Car News

BMW has forged their traditional brand image upon two pillars: the prestige of the blue-and-white badge, and an entertaining driving experience. The most sought-after BMWs of days gone by boasted powerful engines, sporty handling and seductive styling – usually with pricetags to match their aspirational status.

Many years have passed since Jaguar last built a proper sports car. The XK was lovely, but it was a touring car more than a genuine sports machine – insane XKR-S GT apart, of course. This oversight has been addressed in the new F-Type Coupé, a two-seat sports car with a traditional flavour: rear wheel driven and with a lot of power courtesy of a front-mounted engine.

With strong brand loyalty being enjoyed by mainstream manufacturers, newcomers often find it difficult to capture a significant slice of the small hatchback pie, with the majority of the spoils going to Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford. Against this formidable competition and increasingly appealing Korean offerings, the Suzuki Swift 1.4 has always faced an uphill battle.

It might be new to South Africa, but the LEAF, Nissan’s ground breaking all-electric family car, has been around for a while. First launched in 2010, more than 130 000 units have been sold worldwide – most of those to city dwellers. A single drop in the total car-sales bucket perhaps, but nonetheless a realistic taste of our motoring future. As much as we love the internal combustion engine, electric motors are sure to replace them in due course.

Ask any driving enthusiast about their image of heaven, and the description will very likely include a mountain road and a nimble, athletic car of sorts. Just imagine carving corners through Mpumalanga’s Robber’s Pass in something like a Ford Fiesta ST or a Subaru STI, the squeal of tortured rubber competing with the roar of the engine: car and driver become one machine, arguing with the laws of physics. Heavenly indeed, but for most of us, a mere pipe dream. 

The V40 is the most popular Volvo here in SA – for good reason: It’s a joy to behold, even after three years of production. The Chris Benjamin / Peter Horbury design has the kind of flair and flow that’s more Alfa Romeo or Maserati than traditionally restrained Volvo. (This is also in stark contrast to the 2015 Volvo XC90, that is far too reminiscent of the 2007-2012 Hyundai Santa Fe or Audi Q5.)

City cars are traditionally meant to be budget-minded, rather utilitarian things. Simple and affordable, they are supposed to be used without much concern for cosmetics or lavish trim. So what is that incongruous “Grand” sticker doing on the rump of Hyundai’s newest small car, then? Is it aiming above its station in life, or is there real substance to its name?

Compact multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) might not be all that popular in South Africa, where we seem to prefer the rough-and-ready image of sports utility vehicles, but in other parts of the world they provide their manufacturers with a licence to print money: Renault’s Scenic, Volkswagen’s Touran and Opel’s Zafira generate immense profits for their parent companies in other markets. 

So successful was the rebirth of the Fiat 500 that the Italian automaker now milks the legendary nameplate for all its worth, introducing bigger versions of the 500 in an effort to capture sales in other market segments.

Our V40 CC had scarcely settled in when we gave it a tough test. Go to a backpacker’s lodge on the Wild Coast and come back in once piece – mainly without a loose dashboard or rattles caused by hopping around on dodgy dirt roads.

OK, now that I have your attention, here’s the story of how Vee-dub’s latest small car, newly released in South Africa, got its interesting and different (some call it silly) name.

Apparently the name was not even up for consideration (pun intended) initially, and according to Petra Hoffmann, VWSA’s director of sales and marketing, it all happened by chance.

Hoffmann, who at the time was part of the team in Germany developing the small car successor to the Lupo, says sometime in 2012 an early version of the newly developed but still nameless model was shown to top management.

It's clear to all that the Dakar Rally is mad, bad and dangerous. But there's even more to it than that. Ferdi de Vos takes a deeper look.

In Nasser Al-Attiyah’s mind only one thing counted in this year’s Dakar Rally: Victory. 

Nothing else sufficed. To him only first place would be acceptable. No alternative existed.

Yes, you could say that of all the top Dakar competitors’ mind-set, but what makes the man from Qatar such a formidable adversary is his near fanatical approach. He’s completely focussed and committed.