A few months back I attended a Peugeot event that wasn't as much a new model launch as it was brand relaunch here in SA. The French automaker kicked off with a bang, cementing their confidence in the South African market and giving us two new models in two different categories. I shared my initial thoughts on the models in November, but I recently got to spend a week with the baby of the range - the diminutive Peugeot 108 - and I must admit that it's a rather cool little runaround. When I say little, I mean it. This thing is just 3475mm long, 1460mm high and 1615mm wide (1884mm if you count the wing mirrors) and that means it tips the scales at a whopping 840kg.
Straight off the bat you'd expect such a small and light budget car to feel flimsy and cheap, but the French chaps who put this thing together have made the little 108 feel quite the opposite. It feels pretty solid all round, and yeah there's some hard plastics in play, and bare metal sections on the doors (in exterior paint colour) that are par for the course on budget cars these days, but it doesn't detract from the quality feel. As far as A-segment cars go, this one is bolted together better than many. I'm also not alone in this thinking, a few passengers noticed too. Yes, I do get feedback from friends when I have press cars, they don't ride for free. On that note, while this 108 is small on the outside, the cabin space is quite deceiving, I managed to fit in three extra bodies and space wasn't an issue, although my passengers were all my size, and I'm not the tallest chap. I probably wouldn't want to be four up on a long trip though coz adding in like 300kg+ to a small car with a 998cc 3-cylinder that produces just 93Nm does mean steep uphills will see you swapping cogs like you're fighting with a one-arm bandit. Of course this car is meant for city drives and most of the time I was either one or two up and then things are pleasant.
The French are great at making things look cool, and the interior of the Peugeot 108 is no different, probably having one of the most eye-pleasing setups in an A-segment car. The dash has a good layout, the steering is of the multifunction variety and the gauge cluster is one big circle with a small digital information screen. It's not all roses though, I have an issue with the design because if you're wearing a light coloured shirt, when the sun is directly overhead it reflects off you and you battle to see anything in the cluster. The infotainment section is also cool, featuring Android Auto and Apple Carplay to keep you connected, safely. The system is super easy to use, you'll be used to things in a few minutes. Although there is one other little issue here too; the surround of the infotainment screen is gloss black, and at the same time of the day that you battle to see the speedo, the sun reflects off the shiny black surround and gets you right in the (left) eye. I suspect that it may not happen to everyone and could be linked to my 1.75m height. The rest of the interior is cool, and the Tombstone-style seats are cooler than you'd expect in this segment.
As I said on the launch drive, the Peugeot 108 makes use of a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder with 53kW of power and 93 Nm of torque and it's mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. I mentioned that were two up in the little car with the aircon off, and slowing down at a yield sign while keeping it in 2nd to pull off again, it almost stalled. It turns out that wasn't because it's lacking power, it comes down to your driving style. By taking note of the revs and the feel of the clutch, you can keep the revs in the right place and the car then feels like any other car. The aircon does sap some power from the car, but that was only noticeable during the day in the hot sun, and night in cooler weather it was a non-issue. In fact, the cool night air makes you wanna ring the little Pug's neck because it's that much more responsive. The fuel consumption claims are 5.2-litres/100km and on launch it was close, so I said that the 108 would produce that figure if you feather it. After learning how the car wants to be driven, I was seeing figures in the low to mid 4s on long roads, and when the week was up the on board figures showed an average of 4.9-litres/100km. That's actually pretty damn cool, because I wasn't feathering it.
As far as A-segment cars go, the Peugeot 108 is a great little option. It'll work as a first car, a downscale car or just a runaround with lower overheads to keep mileage off your bigger car. Build quality is good, spec and safety is good (check launch post for details) and pricing is very pocket-friendly. You can get yourself a Peugeot 108 for R184 900 incl. VAT. In fact right now Peugeot SA has a special on the 108 (if you're ok with a residual), and so you can have one for as little as R1999.00. How mad is that? This also gets you the included 5-year / 100 000km warranty and service plan. Catch more info over on the Peugeot SA website.
While it's small, it's not as small as in this pic from the press pack 😂
As it turns out, the answer is yes. The Datsun GO has been a controversial little thing since its local launch a few years back. Most motoring press crucified the car, and at the time it was justified if you were concerned about safety. The thing is, even though the car wasn't great during a crash test, the buying public didn't seem to care; the low price tag, insurance and fuel consumption were good enough that any other issues were happily overlooked. No matter what the press or seasoned journos said about the car, the sales figures were steadily climbing. Since inception the Datsun GO has undergone a few changes, the most important was to address the safety issue, and then more recently it received a pretty decent refresher in the looks (and every other) department too.
The latest incarnation of the Datsun GO is the CVT model, and if you're not quite sure what that means, here's a short description pulled from Wikipedia: "CVT - A continuously variable transmission, also known as a shiftless transmission, stepless transmission, pulley transmission, or, in case of motorcycles, a 'twist-and-go', is an automatic transmission that can change seamlessly through a continuous range of effective gear ratios." Now it must be mentioned that out of all the transmissions, the CVT probably has the most haters of all. Fans of fast stuff think it sounds like the clutch is slipping, especially when you want to get anywhere in a hurry. Luckily with the Datsun GO CVT, the car has a low weight and a decently punchy engine and so the feel of the CVT isn't bad. On the launch some had mentioned that the revs felt all over the place and that the drive wasn't as smooth as it should be. I did feel similar, but not really enough to annoy me, and what I found out during a week with the car was that this was corrected rather easily. What I have managed to find out from living with the car is that if you fine-tune your driving style, particularly with the accelerator pedal, then you can eliminate that feeling and actually enjoy your journey a lot more.
With a CVT, when you mash your right foot flat, the revs climb to the highest possible position on the tachometer and the speed slowly climbs up match the revs, and when you're up to the speed you want you back off the accelerator and the revs will drop from a scream back to somewhere in the middle of the rev range. With the Datsun GO CVT it's much the same, buuuuuuuut if you adjust your driving style a little you can have a much more rewarding drive. Instead of mashing your right foot and waiting for the speed to catch the revs, you can sort of feather the throttle and the revs will rise to a decent RPM without it feeling like the engine wants to bite you and then back to a normal range and the car will pull off much faster and smoother. It sort of flattens the curve (not in a spreading virus kind of way) and makes it 100% possible to make a Renault Kwid look like it hit reverse in a TLGP. There's at least one Kwid owner out there who's not gonna race a Datsun GO anytime soon. It took a couple of days to perfect this, but soon it became muscle memory and a no-brainer.
Once I had the driving style down, I found the little Datsun GO CVT to be a great runaround. It's actually a decent-looking car, especially in Vivid Blue as seen here, but to make me properly happy with it (if it were mine), I'd arrange a bit of an introduction to terra firma with some suspension tweaks and I'd add in some aftermarket JDM-style 15-inch wheels. I spent almost two tanks of petrol driving the GO CVT, I drove lots of back roads, short cuts, short drives and even took the car on a bunch of longer runs. The furthest trek was to the Emerald Speed Fest, a decent 100km away. It was highway most of the way, and also rather wet and miff out, but I still had me a pleasant drive. I hooked up my Country by Krutch playlist on YouTube Music and had Dierks Bentley telling me about Becky from South Alabama through the infotainment system via Android Auto, I set my right ankle into cruise position (I have built-in cruise control thanks to a fused ankle joint) and enjoyed the drive at a constant 120-ish. The best part is that the Datsun GO CVT was showing me fuel consumption figures of just 5.2-litres/100km, in fact, it was never above 5.9 at any time. The rumbling 1200cc 3-cylinder creates 57kW and 104Nm of torque, which it clearly uses pretty damn well.
The Datsun GO CVT is a good option if you're needing an automatic car in this segment. It's no longer the GO of old; it looks better, is better equipped and has ABS and dual airbags. It's gonna set you back just R187 900 and that gets you a 6-year / 150 000km warranty too. The competition in this segment is getting rather interesting, the A and B segments are starting to include some really good little cars that make either a great entry into a the world of driving or brilliant downsizing options for those who are changing lifestyles. Shopping around will do you good.
If you visit here often, you'll have seen the post preceding this one that if I quickly sum it up, pretty much says that I MUST have a Suzuki Swift Sport because it's the coolest thing since, well, anything. It's a hot hatch for the masses, half the size and half the price of anything else yet it still delivers enough performance to upset Metro and keep you in a good mood on every drive. I also mentioned that it's probably the only new car on the market that I'd fork over my hard-earned cash for. I lied. It's not my fault though, Suzuki let me review these cars back to back, and while the SSS sets a high bar for me personally, I didn't think the new BooterJet-equipped Vitara would give me the same dirty thoughts. It did. I think the want for one of these matches the want for the Swift Sport. As with the Swift Sport, I covered most of the techy bits and facts and figures in the launch post that you can click through to right about here. So while those initial drive impressions still ring true, things have changed up a bit in my mind about which I'd have. Here's why...
Suzuki has managed to make what would normally have been a mundane people-carrier into something that's an absolute riot to drive. When this shape launched back in 2015, I was already a fan, it was a fresh take on a medium-sized SUV with a decent spec list and a price tag that couldn't be beat. It was great to drive because Suzuki managed to give the Vitara a ride that feels like small hatchback thanks to it's low weight, direct steering and firm-ish ride. Since then the Vitara has had a refresher in the looks department, and it's still available with the normally aspirated 1.6-litre 4-pot that drives the front wheels, or all four if you shell out for the AllGrip model. This 1600cc setup is listed at 86kW and 156Nm and employs either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed auto - model dependant. Performance is better than you'd imagine, especially at altitude for a normally aspirated setup - magic was worked in the ECU tune and the gear ratios. In the latest incarnation, improvements can be seen in the aesthetics, the interior trim and features list, just like the Swift Sport. But what makes the levels of want for this thing rise is the new engine setup, because this new Vitara has the Swift Sport's 1.4 Turbo BoosterJet lump, and it's also mated to a 6-speed manual transmission albeit with slightly altered ratios (there's an auto option for millennials, but it does have cool flappy paddles for manual shifting). This means the Vitara is now just as fun as the Swift Sport, well almost, but it's damn close. 103kW and 230Nm will do that for you, especially at this kerb weight.
Firstly these things looks really good, the dimensions, lines and colours make me happy, as does having the option of a two-tone look. The review car was in Prime Solar Yellow with the black roof, but it can also be had with a white roof. The white looks ok, but I reckon the black looks a bit more aggressive and I like that it also gives that floating roof impression. I also prefer the black because it matches the exterior trim better. There's eight colours to choose from, and if I had to choose, I'd take the Bright Red with black roof. That would be for when I bore of the wrap I'd like to give it, I'll explain later. The wheels are 17-inch in size and they really do suit the Vitara, but as with the Swift Sport, I'd relegate these hoops to the garage, or avail them to a Swift Sport driver who wants to ditch the OEM 16s assuming the PCD and offset work of course - again, more on this later. The new headlights and foglight surrounds add to the list of changes, and they look good, but I'd make them a wee bit better (for my taste). In my test week I had a few people asking if it's a baby Land Rover, and one liked the colour of my new Tiguan. Comments like that are great, it shows there's still a need for motoring journos in the wild, and that Suzuki is punching above it weight.
The cabin has seen the same upgrades as the Swift Sport, the infotainment system is headed up by the same intuitive touch screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included for around R9000 less than what you'd pay in a new Audi A1. Or for free if you wanna get technical. The seats have a new look to them, they're a little sturdier, the materials are brilliant and they're properly comfortable on a long journey. Having tilt and rake on the steering and being able to raise and lower the driver's seat means the perfect driving position is easily sorted out. Even little chaps like me can be comfortable in just a few seconds. I'm not sure if it's old age getting to my ears, but I'm almost positive the sound plays louder in here than the SSS. The instrument cluster is pretty close to the SSS too, and the animations seen in the centre screen are almost identical, there's just the boost level screen missing.
Driving this new Suzuki Vitara is just too much fun. Even though the engine and drivetrain is in a bigger people-carrier, the Suzuki techs have once again employed new lightweight materials and so the thing tips the scales at just 1095kg. Oddly, the gear ratios feel a little more urgent to me than in the SSS, but it's probably just the butt dyno doing it's thing. The handling is great, more hatchback-like than SUV-like, there's not even a lot of body roll considering the ride height. Braking feels the same - sharp. If you climb out of a pre-2005 car and get straight into this, you WILL headbutt the steering when you first attempt to stop. During the drive, the Vitara feels so light and nimble that if you put someone in the car and they just looked at the dash and felt the drive, they'd be hard-pressed to tell you if they're in a Vitara or a Swift Sport. It's things like this that really gets one thinking though...
I'd rock one as a daily, heck, it would be my daily for the Monday to Friday errand stuff but on weekends it could even be my track toy, after a few tweaks of course. Purely because have an aftermarket background and it's expected of me to talk about modifying things, that's what I'll do. Earlier I mentioned I'd have a red one, and that would be the base colour because it's my favourite of the options. I'd give the Vitara a vinyl wrap to metallic blue though, and yeah, I know you can buy a Vitara with blue paint, but Atlantis Turquoise is just not as intense as the Speedy Blue Metallic that's available for the Swift Sport. Again, the red base would be for when I'm bored of the blue wrap and want the permanent colour to show, which would probably take at least 18 months from the day of wrapping. So now my boosted Vitara would be the same blue as the Swift Sport. Then, as with the SSS, the black parts on the exterior would be made gloss black, along with the foglight surrounds and the grille, but I'd leave the Suzuki badge in silver.
The next thing would be a bit of a fiddle with the suspension to firm things up a little and bring the chassis closer to terra firma, likely with BC coilovers. Again, as mentioned before, the wheels would be replaced, and I'd go for a classic JDM-style wheel, probably along the lines of a Volk TE37 or similar. These would be finished in gloss black, or maybe even white. The next change I'd make would be ambitious to say the least, it would either cost an arm and a leg or require a new SSS that met it's demise in a side or rear impact. I'd love to retrofit a Swift Sport steering wheel, a Swift Sport shift knob and then lastly the Swift Sport front seats. Yeah yeah, I know, BIG work costing plenty, but when your wants turn to needs, plans will get made. The last things to change would be under the hood, the usual tweaks to further improve responsiveness, power and most importantly, the soundtrack with a custom exhaust from the likes of TMSS. The result would be a Suzuki Vitara Sport of my own creation. You do get an S trim overseas that's fitted with an all-wheel drive system too, but SA ain't on the cards for that one so n Engelsman maak n plan yo!
So yeah, yet another Suzuki that makes me happy and that I can live with daily. It doesn't need the changes I'd do of course, it's a brilliant buy that will keep the masses very, very happy. It's pretty much on par with the Swift Sport for me, and I'd probably fork out for one of these purely based on space, my camera equipment fills the Swift boot but will barely touch sides in the Vitara, and I can hang out the boot hatch to get rolling shots when shooting. Ideally though, I'd have a Vitara (Sport) for the daily grind, a Swift Sport for weekend track stuff and a Jimny for kicking it on overland holidays.
You get a few options to choose from if you're keen on a Suzuki Vitara, and all of them are worth your consideration if you're looking to buy in this segment. The range kicks off with the 1.6GL 5MT 2WD at R293 900, then the 1.6GL+ 5MT 2WD at R332 900, the 1.6GL+ 6AT 2WD at R352 900, the 1.6GLX 6AT at R381 900 and then 1.6GLX 5MT AllGrip at R390 900 to finish off the normally aspirated 1600cc options. The 1.4 Turbo GLX 6MT can be had for R386 900 and the flappy paddle 1.4 Turbo GLX 6AT lists at R405 900. They all have a 5-year/100 000km warranty and a 4-year/60 000km service plan. Of course most of that will fall away if you get one and have the same ambitions that I do. Click on through to the Suzuki SA site to directly compare the various trim options.
I do hope there's a few people out there who think like I do, because a modified Vitara is an awesome thought. If anyone ever sees one, you have to let me know!
I'm willing to bet thousands that you saw a Suzuki-related article that's linked to Chris Wall Media and you expected some ridiculously over the top biased opinions and views. While I do like to keep things impartial, who am I to disappoint? I mean come on, it's not only one of my favourite brands here, it's also the flagship model Suzuki Swift Sport, and that means I've had a smile cramp for a week and I've been trying to figure out how to write about the car properly. The thing is there's just no way to do it without adding in the bias that Suzuki brings out in me.
All the tech specs and ins and outs of the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport were covered after I attended the local launch at RedStar Raceway - you can have a refresher if you click through to the post. The SSS was something I was both looking forward to and dreading at the same time thanks to that BoosterJet engine setup. The previous generation Swift Sport was a little firecracker of a car, it truly was the last of the hot hatches if you ever subscribed to the original point of a hot hatch being lightweight and affordable and fun. It featured a sweet short ratio 6-speed transmission and a revvy normally aspirated 4-cylinder lump making 100kW and 160Nm. While in this day and age of chasing numbers, those are rather small, but when you add this to a superb chassis and a kerb weight of just 1075kg, the result is fun, a heck of a lot of fun. Few normally aspirated cars are as cool to chuck around, even at altitude. It's probably why there's now four Swift Sports competing in the King Price Extreme Track Attack series.
Then Suzuki announced that the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport would arrive with a turbo attached and I lost all faith, I wanted another N/A screamer. The men in white coats managed to drop 200cc of engine capacity and made up for it by adding in a turbocharger, and this has seen the power figure rise by just 3kW. Yes, THREE, which puts the total at a monstrous 103kW. The major upside to strapping a turbo on is that Newtons increase more than kilowatts, and so this BoosterJet setup takes that figure up to 230Nm from the old 160Nm. Earning their bonuses, the tech chaps somehow managed to keep the chassis as impeccable and responsive as ever, managed to increase the interior dimensions and still also managed LOWER THE WEIGHT. This all-new Suzuki Swift Sport tips the scales at just 970kg, and when you work things out, what you have is a power to weight ratio of 106.18kW/ton, or 142.3hp/ton, and that's not bad at all. That's more than the legendary Mercedes 190 E 2.3 16v (142.2hp/ton), the VW Corrado G60 (141.7hp/ton), my old favourite and previously loved car, the Ford Focus ST170 (141.5hp/ton) and even the old Opel Astra Coupe Turbo only came in at 141.2hp/ton. So yeah, by today's hot hatch standards, the numbers are low but when you check a VW Golf ClubSport is at 189hp/ton, things aren't too shabby at all.
Adding to the new turbocharged setup, the Suzuki engineers made sure other areas saw improvements, the interior looks great with a pretty cool dash layout and design. There's now a decent infotainment system in play that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - and unlike some of ze Germans who charge an arm and a leg for this stuff, it's free. The flat-bottom sports wheel is great, the controls are laid out great, it's all a very nice place to be. The bucket seats are comfortable, they keep you in place when you decide to throw a SSS around like a red-headed step child, and that's about fifty-twelve times on every drive. I love that they're 'tombstone' style with no movable head rest. If you're of the poofy variety, where you're a few meals ahead and a few toilet visits behind, the seats may be a constant reminder that you need to start gym (or cycling if you're a motoring scribe), but that's the nature of the bucket seat beast. Yeah, the fat hot hatches are fatter because they cram in more tech and gimmicks, but with the spec list in the new Suzuki Swift Sport, I'm left wanting nothing.
As said above, online and pretty much everywhere, this car ticks all my boxes, and if having it for a test week proved nothing else, I have confirmation that this is indeed one of the very few cars on the market that I'd consider buying new. I drove it as often as possible, and for the stupidest reasons too. The other day I was sent to the shop to get some bits and bobs for dinner, we needed some cheese to complete the recipe. Easy enough. After a ten minute drive to the shops that are 1km away, I found that they had the required dairy products in 300g and 500g packs. Now a normal person would call or WhatsApp his wife to confirm what's needed. I'm not quite normal, and so it was another 10 minute drive home to ask which one we needed... When Eskom pulled the usual loadshedding crap I spent three hours in the car, in my driveway, charging my phone and watching Hunter on Amazon Prime.
The drive is what makes me happy, properly happy. The delivery of power is just brilliant. It's not Polo GTi linear, it's all old school Uno-Turbo-with-a-bent-wastegate surging awesomeness. The gear ratios, the short throw when swapping cogs, the direct and tight steering and the responsive throttle all make for the most ridiculous fun possible. Sure, it's 'only' 103kW, but it sure as shit doesn't feel like it if your but dyno is to be believed. I'm a car guy, I know plenty other car guys, and I visited a few and took them for a drive. Not ONE managed to guess the correct power figure. The closest guess was 130kW, and that was from someone who drives a Cooper S. That's one of the really cool things about the Suzuki Swift Sport, the way everything is set up it feels like you're driving something much higher up on the monthly instalment ladder. For me, how the drive feels is rather important and I can only fault the car's drive in one way. I'm just not a fan of the rev limiter because it's a soft one that kicks in at 6k on the tacho, but you have 2k of revs left to fill. I'd much prefer it revs past the power band and bounces off a limiter with a bit of drama and flair and pops and bangs (no, not the aftermarket Fiesta ST type, the real ones that happen normally). Most people wouldn't even think of that being an issue, but some of us are weird like that. I'm betting that with this car being what it is and where it's from, there will soon be easily loaded aftermarket software that will change that. You may have noticed that fuel consumption has been left out of this so far, and that's because when you feel this good driving a car, it doesn't matter how much it drinks. That said, I'm pretty sure that even when hoofing it things stayed well under 10-litres/100km anyway.
So living with the Suzuki Swift Sport daily is something that can be easily, and happily done. When I saw the initial press pics of the new body shape for the Swift, I didn't like it at all, the dimensions looked off to me but after seeing and driving the new Swift 1.2 when it released locally my mind started to change. When the Sport hit, the car was given enough cool features to be able to properly identify it as the flagship model, and it looked so damn good that the only issue it presented was what colour to choose (I now choose Burning Red Metallic). Sure, the OEM 16-inch wheels could be at least 17-inches, but I'm yet to meet an enthusiast that would keep the stock wheels on any car they bought, and I'm no different. The 16s would chill in a garage until the car needs selling, or they'd be sold off to pay for another thing I'd change. While I've given you the impression that the Suzuki Swift Sport is perfect, it's not. Well, I like to think that the Suzuki engineers left certain things the way they are to give enthusiasts like me something to tinker with and personalise.
On the aesthetics side, I've already mentioned the wheels, but I'd also pay attention to the black insert on the rear bumper, the side skirts, the front lip and the fog light surrounds. In OEM form they have a sort of carbon fibre-look and texture to them, so I'd dig to either have proper carbon fibre skins made for them, or I'd have them painted piano black. I'd do the same to the interior trim, where you see red trim in the pics above, that would all be made piano black too. While the audio system is great, I'd replace the stock speakers with some more powerful aftermarket bits, because loud music rocks when you're driving fast. Ooooh, and a boost gauge, I'd add a proper boost gauge. I do love the telemetry you can see in the instrument cluster, the amount of boost, G-forces and the like, but I would like to see an actual readout of the boost pressure. Someone in Jozi needs to give one of these a down pipe and exhaust, not to increase power, I just so badly want to hear this little 1400cc lump without an OEM exhaust muting it. Of course, most of the things I would like to do to one of these little cars WILL void your warranty. But Suzuki is Suzuki, and I have faith in the reliability of these things, tweaked or not.
So that's my take on the new Suzuki Swift Sport. Even if you manage to dismiss my obvious bias for the thing, you can see it's not just fanboi rantings. The turbocharged hatchback performs well, handles great, has all the right curves in all the right places and has an interior that's got the right amount of tech and sportiness without being bloated with features you'll only show your friends in the first week of ownership and never again. It's my new favourite car, if I lined up all 6 numbers in the Lotto, this would be my first purchase. Not that it's expensive, I'm just not looking to buy a car right now. This this is a bargain for what it is and what you get. All this is yours for just R 317 900 (R337 900 for the 6-speed auto) and that includes a 5-year / 100 000km warranty and a 4-year / 60 000km service plan. The best part is that I think these cars are so good that they speak for themselves. You really must get behind the wheel and make up your own mind. For all the specs possible, click through to the Suzuki SA main site.
Dealership Dealings - New Zealand is boss!
In New Zealand there's a Suzuki dealership, West City Suzuki, that offers customers a Track Edition Suzuki Swift Sport with the help of Jtune Automotive. There's no software, just bolt-ons, and the results are awesome. After much discussion, the Track Edition Swift Sport ended up with an HKS Super Power Flow intake system, HKS DV and an HKS Hi-Power Spec-L exhaust system, all good for an 18.6kW power increase. That's without aftermarket software remember. Then, a set of B.C. Racing coilovers with adjustable shocks, meatier Endless MX72 brake pads, and lightweight 17-inch WedsSport TC105X wheels were fitted (with thicker Cusco sway bars as an optional extra). Not only does the change to the underpinnings help improve the handling and trackability, the the chosen wheels also weigh 500g less than the OEM hoops and so with the reduction in rolling resistance 15kg is effectively shaved off the SSS when it’s in motion. Can you imagine how that feels with the extra power on top? Yuuuuuuuuus!
So if someone in SA could do this, ya'll will be my heroes.
Shot for the 9th issue of ShowTime Magazine, Leon Carstens' Isuzu KB tops my list for most mental car shot in 2019. A few things have changed since the shoot, some piping, electronics and the setup is now complete. At the time of the shoot, the KB could start and rev, but wasn't ready to drive. It's undergone almost tuning and the bump in and staging things have also been dialled in, you may have seen some vids of the setup and practice at Midvaal Raceway. Loving dubbed The Turd, this shit is the real deal, and I cannot wait to snap pics of it in action during this 2020 drag season.
In my 20 years of scribbling things about cars, there’s only been a handful of builds that have almost had me at a loss for words, and this faded-patina Isuzu KB has moved to the top of the list. What you’re essentially looking at is an old bakkie that’s got some paint “issues”, fat tyres and things sticking out of the bonnet. Obviously it’s a helluva lot more than that though, in fact this here retro-looking bakkie has the most in-depth engine build out of all the V8s I’ve ever seen for myself, and I’ve seen way too many to be able to even chuck a number at you. Leon has set a new benchmark for spec lists; this Chevy lump has been showered with the best of the best parts from many of the world’s best drag racing outfits. If you know what the prices of top quality race parts is like, and then of course doubling up because it’s a V8 and you need two of everything, you can trust me when I say I’ve never seen more put into a motor – I’m talking not only money, but research and effort too.
I know for a fact you looked at the pics before reading this, so by now you know that this Isuzu is destined for the drag strip thanks to those fat 29.5” MTs, the parachute mounted on the load bin and TWO FAT TURBOS STARING YOU IN THE FACE! Seriously, that shit is properly impressive, and that’s before you notice that the massive centre boost pipe also has a pair of nitrous foggers tapped in, because as the saying goes… Go big or go home. Leon ain’t heading home. So that V8 centerpiece is of the 6-litre variety with a GM Performance O-ringed truck block as the anchor for all the race-spec parts. There’s literally too much to mention here, so I’ll only mention the bigger stuff. Filling the block is a billet DragonSlayer crank from Callies, and this is connected to a set of aluminium rods from R&R and in turn, they’re connected to custom Wiseco pistons. The Clevite bearings in play hail from Mahle and we have the best fastening bits from ARP piece everything together. With solid mounts from Joe’s Racing, the massive V8 is staying in place as intended. The setup will handle just about any punishment Leon can throw at it, and Leon isn’t gonna hold back.
While the bottom end is impressive, it’s the parts bolted on that make this setup a work of art. Up top there’s a pair of worked turbo-spec aluminium cylinder heads with race-spec seats by Camshaft Dynamics, and these heads are home to Inconel-coated stainless valves with double valve springs, custom chromoly pushrods and titanium retainers (all from BTR), while there’s also Moran Racing lifters and Harland Sharp roller tip rockers mixed in. Why these parts? Well because a similar kind of setup with a camshaft from Brian Tooley Racing currently holds the world record in these platforms. For the intake side, there’s a Holley Hi-Ram intake and a 105mm Holley throttle, which is juuuust big enough to accept all the boost and nitrous that Leon plans on pumping in to make power. The fuelling is big league stuff, starting with the flow that comes from dual Magnafuel 750 pumps on the load bin, a 4-port fuel pressure regulator and a set of 2400cc Siemens Deka injectors on Holley fuel rails. Controlling everything in this setup is a complete Haltech Elite 2500T management system, but I mean COM-PLETE! Leon has every single add on and accessory that Haltech makes for this setup because he didn’t want to get to a stage where he’d need to get the extras to improve things. This way no matter what changes he makes to the setup, the management will be able to handle it perfectly. When you have a gap, read up on what this management system is capable of, especially when it has all the extra controllers and sensors added on. There’s a reason it’s regarded as the best system on the market by many drag racers that know way more than I do. As you’d expect, this thing’s gonna have a serious thirst for ethanol, but Leon is super lucky to be sponsored by 24-7 Race Fuels – SCORE!
The main talking point of this Isuzu is the fact that there’s a pair of turbos staring you in the face, very large turbos. These boost makers are custom SRS Turbos; Stage 3-spec Borg Warner S300 tractor turbos with modified billet wheels, complete with the John Deere logo in the casting. These turbos are mounted to the motor with locally produced ceramic gold-coated J7 Fabrication turbo manifolds, and when you take a close look at that weld porn, you can see SA talent can easily equal what we see Stateside. Keeping boost pressures in check mechanically, we find a pair of Turbosmart 60mm Racegate wastegates (with boost sensors) and 50mm race-spec blow-off valves. For cooling, charged air runs through a billet cooler from Shearer Performance, aided by a Craig Davis 120 l/min water/ice pump cooler while the liquid is stored in a 20-litre J7 fuel cooler cell and ice tank. So far it looks like there will be no issues then the Turd is driven in anger, so far low RPM testing sees temps stay nice and low. Not for cooling, even though it does help, is a dual stage ZEX nitrous system that will throw in 500 horses at a time to make sure competitors get to see that awesome parachute when Turd crosses the line. As you’d imagine, this motor is going to be kicking out some 4-figure power readings, which means the drivetrain needed as much attention as the engine bay.
The OEM Isuzu bakkie suspension is no longer, as expected. There’s a custom setup on the leaf suspension with CalTrac leaf sliders and traction bars added in to the mix. Up front there’s double-adjustable drag shocks, which are also found in the rear setup. Added in to help with data logging is a Racepak shock travel system in the front/rear that can relay vital information to use in getting that holeshot dialed in perfectly. The Turd rolls on 15-inch lightweight Compomotive wheels featuring 29.5-inch Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks, and even on this rubber it’s perfectly capable of kicking to the shops on a bread run if needed, which is something I would totally expect Leon to do, he’s that kind of awesome. To stop the Turd there’s BMW discs and calipers up front replacing the OEM clamps, while the slicks hide Toyota Quantum brakes, chosen because if they can stop a taxi with 200 people on board, then they’ll reign in a dragster with no problem. It does of course help that there’s a Meziere electrical vacuum pump fitted for some serious brake assist. To screw with physics a little more, there’s a Simpson parachute on a custom billet mount that’s activated via a lever on the ceiling of the cabin. This is the least you need to stop something as fast as the Turd is aiming to be.
You see what I mean yet? There’s nothing but awesomeness packed into this retro-looking Isuzu bakkie. If you take a closer look at the bodywork, you’ll notice that there’s been some brilliant work done on the sides of the load bin to make sure it still sits wider than those fat MT slicks. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Turd, well that and that old patina that’s going to stay as is thanks to a special clear coat mix. Climbing into the pilot’s seat is awesome, almost claustrophobic because it’s so busy, but in a good way. Safety is a non-compromise, so your butt slides into a Sparco Evo race seat with an ATS 4-point harness, both MSA-approved bits. There’s a comprehensive roll cage in play too for the same reason and it’s been left unpainted to go with the Turd’s theme. It’s hard to pinpoint the best feature inside the cabin, for me it’s a close one between the MandM shift lever, all the Haltech controller boxes with the crisscrossing wires or that brilliant Joe’s Racing clip-off aluminium steering wheel. To monitor everything the Turd is doing, there’s that Haltech Racepak Logger Screen with Racepak module replacing the OEM instrument cluster. Sure, the cabin could be neatened here and there but I seriously hope Leon never decides to do that; this look works so well with the overall theme of the old-school Isuzu. It’s not built to be pretty, it’s built to be fast.
As said, the Turd wasn’t quite battle ready on the day of the shoot, the chromoly propshaft was still being manufactured at the time, but it’s in now. Mechanically everything is sorted. I’m sure you’ve figured out that this isn’t just some weekend toy, it’s a 100% kick-ass dragster built with 400m records in mind. Even Leon isn’t sure what the end power figure will be, but the short-term goal is to put the Turd into the mid to low 8-second bracket, and long term to crack 7s. This build doesn’t only have the right recipe; it’s been put together by the right people and has an absolute fanatic at the wheel. There’s no reason we can think of that the Turd won’t achieve all it’s set out to do. Of course you can count on ShowTime keeping a keen eye on the team when they hit the track for some shakedown runs and their first event. Can. Not. Wait.
Lemme know your thoughts.
A full gallery will be uploaded to the CWM Facebook page soon, keep an eye out. You can also catch it in Issue 9 of ShowTime Magazine.
Spec List *At time of shoot
GM Performance truck block, O-ringed
6.0 classified bore & stroke combo
DragonSlayer billet crank by Callies
Race-spec big end and main bearings by Clevite
Billet LS electric water pump by Meziere
High volume, high-pressure race-spec oil pump by Melling
Aluminium billet rods by R&R with ARP 625 upgrade
ARP L19 head bolts, ½” upgrade with ARP L19 mains bolts
Dual Turbosmart 60mm Racegate wastegates with boost sensors
Dual Turbosmart 50mm race-spec blow-off valves
Custom Wiseco pistons with upgraded tool steel gudgeon pin
SRS Turbos Stage 3 turbos (Borg Warner S300 Tractor turbos with modified billet wheels)
Worked turbo-spec aluminium cylinder heads by Camshaft Dynamics
Uprated Inconel-coated stainless inlet valves with exhaust valves
Bran Tooley Racing Twin Turbo stage 3 camshaft
Brian Tooley Racing double valve springs
Brian Tooley Racing custom chromoly pushrods
Brian Tooley Racing titanium retainers
Moran Racing lifters with bigger bosses
Harland Sharp roller tip rockers
LS9 head gaskets
Siemens Deka 2400cc injectors
Dual J7 turbo manifolds with ceramic gold coating
Dual J7 100mm short exhaust
Holley Hi-Ram intake
Holley fuel rails
Holley 105mm throttle
Meziere Brake assist vacuum pump
Billet charge cooler by Shearer Performance
Craig Davis 120 l/min water/ice pump cooler
Dual stage nitrous via ZEX kit (two 500hp stages)
MSD wires + NGK race plugs
Dedenbear RPM module
Daytona / Racepak sensors
Dedenbear 5kg C02 tank with C02 control
Haltech terminated harness for LS
Haltech WBC 2 (x2)
Haltech 12 i/o
Haltech hub (x2)
Haltech Racepak Logger Screen with Racepak module
Haltech C02 boost control
Haltech drag traction control
FTF fittings with Teflon-braided pipes
Dual Magnafuel 750 pumps (2500 per pump)
Magnafuel 4-port fuel pressure regulator
Davis technology module
J7 fuel cooler cell and ice tank (20-litres)
Joe’s Racing solid mounts
MandMtransmission Air-shifted drag gearbox
MandM Transmission billet shifter and transbrake with Bump In / Crawl function - billet mount
JW Performance Billet flex plate with ARP L19 bolts
JW billet spacers for LS
JW Performance billet torque converter with pressure switch
JW Performance transfer case
Dedenbear 2kg C02 tank airshifter
Strange solid spool
Strange Pro casing
Fullrace chromoly bolt-in shafts
Fullrace chromoly propshaft
Rhodes Pro Drag anti-roll bar
Rhodes-fabricated drag chromoly diff housing
Derail gearbox oil cooler
Redline Diff Heavy Shock Oil
Redline Racing ATF
Jegs Ballistic gearbox blanket
CalTrac bars traction
CalTrac leaf sliders
Special leaf setup
Double-adjustable drag shocks all around
29.5 Mickey Thompson slicks
Compomotive lightweight wheels
Racepak shock travel systems in front/rear
Simpson parachute with billet parachute bracket
Competition Engineering add ons
Isuzu patina with custom clear coat
Widened rear bin
Joe’s Racing clip-off aluminium steering wheel
Sparco race seat
To God first. My wife and best friend Bianca, my Popsie Chiara, my Little Squish Caden – family is everything. Then everyone that helped with the build; PW Pretorius, my mad friend who’s more a car fanatic than me. Ian’s Welding and Automotive for the awesome engine build, Riaan Stander at SRS turbos, JP Annandale from J7 Fabrication (watch this oke’s work in the future), Arno Dictator for the Haltech system, Tyron and Kyle from Fullrace and Dirk at Camshaft Dynamics and Ultrawater. Also Ludi Schnelle, my Crew Chief, Willie Britz, Daantjies Towing (Michiel) for always transporting the Turd, Oom Daan, Corrie and the very important Sosten Botha for all the hours of welding and helping out, Petrolheads Services for all the support and Barend, Gerrie and Buks at ShowTime Magazine. Not forgetting Brian’s Motor Spares for the use of the yard for the shoot, much appreciated. You ain’t seen nothing yet…..be prepared
Maaaaan graffiti sucks so much. It's the one word I always manage to mess up, chucking in a pair of Ts and a single F or even double of both. I've just invented a way to remember now, it's a single T and double F, which I shall now retrain my brain to remember as Fucking Fabulous, just like the art spotted at the Graffitiville launch. Graffiti, proper artistic graffiti, makes my eyeballs happy. Even if there's some or other political or social comment that I may or may not agree with, it's all about the artwork to me, and marvelling at how what you see in front of you is actually physically possible. SA is full of amazing artists plying their skills to various walls and structures, both legally and illegally. To launch the Graffitiville brand and platform, the chosen venue was the Daville Baillie Gallery at Victoria Yards in Lorentzville, Johannesburg. This is one of those places that must be visited, it's packed with awesomeness and some amazing art concerns, and you'll likely return home with some artwork you didn't know you needed.
When launching something like this, it makes sense to have some industry players in attendance and guests were treated to the artworks of local top graffiti artists such as Drake, Falko, Jade Doreen Waller, Mook Lion, Mr. Bzar. Mr. Eksê, Nomad, Pen29, Plank, Wayne Bks and a chap I've met previously for a few pics, That Damn Vandal. As to what Graffitiville is, well it's owned and run by Tanya Boshoff and Sharlene Labuschagne, it's a passion project founded by the love of colour, art, beautiful things, creativity as well as the distinctiveness embodied in graffiti art. Graffitiville aims to create a platform where graffiti art is celebrated, and where new and existing artists get to showcase their work both locally and internationally. It also acts as a gateway to the artists’ own social media platforms giving them more exposure.
Included in the event festivities was a unique experience where models Caitlin Labuschagne, Tinesse Verwey, Sam Shaer, Laurette Marais, Mbali Msimang, Wynand van Volenstee and Reggie Peace were dressed in designer outfits made by Heidi Bothma, owner of Hollywood Costumes and Heidi Couture. Assisting Heidi was Leone Smit and Nikita de Beer. The clothes worn by the models were painted by the artists, live in front of our eyeballs. The artists literally sprayed the clothing on the models while on the “catwalk”, and seeing the little bursts of paint from the spray cans turn into legit works of art was brilliant to watch. We also had the chance to tag (that's the lingo, yo) sections of a rat-rodded Beetle that artist That Damn Vandal was commissioned to add his unique flavour to.
Tanya and Sharlene have taken great care in choosing quality products to match the high quality of the art seen through Graffitiville eyes, each item is created with both love and precision to ensure the client is fully satisfied with the final art piece. The duo have also appointed some members of their local community; Maude Marekeba and her son Gerald to manufacture some of the products for them. Local FTMFW! Graffitiville also intends to make graffiti present in our everyday lives by taking it off the walls and making it a part of personal spaces and style - giving graffiti art fanatics the opportunity to own a unique (1 of 1) art piece from one of the top graffiti artists in SA. They'll have an online store (website and Instagram) where these unique, original pieces can be purchased. They currently have scatter cushions and sling bags to offer, and other products are in production (see gallery below). There are also already plans to expand the brand’s offering to other items in the future with designers already onboard to assist the process. This is just the beginning of a 5-year plan, so keep Graffitiville on your radar and follow them on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. If you need more direct access, the ladies can be contacted on 082 856-6507 (Tanya) or 081 810-9432 (Sharlene).
Graffitiville - Daville Baillie Gallery - Victoria Yards
If you're in the industry, there' no way you don't know about the Datsun GO, in fact it's been a rather controversial little car since it was introduced to the market when Datsun made a comeback. It ticked all the boxes in terms of a budget car with some good looks, a frugal motor and a decent price tag. The controversy came in with the car's safety, it wasn't great, there weren't any on board safety systems and the crumple zones were a little too crumply. But do you know what? The buying public didn't care, in fact they didn't care so much that Datsun grabbed a huge hunk of the A-segment budget car market, and that trend hasn't slowed down. The buyers in this segment would rather have a brand new car with a few compromises than have a decently specced 2nd hand anything. ABS eventually made it into the car, as did dual front airbags - and the sales continued. Jump to November 2019 and the latest incarnation of the Datsun GO has arrived, and it's been made prettier, given some great paint options and has some tech upgrades on the infotainment front, EBD and BA is included as well as reverse parking sensors and follow-me-home headlamps and also VDC (vehicle dynamic control) safety technology that monitors various parameters - like wheel speed, steering wheel position and lateral acceleration - yet on the finance side things happen to remain just as affordable as the previous models. As a motoring journalist I'm meant to ignore all of that because the safety cell hasn't changed and its technically still not as safe of a daily drive as it should be. The thing is, it's not a bad overall package and I can't help but like it a little more than I should. The biggest change is the option to take the Datsun GO in automatic with a CVT transmission. Yup, an "automatic" budget car, sales will be massive.
An automatic in this segment at this GO's price point is definitely going to attract new buyers, there's just no two ways about it - millennials are averse to swapping cogs . So for this CVT version the power from the rumbling 1200cc 3-cylinder, power rises from 50kW available on the manual to 57kW and torque comes in at 104Nm. It's no robot racer, but it'll get you where you're going with no fuss. I have an aversion to CVT transmissions, they always make the drive feel like the clutch is slipping if it were a manual, but after the initial pull off and you get up to speed, that settles down and the GO drives, well, pretty good. Steering feedback is good, the brakes are almost overkill, but that said I'm used to the system in a 2002 Corsa Classic which when at its optimum still feels spongey. The suspension is a little softer than I'd like, there's a little too much leaning when navigating a traffic circle, even below the posted speed limits. I also think that even though the new wheels look cool, chucking them in favour of wheels in a 15-inch sizing with at least a 195/55R15 tyre will improve on road stability and inspire a little more confidence when getting up over 100km/h.
The crowd this car is aimed at is young and tech-savvy, and the infotainment system has been upgraded to make them happier. Again, another thing that will see people start overlooking crash test results, which can seem scary, but besides the cars that have made the news in this regard, how many people have ever researched their car's results. As said, for many it's a moot point. When you have a budget car that offers up a 7-inch touchscreen heading up the infotainment system that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it's going to be a selling point, a good one too. This Vivid Blue paint looks good, and would be my choice if I had to have a GO. I'd add in some proper JDM-style wheels, I'd hit up FS Projects for some attention to the suspension and I'l have piano black accents all over the place. If blue ain't your thang, there's also Red, Silver, Grey, White, Orange and a super sexy Sandstone Brown for the GO+ model.
There's two models with three trim levels in the GO lineup. There's the GO Mid at R159 100, the GO Lux at R170 200 and the GO CVT at R184 200. The GO+ features the same three designations and these come in at R169 500, R180 800 and R194 800 respectively. The Datsun GO is also given a 1-year subsidised insurance package and a decent 6-Year/150 000km warranty. If you're not needing the insurance, that can be changed up as a cash-back sort of offer. It's no wonder the GO has sold nearly 33 000 units since introduction seizing upwards of 27% of the market share then.
Would I have one? In this new spec, I think I would. I'd also love to see one modified and taken to local car shows like Suzuki does with their new Swift, there's an untapped market there. Given the option of any brand new cars in the A-segment, it's a hard decision now, and the segment is gonna get better and better offerings to temp new, young buyers or those needing to downsize without sacrificing some convenience features. I recommend a Saturday morning of car shopping where you drive the Datsun GO, the Suzuki Swift, the Suzuki Ignis or the Peugeot 108. There are others in the segment but I haven't driven them so have no comments there.
If you call yourself an automotive photographer, as I do, and you only shoot one thing then can you really call yourself that? I do loads of events, if they're not the static park-off kind then they involve motorsports in some form or another like circuit racing, gymkhanas and drag racing, but there's a lot that I don't have access to. So when I received an invite from Castrol SA to spend the day with Ford SA and the crew from Neil Woolridge Motorsport for the final round of the SA Cross-country Championship Series, of course I made sure to attend. Not even plans to watch the Rugby World Cup Final would get in my way, this was another rare chance to shoot OFF ROAD STUFF! Luckily these racers and all the sponsors are patriotic AF and so the day was set up so that the two race route loops would have a big enough break in between for us all to be seated in a huge marquee to watch the rugger live. How could it then not be one of the coolest day at the office for 2019?
The NWM Ford Rangers are built at their facility in Pietermaritzburg and are the current SACCS Class T Production Vehicle Champions. They run crate Coyote engines, the same 5.0 V8 found in the Mustang, mated to a Sadev 6-speed sequential transmission with permanent all-wheel drive running off a Motec management system. You're looking at 260kW and 560Nm, and in this composite body that makes for 0-100km/h in 7.1-seconds with a top speed of 185km/h . NWM is contracted to Ford South Africa to compete in the South African Cross Country Championship, one of the toughest and most competitive national championships in the world - and awesome to shoot!
After meeting up at the Castrol offices at the crack of dawn, a bunch of us were shuttled to the race headquarters in a fleet of Ranger Raptors, and the white one I was in was also going to chauffeur me to various points along the race loops to watch the action, but of course I was only going to be seeing the action through a viewfinder. There were a few spots that were a little dodgy (that I put myself in) but I know how hard metal hits so I made sure I was outta harm's way, mostly. As we arrived at the first spot I waited for the number 34 Ranger of Lance Woolridge and snapped my first pic - not bad upon review. So I was in the right spot and started taking more pics, buuuuut my 70-200mm lens upped and died on me which meant the rest of the day I'd be using a 24-70mm lens. It's a fast, crisp lens but there's not much reach, so I had to get close to the action to get decent shots. Yes!
After checking out the viewing spots for the 1st loop we headed back to the main camp and pits for a bit of a chow (buffet in the veld is ALWAYS cool) and then to watch the Springboks absolutely thrash the Poms. After a few pints and some celebrations the racing kicked off again and we were herded back to the Raptors for the next chase session. Again, so much fun, but it's much cooler when you have a Raptor and a driver helping out. Everyone who joined was wearing team shirts and caps, it was brilliant to see them supporting, and it had to have been noticed by the drivers. In around two hours (that felt like max 30 mins) the race was done and we headed back to the pits. There was an hour until prize giving and the race team took us back to a section of the track for some ride-along action. I was the only one who didn't go for a drive but I've been in similar before and you can't take photos if you're a strapped in passenger - and I wanted photos! I'm happy with the results, and of course, the memories behind the images.
After the suicide rides, we kicked back to the main pits to watch the prize giving. The teams we were there with rocked Parys, and the preceding year too. resulting in class podiums. Ranger T34 was piloted by Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable and they competed in Class T. For this 2019 season, they finished the season in number one position making the duo the 2019 Class T Champions in the Production Vehicle Category, again. Ranger T20 was piloted by Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea who hail from Brazil, and their 2019 season was most definitely one to write home about with a Class T victory at this final event. Woolridge and Huxtable also took 2nd place overall in the Production Vehicle Championship, beating some of the biggest names in the sport competing in the faster FIA category too. Added to that, Ford also received the Manufacturers Award for the third time. Being there to see the Boks kick ass and also the success of the Ford team was just brilliant - the best Rugby World Cup Final day ever. You can find out all the proper class information and results over on the SACCS website.
A huge thanks to Castrol, Ford SA and the NVM race team for an absolutely brilliant day out! As said, I took some pics, you'll see a bunch below, and the rest will be popping up on Facebook at some point in the near future.
So Citroën is back... Yup, after leaving SA in 2016, the company has regrouped and has re-entered the local market with a new spring in it's step. As with Peugeot being under new management and starting a fresh attack, Citroën is under that same new boss and will be subjected to the same new stringent business strategies. Xavier Gobille and an all-new team are so fired up that it almost made me wanna get online and buy some shares. Almost, and also I have no clue how that works.
As with the reinvigorated Peugeot side, there's three new models to relaunch the brand here in SA, and they're flipping brilliant. The French are known for having quirky cars, and these new models are the very definition. Before sampling these cars, the previous winner for the quirkiest car was the Citroën Cactus around four years ago, so it's fitting that the title is snatched by another Citroën. Also, lemme clarify that I say quirky, I mean it's the usual definition with a fat heap of cool thrown in the mix. The three models here to relaunch the brand are the Citroën C3, the Citroën C3 Aircross and the Citroën C5 Aircross, and all of them have what it takes to make the masses happy, body styling, properly funky colours and exterior trim/cladding unique to the Citroën brand.
The C3 is the first one on the pricing scale, and it's also the one that has that signature air-filled rubber strip called the Airbump along the sides. Of course that's not all it has, there's that in your face styling combined with some great colour options that's a welcome break from the norm. Unlike many cars on the market these days, you can identify a new Citroën at 100 paces in any lighting conditions. Climbing inside is just as cool, the dash design and layout is unmistakably Citroën, it's so different, but in a good way. Again, that may depend on where you are on the introvert/extrovert scale because this styling is out there. The design is dubbed Citroën Advanced Comfort and this involves "Soft-touch contact areas and refined acoustics create a sense of calm, while interior space has been designed to be stylish and versatile. The overall ambiance ensures journeys feel effortless and intuitive technology gives you instant access to advanced features and practical driving aids." is what the brochure says. It really is cool though, and the fit and finish definitely has a premium feel beyond what the price tag implies. Even though it's just 3.99m in length, there's some voodoo added that sees interior space being bigger than you'd imagine.
The B-segment Citroën C3 has plenty features like a lane departure warning system, coffee break alert, cruise control, a speed limiter, hill start assist, a driver attention warning, over and above the usual safety systems. There's also Mirror Screen technology via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, so you can be fully connected, an important feature these days. The C3 sees two trim levels introduced; the 60kW 1.2 C3 Feel that starts at R239 900, and the 81kW 1.2 C3 Shine that starts at R289 900.
The Citroën C3 Aircross is a step up on the model run hierarchy and the first difference is the size, the Aircross climbs out of the B-segement and into the small SUV ranks thanks to being longer (158mm), taller (163mm) and with 100-litres more boot space (400-litres). You'll notice the front bumper has a different layout, the Airbump is missing, the wheels are an inch bigger (optional) and roof runners now appear. Interiors are much the same but the steering becomes multifunction, airbags total 6, climate control becomes automatic (trim dependant) and ESP is added to safety systems. There's two variants here too, the Citroën C3 Aircross SUV Feel starting at R339 900, and the Citroën C3 Aircross SUV Shine at R359 900, both of which come with the same 81kW 1.2 and 6-speed auto transmission.
The top dog of the launch was the Citroën C5 Aircross, the star of the show. Maaaan this thing is cool. In this segment one of the best looking options is the VW Tiguan, but this French creation works even better, I love everything about it. There's strong lines that manage to flow well, it has quite the presence and on the short launch drive we found more than a few phone cameras pointed at the thing. The floating roof design is carried over from the C3 range but adds a panoramic sunroof, and the black accents in the bodywork work on all paint options. Interior design is just as cool as in the C3, if maybe a little more grown up if anything. There's still a definite funkiness around the cabin though, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is another component that looks like it was created a few years from now. There's space for five adults in comfort, and the interesting bit is the rear seat isn't a bench style, it features three individual seats because there's no ways all your passengers will be the same height. The Advanced Comfort seats really are ridiculously comfortable.
Tech abounds, you'll find everything, the list includes Active Safety Break, Active Lane Departure Warning System, Driver Attention Alert, Active Blind Spot Monitoring, an array of parking sensors, Coffee Break Alert, keyless entry & start, reverse camera with top rear vision, Hill Start Assist, cornering fog lights and the rather cool ConnectedCam. This last one is a camera found at the base of the interior rear view mirror that uses full HD and GPS technology with a built-in 16gb memory card that allows you to take photos or video footage that can be downloaded by email and shared to your social media. Great in the event of an accident, unless you were the chop that caused it of course. With all these systems, the solid build and brilliant insulation, the C5 Aircross offers up a brilliant drive. But like seriously, it's super smooth, the short and bumpy gravel road on the test route would have rattled my car's fenders off, but this "Flying Carpet" effect in the C5 Aircross makes bumps disappear. Citroën is known for innovations in suspension, and there's no slowing down yet. This French SUV is fitted with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions that redefines driving comfort and quite literally smooths out bumps and imperfections. In short, PHC is described as follows: "Ordinary suspension makes do with a shock absorber, a spring and a mechanical bump stop. With Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® you get special hydraulic cushions on either side, for rebound and compression. The result is a ride that takes everything in its stride, smoothly.
When big bumps are encountered, the hydraulic cushions keep suspension movement controlled
and progressive. With minor road imperfections, the cushions simply absorb it all, giving that relaxing flying carpet ride".
As with the C3 Aircross, the C5 Aircross also gets two trims; Feel and Shine. Feel lists at R469 900 and Shine lists at R509 900 and both make use of the 121kW 1.6 PureTech Turbo and 6-speed auto transmission, the difference is in the details of course, which you can find more about if you clicky here. They also come with peace of mind in the form of a 5-year/100 000km warranty and service plan, a 24-Hour Customer Contact Centre, a Licence Renewal Reminder and Roadside Assistance. Citroën have a brilliant product here, and there is quite literally no reason that it cannot do as well as the segment rivals.
The only thing needed is for people to start trusting the brand, and the new management heading up Peugeot SA look set to do everything possible to make it happen. I'd keep an eye on Peugeot SA, change is coming.
...Ain't that stealthy. This is one of those times when the name is quite ironic, like naming your Pitbull Tinkerbelle or your Chihuahua Zeus. The current Nissan Navara can be many things, but stealthy isn't one of them, especially in this new dark theme. With the way the bakkie market is going, we'll soon be on par with the States where bigger is better, and things are pretty hotly contested. Everyone is trying to think outside of the box to help shift units, and we're starting to see special editions of. many regulars we already know. On that note, while the Stealth is a dressed up Navara LE model, it's set to be a permanent fixture on the list of available options and not just a one-off run. Nice!
The Stealth package is available on the 2.3D Stealth 4x2 AT DC as well as the range-topping 2.3D LE 4x4 DC, so the two-wheel and four-wheel needs are covered. The spec levels of these bakkies is really good, and nothing under the hood is fiddled with when going Stealth. The changes that have been made include some new alloys in 18-inches with a black finish, a black grille, black-backed headlights and new accents to match on the front bumper. A black rear roll bar and black roof rails are the last exterior changes, well besides the paint colour. The Stealth can be had in this here gunmetal paint, but also in black and white too. Inside the bakkie it's all very much the same with the exception of an orange accent fabric and leather combination, which will suit all exterior paint options luckily. The Navara Stealth also has Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies in play, like the Intelligent Key System, the Intelligent 4x4 System (that assists drivers in smooth cornering by adjusting power output to the front and rear wheels) and Hill Start Assist. There's also a new Intelligent Around View Monitor that makes use of four cameras positioned the bakkie to give you a 360-degree aerial view of the bakkie and its surrounds. Trust me, this is a very good thing, especially if you're used to driving something like an Opel Corsa. Trying to manoeuvre a comparative behemoth can be quite the mission, and surround camera will save both the bakkie and your surroundings from unwanted parking dings.
The Nissan Navara is great to drive, and the one problem I had the last time I drove one, isn't a problem in Stealth guise. It was a silly problem, at my statuesque height when looking out the windscreen I looked straight into the back of the rise in the bonnet, essentially giving me an annoying black spot to look at. It seems that was only when the thing wore orange paint because it wasn't even noticeable in this gunmetal paint. Go figure. So yeah, kicking around the 'hood in a Navara Stealth is brilliant, just brilliant. With a collection of tattoos and different cars all the time, the neighbours already think I'm a drug dealer, and this thing stepped that up a notch. This meant people stayed out of my way, and when I approached an empty parking at the same time as a Mazda BT50 at my local Spar, I simply gave a bit of a stare and the chap motioned me to take the parking. That wouldn't have happened if I was in anything else. This carried through to the highway too, which was most amusing. All you have to do is set the cruise control to 123km/h (screw you Metro!) and steer. Literally EVERYONE moves out of your way, you can sit back and watch your ETA on Waze start shaving off minutes.
This thing is good fun to drive, it's really good option for those wanting a double cab 4x4 (or x2). On board tech is good, engines and transmissions are good and pricing is good. The bakkie market is tough, and choosing one above them all is nigh on impossible, but if Nissan is my choice, it WILL be in Stealth trim..
The Nissan Navara Stealth starts at R591 00 for the 2.3D 4x2 MT DC, hits R608 900 for the 2.3D 4x2 AT DC and finally R669 800 for the 2.3D 4x4 AT DC. All models come with a 3-year/ 90 000km service plan and a 6-year/150 000km warranty. For more, head on over to Nissan's main site.