Quite possibly the most famous three letters to come out of Japan, and with good reason. For fifty years Nissan has been putting this badge on its performance cars, and for fifty years the GT-R has kicked ass and taken names in many legal racing series' as well as in the underground illegal race scene on a global scale. Most journos who attended the launch have only really seen the GT-R at similar events or at the racetrack, but in my circles I've been privy to some ridiculously powerful examples, stuff that would blow the mind of your average person. In the aftermarket side of life the GT-R quite possibly has the most fearsome reputation. If you're at a race meet, legal or illegal, and a GT-R pitches up, people take notice. It doesn't matter if other cars in attendance are of the supercar variety, all eyes will undoubtedly be on the GT-R. People who attend these events expect a GT-R to be monstrously fast, and they're usually quite right. There's a whole aftermarket industry dedicated to tuning these cars, even "basic" bolt-on parts can see the power figures circling 4-digit power figures, and more often than not the exterior of these cars look as stock as the day they left the showroom floor. This is the world I know well, I can rattle off more than 20 names of owners I know personally and I'd guesstimate that only 5% of them are stock.
While I've been offered the keys to a few of these cars over the years, I've never had the balls to accept. I'd feel too bad if something went tits up because any sort of repair job would be way more than my budget to fix. I'm not talking mechanically because these things are generally bulletproof, but bumping the car would see me in debt for life. When I received the invite to the launch of this 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R I did my happy dance until I fell over, I'd finally be able to drive one and I'd have the backing of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists in case things went wrong. I often get asked what the benefits are of being a Guild member, well proper insurance is one of them - as long as you're not driving like a complete idiot and breaking the law. It just feels better knowing that if some chop changed lanes without looking and sideswiped the car, that my ass would be covered.
There's so much out there on the GT-R, any model, that I'm not gonna bore you with a bunch of technical stuff, instead you get the stuff that counts to me. Powering the 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R is the same powerplant that's been in this model for 12 years. That's right, the R35 GT-R is now 12 years old, basically a kid who started school when this car first launched could in theory still buy a brand new one off the showroom floor after passing Matric. If that doesn't tell you how damn good the R35 is, nothing will. When it launched back in 2007, the car was miles ahead of, well, everything. The technology packed in was not just class-leading, it was industry-leading stuff. It even became known as a Playstation car, meaning the drive felt too detached and more like you're playing a game than driving a car. Even if that was the case, it was a Playstation car that made the rest of the performance car automakers of the world wish there was a reset button. Like I said, I'd never driven one, but over the years that reported disconnected feeling has actually become somewhat of an industry standard if supercar and hypercar reviews are to be believed. As the competition started to catch up, they realised that the electronics and other systems on board that took the blame for that feeling of disconnect were actually very necessary, and so most of the fast stuff has started to quite feel similar. I'll say here that I didn't experience that feeling when driving this car, there was feedback for days.
So that powerplant that's still in play, it's the VR38DETT, a name that's like whispering Mufasa, it gives competitors the chills. It's a 6-cylinder in a V6 configuration with a pair of Hiroshima Hairdryers attached. When launched the engine pushed out 357kW (479hp) which was mad strong, and through the years the self-same lump has been tweaked and tuned to be not only more powerful, but smoother too. In this 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R the power is now rated at 410kW (550hp - possibly to make more sense for the 50th anniversary) with a stonking 632Nm of torque. There's one that makes even more power used in a very special edition NISMO GT-R, but I'll let you Google that coz it's not coming to SA. It's insane power, especially when it's available off the showroom floor to anyone with the money. Also, it's a little-known fact that these fantabulous power plants are each handcrafted by a single technician (no, not one guy making them all, each engine is built by a single person) much like the AMG engines are, and by that I mean the REAL ones, not the AMG-badged C200s and the like. These engine builders are called Takumi Technicians, and it was these guys who decided on new turbos featuring an abradable seal that helps low RPM response thanks to tighter clearances and a 5% efficiency increase. This equates to a sharper engine response in and out of corners - as if the GT-R needed it. But hey, sharp is good, scalpel-sharp better. There's been a tweak to the exhaust manifolds too that will make the aftermarket tuners rather pleased. The Takumis have optimised the turbo flange attachment points to allow for easier servicing and potential tuning, without touching the exhaust manifold. Since when does a manufacturer do something that aids in tuning? Since it's Nissan and they're awesome! The GT-R also has an exhaust note that a true enthusiast can pick out of a line of cars in traffic, and in this 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R a set of titanium-tipped end boxes have been fitted, and these give that engine note an even more special tone. So much so that on the launch drive we only played one song on the infotainment system just to hear how it sounds and the rest of the day was nothing but a 6-cylinder symphony and dodging NP200s with a death wish.
Of course you need a drivetrain that's going to extract the best from that monster of a V6 powerplant, and Nissan has one of the best, if not the best, in the game. I say this with authority because I've seen loads of these cars modified to all hell and the drivetrain components remain stock. Of course for the ones making more than double the power some mods are needed to keep things in one piece, but for the most part these drivetrains can handle more abuse than you'd think possible. The configuration is also a little different to how you'd imagine. In a conventional setup, you'll have the engine with a transmission bolted to it, then you'd have the transfer case that will have shafts attached to send power to the front wheels, then you'd find a propshaft to send power to a rear diff and side shafts. In the GT-R things have never been conventional, and so here we find the powerplant up front and the transmission at the rear, connected via a propshaft. This means shorter and stronger driveshafts at each end of the car, but most importantly it gives the GT-R that magical 50/50 weight split when hoofing it. When not hoofing it, it's a little under 50/50, but that's not when it counts. So that twin turbocharged V6 sends all 550hp to the wheels rather efficiently, and with the weight split and a fair amount of electronic wizardry there's always maximin traction. R-Mode has been refined, and oddly that means more aggressive downshifts to prognosticate fast cornering exits and the ability to cleverly select gears during ABS engagement, which means reduced understeer and a more driver-intuitive feeling. Nissan says: "The adaptive shift control is programmed to change shift schedules to fit the user's driving style" and that simply means if I owned one the safety systems would be permanently trying to stop me from offing myself because I'd have the thing constantly ready to pounce.
Then there's that launch control. I honestly thought launch control would see me fighting the steering and listening to the wheels scream for mercy, instead it's just a matter of holding on tight and aiming the thing where you want it to go. The wheels scrabble for traction but they have it in buckets, enough for silly 0-100km/h times. In a little over 3-seconds you've hit 100 (under 3-seconds at lower altitude and with better fuel) and in a mere 6-seconds you're literally going fast enough for jail time. In 20 seconds your mind is blown and you realise that there is no other car you'll drive in your life that will feel this damn good. Being new to the GT-R, I did that first launch in auto, letting the ECUs do their magic by shifting gears faster than any human possibly could. I told myself that I'd have to keep the car in auto because the only other flappy paddle cars I'd driven didn't give me the feeling that I needed or wanted to use them. I think I made it to the end of the road that I'd started my drive on, after that the rest of the drive saw manual mode engaged. Pulling back on the left paddle drops a gear, then another, and then another. Speed dependant, this puts the revs at the very spot where the whole mechanical concoction is ready to explode with performance, you can tell because there's pops and bangs from the titanium exhaust signalling you've dropped enough gears, and the little voice inside your head (not the good one) tells you to mash your right foot into the floorboard. This can happen at 80km/h in traffic. This can happen at 130km/h on an open road. This car tests your self-restraint to levels you didn't know was possible. Screw torture for getting information out of people - put bad guys in a GT-R and let them drive the kak out of it, one power run for every secret told. You'll have a giggling hostage, all the info you want and fuel bill you'll hate. Someone tell the CIA...
Add in some of the best suspension to ever be fitted to a factory car along with an array of buttons that allow switching between a few driving modes. None of them are of any consequence besides R Mode. I mean, if you don't keep your GT-R in R Mode, are you even a GT-R owner? R is for serious driving business, when engaged it firms everything up, the throttle response, the steering, the suspension and it also lets the transmission stay in the gear of your choosing and even allowing the limiter to kick in instead of automatically engaging the next gear. We drove on some roads that I'm familiar with, albeit it in slower cars. Actually seeing as this is the fastest road car I've ever driven, just assume anything else I ever talk about for the rest of my life is slower. So on these roads, I've taken bends in a well-sorted S2000, my old Focus ST, a 7.5 R GTi and a few other tasty lumps of metal, but none of them will even smell a GT-R, even at half throttle. One bend in particular is awesome at just over 100km/h on other cars, you have to feather the throttle and keep mind of the steering input and what the tyres are wanting to do. In the GT-R I took the same section around 30km/h higher and I didn't even realise it. I wasn't near my skill level limit and the GT-R was easily another 20km/h from even thinking about having any issues. This again cemented the fact that the GT-R is not only a Jack of all trades, but also a master of them all. If you ever see an R35 GT-R caning it somewhere and it's taking bends at speed and ripping up the straights, don't be too impressed by the driver - 80% of what you see is down to the car. I would love to be let loose on a track for a day with this car, all I'd need is a fuel sponsor, a tyre sponsor and an underwear sponsor. To reign the GT-R in, there's a new brake booster setup in play that increases the effectiveness and also offers up less travel on the pedal. Ever heard that "it can stop on a dime" saying? Well I can report that when you need the brakes in a GT-R, they're there and then some. After cresting a hill I was faced with a bakkie overtaking an 18-wheeler over a solid white line into a blind rise, at a lick over walking pace - fun times. I jumped on the clamps to avoid having an NP200 hood ornament, it clearly worked because I'm typing this now, but I'm convinced that if I was in another car things would have been decidedly different. Of course we would have climbed out without a scratch, but surgeons would have a hard time removing NP200 bits from our driver of the month. This is on video too, but it doesn't really show how close it was, which is again thanks to the brakes. What it does however show is that I swear like a sailor, just like me mum did.
The cabin of a Japanese supercar is great, this thing has it all and then some. You don't really expect all the creature comforts in something with this kind of performance but there really is nothing left wanting. The release says: "The distinct driver-oriented cockpit has comfortable yet supportive seats for both front and rear passengers. The dashboard is designed to convey a horizontal flow, delivering a sense of high stability for front seat occupants. It comes wrapped in a single, seamless piece of hand-selected Nappa leather, artfully stitched with Takumi-style precision. The centre dashboard integrates navigation and audio controls and an 8-inch capacitive touch-panel monitor. The large icons on the display screen inform the driving experience without distracting from it". That sounds great, but it's miles better than that. The seats are race-style buckets that fit me perfectly. A few guys commented that the high bolsters dig into their sides a bit. Luckily there's an aftermarket solution for this - LOSE SOME WEIGHT! Don't blame Japan's finest because you can't say no to KFC. The driving position took all of 10 seconds to set up, everything is electronically adjustable and I was proper comfortable. The cabin feels like it wraps around you, and with all the buttons strewn around the cabin and with a choice of informative displays for the touchscreen that heads up the infotainment system, it feels like a fighter plane cockpit. Well, A luxury fighter plane. That raised transmission tunnel in bare carbon fibre with the 50th Anniversary badge makes my man bits pay attention. How's the boot space then? Who cares? Like seriously? I didn't even open the boot. It's a GT-R. Buy new shit when you get to your destination. Luggage is weight, weight is bad.
The guys at Nissan are brilliant, they didn't want this launch to be all about the new car, instead it was also focused on the heritage of the GT-R. With that in mind, #OMGTR man Janus Janse van Rensburg organised every generation of GT-R for us to not only drool over, but also experience on the road. Seeing a Kenmeri and a Hakosuka in the metal is rare, especially in the same place at the same time. This legendary duo was for display only though, which is understandable. You can buy a few of the 50th Anniversary Edition GT-Rs for the value of the two old timers. The presentation on the history of the GT-R nomenclature, including the origins of the Godzilla nickname was pure awesomeness, there's just so much amazing race history behind the badge. To give a complete experience, we could have drives in the R32, R33 and R34 GT-R models. I only went along for one drive in the R32, but only because it's one I hadn't been in before. I've had a few mad runs in R33s and R34s over the years so I stood back to let others have a go, I'm cool like that. The R32 was 100% stock with the speed limiter removed, and it's just mad because many 2019 model performance cars will struggle to keep up with it.
The only thing I didn't do during this event was take my own pics, I did try but I decided to rather put the camera away and enjoy the experience, and I'm so damn happy I did. Watching events and things through a 2cm viewfinder can sometimes detract from the experience. Sometimes. Also Waldo Van Dr Waal absolutely rocked these official press images, well done there Sir! Once my time in the 50th Anniversary Edition was done, I did snap some pics of the older generation models that were brought out of hiding for us though, which you'll see in the gallery below. There's not much more to say about the latest incarnation of Japan's coolest motoring export, yet at the same time there's loads to say too. Got to hear loads of interesting info during an informal Q&A with Wilhelm Baard, a man with a long association with GT-R both locally and internationally. Not only was he part of the top brass at Nissan and heavily involved with the development of the car, he's also a world-class race driver. In fact, the first time I met him was about 11 years ago when I had a few hot laps as passenger with him at the old Kyalami - in a GT-R. Let's just say Horatio Cane's team would be able to find proof of my drive if they ever tested the passenger seat from that car.
The 50th Anniversary GT-R launch wasn't a launch, it was an experience. Launches are usually all bout making the journos feel special and spoiled so that they write nice things about the car in question. While this event had all that and more, it would have been equally as amazing if we arrived at a One-Stop for a Wimpy coffee and a lap of the N1. This is one car that needs no buttering up, it's the consummate supercar, everything a modern supercar owner could want. It's THE BEST car I've ever personally driven. It handles the best, brakes the best, sounds the best, accelerates the best and makes me feel like, well, the best. The 50th Anniversary GT-R hasn't just set the bar for my motoring experiences to date, it's forever etched in my memory, and I can't thank Nissan SA enough for including me on this launch.
The 2020 Nissan GT-R Anniversary Edition is not cheap, it's also quite a bit more than the original launch price, but that's expected after 12 years. There's currently three trims available, all mechanically identical, but as expected there's a bit of a premium for the Anniversary edition. The range kicks off with the Premium Edition at R2 250 000, then there's the Black Edition at R2 360 000, and then this Bayside Blue (there's red and white too) GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition at R2 405 000.
I've had the Nissan Micra on test review before, but it was during a week of terrible weather so I not only skipped on shooting it, I also gave driving around a wide berth too because torrential rain brings out idiot drivers. That meant a proper review wasn't possible. Luckily I managed to have a second session scheduled with the Turbo Acenta Plus Tech trim of the all-new Nissan Micra, and I'm happy I did. This hatchback surprised me, it's got a fair bit going for it on paper and I found that things translated into the real world just right too.
The older Micra models wren't bad looking little cars, but they ended up being a car you knew existed, but completely forgot when it came time to buy in that segment. There was nothing wrong with them, they just weren't on the radar. This all-new design is way different, the new and larger body conforms to the rest of Nissan's design architecture and so has really good looks and lines to it. The front is no longer a bubble, it's an angular car that has a bit of attitude thrown in. The same goes for the rear; more angles and strong lines make it one of those cars that may be able to get by on its looks alone. This version rolls on 17" wheels shod with 205/45R17 tyres, and for an OEM wheel they have a decent design and they actually suit the car well too. There is a bit of wheel gap going on, but that's the norm in SA because of the dodgy roads in some places, but that's just a first modification for the guys I know who'd rock one of these.
The floating roof design is really cool, more noticeable on the lighter colours than on this Echo Grey, but it's there. The angular lights up front and the boomerang-design taillights all just work. The only thing I'd change on one of these really is the ride height. I'd also like to see the car with aftermarket wheels in the popular styles seen on the Micra's JDM brethren. I reckon with the right wheels, window tint, a rear bumper with an exhaust cut out for a neat tail piece and some clever stickers, it could be made to look like a closer relative to a GT-R, especially on the Energy Orange painted cars.
Inside the Nissan Micra, things are pretty good too. The design is modern and pretty funky, indicative of the intended target market's taste. Seating position is great, everything adjusts to get my statuesque 5ft7 frame perfectly comfortable with a good view all round. Luckily even if viewing was a mission, there's surround cameras to save bumpers and curbing your wheels. The cabin does have a rather sporty way about it, the seats have a high bolster, there's a flat-bottom steering wheel, a high shifter lever and stitched leather dash trim. Adding the brushed aluminium-look trim was a good touch, the cabin looks more upmarket than the price tag suggests. The climate control knobs sit just above the shifter position, separated from the dash, and above that the 7-inch touchscreen heading up the infotainment system. It's great system that Nissan has here, easy to use and set up and the 6-speaker audio system plays great.
Mobile connectivity is tops quality, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are found as standard. Having my Samsung S8 connected to display Waze on the screen made my week as I was driving unknown roads a fair bit. The Bluetooth audio streaming was also hassle free and great quality, as was the hands-free part of it. Various information from the system can also be displayed in the centre of the instrument cluster so you can know what's going on while keeping your eyes on the road. That aforementioned steering wheel also features controls for the infotainment as well as the cruise control. It really is a decent place to be and it's a solid fit and finish as what you'd usually find higher up the rung.
The all-new Nissan Micra takes a little getting used to, when you first drive it you'd be forgiven for a little frustration creeping in. It's a small capacity motor that's helped along with a turbocharger. The thing is, when you have such a small engine there's not going to be much low down torque and so you sort of need to slip the clutch a smidgen to allow the revs to rise so you can have a decent pull off. A normal driving style will see you feeling a lot of turbo lag that will either have you scrabbling to pull back a gear, or bouncing your body forwards and backwards in an attempt to help the car along. As said, you quickly get used to the way it needs to be driven. I took a mate for a drive, and I ran it through the gear hard and we were both mighty impressed with how this little 1200cc powerplant performs. A few times we commented on how good it is for a 1200cc, and wringing it's neat is quite fun. It was only when I was checking the pricing for someone else who wanted to pitch the Micra to his employer as a fleet car option, that the new range of Nissan Micras all use a 3-cylinder 0.9-litre setup, or 900cc. Power is rated at 66kW and 140Nm. I immediately told my mate and his mind was equally blown. The transmission is pretty good, a tight and notch 5-speed 'box. It's claimed to sip just 5.1-litres/100km and on my week I only saw 5.8s for a few days, and when used on shorter drives it hovered around the 6.3 mark, which is also decent considering how the small lump likes to be revved.
This new platform is longer, wider and lower and with the 17's on it's a good drive. The chassis is taught and the suspension stiffens up well when put under pressure. Normal driving sees it being comfortable and smooth. If you could take the traction control off, it could be a fun car to play around in a weekend gymkhana event. If you manage to keep the motor in the sweet spot of the revs, you'd surprise a few people with what a 900cc can do. Driver aids include intelligent FEB (Forward Emergency Braking), BSW (Blind Spot Warning), hill start-assist and start/stop technology too.
Overall the all-new Nissan Micra is a great little package. It looks really good, it's feature-packed and it's a fun drive. There are four trim options available to try an accommodate various budgets. Things start off with the Turbo Visia at R247 800, then there's the Turbo Acenta at R273 900, the Turbo Acenta Plus at R289 600 and then the range-topping Turbo Acenta Plus Tech at R305 900 (as for Sept 2019). I think crossing the R300k mark shouldn't happen even though it is a well-rounded car. It doesn't quite have the performance to justify it. There's some good competitors in this segment at that price, and if you're a regular here you'd know that I'd rather throw another R10k into the finance and get me summit with more performance in the same category. That's just my choice, if you are in the market for a car in this segment, hit up a dealership and give one a go, there's no reason it shouldn't tick all your boxes.
I do think some clever marketing is needed for the car, I think this is a good option for young enthusiasts who want to do the whole aftermarket car show thing, but if these guys only get exposure to the usual brands then this Micra won't be a consideration. I reckon if Nissan SA pulled a Suzuki SA stunt and tarted one up a bit and took it to shows, there'd be some good interest in the car. There's the usual suspension/wheel/stickers route that would have great results, but if they dug in the parts bin and retrofitted seats from an older GT-R (there must be a set around that was removed from a racecar or under warranty etc), changed hubs to accommodate GT-R 18-inch wheels, some carbon interior trim bits, a downpipe and exhaust it would be a proper talking point. You know, just a thought...
When you introduce two new models to the market, and they both have the magick of a turbocharger attached, there's no better place than a racetrack. The team at Suzuki South Africa made sure the introduction of the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport and the updated Suzuki Vitara was not only memorable, but they also made sure to introduce the car at a venue that could properly exploit the products. You must know that when you're invited to RedStar Raceway, things will be about speed, and even if you're not accustomed to fast cars on track, that's it's still going to be a great day at the office.
Usually I like to put up a little disclaimer when it comes to Suzuki's cars, because I'm such a fan that bias creeps in. Most people who know me are aware of my Suzuki obsession to the point that any time an interesting Suzuki-related post is seen on just about any online platform I get tagged in hundreds of times. If you're bored, search my name and Suzuki together and you'll see what I mean. So yeah, expect some over the top flattery from me on both the new Swift Sport and the Vitara. The thing is, while I do this because I'm a long time fan who's followed the progression of the brand in SA, I'm not alone in singing my praises. If I had to round up every positive comment from my fellow motoring journos both locally and internationally, there'd be so much to go through that you'd swear we were all paid to be nice. We weren't of course, but such is the stack of accolades that it's thoroughly plausible.
I know you're eagerly awaiting details of the Swift Sport, so I'll start off with the Vitara, I'm cool like that...
Suzuki Vitara Turbo
The all-new Vitara was launched back in 2015, and it quickly became a favourite, as you'd see in my full review five months later when I had it on test for a week. So three years in and the Vitara has received some more attention to keep it current, which is pretty easy to do when the thing doesn't look like its aged at all. What the Suzuki engineers have done is equip the turbocharged Vitara with the the same spec of the current range-topping GLX grade, but have added a few changes to raise the visual impact. We now find the Suzuki Vitara Turbo sporting LED DRLs with LED headlights and taillights. Chrome always makes things look more larney, and so we now find chrome in the front grille and under the fog lights. In the cabin a 7-inch touchscreen was added to head up the infotainment system, which also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Yes, included FOR FREE. Some mainstream manufacturers could take note of that, so I'll say it again. Apple carPlay and Android Auto is included for free. That means you don't pay extra for this tech. If that's not cool enough, it also features MirrorLink if you prefer to connect that way. Also inside is a unique leather and suede upholstery combination that looks way more premium than the price tag would suggest.
Then there's the powerplant, which was in my mind the only thing that counted against the previous Vitara. Well not for me personally, but the buying public. While the N/A 1.6 is nippy enough and the transmission features ratios that properly exploit the power, people want boost at altitude. With the new Boosterjet engine in play, there's a loss of 200cc down to a 1400 capacity, but with that little metal snail bolted on, power is up from 86kW to 103kW, and the torque rises to a healthy 220Nm from 156Nm. That's already a brilliant improvement, but the engineers tried hard for a Christmas bonus and so they chucked in a 6-speed manual transmission, and even went as far as millennialproofing the Vitara by also giving the option of a 6-speed auto, because it saves valuable energy which can rather be used for all the Instagram posing or whatever else influencers do. Basically what this new package equates to is eliminating any excuse not to buy a Vitara. The two things that were a concern to the people I recommended the Vitara to have been addressed, the infotainment has a touchscreen and there's now enough power to get you in proper trouble. The Vitara is also claimed to sip just 5.8l/100km in manual guise and 5.9l/100 in auto, and from my experience I can tell you the car will use even less in real world conditions with decent driving. The price tag remains favourable too, which in this current climate is almost unheard of.
Suzuki Swift Sport
When Suzuki announced the all-new Jimny and the all-new Swift Sport I lost my shit on an epic scale. I mean come on, two of my favourite cars having brand new models hit the market - can you blame me? So we (SA) got the Jimny pretty much as the model was launched internationally, even before some other world markets. This meant I could physically feel and touch one (don't judge) to make sure it was indeed a legit car and not some weird retro dream. Then there's this new Swift Sport that hit international shores sort of at the same time, but it's arrival in SA was delayed by about 119 years for something to do with fuels and things that don't make sense to me. This is both good and bad. Good because it builds the anticipation, and it gave me a chance to read every single online review ever written about the car, even finding basic driving impressions posted on Aussie Suzuki dealership blogs. Bad because all these reviews made the car sound like the Second Coming and that it is quite literally the best thing since, well, the last best thing. So hopes were high for it to be a cracker of a car that's much improved over the previous model.
When the new Swift shape launched, I was like "Hmmm, isss ok". I wasn't wowed by it, but it was all-new and an improvement over the previous model in every way possible. Good enough reason to like it as an overall package. Then the Sport version appeared, and again, it looked great but the previous generation is still rather pretty to me and so again I wasn't really sold. Jump forward 119 years to finally seeing one in the metal and things are very, very different. Photos simply don't do the shape justice, which is odd for a photographer to say but it's legit. The Sport features different styling cues to make sure onlookers know that it's the range-topper, all these things make this little hatchback rather desirable, and when added to a range of funky colours that help show off these changes, the Swift Sport rises to the top my Want-O-Meter. The little break in the C-pillar, the rear diffuser, and the side skirts that remain in black make the paint colours pop, but even the black option works. Visually, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is a clear winner for fans of hatchback. There is but one single complaint I have when it comes to the styling - SIXTEEN INCH WHEELS. What the actual fuck guys? There is no reason for anyone to ever use 16" wheels in 2019. They're kak, tyres are mad money for the size, they don't fill the arches enough, and they're also quite kak. They sit a little too tucked into the arches for my liking too, these teeny wheels make the SSS a candidate for spacers to bring the wheels flush with the arches. Of course things do look ok as an overall package, but slapping on the same 17" wheels that are available in other markets will take the new Swift Sport's look to an 11/10 for me. Maybe the bigger wheels will be available in the future, but until then I'm expecting to see new Swift Sport models queueing up at local wheel shops. Some JDM-style hoops along the lines of Volk's TE37s will be insanely wicked!
So like the Vitara, the new Swift also Sports (see what I did there) the same Boosterjet powerplant and it even makes the same power at 103kW, but it is 10Nm up at 230Nm. The outgoing 1600cc engine was rated at 103kW and 160Nm, and while those aren't big numbers they made the SSS a true hot hatch in the original sense of the phrase, and it was the last of the fun, high-revving sports cars available on the market before being retired. Many were worried that adding boost would change the dynamics of the car and affect the fun factor, but these are the kind of people you must ignore at braais because they're eedjits. Boost is ALWAYS better - it's even loosely referenced in the Bible. Nahum 3:2 reads: "The noise of the whip, the noise of the rattling of the wheel, galloping horses and bounding chariots!". If that doesn't describe boost kicking in, I dunno what does. As with the previous model, there a short-shift, close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission in play for the real drivers out there, and a 6-speed auto with flappy paddles for the Xbox generation - although there's no reset button. The men in white coats claim the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport can hit 100km/h in 8-seconds and it tops out at 205km/h. I think it's quicker if I'm to trust my butt dyno.
Of course adding boost was the easy part. Making the all-new Swift Sport a little bigger inside, a little fatter at the hips and and giving it a bigger boot capacity that measures at least two full Chelsy Pintos (if a little pretzeled up) all the while managing to shed a full 90kg of weight - that was the hard part. Actually, doing all of that and still having the car feel solidly built is quite impressive too. The doors close with a solid thunk, the fit and finish is tops and there's no rattles even at race pace on rumble strips. There's so many new things to mention in this all-new Suzuki Swift Sport, and they'll be attended to in detail when I do a full review. Right now I'm sure you just want to know how the little hatchback performs, so on to that then...
So the car is lighter and more powerful, and there's that sweet-ass turbocharged rush of power. I was given the opportunity to drive one in anger (which is hard to do with a Joker-like smile plastered on your face) on RedStar Raceway's small track and it took just a single lap to feel right at home. The cockpit of the SSS is great thanks to a proper sports steering wheel and some tasty high-bolstered tombstone-style race seats, along with a great looking speedo cluster. It was easy to find the perfect driving position, and once in, I headed on track. Firstly, if you don't have an amazing dental plan, be super gentle when applying brakes. I tramped on them in the pit lane to see their bite rate and almost ate the steering wheel. They're sharp, and amazingly, after around 40 journos thrashed the four cars used for the track session all day long, they showed zero signs of fade. That's in stock trim with OEM brake fluid, which is flipping amazing. I left the nanny filters on for my first lap, and the traction control knows you're driving with lap times in mind because even engaged it lets you spin the wheels out of the corners somewhat, although that's not how fast times are posted of course. The steering is tight and precise with the perfect amount of feedback, you know when you're on the limit and when traction is going to break. The rack ratio is just right too, lock to lock is short and makes tight turns and hairpins a breeze The suspension is brilliant, just brilliant. It's stiff enough to make spirited driving fun and competitive, yet it's pliable enough for a comfortable drive even on the worst of SA's roads. That new Boosterjet engine is awesome, it's responsive, sounds really good and even when the car is nailed all day long it sips fuel. The one I had on track was in the mid 8s per 100km, which is just mad. The 230Nm comes in between 2500rpm and 3500rpm, and that will see you kill tyres out of corners if you're a little too eager. The way the power comes on song is also great, the car even chirped into 3rd a few times. One thing I didn't like was the soft limiter that comes in at 6000rpm or so. Sure past that there's no power anyway, but I'd just prefer that it could rev a little higher and give me the choice of when to change, because at flat taps on track you reach the 2nd and 3rd gear limiter rather fast and when it kicks in it can kill your flow through the gears. It's not a trainsmash though, and after a day of driving I'd be used to how it behaves and adapt accordingly I'm sure. On my second session I tried a bit of lift-off oversteer to see how things behave, and you have to work to get the rear to step out, but when it does there's no snapping around, things are controllable and, well, FUN! This little turbocharged hatch is the perfect weekend racer, and I'm fully expecting to see these cars gaining popularity at the various club-level motorsport events I shoot. Check out the vid if you feel like watching someone else have loads of fun in a car for a few minutes.
After the track session it was time to try the car on a dry skidpad for bit of a gymkhana session. Here all the journos were let loose on a basic mirrored course and timed to see who could properly make use of the Swift Sport's brilliant handling. Again, a great steering ratio, sharp brakes and boost make for good fun and better times. For this session the cars were in Millennial Spec, and I must say that 6-speed auto is properly smooth and it doesn't change gears just because, it lets you rev high under full throttle conditions. It's not a dual clutch setup but it's smooth and fast. I would like to try it out on a longer road and in a daily driving scenario where I can use the steering-mounted flappy paddles, but first impressions are great. Anyway, back to the gymkhana... The Swift Sport is great, and it also boosts confidence for drivers and I can prove it. Once I could remember the damn route on the gymkhana, I managed to post the fastest time for day one of the launch. In other words, I kicked some ass!
This all-new Suzuki Swift Sport has all the hallmarks of a cult classic, this car is a game changer that's going to see fans of other brands cross over, I'm sure of it. It's priced great, it's quick, it's fun and it has a power to weight that makes a Polo GTi blush. I'm hoping this car makes people see what I've seen in the Suzuki brand for all these years. In a perfect world we'd see the Swift Sport in a single-make race series, but I think SA isn't ready for that much awesomeness. I am also fully expecting to start coming across Swift Sports at all aftermarket the shows I shoot too, it simply MUST happen.
Suzuki have knocked it out of the park yet again, they have the coolest lineup of funky cars now. The Swift Sport is accompanied by the retro-cool Jimny, the cute AF Ignis and the turbocharged Vitara. There are others in the lineup too of course, but they're just a little less funky. If you're in the market for a new car, you HAVE To check out these new models from Suzuki or you'll be doing yourself a mahoosive injustice.
The Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX 6MT is priced at R378 900 all in, while the 6AT can be had for R397 900, which is brilliant, especially considering what you get in that package. The all-new Suzuki Swift Sport can be had for just R315 900 with manual cog-swapping, and Millennial Spec is set at R335 900, which is also pretty damn decent. There's no other new car on the market that gives so much at this price point, nothing, nada, zero and zilch.
These new Suzuki cars come with Suzuki’s promotional 200 000km/5-year mechanical warranty, a 6-year/unlimited kilometre corrosion warranty, a 4-year/60 000km service plan and a 5-year unlimited kilometre roadside assistance plan.
Those who follow my stuff will no doubt have seen my posts about the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb event, and that thanks to Castrol SA, I was lucky enough to actually attend and shoot it for myself. While it could be seen as just another motoring event I've captured, for me it's a tick off the Motoring Must Shoot bucket list. If I had the digital space and the editing time, I would have shot 10 000 images, but instead I shot what caught me eye. There's probably loads of cars and people missing from the album that's on Facebook (or will be soon, depending on how soon you read this) but I'm happy with what I shot.
On that note, I even managed to get in some time with a lens I'm lusting after thanks to the hillclimb organisers having the crew from Canon Professional Services in the media tent. As a Canon user, I was able to try out all manner of new Canon cameras and lenses (which I wish I knew about on the Friday when I arrived and not Sunday morning), but instead opted for just one lens, the 70-200mm f/2.8. I shoot on the f/4.0 which is brilliant, and event a little faster thanks to it's size, but this borrowed lens just moved to the top of my want list. I should have stuck to what I know because I battled to get the crisp panning shots I love thanks to the IS on the lens. My lens is non-IS and so it's, well, just different. I need a weekend to dial in a new lens I reckon.
There was a bit of a mix up with my airport transport, and so I missed the classic cars running on the Friday. This was quite the downer because the classics are the best to shoot. Luckily Castrol put us up in Protea Hotel Knysna Quays, which was pretty much across the road from where the much-anticipated parade was going to happen, so straight after check-in I was off to mingle. Oddly, before I even spotted any race cars, I met Shane and his RB-powered SX. He recognised me from my editor days, and was such a rad chap to meet, I did a mini shoot on his car. Went for a short drive, which was a good thing because the way the ass wants to overtake the nose thanks to stupid power at low boost, I would have finally used that extra pair of jocks I always back when I go away.
The parade last year was mad, as was the year before and even the year before that. This year there were only a few cars parked around and so from the time the parade part started to the time I got into a sniper-like position to shoot the cars, it was already over. I do blame the heavy clouds and the threat of rain though. A strange start to the weekend for sure, but that's why I love this kind of thing, there's no set script and adventures make great stories. The rest of the weekend ran great, Castrol had me rolling like a VIP with shuttles to the hill, access to everywhere I wanted access to and of course, the Castrol VIP tent. Besides the awesome view overlooking the start line, it was gourmet drinks, gourmet food and great chats with a bunch of motoring enthusiasts. The wet and dry Saturday was practice for everyone, and a dry Sunday saw qualifying and then the actual shootouts take place where everyone fought for top honours., it's all a blur (hahaha) when watching events through a camera lens.
Taking pics throughout the event was a mission, I know so many people at the event that I want pics of them and their cars but it just wasn't possible. In between trying to get to cool positions to shoot from, I spent hours chatting to people, some familiar old faces and some new - this alone was reason enough to call this an amazing weekend, but it just added to the awesomeness. There's just over 600 images from the event that made the cutting process, and they will be available to see on my Facebook Page, so choosing the pics I wanted for this post came down to rather wanting to share the ones that I think captured the spirit of the event, from lone cars ready to go, to popular cars surrounded by fans and curious onlookers ending with a few action shots.
Enough words, signing out. Once again, huge thanks to Castrol SA for making this happen for me, besides an awesome event to attend and shoot, it's the memories - priceless!
Let's not beat around the bush here, if you're on this blog, you've probably seen my content here or on my social media feeds before. That also means you're aware of my unhealthy obsession with Suzuki, in particular, the third generation Jimny. I first saw one of these things in 2008 when they were introduced to SA, and at that time it was already a long-running model. Once I'd actually sampled the little 4x4 that I first laughed at, it immediately moved up to the top of my Want List, which confused many people because at the time I was editor at a performance motoring magazine and things were all about being lower, wider, bigger and faster. When I left the magazine I started getting press cars for review, and these included all manner of vehicles that would make anyone happy, but I still always wanted a Jimny. Trust me to want a car with the longest model production run of all time (ok, that might not be true, but it felt like it). That first model I saw in 2008 started life in 1998, and it ran all the way until 2018 when this 4th generation entered the scene.
The 4th generation is this square lump of awesome you see before you. The amount of time this thing took to hit the market makes sense now, I reckon the men in white coats and the bean counters all worked together on this one, continually improving things, changing things, upgrading things - all the while biding their time. I think someone at Suzuki has their pulse on what the worldwide car buying public wants, seemingly knowing that retro styling would be the next big thing in this world of slanty, aerodynamic replicas of each other. Teaser pics of the all-new Jimny started doing the rounds a couple of years back already, and while every motoring site that posted pics claimed they were leaked, I think it was all strategic. The retro styling was pretty much all we could see, and that left industry experts all giving opinions on what the little 4x4 would have inside, underneath and powering it. I think the Suzuki engineers and designers kept tabs on a lot of this to make sure what they were doing would be what people wanted. Looking at the end product, everyone involved deserves a bonus.
The retro styling, the available colours, and all the right changes in all the right places have ensured the all-new Suzuki Jimny an instant cult status. Seriously, if you want one now in SA, you'll be put on a waiting list. Yes, that's right, a waiting list for a Jimny! It's also not a short wait, if you want to get your ass in the seat of a new Jimny, you have a 12-month long wait ahead of you. While that's not necessarily a great thing for Suzuki SA who have to try and calm impatient wannabe owners, I think it's absolutely awesome! I've already heard stories of people selling their spots on the waiting list to enthusiasts who are willing to fork out money to get theirs sooner. That's a problem that usually plagues limited edition high performance models and supercars. Like I said - instant cult classic. This little 4x4 appeals to so many people, in the many different circles I run in, there's at least a handful of people who want one. A client of mine has a collection of super impressive cars, including a Track Pack GT-R as well as the holy grail of JDM cars - a 1970 GC10 Hakosuka - and he's keen to get his hands on one.
Now I'm not going to get into all the technical details and changes and improvements, for that information I'll direct you to the initial launch impressions over here. What I am going to tell you is that the all-new Suzuki Jimny is brilliant, just fukken brilliant. Sure, there will be those that want it to have more power and more speed, but those are the people who don't really get what Jimny is all about. That said, the motor is bigger so there is a bit more power on tap than before. While I haven't looked at the nitty-gritty specs, I'm positive the gear ratios are different as is the power delivery, which in real world terms means the Jimny is much easier to drive. I took a 2017 model to Cape Town, and while I loved it because I was headed to an awesome destination in a car that I'll bite someone in the face for, it took a bit of work, it was tiring. You do have to pay constant attention to the gear you're in, the revs and the speed. Still, while the little 4x4 isn't fast, I never held up traffic and even managed plenty overtaking manoeuvres. That's not the same in the all-new Jimny though. It's an easier drive, like you're in a normal compact car. The steering is easier, the feel of the car on the road is better, the power delivery is better, the comfort is better - everything is better. That's just on the tarmac, if you start talking about going off road, then there's not much that comes close to what this 4x4 can manage in stock form, the new technologies employed make it untouchable . Of course, if you want more out of a Jimny, there's already so many aftermarket parts out there to beef the thing up into zombie apocalypse spec. This is thanks to the Jimny being the most popular vehicle at the recent Tokyo Auto Salon.
Many people know I get press cars, and when I get something different or special, a few get hold of me so they can have a closer look. After the launch and I posted pics, I had upwards of 50 people begging me to show them the car when the review week popped up. At every place I visited, every shopping centre I stopped at, someone wanted a closer look at the Jimny. I've never been in a car with this much interest from the public. At 4-way stops, robots, and in traffic I had so many hoots & waves and thumbs ups chucked at me you would swear I won the lotto. Lucky I'm not (that) paranoid.
With Suzuki, the Swift has always been the bread & butter model, selling great in all the markets it's available in, but I think the new Jimny will be adding some pretty damn tasty jam to that sandwich. It's never going to outsell the Swift, but it's going to hold its own for sure. Not only is it brilliant at what it does, it can out 4x4 just about any offroader you can think of, but it also has no competitors. That's right, this little 4x4 is in a class of it's own. Even if there was something in this class, you're looking at playing catch up to a company that's had a Jimny on the road since the first generation LJ10 in 1970. The practicality of the Jimny is brilliant, the single drawback being boot space, but if you leave passengers out of it, the rear seats fold down to free up enough space for serious holiday baggage. The all new Suzuki Jimny moves to the top of my want list, relegating the outgoing model to second place. I wouldn't even be picky about a colour for one, I'd take whatever is available because they're all that good, I actually couldn't choose a colour for myself anyway. With two trim levels and the option of automatic, there's a model for everyone, even freelance journalists like myself. The range-topping Jimny 1.5i GLX AT comes in just shy of R320 000, with the entry-level Jimny 1.5i GA MT just on the R265 000 mark.
If you want a second hand 2018/9 Jimny, be prepared to wait for a very, very long time. If you think having a new model out means you can pick up the outgoing model for cheap - think again. From what I'm seeing on the World Wide Web, most Jimny owners aren't selling to get this new model, they're simply adding the new one to the garage.
That's pretty damn cool.
Why did I shoot the Jimny in an urban setting? Basically, because I can. Mainly because every review out there sees the 4x4 in action off road, and I'm a fan of doing things another way.
With the Dakar over and a fair bit of worldwide hype about some local builds doing well, cracking an invite to the Motul offices in Kyalami to chat with some regulars involved with car building and support, as well as a privateer who competed was pretty cool. It's one thing hearing stories and anecdotes about life on Dakar in video clips and press releases, but hearing it first-hand and being able to pick up on body language and tone just makes it that much more exciting. The stars of the show were race driver and big boss of Red-Lined Motoring Adventure, Terence Marsh, and privateer racer and Morul Powersport Ambassador, Stuart Gregory, who competed this year in the Original by Motul class on a rented KTM 450 Rally. With Terence being a veteran of Dakar, having attended 8 of them while helping run the teams entered with cars built by his company, he had a lot of insight as to the running of the event and how it's all an intricate business model before anything else. On Stuart's side we got to hear the struggles of a lone privateer bike entrant in the toughest race on the planet.
The invite list saw about 70 or so people gather for a few drinks, some snacks and to listen to some great stories. Terence hosted no less than three teams racing locally-built Nissan Navaras on steroids at the 2019 Dakar, and with that experience comes a wealth of knowledge. There's a lot to it, but basically the event needs to be run like a business, and it's all centered around how the footage from the front runners is sent to the networks to air, well that and making money. This year's event was a bit of a weird one, the guys sort of looped a track in Peru because some deals didn't happen and so the event couldn't be run across borders as planned, other countries pulled out. This in turn made the event that little bit harder as the competitors had to try race across some very loose and hard to navigate terrain. This actually hurt Stuart's attempt at the Dakar. When the sand gets pummeled into a soft powdery dust they call it Fesh Fesh, it's super fine and gets in places dust has no place being, and in Stuart's case that seemed to be the engine and at Day 8 it lost all compression and forced his retirement. If the event ran as originally planned, the ground would have been more compacted as it would only have been the frontrunners loosening things up instead of the whole field. His stories about how tough the race is, along with how the camping and eating process is makes you glad he was there and you weren't. Before this event Stuart was quoted as saying that he wouldn't do Dakar again, but by the end of the night he'd confirmed that he's definitely headed back to get that elusive medal and the fund raising started then and there with someone buying the Fox / Motul shirt he was wearing. Seems a bug has bitten.
From what was told, this event really is for the toughest of the tough, that goes for the people as well as the machinery. The costs involved not only to enter and race, but all preparations before and after are mind boggling, and on a privateer level are almost impossible to fathom. I tell you what though, looking at the images looping on the screens, it really is an awesome race through some amazing countries (well one this year) and does have you thinking that if you could, you probably would. The Original Motul class is mad though, you compete on your own, no crew to help service, fix or prep the bike. You set up and break down your own camp and a single box of your belongings is shipped to the next way point for you. With Stuart making it strong to the 8th day on his own, I have no doubt that if he was backed by a team he would have collected a medal.
It was a real eye-opener to get all the facts and figures from people who had actually been there and done that. There's costs behind the scenes that you won't see in any published facts and figures, struggles and hardships raising capital that could pay off a house just to get a medal. I've learned two things from this; if you want to enter Dakar, you need lots of money, and if you do enter Dakar, you need Red-Lined Motoring Adventure in your corner. It's also thanks to companies like Motul that we have these great events. On that note, thanks for the invite guys, that was a good and interesting evening. Oh, and next time I'm winning in the lucky draw!
*Pics without my logo were supplied.
Let me scare you quick. You know that Datsun Go that was recently introduced into the world market? Yeah, well that was in 2013. I first had one on review in 2014 and while I found it to be ok, there were safety concerns due to no airbags and driver aids, as well as a zero rating with the NCap crash testing people. People were up in arms about having a new car like that on the local market, and soon most were aware of the dismal results thanks to journos not pulling any stops in reviews. You can imagine what that did for sales of the little car used to relaunch the brand? Nothing. It did absolutely nothing. No one cared, in fact, when the car was launched a panel of experts did some of those marketing panel test study things and guess where safety was listed in the list of requirements for a budget car? I have no idea either but it wasn't even in the top three things. We're built tough here. Back then, the car was available at a starting price of just R89 000 making it attractive to many younger new car buyers. Closing in on five years later, the Datsun Go is still a budget beater with the pricing starting off at R144 500 for the Go Mid and R165 500 for the Go Lux. The price is up, but the GO has been tweaked and tucked here and there too, so it's still decent value for your money.
The bland dash is much better now, and the instrument cluster has a lot more to it now with colour and a tacho, and so looks more modern and along the lines of what you find in other budget Japanese cars. The carbon-look finish with splashes of brushed aluminium definitely raises the look and feel of the interior, along with a darker material for the seats and door panels it's actually a not a bad place to be. Of course those used to the luxury cars would hate it, but a 1st time new car buyer or a student will be more than happy with it. Changes inside include power windows all round and a 7-inch touch screen infotainment unit with both Android CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound actually plays pretty well and the Bluetooth streaming along with the hands-free telephony is great quality, well better than you expect. I'd have tried the Android Auto if it worked in SA properly, yes, it is in the Play Store, and it picks up that you're in a car but I couldn't get it to mirror my Galaxy S8 screen no matter what I did. I'm also sure the problem is either the phone or me because it doesn't work in the press car I currently have either - imma have to look into that. Seating arrangements and the boot space remains the same as the previous model. If I got my hands on one of these, I'd chuck a few grand into quality door speakers and a small boot enclosure for a small woofer - it can turn the cabin into a real happy place.
There have been some exterior changes too, the front-end sees sharper lines in the bumper, air dam and spotlight surrounds, which are home to daytime running lights to add to the improved safety. On that note, this Datsun GO features dual front airbags and also has ABS brakes in play, taking the crash rating up by two from what I understand. There are a host of accessories available from the Datsun dealerships and this one has a few things fitted like the roof racks, the rear roof spoiler, the chrome tailpiece, the chrome trim on the lip of the hatch and the 15-inch mags. All of these things do make the GO look rather good, the little hatch does have good lines. The ride height is the same as before, which is just too high. Yeah, there's the shpiel about it being to accommodate our dodgy SA roads, but my Corsa sits low on coilovers and I've never had any clearance issues. In fact, if I got my hands on one of these, I'd get it slammed with dome good aftermarket underpinnings and I'd change the wheels to some more JDM -style wheels with a meatier 195 tyre over the current 175. That teeny exhaust tip would have to go too, in fact, I'd commission a complete performance exhaust system that may not really improve performance but it will have the little 3-cylinder humming along with a decent soundtrack. The more I think about it, this little thing could look really good with a little fettling.
That aforementioned 3-cylinder produces just 50kW and 104Nm but these numbers are more than enough for the small, light car. Once you get used to the weird 3-cylinder wobble that vibrates the car, you'll see it has enough GO for most situations. One thing that's still the same is the 5-speed manual transmission. 1st and 2nd are quite close together and make for a quick pull off, but 3rd has a much longer ratio with a bit of a gap over the end of 2nd. There’s around a 2000rpm drop when you shift to third and if you happen to be on a hill haven’t taken the revs high enough you'll feel the need to drop back a gear. You get used to it though and adapt accordingly. I think a different filter and the exhaust mods I mentioned will completely eliminate the delay.
So yeah, the Datsun GO has improved in the places it counts, and it's an attractive buy with some good specials when buying them new (although pay close attention to balloons). The one I had was the R165 500 Lux trim and that's not too bad. Shopping in the same category, you can find a similarly spec'd and cheaper cars now though, which wasn't the case when it first launched. For similar or less money, you can have a Suzuki Celerio for R156 900 (even the entry Swift is at R160 900), the top spec Renault Kwid at R153 500, the Mahindra K4 at R163 999, the KIA Picanto 1.2 MT Start at R162 295, and also a Chinese offering from BAIC, the D20 1.3 Comfort at R149 990. I can only comment on the Suzuki models as I haven't driven the other brands, and spec for spec and Rand for Rand I'm not sure I could be swayed to buy the Datsun. That said, many have been sold and still continue to be if the number of them you see on the road is anything to go by. Also, for the last few years I've been a judge at one of the bigger SA shows called Germany vs Japan, and I'm yet to see a modified and done up Datsun GO there, which is quite strange considering the price you can get them at. Maybe Datsun should mess around with one and take it to shows like Suzuki does with the Swift, that would be pretty sick. If y'all need help, just shout.
When Opel announced a partnership with Groupe PSA back in 2017, I could hear enthusiast hearts breaking all over S.A. The thought of their favourite brand joining forces with a French company was akin to treason, but that's just because the Peugeot and Citroen footprint in SA is but a smidgen of what Europe has had over the years. The French conglomerate has a long history of great cars, and the merger promised the best of both worlds wrapped up into one. Well not all the time. I have reviewed the Grandland X, and I did like it. It's a good SUV that ticks all the SUV boxes, but what I failed to mention was that there's a lot of Peugeot 3008 in the Grandland X, including the powerplant and transmission and while SUVs aren't meant to be exciting, the Grandland X was missing some of the coolness that comes with Opels. With this here smaller sibling, the Opel Crossland X, that's just not the same, well to me anyway. This Opel / Peugeot amalgamation uses the right amount of each brand to create a funky little SUV /MPV with a great engine and transmission combination from the Peugeot GT Line 208 and the smaller chassis from the 2008.
There's admittedly more French than German in this setup, but that's not a bad thing as you can see from the pics. The Grandland X was sort of plain in the looks department, but the Crossland X looks and feels a lot more like the more recent Opel offerings, think the styling of the latest Corsa and the ADAM. I think it's a damn good-looking MPV with all the right curves and lines in the right places, and that now popular floating roof design just works. It's clearly related to the Grandland X, it's more like a Grandland X that's a crossfit fanatic so it's a little more trim, a little skinnier and a little lighter. Inside the cabin things just work, the driving position, the seats, the steering and dash layout, all of it. Sitting inside the Crossland X feels the same as in the Corsa, like you're in a small hatchback, which is great if you like small cars like I do.
Inside the well-optioned, range-topping Cosmo 1.2T AT model I had on test things were great, the adjustable driver's AGR-Certified ergonomic front seat is quite high, and that's a bonus for someone of my immense stature because it's one of the few cars I've driven where the sun visor actually blocks the sun. All the controls for everything are easily in reach, and of course most of everything can also be adjusted via the multifunction steering wheel. As with all new Opels, the infotainment is that easy-to-use 5.0 Intellilink system that can be had with navigation and a pretty damn decent 6-speaker audio system (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible) that covered all the stuff on my phone's playlist. All the usual acronyms are in play with regards to features, which are par for the course these days, it's the extras in the Crossland X that make me happy. The Opel Eye front camera relays driving information and sign boards to the driver via the driver information screen, and added to that there are things like wireless charging for compatible smartphones, Driver Drowsiness Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert with Automatic Emergency Braking and pedestrian detection, full LED headlights, head up display, Panoramic Rear View Camera and Side Blind Spot Alert. being an SUV / MPV, you expect better space than what you'll find in a car, and that's what you get. Even though you feel like you're in a small car, there's still 520-litres of space in the boot, and that's with the read seats still not folded down. A bit of folding sees that increase to 1225-litres.
There's just three cylinders in play in the Opel Crossland X, and it's a great little motor. I first came across one in the Citroen Cactus, and then again in the Peugeot 208 GT Line. I like it, a lot. Even though it's small with just 1.2-litres of capacity, the small turbocharger fitted affords it 81kW and 205Nm, which in turn gives some pretty decent performance, especially when you consider the size of the Crossland X. The 6-speed auto (or manual if you like) has great ratios and this does help things feel more powerful than they are, but boost does that to the butt-dyno. It's not meant to be a performance car, but that nippy feeling is always good. Pulling away from traffic lights, I was always leading the pack, and while that sounds like a fast drive, the thing really was just sipping petrol, it stayed in the low 7-litres/100km range. With more mindful driving that will drop even further though, guaranteed. While the X looks taller, it still has the road manners of a normal-height streetcar and doesn't lean when chucked around bends. All in all, the drive offered up is good, no faults anywhere. It's comfortable, visibility is good and the infotainment and climate control keep you in a happy Opel bubble.
Things are pricey these days, no matter what it is that you're Googling values of. Luckily even though this new Opel Crossland X is put together with the good bits from two serious automakers, the price is still rather palatable. The test unit was the range-topping Crossland X Cosmo 1.2T AT that, as said, is packed with intelligent tech and features. This one starts at R400 537, and if you prefer manual, the number drops to R381 993. One rung lower we find the Crossland X Enjoy 1.2T starting at R338 355. The base Crossland X 1.2 starts at R294 638, which I haven't driven but would still skip because it's missing a turbocharger.
This new Opel offering tick plenty boxes for many out there, and that will hopefully reflect in the sales here in SA. I thought this car was damn good, and was expecting it to be announced as a finalist in the current Car of the Year competition, which it sadly wasn't. I'm a fan, I think it's even replaced the Mokka as my favourite in this category. Check out every spec and detail of the Opel Crossland X over on the Opel SA website.
At the beginning of November I was included in the local launch of the all-new Suzuki Jimny, and if you know at least one fact about Chris Wall it has to be that I have an unnatural obsession with the previous model. This meant that while I've watched about fifty-twelve hours of reviews on the new Jimny, and read more reviews and articles on it than on any other car ever, I was still a little hesitant to get up close and personal with one for the simple reason of not wanting to be disappointed. Even when a few were revealed at Festival of Motoring, I had a look but didn't climb inside. At the launch, it was climb inside and drive or walk a very, very long way to our accommodation. I don't like walking.
What I do like, is the new Suzuki Jimny. In all of two minutes I was sold on one. Of course the older model is still something I'd love to own, but the new one is just better in every single way, and the Suzuki engineers have managed to reinvent the small 4x4 without losing any of the things that made the Jimny special. It's still small, the smallest true 4x4 money can buy, but it's bigger where it counts - inside - which is a strange talent Suzuki has. But before we climb inside, let's take a look at that retro as fuck exterior. I've seen people comment on the looks "stolen from the G-Wagon" or "copied from the Jeep" but in reality every part of it is taken from a previous incarnation of the Suzuki 4x4 range that started back in 1970. If anyone copied anyone, it wasn't Suzuki...
Compact 4x4s from Suzuki stay in production for a long time, pretty much subscribing to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" way of thinking. The first compact 4x4 from Suzuki was the LJ Series that ran from 1970 – 1981, followed by the iconic SJ Series that was produced from 1981 – 1998 (my sister had a yellow one). Then there's the Jimny as we know it, which started production in 1998 and ceased just before the all-new one went into production this year. That's a 20-year run that only saw a few minor upgrades along the way to keep it a little more modern. So in essence, this range of vehicles from Suzuki started almost 50-years ago and we're only seeing the fourth generation now. As said, this new one features many hat-tips to the previous versions; up front we find the upturned front fenders, round headlights and round orange indicators that were inspired by the LJ, the side slits and the clamshell bonnet that were inspired by the SJ Series and the upright grille that's reminiscent of the last Jimny and the SJ too.
The other changes weren't purely cosmetic, Suzuki has a reasoning for all of it. The flat surfaces and thin window sills make it easy to clear off snow in colder climates, while upright A-pillars and the clamshell bonnet help increase spatial awareness and visibility, and then the longer roof and upright windscreen shields the driver from direct sunlight (height dependant - did nothing for my short ass). The new design also allows the roof to carry more weight for rooftop storage and the all-round drip rail allows easy clamping of roof racks. The angled front and rear bumpers increase the approach and departure angles, and up front the bumper design exposes more tyre tread on a horizontal plane assisting greater climbing capability in rocky conditions. Rear lights are now in the horizontal rear bumper to allow for a wider rear door, never a bad thing. These changes give new approach and departure angles too; approach is at angle of 37-degrees, up from 35-degrees, and departure is at 49-degrees, up from 46-degrees. Breakover angle is also up by one to 28-degrees. The departure angle is especially impressive and benefits from the slightly shorter body and redesigned rear bumper. The spare wheel remains on the rear door, as it should. The moulded bumpers and wheel arches help protect painted surfaces from possible scratchy things, and the design is more square than round which allows for more wheel travel and also makes changing wheels and inflating tyres easier if pressures were changed for soft sand driving. Two trims are available in SA, the GA and GLX , the latter distinguished with 15-inch alloy wheels and colour-coded door handles and mirrors.
Inside the all-new Suzuki Jimny things are pretty damn fuckin' cool! The only thing left from the outgoing version is the shiny silver S on the steering wheel. The dash features horizontal layers to let you know what angle you're scaling obstacles at, it also includes a bar for those riding shotgun to hold on to, a smart phone tray in the middle level section and a cubby hole on the lower level. The exposed door panels also feature these horizontal lines and are made from durable, weatherproof materials. The instrument cluster is just too damn cool with the speedo and tacho in their own separate square housings, just like in the old SJ model. The seats are quite similar to the old model and have lower bolsters to let you wiggle around when at weird angles and so you can lean out the window to see where the rear wheels are going if you're doing some technical 4x4 driving. The materials used are all hard wearing, as you'd expect in a vehicle that's capable of traversing the planet. The dash material has a repeating line pattern, while the lower sections have the same texture as on a DSLR camera. Yes, I compared it directly with my Canon and it's spot on. That alone is a selling point for someone like me - yuuuuussss! You'll also find some brushed aluminium and the controls can be operated easily with gloves on, Bear Grylls types will have tenty pants. The top trim GLX features a proper 7-inch infotainment unit (Suzuki’s Smartphone Linkage Display Audio - SLDA) - something Suzuki models have been sorely needing. The lower GA trim isn't really lacking either, there's also a touchscreen double-din unit in play. The GA has a manual kind of climate control, while the GLX has a fancier auto one - just a little more Sandtony for those that want creature comforts. The biggest change in the cabin of the manual versions is the second shift lever. Yup, there's no longer a few buttons to push to put the Jimny into 4H and 4L, there's an old school second lever for the job! So much of awesome!
The underpinnings of the all-new Suzuki Jimny are quite similar to what was used in the past. There's still the ladder frame chassis, but it now features an 'X' across the centre to add some structural rigidity - dubbed the Suzuki X-member. It helps limit body flex in serious cross-axle situations and creates a sturdy platform for the fitment of the body. The added torsional strength also improves the Jimny’s tramac driving dynamics and crash safety. There's extra horizontal cross members, one on each end of the car, again for added rigidity and they form the basis of the Suzuki Total Effective Control Technology (TECT) system . While stiffer, 8 new rubber mounts offer a more comfortable ride with more responsive handling. Much like the old version, there's a rigid axle suspension system that improves serious off-road capabilities; mechanically forcing one wheel down if the opposite wheel is raised and it also prevents the nose from diving under speed. To help with the handling, there's now a steering damper on the front suspension to limit steering wheel kickback and vibration on rough terrain - something owners of older Jimnys usually retrofit with aftermarket parts.
Being a Jimny fanatic, even though I've never owned one, it's hard to believe that the off road capabilities could be improved on, but Suzuki has managed to get it right. Of course it's still a 4x4, but now it features the improved ALLGRIP PRO four-wheel drive with low range transfer gear. As mentioned, the mode buttons are gone and there's a shift lever directly connected to the transfer gear that can switch between 2H and 4H at speeds of up to 100 km/h. The part that improves things is Suzuki’s proprietary Brake Limited Slip Differential and electronic stability control systems. Brake LSD is absolutely fukken awesome. It adjusts torque to the wheel with grip if another wheel on the same axle starts spinning, and there's also an extra-power mode that kicks in below 30km/h in low-range mode for the best possible traction. The demonstration on the launch saw the older Jimny fail at getting over a slippery transaxle obstacle, but the new one made it look like a pavement. New additions also include Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control that we managed to put to good use later on. The Jimny has an improved ground clearance measuring in at 210mm, which is 20mm more than the previous model - combined with with its short wheel base it means the lil 4x4 can go pretty much anywhere you want it to.
The local launch took place in Nelspruit and the powers that be at Suzuki managed to arrange the convoy of these cool AF boxy 4x4s to drive some pretty damn amazing trails through the Sappi forests. The cars were subjected to all the usual 4x4 stuff and every single road travelled or hectic section was easily traversed. The new hill descent control is brilliant, as long as you have the balls to let the car control things, it's not easy to lift your feet off the pedals and trust the tech, but as soon as you get the first ridiculously steep and slippery and rocky downhill out of the way you start looking for more to do it again. Of course, getting back up the hill is just as easy in the new Jimny, all you do is make sure you have a good line, point the steering, engage low range and Robert's your mother's brother - you're at the top of the hill. On some of these sections I was riding shotgun, and that grab handle across the dash becomes your best friend, especially when you're not buckled in because you're trying to get pics out the window.
It's amazing in these forests, there's waypoints to stop at for a rest that have manicured grass, shelter, tables and even a waterfall - we had lunch at one. One of the Jimnys was parked in front of the waterfall for us to take a few pics, which I duly did, there's no need to ask me twice. If I wasn't already planning ways to raise funds for a new Jimny, seeing this one parked there just made me fall in love with the thing all over again. I think that was probably the 5th time that day. This really is the coolest thing to come out of Japan since, well, the last Jimny.
So we've established that the all-new Suzuki Jimny is brilliant off road, it looks great inside and out and I'll happily bite someone in the face for one. Of course, a car meant for off road conditions usually doesn't have matching road manners. The last Jimny was ok on the tar, not amazing, but there was nothing to put me off owning one. Heck, we even drove one to Cape Town last year and had no issues with uphills and overtaking, the only drawback was the thirst. In the new Jimny we find a slightly different powerplant. Gone is the old 1300cc M13A and a new-generation 1500cc K15B is now in play. The extra 200cc of capacity means power is up to 75kW and torque is at 130Nm, small numbers but they most certainly feel bigger when you're piloting the little 4x4. The new lump has a higher compression ratio making it more responsive and also better when it comes to fuel consumption. We see claims of 6.3-litres/100km on the manual and 6.8 for the auto, down from 7.2 and 7.8 in the older one. All this equates to a much-improved on-road experience, there is no reason a new Jimny can't be your daily drive, even if you have to do some serious sales rep kinda mileage. It feels better on the road in every way possible. The manual feels nippier than the auto, and the new auto feels nipper than the old auto, which is must be said is as slow as a snail at another snail's funeral.
I'd be happy with any of the three model available, and in any colour too. The base spec GA is only available in manual, and the list of features includes aircon, power steering, an immobiliser, ABS, BAS and ISOFIX thingies, dual airbags, ESP (not the future-telling kind), brake LSD, hill descent and hold control, and that amazing ALLGRIP PRO 4WD system with low range. The cabin on the launch unit saw fitment of a decent double DIN head unit with a pair of OK speakers, it's not a standard feature but your local, friendly Suzuki dealership will be able to hook you up I'm sure. This one also rolls on 15-inch steel wheels (with full-size spare) and usually steelies would be horrid little things, but on the Jimny they're cool AF. The base model is the one to go for if you're planning overland trips because you don't really need any of the bells and whistles. Of course for when you do prefer the finer things in life, the GLX trim is the one to have. Over and above the GA spec, this one see extras like colour-coded door handles mirrors, electric windows and mirrors, automatic climate control, remote central locking, auto LED projector headlamps that are the coolest things EVAR, front fogs, cruise control, an SLDA touch screen infotainment system, a multi-function leather steering wheel, an extra 12V socket in the boot, a 50/50 split folding rear seat, a luggage area box and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Being the funkiest little thing to hit the streets in forever, the all-new Suzuki Jimny has been given some new paint shades to make it stand out. What that means in the real world is that these chaps at Suzuki have made it a complete fukken mission to choose a favourite. On the launch I'd see one colour and be like "Yes, that's the one I'd take!" but five minutes later I'd see another one and think the exact same thing. There's a choice of three dual-tone and five single-tone colours available, and added to that there will be a host of cool sticker kits for further customisation. The high-visibility Kinetic Yellow, is an instant favourite for most people, I guess because people want to stand out from the masses, but it's actually intended for rescue crews so they can be seen when rescuing things. Then you get Brisk Blue Metallic and Chiffon Ivory Metallic, all of which have a gloss black roof. The ivory one looks great, but the blue one looks better. I think. Or not. With the single tone colours you can choose from Jungle Green, Bluish Black Pearl, Medium Grey, Silky Silver Metallic and White. The green and ivory ones are the best if you're actually going to use the Jimny to get around in the wild, these colours won't scare the wildlife as much as the rest. Although I guess if you do cock up properly then the chaps in the Kinetic Yellow Jimnys will have a hard time finding you.
As you can tell I'm a fan, like a fanatical fan, but then you knew I would be. The thing is, you don't need to take my obviously biased word for it, just check out all the reviews from my fellow motoring scribes, both locally and internationally. It's no wonder Suzuki only releases a new Jimny every 20 years - the things are instant cult cars wanted by the masses. If you want one now in SA, be prepared to wait for a while as the initial shipment has already been sold. I'm betting the next one too, hell, there's even people selling their spots on the waiting lists to those who have a want level as high as mine! I'm willing to sell my body for one, so if you know anyone interested in a medium mileage, 5ft-summin dad bod with at least 17 tattoos scattered around it and the ability to run damn fast (in a left circle only), let me know...
Well done Suzuki, well bloody done!
So how much does one of these new Suzuki Jimny models cost? Quite honestly, who cares? You can't put a price on awesome. I guess you need to though because they're not gonna be handing them out for free.
Jimny 1.5i GA MT R264 900
Jimny 1.5i GLX MT R299 900
Jimny 1.5i GLX AT R319 900
The GLX comes with a 4-year / 60 000km service plan while the GA comes with a 2-year / 30 000km service plan. All models are sold with a 5 year / 200 000 km mechanical warranty which you'll probably never use - because Suzuki.
The launch of the latest incarnation of the Opel Astra was back in May of 2016 and I was lucky enough to have cracked an invite. This was my first introduction to the car and it quickly became a favourite thanks to the total package it offered; a very good looking new body style, an abundance of new technologies and a cracking lineup of powerplants and transmissions. The daddy of the range is the Astra 1.6T Sport Plus MT, and I recently had one for a week to get reacquainted with it, and I can happily report that even though the model is a couple of years old now, it still offers more than enough to compete in the hatchback segment. In the circles I run in, people are all about power and speed and racing, and when they find out that the range-topper model is "just" a 1600cc and that there's no OPC version available, they lose interest. The thing is, this Opel Astra holds its own in every category that cars are judged in. The styling rocks, the on board tech is brilliant, the interior is as premium as it gets and yeah, the power comes from a small capacity engine but it most certainly punches above its weight.
So yeah, 1600cc isn't the norm for the big dog of the brand, but this engine is just brilliant, and of course there's boost so that makes everything better. The responsive and efficient powerplant is rated at a very healthy 147kW with torque up at 280Nm ( overboost takes it to 300Nm) and this power is enough to propel the German hatchback to the 100km/h mark in 7-seconds and runs on to a top speed of 235km/h on top. The car is fast, but the way the power is delivered makes it feel even faster, and that's not a bad thing. The torque reaches a max at just 1700rpm and with some really good, close ratios in the 6-speed manual transmission the car has you questioning why people want an OPC version. Ok sure, if there was an OPC, it would have my vote, but this one is more than enough to keep enthusiasts happy. It's pretty good on fuel too, claimed to use just 6.1 litres/100km, but that feeling of boost and the fun acceleration saw my week averaging around 8.2-litres, which still ain't bad. This really is one of my favourite engines though, I keep imagining finding a written off one and transplanting the power making goodies into my Corsa - yuuuuussss!
Inside this Astra things are very good, high-bolstered and heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a great dash and instrument layout kick things off. Of course there's also Opel's IntelliLink infotainment system that remains one of my favourites to use. I had my USB plugged in as well as my phone connected for streaming and the hands-free function, and the standard sound system was happy to bang out everything I chucked at it, from the latest Eminem to some older Rammstein. One day we'll get Android Auto in SA and then connectivity will be even better, but iPhone users have iPlay available in the Astra and I hate them for that. As said, this thing is tech-packed, and features include the Opel Eye front camera which monitors the IntelliLux LED Matrix System and leads on to features like TSA (Traffic Sign Assistance), LDW (Lane Departure Warning), LKA (Lane Keep Assist), FDI (Following Distance Indication), FCA (Forward Collision Alert) and LSCMB (Low Speed Collision Mitigation Braking). As I did before, I'll let the press release explain the lighting, just know that all cars should have this.
IntelliLux LED Matrix Lighting
"The IntelliLux LED Matrix system consists of 8 LED light sections per headlight, which can be individually activated and in total, constitute the high beam light distribution. These are controlled via the Opel Eye front camera, which registers the preceding and on-coming traffic, as well as recognising ambient light, for example street lighting in urban areas. Driving data, such as steering angle, speed and turn indicator activation, are also added to this input. From this information the system calculates in real time which LED segments must be deactivated in order not to dazzle other road users. Because every LED segment only lights a small section of the road, any area can be darkened dynamically, following precisely the position of the detected vehicle. The area around the darkened section remains optimally lit. The benefit of the system is that there is optimal illumination of the road in every situation, while the headlights stay on high beam around the darkened section. The IntelliLux LED Matrix system also offers other automatically activated functions:
Urban light – Whenever street lighting is recognised, at under 55km/h the system switches to an optimal town headlight setting (similar to dipped beam).
Highway Light – Through specific data analysis the system recognises when the car is underway on a multi-lane highway. From 105km/h the light distribution on the left lane is reduced to exclude glaring, also when the lanes are separated by guardrails.
Country light – From 55km/h the light performance is increased.
Static Curve/Cornering Light – In response to steering wheel activation and other vehicle data, curves are illuminated at speeds between 0 and 70km/h.
Energy Saving Mode – When fitted with the Start/Stop System, IntelliLux LED Matrix system automatically goes into energy-saving mode when the vehicle is standing still.
Parking Light – Selecting reverse activates both side-orientated reflectors and the reversing lights to light the area beside and behind the car."
The Opel Astra Sport is really, really good. It's often overlooked in favour of the more performance-orientated hot hatches but it really warrants a closer look. Head over to the Opel SA website for all the details, there's a lot to take in. There's nothing it doesn't offer, every system and feature that someone could possibly want is part of the deal and it's wrapped up in a good looking body with a quality interior. Also, as far as pricing goes, this offers up a huge package (heh heh heh...) for relatively low money. The Opel Astra Sport MT is available from R458 007 and it comes with a 5-year/120 000km Warranty & Roadside Assistance; 5-year/Unlimited Kilometer Anti-Corrosion Warranty and a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan. I want someone to buy one and get it sorted out like the usual cars I see at events. One of these with a downpipe, proper exhaust, and intake and a lil software will be mad, mad fun! Of course, that's only for ballers who don't need a warranty.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.