A Mustang doesn't need a V8 to make you smile - a turbo is the perfect replacement for displacement.
Mustang – Since 1964. Yup, the motoring icon that is the Ford Mustang started 56 years ago with it's debut at the World’s Fair held in New York on the 17th April 1964 - the same day it was launched in Ford dealerships across the USA. The powers that be should have immediately known that success was a given thanks to the absolutely astonishing fact that the first day sales of the Ford Mustang tallied a whopping 22 000 units. Incidentally many of those first Mustangs are sought after by collectors because they were classified as 1964 ½ models, with 1965 only being the first full year of production. The model was expected to sell 100 000 models in that first year, but it ended up being the most successful vehicle launch since the 1927 Model A Ford totalling over 400 000 sales in 1965 alone; in just two years over a million Mustangs were scattered around the USA and a few outlying countries.
Now when most people think of the Ford Mustang, classic or modern, the Ponycar is pictured with a growling V8 powerplant. It's totally possible to get into a fistfight with a total stranger of a Ford fanatic by arguing that other engine offerings can be just as good. I mean back in the 60s all those sales weren't attributed to the 8-cylinder models, many of those cars were inline 6-cylinder models. They were cheaper than the 8-banger and were part of the reason that the sales were so good; it put the Mustang within reach of the blue collar workers. It's the same these days, since new life was breathed into the Mustang back in 2015 when it was turned into a global model, there's was the option of a 3.7-litre V6 and a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged powerplant - much to the dismay of purists.
Even though 2015 isn't too long ago, this generation Ford Mustang received a makeover before this 2019/2020 facelift. In and amongst things changed and updated, some exterior bits were redesigned to keep the car looking as fresh as it's competitors, and at the same time the V6 powerplant was dropped from the option list leaving the V8 and the turbocharged inline-4 as the only options. The 2020 model arrived with the 5.0 V8's power figures at a very healthy 331kW and 529Nm, and the EcoBoost rated at 213kW with 441Nm - and both setups have now benefitted from a new slick 10-speed auto transmission. So looking at those figures, 213kW isn't something to turn your nose up at. Those that live their life by the numbers cars spit out never seem to acknowledge that it's a decent chunk of killerwatts from a 4-cylinder setup, even if there's 300cc more than usual. I mean the holy grail of hatchbacks, the GTi is rated at 169kW and the highly tuned Golf R is at 228kW. All of a sudden the numbers from the entry-level Mustang are worth taking note of...
The last time I drove a Mustang was during the local launch in December 2015 and it's one of those motoring experiences that has stuck with me. Rolling along the beach road in Camps Bay in a Mustang is pretty much ingrained in my motoring memory highlights, and while the yellow 5.0 V8 GT was great, I swear that I had more fun driving the EcoBoost. I did mention so to a few fellow journos and this saw me getting the stinkeye in reply. I guess that feeling of boost pressure building up tickled my fancy more than it did the others. Now, here in July of 2020 after a week with the latest incarnation of the droptop 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang, my mind is even more set. Yeah, the burbling V8 is a winner, no argument there, but daaaaaamn the feeling of reward I personally get from driving the 4-banger is hard to beat. While the V8 GT can hit 100km/h in a quick 4.8-seconds, this here 4-banger is claimed to run the test in a respectable 5.8-seconds. If you catch a V8 Mustang driver not paying attention, the 2.3 will out-launch it and that puts the V8 on a serious back foot with more than it's work cut out to try and catch up. You also have to remember that these cars are often bought to be modified. If I gave you a 5.0 V8 GT and a budget of R50 000 for upgrades, and I spent the same R50 000 on the 2.3 EcoBoost, I'll put my money on the 4-banger every single time. It is, after all, the same powerplant found in Ford's Focus RS but it only has to power two wheels.
I was commissioned to shoot a private test and tune event over the weekend that I had the Mustang, and I must say it did feel pretty damn awesome pitching up at one of these events in such a tasty car. I got to take it up and down the strip a few times, not for measured times of course, it was just to get between the pits and the start line so I could get into position to shoot what I needed. During lunch when the track was closed I was able to take advantage and test the onboard Track Apps, in this case the drag race feature. When you enable it, the 12-inch digital instrument cluster transforms into a drag strip Christmas Tree that gives you a proper countdown launch and times your run and speed over different distances. It also tweaks the electronics to be optimum for drag racing, and so the steering firmed up, the transmission did some magick things and the car went like the clappers. In normal mode when you mash the accelerator, the Mustang pulls off with urgency and the rears scrabble for traction a little in 1st gear, but in Drag Mode the gear changes are hard and immediate resulting in the tyres chirping on shift up until 5th gear. This resulted in a smile cramp from hell, but one that I'd happily endure on a daily basis.
A few people commented on how cool Ruby (that's what I named her) looks, sounded and ran and even though it wasn't my car, it felt fukken awesome. Then some chop commented to his friend that I better not be there to race because it's ONLY the 4-cylinder. The Kempton Park in me wanted to defend Ruby's honour and hand out a PK or two, but with so many witnesses around I decided it best to ignore the insult and carry on with my day. Well, that was until it was time for me to head home. There may or may not be an Instagram story depicting a certain Lucid Red convertible 2.3 EcoBoost Mustang doing a bit of a burnout at the track's staging area before nailing it 3/4 of the way down the strip and left out of the venue.
While there's a million and one performance cars available on the market, a good many being more powerful and faster than an EcoBoost Mustang, it really doesn't matter. The feeling you get while driving around in an icon with a history spanning over half a century long is rather hard to compare to. On the performance car front, not many can say their lineage started out that long ago. Over and above the feeling you get, attention is also part of the package. In my review week there was not one single time I drove the car that I didn't get a thumbs up or a compliment on "my" car. At first I told people it was a press car, but by day 4 I just nodded a thanks in appreciation. This car is great for the self esteem. Of course there's more to the Mustang than great styling, a smooth and fast transmission and loads of power - there's so much tech and safety crammed in too.
It's the perfect daily driver, Ford's SYNC 3 is in play via the 8-inch touchscreen, so you can control everything from calls and text messaging to music and SatNav - via voice control too if you like. There's also Android Auto which I used to bang tunes from my YouTube Music app through the absolutely brilliant Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker audio system (including a woofer). It also caters perfectly to my new obsession - Audible. A 100km drive listening to Stephen King's The Gunslinger made my Sunday evening drive home from the track just perfect. I'm not gonna bore you with the extensive spec and feature list, for that you can download the Mustang brochure below this video below that shows some of the working of the instrument cluster.
The Ford Mustang is more than a car, it's an icon that somehow makes you feel like the proverbial million bucks. I didn't want to stop driving it, I used the car for the most ridiculous trips. I even made sure to "forget" things when I went on some errands just so that I could go back again. And again. I went through almost four tanks of fuel during my week with the Ponycar, making up for all the money I saved on fuel during lockdown. Does that mean it's heavy on fuel? I have absolutely no idea and I actually didn't care either, I never once looked at the consumption figures. I'm sure they're available on Ford's website or some other online review but this just isn't the kind of car where consumption makes any difference, well to me anyway. I had configured the instrument cluster to display the Sports tachometer running from the left and over the top section to the right of the cluster with the speedometer on the right below that, and I added three gauges in the centre to monitor the engine oil temp, transmission oil temp and boost pressure. There was simply nothing else I needed or wanted to see. The soft top opens up in around ten seconds, and I did manage to drive the car for about half an hour with the top down, but even with the heater blasting and the heated seats on full, July just isn't the right time to have no roof on your car, unless you're ok with frozen, well, everything. In all honesty, if I was buying a Mustang for myself, I'd likely choose the Fastback because I'd rarely have the top down - unless I lived at the coast, because this is the ultimate beach cruise car with the roof down.
While the Ford Mustang range in SA is pricey, you can't really put a tag on the way these cars make you feel. Ok, you can, but some things really are worth it. The Mustang range starts at R833 900 for the 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback and R901 600 for the droptop, while the V8 starts at R993 700 for the Fastback and R1 061 000 for the droptop. The limited edition Bullitt is also still available and that starts at R1 079 700 and is only in Fastback guise. These figures also include a 4-year/120 000km Comprehensive Warranty, a a 6-year/90 000km Service Plan (with 15 000km intervals, which covers all scheduled servicing except friction materials, i.e. brake pads and wiper blades), a 5-year/unlimited km Corrosion Warranty and a 3-year/unlimited km cover for mechanical, electrical, flat tyres, batteries, medical emergencies and towing, if needed, to the nearest Ford dealership.
Oh and a week behind the wheel confirmed something else for me - all those Mustang vids where they get tail-happy leaving events and taking out the surrounding everything, is 110% down to moronic drivers... Eedjits.
In a motoring world where the buzzword is SUV, the folk at Opel went their own way by throwing a new MPV into the mix. Luckily years of experience means the automaker knows what buyers want in a people carrier and the result, the Opel Combo Life, is really, really good. I've seen a few online chats where the Combo Life was mentioned and there were actually a few people complaining about the exterior styling of the MPV. While I agree that styling is subjective and everyone has their own taste, I'll happily point out how wrong they are. I mean come on, just look at this thing. I love how it looks with the front-end being immediately recognisable as an Opel thanks to the design that follows the rest of the company's architecture, the side profile is just right and the rear's square dimensions sort of tells you that this people carrier got it's start as a cargo hauler, and that's not a bad thing. This translates to a massive boot that also has a nice and low floor making loading of luggage, shopping or a host of kitchen appliances as easy as possible. The Opel Combo Life Enjoy won't only work as a brilliant family runaround, but could easily double as an Uber Van for a bunch of mates wanting to responsibly head out on the jol. Having the rear doors on both sides being sliding doors means loading and unloading of passengers can easily, and more importantly safely done in tight spaces or up again the pavement on any side of the road.
As said, the Opel Combo Life looks great and is instantly recognisable as the larney version thanks to the bumpers and trimmings being given body-matching paint and having all the rougher workhorse version bits being made pretty to tempt modern families. It runs on some good-looking 16-inch wheels, although if I had one of these as a daily, i'd have 17s on as a bare minimum, and 18s just to bump up the aesthetics a little to my personal taste, I'd happliy sacrifice a little drive comfort for some head-turning looks, and look good it will. The OEM makeover has worked very well though, on my drives with the car I had five people asking me what I was driving and where they could have a closer look at one. Of course I let them have a good look inside and outside of the press car (because that's pretty much the point of one) and then directed them to Williams Hunt Fourways to chat to the sales team there. I'm almost 100% sure that three of the five were quite serious about making an offer on one. On one of the days I was heading along Ontdekkers Road which has about fifty-12 traffic lights, and I noticed a woman in a Fiat Doblo taking pics of the Opel Comb Life at just about every red light, even weaving through traffic to be able to pull along side for a side shot and ahead for a front shot. Usually I'd be worried that I was driving like a chop and the pics would be for social media shaming, but I was driving like and angel, and the hoot and wave when she finally turned off the road told me she was heading back to the office to research more about the awesomeness she captured on her phone that 's in the same segment as her car, but better in every way. Either that or I have a new stalker.
The Opel Combo Life Enjoy is a 5-seater, but if you wanted to squeeze people in and safety belts weren't an issue you'd easily pack a soccer team in. There just so much space. Overseas there's a model that uses the rear boot space as two extra seats, and even in that case there's more than enough space for full-sized people in those extra seats instead of the usual amount (lack of) of space you'll find in most pop-up 7-seaters. The boot is HUGE, like you can take a family of five on holiday and easily fit all their luggage in huge. If by some chance there's not enough space for the planned load, you can individually fold the rear seats down, and when all three are folded flat you can fit in a payload of up to 690kg. That's close to the payload in a Corsa/Chev bakkie. Over and above the massive boot there's also storage space and pockets all over the cabin. I quite like the space above the front windscreen, very handy.
The driving position is great, the seats are height and reach adjustable with lumbar support, and there's so many large windows that there are no real blind spots, visibility is well above average. With the rather sporty looking steering wheel having height and reach adjustments everyone from a 6-foot plus body builder to someone who's endured lifelong teasing for being short can fit just right. Controls are all within easy reach, well those that aren't accessible via the steering controls, but mostly everything is at the tip of your thumbs. The 7-inch touchscreen heads up the infotainment system that makes use of Opel's Intellilink software, easily one of the better systems out there, easy and intuitive to use with pleasing visuals. The radio plays through a 6-speaker system that's more than capable of letting others in traffic in on your playlists. I kept my Samsung connected via the screen-mirroring functionality of Android Auto, enabling use of my YouTube Music app for tunes and Waze for navigation.
Over and above the driving position and good level of specification, there's also decent safety in play. We find no less than six airbags fitted; a pair for the front action, a pair for the front sides and a set of full-length curtains. In fact over at Euro NCAP the people carrier received four out of five stars - a 91% for adult occupant safety, 81% for child safety, 58% for vulnerable road users and 68% for the safety assist on board. That's great going. We find all the usual acronyms too like ABS with EBD, ESP, and TC along with hill-start assist. There's also child locks for the sliding rear doors so you can stop the tykes from trying to play in traffic. Check the viod below for the crash test - you'll see that the test was done on the Peugeot Rifter, which shares pretty much everything with the Opel Combo and the Citroën Berlingo - a happy side effect of the sharing of technology between the brands.
As said, the Opel Combo Life Enjoy offers up a great drive, which is in large part thanks to that really good 1.6-litre powerplant. Usually such a small capacity for an MPV like this would be an issue, but the turbodiesel 4-cylinder has more than enough power on tap. There's just 68kW in play, but thanks to that turbo the toque is way up at 230Nm and so even with a full compliment of passengers there's no struggle to get up to illegal speeds. There is only a manual option, a 5-speed with a nice and short throw, and being a low-revving diesel can mean plenty cog-swapping in traffic but that's not a complaint from this driver. I do reckon an auto option would have made the soccer mom crowd happier though. Consumption claims are an average of just 5.0-litres/100km, but the best I saw during my week was 6.8-litres/100km on the onboard telemetry. I have no doubt that it would drop had I taken more longer roads. While it's "just" and MPV, it's really a blast to drive.
I really enjoyed my week with the Opel Combo Life Enjoy, it has the looks, the spec and the features all wrapped up with a great motor. It's one of those cars that you really don't mind driving, even looking for excuses to take it out sometimes. In the burgeoning world of the SUV, this is one MPV that must not be overlooked. Especially with a starting price of R369 900 that includes a 3-year / 120 000km Warranty with Roadside Assist, a 12-year / unlimited km Anti-Corrosion Warranty and a 3-year / 60 000km Service Plan. Check out more details and spec over on the main Opel site.
Back in May Ford South Africa was yet another manufacturer to digitally launch a new model. The model in question is the Figo Freestyle, which differs from the one we already know in a couple of ways. I could start transcribing the supplied press release for you, but I reckon nothing will do it as well the launch video hosted by DJ Ankletap from YFM. Spend a few minutes watching this, and both marvel at the car and Ankletap's bilingual brilliance, he's brilliant. Almost as cool as the new car.
“The All-New Figo Freestyle builds on Ford’s reputation as one of the pioneers of the utility vehicle segment,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager Marketing at FMCSA. With its SUV-derived design cues, robust stance with increased ground clearance and commanding seating position, it has the credentials of an SUV in a compact package that is ideally suited to city driving during the week and escaping to the countryside on weekends. “It fulfils the growing demand from younger buyers for a vehicle that is more compact and affordable than the compact SUV offerings, but is equally capable and designed for adventurous, active and free-spirited individuals,” Mashinini adds. “With bigger wheels, an increased ride height and integrated skid plates that enhance its capabilities on less-than-perfect roads, the Figo Freestyle is designed to meet the aspirations of these young and dynamic customers. It is a cool, connected and very capable package.”
Figo Freestyle 1.5 Trend Hatch 5MT R 226 700
Figo Freestyle 1.5 Titanium Hatch 5MT R 247 500
All Figo and Figo Freestyle models come standard with Ford Protect which includes a service plan covering 4-years/60 000km, three-year unlimited distance roadside assistance and four-year/120 000km comprehensive warranty. This is complemented by a 5-year/unlimited distance corrosion warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000km.
In the hard-fought compact SUV/Crossover market, there's no shortage of offerings. All the major players have a skin in the game and with competition being so good, there's not a single offering that doesn't deserve a closer look for possible buyers in the segment. Take this KIA for example, it's the latest release from the Korean automaker (and my very first KIA press car) and it's sold under the name Seltos. I don't know about you, but I reckon it sure has some great styling, this is one very good-looking compact SUV, and if it looks a little bigger than many of it's segment rivals that's because it is. Not much, but enough to make it stand out just a little more. I'd first seen a Seltos in the launch press release somewhere in April, and not again until there was one in my driveway for review. I gave it the usual walk-around, climbed in and set off on my first drive, which took me out Pretoria way. Now I don't know if it was a Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or not, but I counted seven Seltos models on my route, and two billboards advertising it. That surely bodes well for sales of the Indian-built Korean SUV here in SA.
The model I was in was the EX+ model, the midway offering in the Seltos range, which falls in above the EX and below the GT-Line. Being the middle child often means a good combination of features and spec, but this is a KIA, and so there's even ample features included in the base model to keep you happy. With the EX+ starting at R389 995 it's not cheap, but still sits below the entry VW T-Cross Highline that starts at R397 100, the entry Opel Mokka X at R400 000 and the Suzuki Vitara that has a lineup that starts way down at R293 900 for the entry model to R405 900 for the flagship seven iterations later. While these all have good spec, the KIA Seltos does look to offer the best overall package for your Rand, and that's something many people are taking close note of these days thanks to the current state of the world.
As I mentioned, I think the Seltos is great to look at and while the looks are striking and bold, I think many will agree with me. Up front we find that the styling sees the Seltos fall in line with KIA's current design architecture with the Tiger Nose grille. I'll copy in the actual description from the press release, because everyone deserves to read such eloquent penmanship... "The Seltos strikes an agile pose on any road. From the front, its wide ‘tiger nose’ grille – featuring a new interpretation of KIA’s signature design feature – is flanked by striking headlamps to endow it with a sporty, confident visage. The bold front-end treatment is bolstered by a robust shoulder line and a glasshouse that tapers towards the rear, giving the vehicle an air of understated sportiness. On higher specification models, the chrome detailing along the window line emphasizes this sweeping look towards the rear, ending in a flourish on the C-pillar that creates a ‘floating roof’ impression. Wheel arches feature black cladding to underline the crossover nature of the car. The rear bumper features a three-dimensional surface treatment with an integrated metallic-look skid plate, as well as a dual chrome muffler garnish (model dependent). In combination with the chrome-look tailgate garnish, which connects the taillights horizontally, the width of the Seltos is emphasized for a sporty yet planted stance when viewed from the rear. All models are equipped with LED Daytime Running Lights at the front, as well as front fog lamps across the range. On the higher specification models, both fog lamps, headlights and indicators are full LED, with similar treatments for the rear combination lamps." In normal speak, the KIA Seltos looks cool AF.
My review model was in Intelligency Blue and I liked it a lot, especially with the darker than normal silver 17-inch alloys and black cladding as a contrast. The ones I spotted on my drive were Intense Red, an apt name because it looks just brilliant, and also Glacier Pearl White which also totally suits the compact SUV. Other colours available include Steel Silver, Gravity Grey, Aurora Black Pearl and a special order only - Punchy Orange. As is the norm with SUVs and compact SUVs, two-tone options are a given, and so the white and red models can be had with a black roof, and the special order orange can be had with a white roof.
Under the hood of the Seltos EX+ we find the same configuration as in the entry EX, except unlike the former it's only available in automatic guise. The powerplant is a 1.6 (1591cc) 4-cylinder without extra help from any form of forced induction, and so the power on tap is rated at 90kW with torque claimed at 151kW. The engine falls under the Gamma banner and while it's powerful enough to keep a fully-loaded Seltos happily trundling along, the range-topping GT Line (not to be confused with the Peugeot range) features a more powerful turbocharged 1.4-litre lump and will no doubt feel much punchier. Some of the segment competitors also feature turbocharged engines, but mostly for a fair amount more money, besides the Suzuki Vitara which is pretty close in pricing. The Seltos isn't meant to tear up the tarmac, and so the claimed performance figures of 0- 100km/h in 11.2-seconds, and a top speed of 175km/h are more than adequate. KIA clams fuel consumption figures of 7.2-litres/100km, but the best I saw during my test week was 8.2-litres, which still isn't bad at all.
The spec level of the EX+ is good, and the leather seats are especially comfortable with a really cool pattern in them. The EX features cloth and the GT Line also has leather but with red stitching to give it a sporty feel. Cabin layout is good too, the 8-inch touchscreen does look a little upright, but it's perfectly angled toward the driver. The functionality of the infotainment system is simple and easy to use, and with it being hooked up to six speakers, it plays great. You can bang your tunes via the radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and I mean bang coz it sounds that good. The front doors also have the coolest looking door panels and speaker grilles, especially when you're looking at night and the ambient mood lighting is set. In the cabin you'll also find manual aircon, electronically adjustable folding side mirrors, steering-mounted controls, electric windows, cruise control, front and rear USB charging ports and up front there's been the addition of a centre console armrest with integrated storage box. On the safety front the KIA Seltos again holds its own. We find a body shell is produced with a high percentage of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) and so the underbody is designed to absorb and disperse impact energy, while hot stamping technology is used to reinforce the core vehicle body sections to increase torsional rigidity, decrease weight and enhance occupant safety. All Seltos models feature dual front airbags, two side airbags for the front occupants and two cabin-length side curtain airbags. There's also ISOFIX child seat anchors, ABS brakes, with EBD (Electronic Brake-Force Distribution), rear PDC and a reverse camera. The EX+ and GT Line models are also equipped with ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and HAC (Hill-start Assist Control).
In real world driving, this KIA Seltos is really cool. There's not much for me to fault on it. I love the exterior looks, the interior layout and spec and the engine and transmission. I think I may prefer the powerplant in the GT Line, purely because it has a turbocharger and because boost is fun. Interior trim materials can feel hard in places, but to me that just means it'll last past the lengthy warrantee and more. Just about every time I stopped at a station or a shopping centre, I had people asking me what I was driving and if it's released yet. Most people just stare and don't engage, especially in this world of face masks and social distancing, so that should tell you something. As mentioned, I saw load of these on the road during my test week, and I think that's something that can be summed up in this quote: “KIA is well known for offering exceptional quality and comprehensive specification across its model ranges. The all-new Seltos delivers all of that, and more,” says Gary Scott, CEO, KIA Motors South Africa. For more info, specs and pics, head on over to the dedicated KIA Seltos website.
As with all KIA models, all KIA Seltos models ship as standard with KIA’s industry-leading Unlimited Kilometre, 5-year warranty (inclusive of roadside assistance), and also include a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan.
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX Manual R 353,995
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX Automatic R 371,995
KIA Seltos 1.6 EX+ Automatic R 389,995
KIA Seltos 1.4 T-GDi GT-Line R444,995
A 1.5-litre CRDI (Common Rail Diesel Injection) engine will join the Seltos line-up in the second quarter of 2020, also available with a choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Pricing will be announced closer to the local introduction.
Hyundai's entry-level offering has done great for the brand over the years, the A-segment Atos (or Atoz, market-dependent) is one of those models often described as "bread & butter" because more get shifted than most other models and this, of course, helps pay the bills. Well, all sales pay the bills, but you know what I mean. I received the Hyundai Atos 1.1 Motion MT on test as soon as lockdown allowed for car sales and the associated online sales to happen again, and I used it to get around for some short errands and two long trips out of the area - the usual press car vibes. First off, this is my first press car from the Korean automaker, and any notions I had about the brand and their offerings came from articles and reviews from my colleagues. Most of them had mentioned that Hyundai's quality has improved in leaps and bounds over the years, and so even though this Atos Motion is an entry-level car I had high hopes.
This car retails new for R162 900, which makes it affordable for many out there thanks to being able to keep instalments under R2800 (interest rate and finance term-dependent). This price tag gets you a 4-door hatchback powered by a, 1100cc 4-cylinder (1086cc if you want to be technical) with a 5-speed manual transmission attached. Power on tap is rated the same as many in this segment - 50kW - and the torque is also quite similar at 99Nm, and in a small car that tips the scales at just 866kg it makes for a rather nippy yet frugal drive (rated at 5.9-litres/100km). The Koreans seem to trust their products more than most, evident by the healthy warranties that you get with their cars, which in this case is a 7-year/200 000km manufacturer warranty and a 1-year/15 000km service plan.
Initial thoughts (which didn't change later) is that the Atos Motion is a good looking little thing. The front grille follows Hyundai's recognisable design architecture and that's not a bad thing at all. There's some interesting lines in the body that accentuate the shape too, and combined with the variety of colours available I reckon it'll tick some boxes on most people's want list. The Atos can be had in Acid Yellow, Alpha Blue, Fiery Red, Polar White, Titan Grey or Typhoon Silver. The sales brochure mentions a high-mounted stop lamp and 14-inch wheels with styled covers as a selling point. I'll agree that the stop light may be, but the 14-inch wheels not so much. 14-inch wheels shouldn't even exist anymore, but that's just one car guy's opinion.
Approaching the Atos and getting in is a little odd, you're greeting with an odd combination of specs that sort of don't make sense. Three steps away I tried to unlock the door remotely and realised that the key was skinny because there's no remote fob built in and access to the car is old school by using an actual key in an actual lock. But this is a budget car, so of course that makes perfect sense. Once inside I was greeted with a decent interior featuring seats that are not only comfortable but that look good, devoid of LSD-inspired patterns some budget offerings have. Settling in and looking up front put me in reach of a multifunction steering wheel complete with brushed aluminium-look detailing. But I just got into a car with manual locks? Next up was to get the mirrors and controls set up for myself, and reaching up to adjust the mirrors I found a manual adjustment lever like in my 2002 Corsa, a typical feature of a budget car. Cool. Buuuut then when I turned to set up the radio, instead of finding a basic audio unit, this budget Korean has a full 7-inch touchscreen heading up an intuitive and easy to use infotainment system. Not only that, it also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay - NOT the usual kit for an entry-level car with no remote key fob. These aren't complaints mind you, I just thought it was an odd combination of features, some you expect and some you don't. The sound system is also pretty good, better than expected, and the instrument cluster and layout of controls makes for a comfortable drive. The sound system happily pounded all my YouTube Music lists with no problems, and when I left my USB cable indoors things streamed seamlessly via Bluetooth. That 7-inch screen is also where you'll see behind the car when reversing - not a usual budget feature. Nice.
Once set up and familiar with the controls, it was go time and the Atos Motion proved itself to be a cool runaround. That 50kW sounds low, but the Atos turned out to be a nippy little thing, in fact its good fun to rev it through the gears. I think to date it's the first entry-level model that you can rev through the whole indicated rev range without a soft limiter kicking in making it feel like you tramped on the brake pedal. With some irresponsible driving (on a closed professional circuit) the Atos even manages a wee chirp of the wheels when hoofing it into third. 50kW remember. The small capacity motor runs smooth, and unlike some competitors that produce the same power from a 3-cylinder lump, the Atos features a 4-cylinder which means it's much smoother in operation and has no odd 3-cylinder idle wobble. The underpinnings are decent too, the chassis is far from sloppy and the suspension is hard and tight enough that throwing the little Korean through some twisties makes for some fun. As mentioned though, those 14-inch wheels need to get chucked in favour of at least some 15-inch hoops. Not just for aesthetics, but it'll increase both handling and safety. I'd much prefer the contact patch of a 195/50R15 tyre over anything with a 14 in it. Safety also includes ABS with EBD and dual front airbags, which is par for the budget entry course. Global NCAP wasn't too kind to the car, only awarding two stars, but if anything, SA has proven that in this segment, even zero stars isn't a detractor for buyers.
Hyundai Atos 1.1 Motion MT isn't only a great entry into a well-established Korean brand, it's a good all round car. Occupant space is good front and rear, boot space is meh, storage space is ok and the combination of features and styling means I'd expect to see loads and loads of these on the roads this year, or at least next year when we can travel more freely. Would I daily a Hyundai Atos Motion? For sure. It's a great car for first time buyers, scaling down buyers and buyers wanting to test out the Hyundai brand and service before shelling out the big bucks. For more detailed specs, head on through to the Hyundai website. One thing is certain, I'd love to get more Hyundai models to review if this is what the entry model is like....
The series of videos commissioned by Suzuki SA are done, there’s four in total. One was basically a tester because this was new thing, this video stuff, but it was good fun learning how to do things. We’ll hopefully be doing a lot more video stuff in the future, so it’s onwards and upwards from here on in. You can see all four videos if you click here.
The last one was just a little thing about the Suzuki Jimny’s retro styling, because I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen with legit throwbacks to previous versions. The Suzuki PR company used the content from various journos to run alongside a competition to give back to Suzuki fans during the 2020 CoViD-19 Lockdown. Just another reason I love the brand so damn much!
Petrolheads - Car fanatics who believe horsepower in king, that driving dynamics is more important than food and that the smell of burning rubber should be available as a cologne. It's this crowd that is vehemently against the progression of electric vehicles, convinced that fossil fuels, turbochargers and H-pattern shifters is the only way to go fast. The thing is, electric cars are starting to show that they can also compete, and kick some proverbial ass, in most forms of motorsport. We've seen big races with electric cars setting records, and thanks for Ford Performance, it won't be long before the same happens on that 402m stretch of tarmac.
Ford Performance has just introduced a one-off all-electric dubbed the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400, it's the automaker's first fully electric dragster prototype and it's FAST! If we listen to the men in white coats who are cleverer than myself, the electric power on tap equates to a monstrous 1 045kW of power and over 1 490Nm of torque - instant torque. The Cobra Jet 1400 has it's sights set on completing a quarter mile pass in the low 8-second range at speeds of more than 275km/h. Them's some serous numbers.
“Ford has always used motorsport to demonstrate innovation,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director, Ford Icons. “Electric powertrains give us a completely new kind of performance and the all-electric Cobra Jet 1400 is one example of pushing new technology to the absolute limit. We’re excited to showcase what’s possible in an exciting year when we also have the all-electric Mustang Mach-E joining the Mustang family.” The Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 prototype represents an opportunity to advance Mustang heritage and performance while simultaneously incorporating some of the most advanced technology coming to Ford’s future powertrains. "This project was a challenge for all of us at Ford Performance, but a challenge we loved jumping into,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “We saw the Cobra Jet 1400 project as an opportunity to start developing electric powertrains in a race car package that we already had a lot of experience with, so we had performance benchmarks we wanted to match and beat right now. This has been a fantastic project to work on, and we hope the first of many coming from our team at Ford Performance Motorsports."
Ford Performance continues to test the Cobra Jet 1400 ahead of its world debut later this year at a drag racing event where fans, media and competitors alike will get to meet the race car, as well as see exactly what it’s capable of up on the asphalt. The name of this electric prototype may sound familiar to race fans too - the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 pays homage to the original Cobra Jet that first dominated drag strips in the late 1960s, and still is a major force in sportsman drag racing now.
To maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the project, Ford Performance has teamed up with several capable and specialized suppliers:
• MLe Racecars – Vehicle builder, designer, integrator and tuner
• Watson Engineering – Chassis support and development, roll cage builder
• AEM EV – Software and motor calibration and controls
• Cascadia – Inverter and Motor supplier
Electric vehicles are here, and they're getting better and better, so expect more amazing cars like this to start breaking ground. It looks like the EV market will soon live up to that old saying: "If you can't beat them..."
A few months back I attended a Peugeot event that wasn't as much a new model launch as it was brand relaunch here in SA. The French automaker kicked off with a bang, cementing their confidence in the South African market and giving us two new models in two different categories. I shared my initial thoughts on the models in November, but I recently got to spend a week with the baby of the range - the diminutive Peugeot 108 - and I must admit that it's a rather cool little runaround. When I say little, I mean it. This thing is just 3475mm long, 1460mm high and 1615mm wide (1884mm if you count the wing mirrors) and that means it tips the scales at a whopping 840kg.
Straight off the bat you'd expect such a small and light budget car to feel flimsy and cheap, but the French chaps who put this thing together have made the little 108 feel quite the opposite. It feels pretty solid all round, and yeah there's some hard plastics in play, and bare metal sections on the doors (in exterior paint colour) that are par for the course on budget cars these days, but it doesn't detract from the quality feel. As far as A-segment cars go, this one is bolted together better than many. I'm also not alone in this thinking, a few passengers noticed too. Yes, I do get feedback from friends when I have press cars, they don't ride for free. On that note, while this 108 is small on the outside, the cabin space is quite deceiving, I managed to fit in three extra bodies and space wasn't an issue, although my passengers were all my size, and I'm not the tallest chap. I probably wouldn't want to be four up on a long trip though coz adding in like 300kg+ to a small car with a 998cc 3-cylinder that produces just 93Nm does mean steep uphills will see you swapping cogs like you're fighting with a one-arm bandit. Of course this car is meant for city drives and most of the time I was either one or two up and then things are pleasant.
The French are great at making things look cool, and the interior of the Peugeot 108 is no different, probably having one of the most eye-pleasing setups in an A-segment car. The dash has a good layout, the steering is of the multifunction variety and the gauge cluster is one big circle with a small digital information screen. It's not all roses though, I have an issue with the design because if you're wearing a light coloured shirt, when the sun is directly overhead it reflects off you and you battle to see anything in the cluster. The infotainment section is also cool, featuring Android Auto and Apple Carplay to keep you connected, safely. The system is super easy to use, you'll be used to things in a few minutes. Although there is one other little issue here too; the surround of the infotainment screen is gloss black, and at the same time of the day that you battle to see the speedo, the sun reflects off the shiny black surround and gets you right in the (left) eye. I suspect that it may not happen to everyone and could be linked to my 1.75m height. The rest of the interior is cool, and the Tombstone-style seats are cooler than you'd expect in this segment.
As I said on the launch drive, the Peugeot 108 makes use of a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder with 53kW of power and 93 Nm of torque and it's mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. I mentioned that were two up in the little car with the aircon off, and slowing down at a yield sign while keeping it in 2nd to pull off again, it almost stalled. It turns out that wasn't because it's lacking power, it comes down to your driving style. By taking note of the revs and the feel of the clutch, you can keep the revs in the right place and the car then feels like any other car. The aircon does sap some power from the car, but that was only noticeable during the day in the hot sun, and night in cooler weather it was a non-issue. In fact, the cool night air makes you wanna ring the little Pug's neck because it's that much more responsive. The fuel consumption claims are 5.2-litres/100km and on launch it was close, so I said that the 108 would produce that figure if you feather it. After learning how the car wants to be driven, I was seeing figures in the low to mid 4s on long roads, and when the week was up the on board figures showed an average of 4.9-litres/100km. That's actually pretty damn cool, because I wasn't feathering it.
As far as A-segment cars go, the Peugeot 108 is a great little option. It'll work as a first car, a downscale car or just a runaround with lower overheads to keep mileage off your bigger car. Build quality is good, spec and safety is good (check launch post for details) and pricing is very pocket-friendly. You can get yourself a Peugeot 108 for R184 900 incl. VAT. In fact right now Peugeot SA has a special on the 108 (if you're ok with a residual), and so you can have one for as little as R1999.00. How mad is that? This also gets you the included 5-year / 100 000km warranty and service plan. Catch more info over on the Peugeot SA website.
While it's small, it's not as small as in this pic from the press pack 😂
As it turns out, the answer is yes. The Datsun GO has been a controversial little thing since its local launch a few years back. Most motoring press crucified the car, and at the time it was justified if you were concerned about safety. The thing is, even though the car wasn't great during a crash test, the buying public didn't seem to care; the low price tag, insurance and fuel consumption were good enough that any other issues were happily overlooked. No matter what the press or seasoned journos said about the car, the sales figures were steadily climbing. Since inception the Datsun GO has undergone a few changes, the most important was to address the safety issue, and then more recently it received a pretty decent refresher in the looks (and every other) department too.
The latest incarnation of the Datsun GO is the CVT model, and if you're not quite sure what that means, here's a short description pulled from Wikipedia: "CVT - A continuously variable transmission, also known as a shiftless transmission, stepless transmission, pulley transmission, or, in case of motorcycles, a 'twist-and-go', is an automatic transmission that can change seamlessly through a continuous range of effective gear ratios." Now it must be mentioned that out of all the transmissions, the CVT probably has the most haters of all. Fans of fast stuff think it sounds like the clutch is slipping, especially when you want to get anywhere in a hurry. Luckily with the Datsun GO CVT, the car has a low weight and a decently punchy engine and so the feel of the CVT isn't bad. On the launch some had mentioned that the revs felt all over the place and that the drive wasn't as smooth as it should be. I did feel similar, but not really enough to annoy me, and what I found out during a week with the car was that this was corrected rather easily. What I have managed to find out from living with the car is that if you fine-tune your driving style, particularly with the accelerator pedal, then you can eliminate that feeling and actually enjoy your journey a lot more.
With a CVT, when you mash your right foot flat, the revs climb to the highest possible position on the tachometer and the speed slowly climbs up match the revs, and when you're up to the speed you want you back off the accelerator and the revs will drop from a scream back to somewhere in the middle of the rev range. With the Datsun GO CVT it's much the same, buuuuuuuut if you adjust your driving style a little you can have a much more rewarding drive. Instead of mashing your right foot and waiting for the speed to catch the revs, you can sort of feather the throttle and the revs will rise to a decent RPM without it feeling like the engine wants to bite you and then back to a normal range and the car will pull off much faster and smoother. It sort of flattens the curve (not in a spreading virus kind of way) and makes it 100% possible to make a Renault Kwid look like it hit reverse in a TLGP. There's at least one Kwid owner out there who's not gonna race a Datsun GO anytime soon. It took a couple of days to perfect this, but soon it became muscle memory and a no-brainer.
Once I had the driving style down, I found the little Datsun GO CVT to be a great runaround. It's actually a decent-looking car, especially in Vivid Blue as seen here, but to make me properly happy with it (if it were mine), I'd arrange a bit of an introduction to terra firma with some suspension tweaks and I'd add in some aftermarket JDM-style 15-inch wheels. I spent almost two tanks of petrol driving the GO CVT, I drove lots of back roads, short cuts, short drives and even took the car on a bunch of longer runs. The furthest trek was to the Emerald Speed Fest, a decent 100km away. It was highway most of the way, and also rather wet and miff out, but I still had me a pleasant drive. I hooked up my Country by Krutch playlist on YouTube Music and had Dierks Bentley telling me about Becky from South Alabama through the infotainment system via Android Auto, I set my right ankle into cruise position (I have built-in cruise control thanks to a fused ankle joint) and enjoyed the drive at a constant 120-ish. The best part is that the Datsun GO CVT was showing me fuel consumption figures of just 5.2-litres/100km, in fact, it was never above 5.9 at any time. The rumbling 1200cc 3-cylinder creates 57kW and 104Nm of torque, which it clearly uses pretty damn well.
The Datsun GO CVT is a good option if you're needing an automatic car in this segment. It's no longer the GO of old; it looks better, is better equipped and has ABS and dual airbags. It's gonna set you back just R187 900 and that gets you a 6-year / 150 000km warranty too. The competition in this segment is getting rather interesting, the A and B segments are starting to include some really good little cars that make either a great entry into a the world of driving or brilliant downsizing options for those who are changing lifestyles. Shopping around will do you good.
If you visit here often, you'll have seen the post preceding this one that if I quickly sum it up, pretty much says that I MUST have a Suzuki Swift Sport because it's the coolest thing since, well, anything. It's a hot hatch for the masses, half the size and half the price of anything else yet it still delivers enough performance to upset Metro and keep you in a good mood on every drive. I also mentioned that it's probably the only new car on the market that I'd fork over my hard-earned cash for. I lied. It's not my fault though, Suzuki let me review these cars back to back, and while the SSS sets a high bar for me personally, I didn't think the new BooterJet-equipped Vitara would give me the same dirty thoughts. It did. I think the want for one of these matches the want for the Swift Sport. As with the Swift Sport, I covered most of the techy bits and facts and figures in the launch post that you can click through to right about here. So while those initial drive impressions still ring true, things have changed up a bit in my mind about which I'd have. Here's why...
Suzuki has managed to make what would normally have been a mundane people-carrier into something that's an absolute riot to drive. When this shape launched back in 2015, I was already a fan, it was a fresh take on a medium-sized SUV with a decent spec list and a price tag that couldn't be beat. It was great to drive because Suzuki managed to give the Vitara a ride that feels like small hatchback thanks to it's low weight, direct steering and firm-ish ride. Since then the Vitara has had a refresher in the looks department, and it's still available with the normally aspirated 1.6-litre 4-pot that drives the front wheels, or all four if you shell out for the AllGrip model. This 1600cc setup is listed at 86kW and 156Nm and employs either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed auto - model dependant. Performance is better than you'd imagine, especially at altitude for a normally aspirated setup - magic was worked in the ECU tune and the gear ratios. In the latest incarnation, improvements can be seen in the aesthetics, the interior trim and features list, just like the Swift Sport. But what makes the levels of want for this thing rise is the new engine setup, because this new Vitara has the Swift Sport's 1.4 Turbo BoosterJet lump, and it's also mated to a 6-speed manual transmission albeit with slightly altered ratios (there's an auto option for millennials, but it does have cool flappy paddles for manual shifting). This means the Vitara is now just as fun as the Swift Sport, well almost, but it's damn close. 103kW and 230Nm will do that for you, especially at this kerb weight.
Firstly these things looks really good, the dimensions, lines and colours make me happy, as does having the option of a two-tone look. The review car was in Prime Solar Yellow with the black roof, but it can also be had with a white roof. The white looks ok, but I reckon the black looks a bit more aggressive and I like that it also gives that floating roof impression. I also prefer the black because it matches the exterior trim better. There's eight colours to choose from, and if I had to choose, I'd take the Bright Red with black roof. That would be for when I bore of the wrap I'd like to give it, I'll explain later. The wheels are 17-inch in size and they really do suit the Vitara, but as with the Swift Sport, I'd relegate these hoops to the garage, or avail them to a Swift Sport driver who wants to ditch the OEM 16s assuming the PCD and offset work of course - again, more on this later. The new headlights and foglight surrounds add to the list of changes, and they look good, but I'd make them a wee bit better (for my taste). In my test week I had a few people asking if it's a baby Land Rover, and one liked the colour of my new Tiguan. Comments like that are great, it shows there's still a need for motoring journos in the wild, and that Suzuki is punching above it weight.
The cabin has seen the same upgrades as the Swift Sport, the infotainment system is headed up by the same intuitive touch screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included for around R9000 less than what you'd pay in a new Audi A1. Or for free if you wanna get technical. The seats have a new look to them, they're a little sturdier, the materials are brilliant and they're properly comfortable on a long journey. Having tilt and rake on the steering and being able to raise and lower the driver's seat means the perfect driving position is easily sorted out. Even little chaps like me can be comfortable in just a few seconds. I'm not sure if it's old age getting to my ears, but I'm almost positive the sound plays louder in here than the SSS. The instrument cluster is pretty close to the SSS too, and the animations seen in the centre screen are almost identical, there's just the boost level screen missing.
Driving this new Suzuki Vitara is just too much fun. Even though the engine and drivetrain is in a bigger people-carrier, the Suzuki techs have once again employed new lightweight materials and so the thing tips the scales at just 1095kg. Oddly, the gear ratios feel a little more urgent to me than in the SSS, but it's probably just the butt dyno doing it's thing. The handling is great, more hatchback-like than SUV-like, there's not even a lot of body roll considering the ride height. Braking feels the same - sharp. If you climb out of a pre-2005 car and get straight into this, you WILL headbutt the steering when you first attempt to stop. During the drive, the Vitara feels so light and nimble that if you put someone in the car and they just looked at the dash and felt the drive, they'd be hard-pressed to tell you if they're in a Vitara or a Swift Sport. It's things like this that really gets one thinking though...
I'd rock one as a daily, heck, it would be my daily for the Monday to Friday errand stuff but on weekends it could even be my track toy, after a few tweaks of course. Purely because have an aftermarket background and it's expected of me to talk about modifying things, that's what I'll do. Earlier I mentioned I'd have a red one, and that would be the base colour because it's my favourite of the options. I'd give the Vitara a vinyl wrap to metallic blue though, and yeah, I know you can buy a Vitara with blue paint, but Atlantis Turquoise is just not as intense as the Speedy Blue Metallic that's available for the Swift Sport. Again, the red base would be for when I'm bored of the blue wrap and want the permanent colour to show, which would probably take at least 18 months from the day of wrapping. So now my boosted Vitara would be the same blue as the Swift Sport. Then, as with the SSS, the black parts on the exterior would be made gloss black, along with the foglight surrounds and the grille, but I'd leave the Suzuki badge in silver.
The next thing would be a bit of a fiddle with the suspension to firm things up a little and bring the chassis closer to terra firma, likely with BC coilovers. Again, as mentioned before, the wheels would be replaced, and I'd go for a classic JDM-style wheel, probably along the lines of a Volk TE37 or similar. These would be finished in gloss black, or maybe even white. The next change I'd make would be ambitious to say the least, it would either cost an arm and a leg or require a new SSS that met it's demise in a side or rear impact. I'd love to retrofit a Swift Sport steering wheel, a Swift Sport shift knob and then lastly the Swift Sport front seats. Yeah yeah, I know, BIG work costing plenty, but when your wants turn to needs, plans will get made. The last things to change would be under the hood, the usual tweaks to further improve responsiveness, power and most importantly, the soundtrack with a custom exhaust from the likes of TMSS. The result would be a Suzuki Vitara Sport of my own creation. You do get an S trim overseas that's fitted with an all-wheel drive system too, but SA ain't on the cards for that one so n Engelsman maak n plan yo!
So yeah, yet another Suzuki that makes me happy and that I can live with daily. It doesn't need the changes I'd do of course, it's a brilliant buy that will keep the masses very, very happy. It's pretty much on par with the Swift Sport for me, and I'd probably fork out for one of these purely based on space, my camera equipment fills the Swift boot but will barely touch sides in the Vitara, and I can hang out the boot hatch to get rolling shots when shooting. Ideally though, I'd have a Vitara (Sport) for the daily grind, a Swift Sport for weekend track stuff and a Jimny for kicking it on overland holidays.
You get a few options to choose from if you're keen on a Suzuki Vitara, and all of them are worth your consideration if you're looking to buy in this segment. The range kicks off with the 1.6GL 5MT 2WD at R293 900, then the 1.6GL+ 5MT 2WD at R332 900, the 1.6GL+ 6AT 2WD at R352 900, the 1.6GLX 6AT at R381 900 and then 1.6GLX 5MT AllGrip at R390 900 to finish off the normally aspirated 1600cc options. The 1.4 Turbo GLX 6MT can be had for R386 900 and the flappy paddle 1.4 Turbo GLX 6AT lists at R405 900. They all have a 5-year/100 000km warranty and a 4-year/60 000km service plan. Of course most of that will fall away if you get one and have the same ambitions that I do. Click on through to the Suzuki SA site to directly compare the various trim options.
I do hope there's a few people out there who think like I do, because a modified Vitara is an awesome thought. If anyone ever sees one, you have to let me know!