Car News

The micro-car company Smart has been through tough times, but a new line-up promises to rejuvenate the brand. We recently attended the world launch of the new ForTwo and ForFour in Barcelona, Spain.

It’s time for the annual LA Sport 4x4 Show again, and this year’s event, on 23 and 24 May in Capital Park, Pretoria, promises to be more exciting than ever before. In addition to plenty of off-roading action on the in-house 4x4 trail, there will be plenty of music to create a suitably festive mood, while exhibitors will show anything from bakkie canopies, trailers, caravans and tents to exotic locations for you to visit with your freshly kitted-out off-roader.

It’s four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. I’m still 130 km from home, the road glistens after a mid-summer shower, and a highway on-ramp looms ahead. I tap the left-hand gearshift paddle three times, drawing a muted rumble from the engine bay as the dual-clutch transmission primes the engine to power through the bend. A quick tap on the brake pedal transfers some mass onto the front tyres, a light flick of my wrists tucks the car’s nose into the curve, and as the apex slips past, I mash the throttle pedal into the carpet. 

Few roads challenge a car’s dynamic abilities more comprehensively than those around the Hartebeespoort Dam, where tight and narrow twists and turns, on a flawed road surface, demand absolute concentration from driver and car alike. Plenty of power (and the traction to get it to the tarmac), compliant suspension and accurate steering response helps you tame this challenging road. Drive it properly, and in the right car, and you end up surfing a wave of adrenaline while having some really good fun at (or around) the legal speed limit.

There are far worse things to say about a car than calling it a copy of the Volkswagen Polo. The German class leader offers an honest, no-nonsense solution to most motoring requirements, with solid build quality, large-car refinement and unflinching composure on the road, even if the car itself is somewhat less than exciting to drive. These values seem to resonate with buyers of small hatchbacks, because the Polo is pretty much a permanent fixture at the top of the local sales charts.

Interweb loves Ranger v Amarok drag race

At the time of writing this, more than 100 000 people have seen the video of our drag race between the 2.0-litre bi-turbo Volkswagen Amarok 4x4 DC and the 3.2-litre turbo Ford Ranger, also a double-cab with 4x4 auto transmission.

Not too long ago, in the 90s, Opel was synonymous with Monzas and Kadetts that had the solidity of a Lego house assembled by a toddler. Quality levels did improve over the following years, but not too long ago Opel South Africa’s range, if you can call it that, consisted of a mere four models: the Astra, Meriva, Corsa and a Renault van. The Astra is an excellent car, but somewhat undiscovered by local buyers. The Meriva is a clever, versatile family car, but flies under the radar. The Corsa was a respectable but dull appliance that became rental car fodder.

With the testing in this year’s (deep breath) WesBank and the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Car of the Year Competition concluded this week (4-5 March), it’s a good time to assess how the eleven finalists stack up.

The contest, sponsored by WesBank for the past 30 years, is unique in the world in that the winner is not determined by popular vote, but by actual testing of the finalists. The cars are put through a series of dynamic and static assessments by Guild evaluators at the Gerotek testing facility near Pretoria.

The MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) is dead as the middle-class sedan. Virtually no one buys the Scenic, Picasso, Touran, Journey or Mazda5 any more. The Peugeot 5008, Verso and Honda FR-V found buyers in their heyday – even the odd-looking Fiat Multipla did – but these days you only see these models in used-car lots.

From diesel-engined German airport taxis to AMG super-saloons, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has to cater for a wide range of needs. Millions of units were sold over its first four generations, and they are largely responsible for the bulging wallets at Mercedes-Benz, being both profitable and popular.