despite the small, turbocharged petrol and diesel engines.
Not long ago Honda brought to market the seven seat Honda Mobilio people carrier, a ugly little multi purpose vehicle not unlike the Toyota Avanza. You see, Toyota sells the Avanza by the shipload because it is the default choice of fleet managers everywhere. It’s small and economical, yet it seats seven and most importantly it is a Toyota. It’s practical and functional above all else. It isn’t fast or attractive or comfortable or anthing really. It exists to serves its purpose and people buy it because they don’t know what else to buy. Essentially a grudge purchase. People buy it because they have to, not because they want to.
Honda tried taking a bite out of Toyota’s success in this market segment by offering us the Honda Mobilio because it does everything the Avanza does a little better, but they didn’t realise we don’t want another Avanza. We didn’t even want the Avanza to Start with. Obviously it didn’t sell very well and the nice people over at Honda were all very confused. They obviously realised that the Avanza’s success could not be explained in logical terms and decided to give consumers what they really wanted.
Let me introduce you to the “new” Honda BR-V, a small, seven seat SUV. The Mobilio essentially received a comprehensive makeover. It might just be a makeover, but it is very well executed. The BR-V receives a very attractive version of the new Honda Ballade’s chromed wing grill, black plastic cladding along the lower sections of the bodywork including the wheel arches, front and rear bumpers and door sills. The SUV touches don’t stop there because the “new” BR-V also features metallic detailing on the doors where regular SUVs have those side steps because SUVs are usually quite high. The Honda BR-V is however no taller than the Mobilio it replaces. I had to mention this because it really makes for a brilliant optical illusion. Together with the chrome door handles, fake skid plates front and rear and satin metallic finish on the roof rails, it seriously looks like an SUV.
Even the rear light treatment with a full length horizontal reflective strip connecting the LED light clusters sounds like a gimmick, but it’s really attractive despite the somewhat awkward dimensions. One simply does not expect to see these design cues on small cars. I think it rather refreshing. Continue reading
The Suzuki Swift Sport might be an attractive little B-segment car, if not one of the most attractive cars in this segment, but it certainly doesn’t turn heads. Unless of course if you treat yourself to an optional Suzuki Swift sticker pack from your nearest Suzuki dealer. Truly personalising your Suzuki Swift is now a reality and I’m not sure about the cost or functionality of the vinyl adhesive, but I can tell you it is worth every sent. This little hot hatch drew crowds wherever it went, and to anyone who says it isn’t quick enough to be called a hot hatch, you probably don’t know how to drive a quick Suzuki.
Yes, most hot hatches boast with impressive acceleration figures and high top speeds, but the Swift Sport is different. To exploit the 100kw this naturally aspirated 1600cc, four cylinder engine has on offer you simply need to rev this little Ninja past 5000rpm and keep it there. Suzuki, like Honda sells more motorbikes and boat engines than they do cars on any given day. Their engineering expertise lay in high revving, bulletproof little engines and Suzuki certainly don’t entertain forced induction. Yes turbo charging would liberate another 30 or 40 Kw of power, but it would take all the fun out of revving an engine till it screams of joy. You can watch the puzzled expressions on the faces of your passengers as they realise you haven’t changed gear and you have no intention of doing so. Then that engine comes alive as a bend approaches and you don’t slow down because you know that Suzuki knows how to tune a sporty suspension.
The Suzuki Swift Sport has what I can only refer to as as very dynamic handling characteristics. It’s light weight en willing powerplant only complement the stiff yet surprisingly comfortable suspension. The 16 inch wheels and standard looking profile of the tyres might not look very aggressive, but they grip any road surface with tenacity while at the same time allowing you to let the back come loose if and when you feel like releasing your inner rally driver.
To better understand the Suzuki Swift Sport you need to think Toyota GT86 or Mazda MX-5, but in front wheel drive. With just enough power, a low mass and properly sorted mechanicals, the steering wheel talks to you, the gearbox is a revelation and the pedals almost anticipate your toes. Yes you need to work to get to the 100kw of power and 160Nm of torque and yes it takes nine seconds to get from 0 to 100km/h, but it’s so much fun getting there! You change gears with your wrist, that’s how close the gear ratios are and you need to constantly watch the rev counter because it revs so freely and so quickly that it’s easy to make a mistake, but it’s all part of the fun because you need to really drive the Swift Sport with enthusiasm and reckless abandon to squeeze the fun out of every corner. The brakes are nothing short of amazing because power is nothing without control and the handling is exhilarating. It’s the type of car that makes you look forward to the next bend with child like excitement and clammy hands. It makes you want to push it a little bit harder every single time the road twists. Continue reading
Let me be honest. I am no fan of utility vehicles posing as lifestyle transport solutions. South Africa is however a very popular international travel destination and one can certainly understand the need for these vehicles as affordable yet upmarket shuttles catering to the hospitality industry, specifically guest houses and small hotels.
In seven seat Maxi configuration the VW Caddy makes perfect sense, but there are drawbacks. Yes it seats seven tourists and literally all their luggage very comfortably. Remove the second and third row of seats in the off-season and you have a utility vehicle capable of lugging about a noteworthy and very impressive 3700 litres of whatever. So it’s practical as well as versatile, but versatility comes at a price I’m afraid. You see the VW Caddy Maxi is exceptionally practical. Besides its 800kg payload it is also capable of towing 1500kg which is again very impressive, but, it can only do this because of its workhorse upbringing. Underneath that modern VW exterior, lurks a relatively unsophisticated utility vehicle which has very little in common with the multiple award winning Golf 7 it is designed to look like. Continue reading
Adrian from Kuils River has such a great interest in Air suspension that he started his own business. His 318i E46 Touring is a 2003 model and most people don’t like station wagons, but you have to admit that this particular station wagon is very sexy. Adrian’s had the car for two years and as you can see it has undergone some dramatic alterations.
It started with the 18-inch WCI narrow and wide wheels. 215/35/18 front and back but wider 9.5j wheels for the rear. The drop kit is a custom air ride kit Adrian built himself. The air suspension makes the ride more comfortable than any standard BMW suspension and BMW themselves offer air suspension on some of their more expensive models like the 7 Series and X5 as an optional extra. Continue reading