As many of you who follow my online shenanigans will know, I'm rather pro-Suzuki. So much so that I'm often asked if I work at the company. Alas, I'm just a lowly freelancer, but I have the opportunity to try out new cars from time to time (there would be more if a bunch PRs actually answered any e-mails) and this gives me a change to be able to compare plenty cars available out there. While many I know love the bigger cars, I've alway been a fan of the smaller ones for some odd reason, and this is a category where Suzuki excels. I don't think the company has ever made a bad small car, even the weirdly shaped Splash was pretty good. The company's '"bread & butter" model since 2005 is the Swift, a top seller for the brand in many markets, accounting for 30% of all sales in SA and racking up more than 6 million sales worldwide. When an all-new model was on the cards it had to be every bit as good as the outgoing model, or better. Thankfully the latter it is.
The automaker has the insane ability to make each new model lighter than before, and this means they can use smaller capacity engines and still have the cars feel quite nippy and manoeuvrable on the roads. For the new Swift, Suzuki has widened (40mm) and shortened (10mm ) the little hatchback as well as both the front and rear track and the overall wheelbase have been increased. Up front the track 40mm wider and the sees a 35mm increase - as a result the wheelbase has been stretched by 20mm too. So the car looks a little lower and more squat on the road, which is no bad thing, especially when you look at the effects on cabin space. Front passengers have 10mm more wiggle room in the shoulder width department and rear pPassengers now have 23mm more head room. Seating is also lower which not only creates space, but also adjusts the car's centre of gravity. The Swift has never had a boot you could describe as spacious, but this new generation sees space increase to 268 litres, a pretty hefty 58 litres more, and the 60/40 split with a foldable rear bench ( GL-spec) sees space increase a lot more.
Inside the all-new Swift things look good, a clear improvement from the outgoing model. This is a budget car, but the materials have managed to not look too cheap, and while there are plastics all around, they're pretty good and the tactile feel is ok. The gauge cluster looks more along the lines of what you see in the Baleno model with a handy driver information screen in between the speed and tacho. The dash layout is similar but the entertainment section of the dash is angles a little more to the driver now making things easier to see and use. My one bug bear with the Suzukis we get in SA is the infotainment system because the colour TFT screens as see in international markets are not an option in SA, and with the pricing and practicality of the car also aimed at younger tech-savvy buyers, this can make or break a sale sadly. That said, what is in play works as it should but connecting to Bluetooth (GL trim) can be a higher grade affair. I often get calls from new Suzuki owners asking for help to set it up, no word of lie. You also get a sporty D-shaped steering wheel (with infotainment controls on the GL trim) that feels good in hand. The seats have also been redesigned and are now firmer and more comfortable. All trim levels of the all-new Swift feature air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, power steering and remote central locking. GL-trim gets a better audio system with the aforementioned Bluetooth-connectivity, a USB socket and electronically adjustable wing mirrors. There's also a fair amount of storage space scattered around the cabin.
With a lightweight body and chassis, the engine could some in a little smaller and have the same effect on making the Swift move along, and even though the lump is normally aspirated, it actually does surprisingly well on the road. It certainly feels better than the numbers suggest. The all-new Suzuki Swift gets an all-new engine, and as with the rest of the car, it's also nice and light thanks to its all-aluminium construction. At a smidgen under 1200cc, the little engine is rated at 61kW with 113Nm, but I think the secret to the punchy feel is the high 11:1 compression ratio. It also helps with efficiency, something Suzuki is particularly good at, with a small 37-litre fuel tank in play, the new Swift is able to cover a massive 750km - the thing is rated to sip just 4.9-litre/100km on the combined cycle. Let me just put that into perspective quick; every single launch I've attended would have a car with a certain claimed consumption figure and with the way the journos wring the life out of the cars, the claims are seldom seen. On this launch the new Swift I drove returned 5.1-litres/100km. ON A LAUNCH! That's mighty impressive. It helps that the car is fitted with a nice, close ratio 5-speed manual transmission on the GA and GL models, although that AMT is also an option on the GL (I've still never managed to try this transmission). Overseas markets get a small capacity diesel lump, which no one here will miss I'm sure.
The all-new Suzuki Swift is a great drive, the men in white coats have worked some sort of magic into the build process because while everything is lightweight, the car feels pretty solid. Even with that small engine, you'll often find yourself ahead of the traffic if you drive like me, it's responsive and doesn't battle to rev up, even with a full compliment of passengers and a kitbag or two in the boot. The steering is direct and there's good feedback from the 14" wheels, and the brakes are sharp and tight, but it does take a lot to get the ABS to kick in, which is good. The transmission is smooth and the level notches into place almost as if it's pulled there, which I like a lot and makes me really need to sample the upcoming Swift Sport - that's gonna be a cracker! As for the test of the interior bits, the heater and aircon work fast and also don't sap power from anywhere, well if they do it doesn't feel like it. The seats are comfortable and visibility is good all-round, all in all it's a decent place to be.
Added to the all-new Suzuki Swift is an all-new Suzuki Dzire. The small sedan is no longer just a Swift with a boot, it's a range all on it's own now with some key styling differences to differentiate it, along with the boot. Engine and transmission spec is the same though. These will be great in fleets and for things like Uber; affordable, light on everything and ample space. Of course, to be a top-seller in a brand, a car needs to have a price point that appeals to the market out there, and Suzuki are pretty damn good and putting bargains together. The base Swift, the GA model, starts off at just R159 900, but if you call now, you'll get the higher-spec GL trim at a launch special of R169 900 (usually R175 900). When compared to other cars in this price bracket, the new Swift is a no-brainer. Sure you can get yourself a Datsun GO or a Renault Kwid for similar pricing, but there's a clear difference between a well-spec'd small car with great safety features and an amazing track record, and a death trap disguised as a funky car.
The all-new Suzuki Swift (and Dzire) can only do well for the brand, not only in SA, but globally. I'll be keeping an eye on sales figures but I have no doubt things will improve over the previous generation's sales figures, I'll put money on it. All that's left now is to get that Swift Sport on to our shores...
1.2i GA MT SW14 R159 900
1.2i GL MT SW15 R175 900 - LAUNCH SPECIAL R169 900
1.2i GL AMT SW16 R189,900 Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty
Retail price includes a 2 yr / 30 000km service plan
1.2 GA MT SD6 R161 900
1.2 GL MT SD7 R177 900
1.2 GL AMT SD8 R191 900
Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty for as long as Suzuki SA feels like running the promotion, seriously. That's pretty damn cool of them. Retail price includes a 2-year / 30 000km service plan.
It's funny thing with the Suzuki Swift Sport. You can be at an event packed to the rafters with the most brand-blind enthusiasts who will happily get into a fist fight for dissing their preferred brand or saying another brand is good, yet when the Swift Sport is mentioned, you get a unanimous "Ja, those are good little cars hey?" There's a reason for this; the Suzuki Swift Sport is that damn good! This exact Champion Yellow one is the last to be sold new (demo) through a dealership in SA, and I was lucky enough to take it for a test drive before that happened. As many of you will know, I'm a huge fan of Suzuki products, I've driven every single one except for a Kizashi, but never at the coast. Thanks to Suzuki SA's Brendon Carpenter, I had the chance to drive the last of the last SSS cars in SA, in Cape Town. That's one tick on the bucket list.
At the coast, the little 1600cc powerplant comes alive. Sure, at the Reef it's a sprightly thing, but that extra coastal air pressure will see you swapping cogs fast enough on the short ratio 6-speed transmission to get the wheels to spin in 2nd, as opposed to the little chirp heard in Jo'burg. With a revvy normally aspirated 1600cc motor that produces just 100kW and 160Nm of torque, its miles behind when compared to the current hot hatches that everyone raves about. Bigger capacity motors with turbocharging is the way of the world now, but there are those out there (me) who still have a taste for the original hot hatch recipe that was made famous by the Mk1 Golf GTi from 1976. That car featured an 1600cc 8-valve lump with mechanical K-Jetronic fuel injection that was packed in a compact, lightweight body that afforded the car a decent power-to-weight ratio. It could hit 100km/h in 9-seconds. Add eight more valves and electronic fuel injection to that description and you could be talking about the Suzuki Swift Sport. It's easy to chuck a powerful motor in any hatchback, and with Suzuki's racing expertise it would have been quite easy, but the essence of the SSS would have been lost.
My afternoon with the car left me with smile cramps. Seriously, it's so much fun to drive but is just that little bit more special at the coast. The accelerator is nice and responsive, the steering is as direct as it gets and that "feel" that everyone makes a hoohaa about is there in spades. From puttering around at 1200rpm to thrashing the car to the redline, you always know what the car wants to do. The suspension geometry and a taught chassis make for an amazing combination, you can chuck the car around like a red-headed stepchild and it will obey every instruction you give it. If you want to go a little more balls to the wall, you can take the traction control off for a little lift-off oversteer fun but it's not really necessary as the nanny filters only kick in if you get things very wrong. The suspension also bugs me as I'd want the car to be lower because I'm from Kempton, but it's so good you don't want to mess with it in case you detract from it's capability. You also don't get chucked around in the cabin, some great seats are in play with high side bolsters to keep you firmly in place when entering hooligan mode. Also, there's some great dials to keep your eye on, it's actually a pretty good place to be seated. There is one single let down, and that's the old-school infotainment system that's really just a radio with Bluetooth functionality. That said, who wants an interactive touchscreen jobbie when you're carving up mountain passes or racetracks? You know how Toyota and Subaru were harping on about the 86 and BRZ making such low power because it's all about the drive? Well they can learn a thing or two from Suzuki. Personally I think they went boostless on those cars because those boxer motors like to eat ringlands for fun...
So why am I posting about the last of the last Suzuki Swift Sports? That's because today (6 June 2018) I'm headed to Durban with Suzuki SA to sample the new generation Suzuki Swift. I've seen plenty images of the car online, I've watched hours of reviews and while I'll miss this outgoing model, I'm looking forward to the new stuff. When news first broke about a new Swift, I was patiently waiting for details on the Sport model hoping that it would remain normally aspirated. Alas, Suzuki decided to turbocharge it. The reasoning isn't because it wants to try and play with the competition, it was purely based on efficiency and emissions and turbocharging is the answer to better figures all round. What I do like about the new Suzuki Swift Sport is that it's retained all the same ingredients made famous by that little Golf 42 years ago; it's compact, lightweight, has brilliant underpinnings, and still uses a small capacity lump, albeit with boost. Dropping 200cc but adding a turbo has seen the power remain much the same at 103kW but torque rises to 230Nm. On the plus side, for those who have more money than the need for a warrantee, boosted cars can make more power much easier than normally aspirated ones. I envision a future of plenty 200kW SSS cars running around soon.
While the new Swift Sport will only arrive later in the year (or possibly next year) it's time to say farewell to the last of the last proper fun cars. I'll report back on the new Swift range in the meantime of course, I'm just hoping they have given the local market enough blingy tech to look at inside so that no one even looks at competitor cars in this segment. I have my fingers crossed that the new Swift is all that's it's cracked up to be, but Suzuki hasn't disappointed me yet...
You can see an overview of the outgoing Suzuki Swift range over here if you like.
Chris Wall Media was lucky enough to garner an invite to the latest product launch from OEM Lubricants for new additions to the Motul Additives range, as well as the introduction of some top-quality car care products under the Lescot banner. If you follow this blog or any of my social media accounts, you'll be well aware that I'm involved in all things motoring and have been for roughly 20 years now, and this has afforded me the chance to meet many amazing people. Over the years a handful of them has stood out from the rest, and after this launch I have a new name added to the list - Wayne Plit. The man is definitely a role model no matter where you're from and what industry you're in. In short, Wayne is a self-made entrepreneur who is worth more than a pretty penny right now, and the fact that he spends a fair amount of his hard-earned money on rare 2-door and classic sportscars is an added bonus.
A shortened version of Wayne's story goes like this: When he was doing his national service in the army, he used to buy wrecked cars and he'd pay to have them repaired at the army's workshops, and once completed the cars would be flipped for a profit. After getting some funds together from this pasttime he bought run down apartments in Jo'burg and used the same fix up and flip strategy, selling the properties at a profit. To say he was successful at this is a gross understatement, and the properties that were bought got bigger and bigger as too did the company. Jump forward some years and Wayne's company was sold off for a few hundred million Rand. Yeah, you did read that right - quite a chunk of change. In between all the business dealings Wayne remains on the lookout for rare and special cars to add to his steadily growing collection, many cars are still flipped for a profit, but some are just what he wanted and they form part of the current collection. Many of the cars are so rare that you cannot put a reasonable price on them. I'd list some of these for you, but it really would take too long, at current standing the collection is pretty close to the 300 cars mark. Of course you'll also find some stunning motorcycles in there too as well as amazing memorabilia and hundreds of scale models.
So how does Motul link to Wayne and his amazing car collection? All of the cars Wayne has are in exceptional condition, each one permanently on a trickle charger so when he feels the need to drive I dunno, say an early 80s Audi Quattro Sport S1, all he needs to do is get in, turn the key and he's off. Keeping a huge collection of cars of this calibre in perfect condition takes some doing, and over the years Wayne has navigated to the Motul brand thanks not only to the quality of the products, but also the thanks to fact that they have a range of lubricants specifically formulated for older performance cars from every era that cars have been raced in. Not only engine and transmission lubricants, but also rare hydraulic oils for things like the suspension, clutch and brakes of a 60s model Citroën DS.
Enter OEM Lubricants. A little over two years ago the powers that be at Motul were on the hunt for a new company to represent them in South Africa because the one originally appointed to do the job was terrible at best - and that's being kind. With Wayne and his newly formed company driving the Motul brand we're seeing the company logo splashed across many serious racecars, driver's race suits and at many prestigious race events like the annual Knysna Speed Festival. With a brand that has a deep history in international motorsports, things are now on the right track. To add to the range of Motul lubricants available in SA, OEM Lubricants is making a comprehensive range of Motul Additives available to dealers and consumers. This range is specially developed to help restore and maintain engine performance through the fuel system, the products help remove deposits from the fuel system and the engine, the results of which can lead to improved performance, better fuel economy and a friendlier environmental impact. There’s a product for just about every application you can think of; Fuel System Clean, Diesel System Clean, Valve and Injector Clean and even DPF Clean that has been developed to address the issue of Diesel Particulate Filter system clogging. Engine Clean and Automatic Transmission Clean are self-explanatory ones. Of course the people in my circles already swear by the Motul Lubricants and octane boosters.
With Motul recently acquiring French car care product manufacturer Lescot, it made sense for Wayne and OEM Lubricants to launch the brand in SA too. If there's one thing Wayne knows, it's how to get old cars back to the best condition possible, so when a man with a collection as extensive as the one seen in the Motul Museum recommends a detailing product, you damn well better take notice. Lescot has more than 40 years experience in developing and manufacturing high quality car care consumer products, and as such, the range on offer is quite extensive. You'll find a dedicated product for just about every conceivable car part that needs some loving, as well as a few products that can cover many needs. With car care products, someone can tell me that XXX product is the best, but if you don't physically show me, I'll never really believe you. To show the Lescot range off, an original Ford Escort RS2000 that was sleeping in a downtown basement awaiting a refurb was used. The car was given that usual half/half treatment, and I must say, that 40-year-old red paint that had faded to a lackluster orange was brought back to life and then some. The old Ford features many black plastics that the sun and time have taken their toll on, giving things more of a glittery silver look than actual black. Lescot New Black Exterior was used on these parts and yeah, straight back to black. The results were so good I'm gonna be getting myself a bottle ASAP to blacken some faded parts on my 2002/3 Corsa. To add to the range, there's also a host of Lescot microfibre cloths, brushes, mitts and buffing aids. I quite like the detailing pack in it's own dedicated case - detailing porn!
Using the Motul Museum as a venue to launch the new lubricants and car care products was just amazing. It's a place of wonder and mystery that will make any automotive enthusiast weak at the knees. The cars are breathtaking, there's almost too much awesomeness to take in. The best part is that if I ever get to go there again, the cars will be different as the displays are changed around for various reasons. When Motul was launched under OEM Lubricants, many cars on display were chosen for their link to SA's motoring history, so the likes of Opel's Superboss and BMW's 333i were on display. Take a look at some of the cars I snapped on the night, but bear in mind there are plenty more, I was just rather overwhelmed.
Motul On Track
I did mention that Motul is now a stand out feature at many race events around the country, and I witnessed the brand's impressive presence at the last round of the popular and action-packed Inland Championship that I shoot for quite often. Just because I'm cool like that, here's a small gallery of the racecars in the Motul Modified Production Cars (MPCs) category.
Yeah, thanks to the kind folk at OEM Lubricants and Motul South Africa, we're giving away some wicked goodies. To stand a chance to win yourself one of two wicked lil hampers consisting of a Motul carry bag, Motul cap, Motul pen, Motul key ring and a Motul octane booster (one petrol and one diesel) , all you have to do its follow these five easy steps:
1 - Like the Oem Lubricants, Motul South Africa and Lescot Facebook pages (that's THREE pages in total).
2 - Like the Chris Wall Media Facebook page (I like likes!).
3 - Tell us when Wayne started fixing and flipping cars.
4 - Name one product from the Motul additive range.
5 - What car was used to demonstrate the Lescot Car Care range?
Add your answers to the comments section below. Random.org will be used to draw a winner, the draw will take place on 31 July 2018. We'll then verify the winner has the liked the relevant Facebook pages. Your prize will be couriered to you, or delivered personally depending on where you live.
Some events are better than others, and this was one of them. The event (as you probably know by now thanks to all the coverage on the Book of Faces) was put together by Racewarz and was supported by some big names in the motor industry. Michelin was on board (and the reason I was shooting on the day - commissions like this make what I do worthwhile) along with the likes of Racing Hart Concepts, RACE South Africa, Shelby South Africa, Daytona Group, The 357, the Ferrari & Moto GP store, Prestige Marques and Lexus East Rand - among others.
With a sponsor/vendor list like that, a great turnout of wicked cars was a given, and come 11:00, the Sandton City rooftop was filling up with over 600 cars counted, most of which were modified in some way or another. The eye candy included hypercars, supercars, classics, daily drives and a host of rare, lesser-spotted imports. I snapped a few hundred images for Michelin that can be seen on their Facebook page, but as usual, I pulled some images from the batch to give a little more of an edit than usually seen on event pics, and this post is here to you them.
I've shared a few of these on my social media pages and the above R34 GT-R seems to be the favourite by far, but there was so much tasty metal on hand it really isn't easy to choose a favourite. At one point I snuck away from the masses with a few tasty cars who's owners wanted some cool shots, and Nate from Racewarz arranged for car girl and fitness model Megan Jane Wesson to pose for us. I don't usually shoot cars with people, but I'm quite pleased with the results. Take a look below...
In amongst all the serious supercars were some pretty cool classics and modified streetcars. One of my favourite shots of the day was of a trio of E30 BMWs parked against a wall. I had to wait a few minutes for the foot traffic to clear off leaving me with about 10 seconds to get in some shots before the walkers moved back into frame. I don't edit my images a lot (mainly because I still need to learn how to) but I did remove some road markings and a pavement in the foreground that didn't look right. The Beemers were super clean, and I couldn't ask for a better shot even if I planned it. Here's a mint 325iS, and E30 convertible and a 2-door E30 sitting pretty in a 1-2-3 split, because why not?
Added to the wicked R34 GT-R was a few other Nissans that deserved an extra edit. The best part (for me) is that the R35 GT-R is so commonplace at these kinds of events and race meets that a lone 350Z actually stood out more. Of course it did help that it's modified inside and out and a punch of the gas pedal released a roar and crackle that literally made a kid walking past cry.
One thing you can always count on at any event on SA soil - a great turnout of VAG cars. From a Liberty Walk Porsche to top of the line Audi RS models to neat Mk1 Golfs, there was something for everyone. On the way to the event I drove in a 2-car convoy with Haydn's RS7 and the Sandton streets were quiet enough to get some rolling shots in. Yeah, I was ahead in a Corsa, but only because the Audi stayed at idle most of the way. Of course when he did touch the gas pedal, the monstrous thing made me look like I hit brakes...
Apart from the trio posted way above, there were a few more desirable BMWs scattered around the rooftop parking lot. Again, from old to new, stock to modded and everything in between...
So yeah, as you can see it was a pretty damn good event packed with awesomeness, and the total count was pretty much where the World Record for a rooftop park off currently sits, so the next event that should be held around September will actually be an attempt to bring that World record to SA. Until then, I'll catch you at whatever events my camera and myself end up at.
Thanks for looking.
I'm lucky enough to get invites to some really interesting launches and I always do my best attend. Last week well-known East Rand-based tuner SporTech Cars invited me to the launch of their latest creation, a wide body Ford Mustang. It was set for Saturday the 19 May and as luck would have it, I was already booked to cover a race meeting on the far side of nowhere. Luckily man man Chad Wentzel also needed some images of the car for press releases and to share online to get awareness on this brilliant project and so I was commissioned to shoot the car on the Thursday before the big reveal. Awesome!
I obviously expected something that would turn heads, but this thing is just insane man! First off, it's bright yellow (as if you hadn't figured that out by now) which made me happy. Not only is yellow pretty much the best colour car to shoot, it makes a change from the usual colours that modified Mustangs are seen in. Sure the dark blues and greys more commonly seen are nice, but yellow is, I dunno, fresh. Wide kits can be a hit and miss, but I really think this works with the dimensions of the Mustang. Sure not everyone will agree, but if we were all the same this would be a pretty boring world. As you can see it's properly wide, the kit adds 100mm extra on each side. With more space created under the arches a decent set of wheels was needed. Enter the coolest Foose wheels I've seen in person; Foose Phoenix - F451 Concaves in 20-inches. They have a "brushed face with transparent brass" finish and the colour works just right with the yellow paint.
All these changes weren't made to any old Mustang either, under that bright paint you'll find a full Roush setup, meaning that 5.0 V8 is fitted with a supercharger - the only thing that can whine and still make a man happy. I drove in the car to get to the shoot locations, and while we didn't exploit the hundreds of available ponies in the process, that low down supercharger torque is super addictive and will quickly flatten your credit limit if you have bad self control. We cruised around for a bit to find a spot for some pics, and I shit you not, on every single street we turned down people whipped out camera phones to snap some pics. The owner wanted SporTech to turn his Mustang into a head turner, and that's exactly what he got and more. I hope to see this car pitch up at a few of those increasingly popular breakfast runs, it's guaranteed to have every car spotter carrying their camera bag in front to hide their, um, happiness.
Well done SporTech, well bloody done!
There's a few motoring categories that are hot stuff right now, and the compact SUV is one of them. Many automakers either already have a poker in the fire, or one is in the works. Volkswagen has the popular Tiguan, Jaguar has the E-Pace, BMW has the X2 (and X1 I guess), Audi has the Q3, and even the Chinese have the Haval H2 bringing up the rear. New from the Swedes is the Volvo XC40, and it has to be one of the best looking options available, but as usual there's so much more than just good looks going on. Volvo already offers the large XC90 and it's smaller sibling, the mid-sized XC60 that shares a lot of the same design cues which are really pleasing on the eye. The XC40 isn't just a shrunken XC60 though, it's an all-new creation from the ground up built on the CMA platform, Volvo's new modular vehicle architecture, such is Volvo's commitment to take on the segment. The automaker is clearly on the right track because while the XC40 has just reached SA soil, the stylish SUV has already been named as the European Car of the Year for 2018 - this has what it takes to knock a Porsche out of the running.
The Volvo XC40 has an interior designed around the driver, so everything is there for a reason, the cabin (and the rest of the car) has everything you need, and nothing you don't. The Swedes are a clever bunch and they've made sure no space is wasted and so there are numerous compartments found around the cabin to cater for the modern day driver's everyday carry items. Smartphones, laptops, just about anything you would have, has a safe place of it's own. Added to this there's the brilliant infotainment system headed up by the 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen that's fitted in a portrait orientation making it look larger than it is, which isn't a bad thing. This screen is home to many functions and settings screens along with the usual things like navigation, reverse and 360-deg. surround camera and the audio system. For the XC40 the optional audio upgrade is a little different from the others in the Volvo range in that it's no longer that amazing Bowers & Wilkins system, but an equally brilliant Harman/Kardon system. There's plenty more tech packed in, enough to make some German rivals blush.
There's a few trim levels planned for the Volvo XC40 range, but at the time of the local launch there's only two that can be had, but worry not, this compact SUV is a winner no matter which you choose. The available range kicks off with the Momentum trim, but don't mistake this an an entry-level offering, it simply has too much included for it to have that classification. The two models already in SA are the T5 Geartronic AWD with a petrol-fed turbocharged 4-potter that produces 185kW and 350Nm of torque, mated to that brilliant 8-speed automatic transmission (R610 900); and the D4 Geartronic AWD with a diesel-fed turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-potter that's also mated to the 8-speed auto (R600 300). The second trim level that's available straight away is the one I'd sell a kidney for, the R-Design. The R-Design trim makes use of the same go forward bits leaving the differences to be mainly centred around the aesthetics and options, and they look bloody good, if you dispute that then you have no taste. The diesel will set you back R642 600 and the petrol sits at R649 700. Another trim on it's way is the Inscription which offers a sort of balance between Momentum's more businesslike attributes and the R-Design's sports aesthetics, when these arrive you're looking at R632 100 for the diesel and R639 200 for the petrol. In Q3 of this year you'll be able to get a T3 in manual with front-wheel drive that's set to upset rivals with an entry price tag of just R489 500.
These very, very good-looking compact SUVs simply HAVE to do well here in SA. I don't have any facts or figures to back it up, but just from the people I know and people I speak to, many seem to be looking to the smaller, more niche brands to fill their motoring needs, and Volvo has some absolutely brilliant solutions in the popular segments. Besides the pricing and great products, all new Volvos come with a 5-year/100 000km warranty and maintenance plan as well as a 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance package. Oh, and if Vördnadsbjudande doesn't mean what Google Translate says it means, let me know. I just hope its not PG.
Yeah, I'll tell anyone who listens that the Chinese auto brands are on the rise, and fast too. Take this new Chinese-built Haval H6 C, to me it's a sign that manufacturers in the Far East are reaching that point that needs to be crossed before people will consider the brand worthy of consideration. The Korean brands took a while to get there yet they now have models regarded as class and segment leaders. This Haval H6 C comes from Chinese automaker GWM and I reckon it's got the goods to get the right attention, and more importantly, convince buyers to at least take a genuine look at the offerings before making a purchase. The other day I was in the Haval H2 and if you read that post you'll know I was mighty impressed with how good it is, but this H6 C is even better - in every way. The spec I rocked for a week wasn't the top spec model, so a few things were missing like leather seats, a sunroof and some functionality on the driver information screen in the centre of the instrument cluster but they honestly weren't missed. The thing is, even with all the bells & whistles present, the Haval H6 C still comes in at a healthy chunk under R400k. Yeah, I know many will rather look for a second hand (insert German/Japanese brand here) but there are equally as many who want to own a brand new car, and this is for them.
The feature list for the Haval H6 C is good, this Chinese SUV can be had with things like a panoramic sunroof with an electric sun blind, a blind spot monitoring system, hill-descent control, a few drive modes, front and rear park assist with rear-view camera and kerb side camera, mood lighting for the cabin, a tyre pressure monitoring system, dual zone climate control, electronically adjustable heated front seats, electric foldable side mirrors, anti-glare rear-view mirror and an 8-inch head unit that's home to the infotainment system (that can have an optional subwoofer added). There's steering-mounted controls to help you navigate the driver information screen and the infotainment system without taking your eyes off the road, and added to the safety there's ESP, Collision Fuel System Shut Off, daytime running lights and a full array of front and side impact airbags - this SUV quickly dispels thoughts that Chinese cars may be unsafe. There's actually plenty kit in the H6 C, more than the pricing suggests, which is what may end up making people take that closer look I mentioned.
So how do the various things operate? Pretty damn good I reckon. Everything in the cabin is bolted together properly and so there were no squeaks or rattles anywhere. I mean sure, the car was new with less than 5000km on the odo, but if nothing made a noise over some deeply rutted and corrugated roads at 80km/h, then things bode well for when the SUV has the mileage racked up. The function buttons for the various controls are also devoid of that cheap feel that you may expect, there's adequate resistance so you know you've actually used / pressed / switched something. The infotainment system is good, but it is probably the only place that the H6 C has a clear divide from the competition. It does have all the stuff you need though, but if I could nitpick I'd still want a better all-round system more akin to what the rivals offer. That said, I don't see it taking too long for Haval to get this part of the build on par with the competition.
Still, in the cabin you'll find comfortable seats both up front and in the rear. This model I drove had cloth seats, but you can option the SUV with leather if that's your thing. The front seats are comfortable enough to see you through long trips without an aching back creeping up, and they can be had in 6-way or 8-way power adjusting guise. The rear seats are, well, rear seats and are as comfortable as rear seats can be. The best part of the Haval H6 C interior is the space - there's sooooo much! I'm not tall but I can easily have a 6ft+ mate sit behind me and still have space to stretch out. Boot space is great, a set of luggage will fit, as will all the gear needed by those with an active lifestyle. The rear seats can fold flat to expand the space, but then you're probably using the H6 C to help a mate move house.
With great exterior looks, a good cabin and a healthy feature list, it comes down to the drive. This is where the Haval H6 C does rather well. All three trim levels (City, Premuim and Luxury) all share the same powerplant and drivetrain, while the 6-speed transmission can be had in both manual and auto (the latter has a dual clutch setup). Drive is to the front wheels only, but the internationally available all-wheel drive version can be arranged by special order. The model I drove featured the manual transmission and as with the drive in the H2, I was more impressed than I thought I'd be. The clutch action is light and easy and the gears slot into place with the same feel and purpose you'd find in any of the German rivals - Getrag gearbox FTW. The ratios are set up great too, the engine's power delivery vs throttle input is as good as it gets which means no unnecessary cog-swapping leaving you to enjoy the drive more.
All three trim levels also share the same powerplant, and it's pretty damn decent. A turbocharged 2.0 with direct injection does duty and it's rated at 140kW with 310Nm of torque, which is great power in anyone's books. The engine is quiet and smooth and it does feature a bit of turbo lag, but not enough for it to be a problem, more like just enough to that you can feel good and well when the boost comes in - not a bad thing for me. The Haval H6 C isn't small but the power delivery, the light steering and the surprisingly good dynamic handling combine to fool you into thinking the SUV is smaller than it is. Performance figures show the SUV can hit 100km/h in 9-seconds, and is billed to use just 9.8-litres/100km of liquidised dead dinosaur, although during my week the best figure seen was 12.0-litres/100km. If there was a way to get that figure in the low 9s or high 8s there'd be little to fault the thing on.
Overall we're looking at an SUV that's got some great looks, seating for five nightclub-in-the-North-sized bouncers, a good interior fit and finish, a healthy spec list, good safety and a great engine/transmission combination all for under R400 000. In the mid-sized SUV segment there's plenty competition but all the models from various rivals that fall into the same price range come up short on included spec and features, which is a huge plus point for Haval. I enjoyed every drive in the Haval H6 C, the only faults that warrant mention would be the heavier than claimed fuel consumption and an infotainment system that feels like it's a couple of years behind what others offer these days. One enthusiastic standstill start saw the Haval H6C leave an unsuspecting Toyota 86 a hard time, I laughed. A lot.
Would I have one? Yeah, I actually would. For the things I get up to for work and play these days, it's a really good option if a new car purchase was needed. As mentioned, before buying in this segment, be it new or used, you really need to have a closer look at the Haval H6 C. You will be doing yourself and your bank account a serious disservice if you don't.
Haval H6 C 6MT City R329,900
Haval H6 C 6MT Premium R339,900
Haval H6 C 6MT Luxury R359,900
Haval H6 C 6AT City R359,900
Haval H6 C 6AT Premium R369,900
Haval H6 C 6AT Luxury R389,990
The Haval H6 C comes standard with a 5-year / 100 000km warranty and a roadside assist package.
These days it’s become the norm for a dealership to throw in a driving course to try and clinch the deal on a car, be it a fast streetcar or a capable off roader. For those shopping around for an affordable 4x4, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Suzuki’s diminutive Jimny will end up on the shortlist, and in 9 out of 10 cases these buyers will end up at a Suzuki dealership. If you’re based in or around Jo’burg you can pretty much rest assured that a 4x4 course at Bass Lake will either be recommended or offered - this is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because driving off road has its own set of rules and regulations that you simply must learn, and it’s bad because once you’ve taken a Jimny out on a 4x4 trail you WILL want one. The picturesque Bass Lake is located on the Glen Douglas dolomite mine in Henley-on-Klip and is a mere 45-minute drive from the Sandton CBD. Over and above being a 4x4 training facility, Bass Lake is one of the top dive-training spots in the world thanks to a 23-metre deep, 10-hectare lake fed by clear water from a natural spring.
While all 4x4s are welcome at Bass Lake, it is the de facto training ground for Suzuki Auto South Africa’s off road models, which explains the fleet of Jimnys and a Grand Vitara or two you’ll see around the venue. These super capable little 4x4s are used when you attend one of the various 4x4 courses on offer at the lake, like the full day’s 4x4 training that comprises of Level 1 (Introductory) and Level 2 (Intermediate) courses. You can use your own vehicle if you prefer, but we highly recommend using the Suzukis, if not for any other reason than to blow your mind at how amazingly capable they are. Over the years some of these Jimnys have racked up nearly 20 000km of pure off road driving with the only item needing attention being a tear in one of the driver’s seats – another reason to use them.
The main man behind Bass Lake is Alan Pepper, a well-travelled outdoorsman who’s forgotten more about 4x4 and off road driving than I could ever hope to learn. Alan stepped into the world of 4x4 before I was born back in 1975 and over the years has been instrumental in training over 9 000 local and international drivers to handle themselves off road. He’s the kind of man you want on your side when that zombie apocalypse happens, he’s been there, done that and has a closet full of T-shirts to prove it. Not only is he the boss, he’s also hands on and will be the one giving instruction and training during the offered courses. We were there for the aforementioned full day course that kicked off with Level 1, which covers the basics of 4x4 driving and includes explanations of the various terms, a breakdown of how a 4x4 system works and what that means for the way they handle on and off road. What I like about this first part is that Alan manages to teach you all the relevant bits without getting too technical, yet nothing is really left out either – many a schoolteacher could take a lessons from Alan.
It’s the second part of the instruction where things get fun, the Level 2 part of the course sees you head out on to one of a few trails scattered around the 75-hectare property. These range from “mild” to “no thanks” and a stock-standard Jimny can pretty much handle them all, which usually catches most people by surprise. The Jimny only has the basics in terms of creature comforts, but this just shows you that it was built with a singular purpose – to go anywhere. If YouTube were anything to go by you’d swear a 4x4 needs a thundering V8 with a few hundred horses saddled up, but the Suzuki Jimny makes use of a 1300cc, 16-valve 4-potter that produces just 63kW and 110Nm of torque. With a dedicated low range available at the push of a button, it works out to be more than enough to cross a continent without using tarred roads. One of the things that makes the course more interesting is that Alan insists that it’s done with the tyres at street pressures, because if you’re in the middle of nowhere and you let the tyres down to help improve traction you don’t always have access to a pump to get things back to normal – and that can leave you stranded.
Before you know it you’ll have covered up to 7km of off road terrain and hopefully learned to read the land to pick out the best route to follow, how to approach and traverse obstacles and how to do it all while also looking after the 4x4. One thing I battled with was letting go of the clutch and using the accelerator or engine resistance for control, but of course the automatic Jimny eliminates this problem – even Alan reckons the auto is at least 10% better than the manual. One thing to note is that some obstacles the Jimny can manage with ease will actually be harder in a bigger 4x4. The little Jimny’s short wheelbase and 4.9m turning circle means it can do things that can often see longer wheelbase 4x4s beach themselves.
The best part of the trail is when Alan announces that you’re headed to an obstacle called Instructor’s Revenge – trust me, like you’ll have to trust the Jimny, it’s brilliant. In a sort of cross-axle turn to go down a steep ledge, the driver’s side rear wheel lifts as high as a meter off the ground – before Alan gives the car a shove to show you that it won’t fall over. Look at the size of a Jimny, and now imagine just how high a meter is in relation. If you can do this without swearing, you’re a better person than me. The course ends off with a demonstration of how a car behaves on gravel roads when power is directed at just the rear wheels as opposed to all four wheels. If you think these cars can fall over thanks to their low weight and tall ride height, this is the section you really need to see. Suffice to say, the Suzuki Jimny isn’t just a capable 4x4 - it’s downright exceptional!
If you’re in the market for a 4x4, even if it’s not a Jimny, the Bass Lake 4x4 training courses are a must. There are various courses and levels available, and they can be booked directly with the venue over at www.basslake.co.za. It’s a great idea for corporate team building days too, and the facilities are top-notch, as is the lunch that’s included in the price. You’ll also receive a certificate to prove to all your mates how awesome you are - I have two now, and in another two years I'll add another one to the collection. A huge shoutout goes to Suzuki SA’s Megan MacDonald and Brendan Carpenter for arranging a spot on the course for me - and of course to Alan Pepper and the Bass Lake crew for another amazing experience – thanks guys! Oh yeah, you can catch an album of pics from the day over on the Chris Wall Media Facebook page, but you know that already.
I would have brought you news and details of the new Haval H2 when it launched last year at that massive motoring show at Kyalami, but someone messed up my event accreditation and so while the rest of the journos were taking a close look at this new Chinese offering, I was fuming at the gate trying to sort out access. So yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I can promise you that it was worth the wait. Chinese auto brands have been around for a while now in SA, but Great Wall Motors is the one import that has managed to keep up a steady flow of sales in the country and seems to have done pretty well, although their footprint has mostly consisted of bakkies. The company has done a bit of a shuffle and the result is a range of premium SUVs that will be sold under the Haval banner, and so far there are three available in SA, the H1, the H2 and the H6 (plus a bigger H6 C variant). This time round, I take a closer look at the Haval H2, a midsize SUV that not only looks good, it’s got a great feature list, a punchy turbocharged engine and a price point that is guaranteed to elicit a “Is that all?” response.
Some Chinese cars have been an abomination when it comes to looks, “borrowing” styling from various manufacturers and often mashing them together in a Picasso-esque lump that offends the eyeballs. In the case of the Haval H2, the SUV shares similar styling and sizing to the previous generation VW Tiguan and I have to say that it looks pretty damn good, there’s not really any way to fault it if you ask me. The car rolls around on some good-looking 18-inch wheels, there’s daytime running lights, fog lights all round and some rather sturdy roof racks that tell you the SUV will be suited to those with an active lifestyle. That large front grille really does give the thing a premium look and feel, along with the dual exit exhausts and the rear lower diffuser. Argue with me as much as you like, but thanks to the amount of comments I received during my test week I’m convinced that this is one of the best-looking Chinese cars on the market. Interestingly, the other one that I like a lot is the Haval H6, so these guys are on to something.
Inside the cabin things are equally as good, there’s a decent basic layout with a dashboard, centre console and seating that’s all easy on the eyes with not much by the way of hard plastics. The instrument cluster looks good and the 3.5-inch driver information screen in the centre displays all the relevant drive information needed, plus a little extra, and before you reach that you have yourself a multi-function steering wheel with easy to navigate buttons so you can keep your eyes on the road. If I must criticize, the steering could be a little chunkier, but that's nitpicking. The centre console and the screen heading up the infotainment system looks good too, the screen is crisp and bright and functionality is good too. It does feel a little older in terms of layout and the operating system, but cars at thins price point usually have a basic head unit with no features. It took a few seconds to connect it to my Samsung S8 for phone and media connectivity though and I was able to play my weird list of music flawlessly. The screen is also used for the reverse camera display as well as the kerb-side camera that’s rather handy in tight parking situations. Other features include a tyre pressure monitoring system, push button start, keyless entry, a 6-way power adjustable driver seat and a sunroof. There’s also dual-zone climate control that works well too, a real plus for my wife who likes to drive in a fridge. She can freeze while I chill at 25-degrees. It’s Chinese, but it has good safety in place with front active headrests to save your neck from whiplash as well as an array of airbags including those all important curtains for side impact. Space is great too, 5 adults will fit with ease, and the boot space is decent, although having a full size spare wheel and a fire extinguisher does take up some space, but that’s a great compromise if you ask me.
The mid-sized SUV makes use of GWM’s GW4G15B powerplant, a small capacity (1500cc) turbocharged 4-potter with 105kW and 202Nm on tap. This was a surprise for me, I’ll admit I had low expectations to start but the motor is genuinely good. The power delivery and noise is comparable to any Japanese or European manufacturer’s offerings and when you boot it the H2 will run way ahead of the traffic. The model I drove was the range-topping H2 1.5T Luxury AT, fitted with the 6-speed auto transmission. Again, it impressed. The shifts are smooth and quick and I didn’t find it hunting for gears. It’s programmed with a Standard Mode, Economy Mode and Snow Mode and while I didn’t feel the difference, Economy Mode was where I mostly left it to see how the figures match up to the claims. Haval claim 8.6-litres/100km but I had it at 7.5-litre/100km for most of the 500km I did in the car, but the last few school runs were in silly traffic and it rose to 8.1-lites/100km – still rather good. There was a few times that I had no power when I wanted to pull off, but lifting off the accelerator completely and then trying rectified it again – quite possibly a minor issue that can be solved with a software update on the transmission’s ECU. Overall the Haval H2 was a pleasure to drive, the handling was what you’d expect from a taller car, the braking was good (a little sharp even) and the steering was light and easy. It's tall enough for gravel roads and basic sort roading, but it's more of an urban cruiser thanks to the all-wheel drive trim not being available in SA so far.
The Haval H2 is a pretty good offering from the automaker; it feels solid, there were no rattles or noises that shouldn’t be there, it’s got a great feature list and the engine and transmission are good too. Remember some years back when all the journos were telling us that the Korean cars are getting better and better and would one day rival the European offerings? Well I think the Chinese brands are on that same track, especially at Haval with these H models. Sure it will take a while before they make a dent in sales of the usual suspects out there, but the time is coming, especially with the pricing as good as it is for a feature-rich SUV. I do hope that buyers in this segment take a closer look at these cars before signing an OTP with the well-known brands.
There are three products in the Haval H2 lineup with three trim levels, and each of these can be had in manual or auto. All Haval H2 models are come standard with a 5-year/100 000km warranty; a 5-year/60 000km service plan and 5-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance package. For more info and detailed specs, head on over to Haval SA.
Haval H2 1.5T City R244 900
Haval H2 1.5T City AT R279 900
Haval H2 1.5T Premium R254 900
Haval H2 1.5T Premium AT R289 900
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury R274 900
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury AT R309 900
While most people were sorting out romantic dinners and gifts for Valentine's Day a few weeks back, this lucky couple (myself and Cat, my much better half) headed out to Redstar Raceway for some driver instruction and a bit of high speed driving. Sure it's not the normal thing to do for couples, but chaps, take it from me when I tell you that the aphrodisiac power of a bunch of roses doesn't quite hold up to the supercharged V8 growl of Jaguar's F-Type R Coupe. Sure, I know I'm a car guy, but there's summin' rather special about being let loose on a racetrack in a 405kW supercar. While I was the one who fully benefited from this experience, thanks must go to Dean Knoop and the rest of the crew from Jaguar Land Rover Midrand for inviting myself and Cat along for their Valentine's Track Experience. As a motoring journo and photographer I get to attend events like this often but it was something completely new for Cat, so over and above all the awesomeness that took place, it was even better for me because Cat got to see what a day in my life often looks like - that rocked!
Before heading out on track the instructors showed us all how important braking systems and tyres are with a few demonstrations on the pit straight. In the practical demonstration one of the advanced driving instructors launched a car from the end of the straight and got it up to 60km/h, and we all had to guess where the car would come to a stop during emergency braking. Let's just say that if we were standing in the road, I'd be typing this from a hospital bed. Most of the car guys were close, but those new to these kinds of demonstrations had their minds blown. When the same test was done with the Jaguar kicking it at 120km/h the results drew many gasps of disbelief thanks to the distance being more than triple that of 60km/h. I'll leave out the exact facts and figures, mainly because I can't remember them, but it certainly gave everyone something to think about. Also the fact that the demonstration was done in premium cars with all the best safety systems available, high performance tyres and advanced driving instructors at the wheel sort of makes you weary of that cone filter-fitted 2000 Opel Corsa barreling down the road behind you on the daily commute . In the real world out on the road with pavements and trees and taxis things can be rather scary if you don't have a good following distance and a modern, roadworthy car.
With all the demonstrations out of the way, it was time to head out on track to experience the safety systems on various Jaguar models. The first test was a demonstration of how ABS works, for this one we lined up at a designated start point and nailed it until we reached a pair of cones that were set out to mark the braking point. Depending on the car, speeds reached around the 100km/h mark and that's when we had to jump on the brakes hard enough to engage ABS, Thanks to the life-saving system the car slowed to a stop in as short a distance as possible in a dead straight line. Without ABS you're likely to see the car swing out of it's lane, which as you can imagine is rather dangerous. The next test was related to this one, but instead of simply slamming on brakes when we reached the cones, we had to do an emergency lane change at the same time. This was to show that ABS not only affords the car maximum traction while coming to a stop, it allows turning of the steering wheel to get out of the way of danger without having the front wheels lock up - if you're locked up you ain't turning - if you ain't turning you could find yourself up close and personal with the car/tree/robot/obstacle up ahead. Again, something that surprised most who attended.
Once everyone had experienced the tests in the full range of cars it was time for some laps of Redstar Raceway with the driving instructors alongside in the passenger seat giving, well, instruction. It's amazing to feel how the cars behave and respond when they're on the right line and you're applying the right amount of accelerator and brakes at the right time. Driving aggressively may well by heaps of fun, but driving smooth is where it's at. This was second best part of the experience (I'll get to the first just now) thanks to being able to drive a few of Jaguar's awesome new models at speed on track, we had the opportunity to drive the Jaguar XF S and R-Sport, the Jaguar F-Pace S and R-Sport, and the Jaguar F-Type Coupe and F-Type R models. Of course the last car was the best - it's not everyday you get to drive a supercar worth over R2,000 000, especially one from a manufacturer that you have a rather healthy affinity for. Of course the fact that the F‑Type R is powered by a roaring 5.0-litre V8 with a supercharger bolted and power figures of 405kW and a whopping 680Nm of torque is just an added bonus, as is launching from 0‑100km/h in 4.1-seconds thanks to a brilliant all-wheel drive system.
So the best part? Instructor's Revenge! This is where you get to go out on the full track as a passenger while the team of advanced driving instructors take the cars to 10/tenths to show off what they can really do. This was Cat's favourite part of the day too because she got to ride shotgun in the aforementioned supercharged V8. She's a nervous passenger at the best of times but the instructors are such a great bunch that make you feel perfectly safe and comfortable so when the car returned to the pits after the hot laps a very happy, smiling Cat emerged from the car - that's when I knew this completely random Valentine's Day experience was a clear winner. Finishing off with a brilliant catered lunch meant one truly memorable Valentine's Day.
Once again, a huge thanks goes out to the Jaguar Land Rover Midrand team for this amazing opportunity, not forgetting the team of instructors, and of course Dean Knoop - you guys rock!
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.