Saturday, 22 November 2008


Renault has allowed pictures of its next Mégane, the Mégane III, to leak out ahead of its international debut at the Paris International Motor Show next month.

The car seems to have lost its infamous chopped backside that made it stand out from the rest of the chaff the last time around. Instead a lot of rounded curves and conventional shapes seem to have taken over.

Most of the changes have taken place inside where the Mégane sports a fresh new look that’s very simple and clean. The other pity on design, apart from the rear, is the conventional handbrake that replaces its unique aircraft-style brake puller.

A number of engines will be available with Mégane III as expected, including petrol and diesel options. A high-performance RS version to take on Golf GTI/ Astra GTC/ Focus ST is only expected in three years time.

We may see the new Mégane III at the Jo’burg International Motor Show next month where engines for Mzansi and other options like Bluetooth will be confirmed.


MINI unveiled this concept crossover SUV at the Paris Motor Show. Would you buy it if they built it?


The launch of the latest-generation Suzuki Jimny marks the return of a 4x4 icon. A direct descendant of the legendary SJ410 and Samurai mini-4x4s, the Jimny retains the astonishing all-terrain capability and nimble reactions of the original. At the same time, it adds fresh, contemporary styling, an advanced, more powerful 1.3-litre engine and a comprehensively upgraded interior to the formula. Core features such as the rigid front and rear axles, coil spring suspension, 4x4 drivetrain with transfer case and robust box-section chassis have been retained, but further refined and improved for this application.

“The Suzuki Jimny has played a pivotal part in the history of the Suzuki brand,” says Kazuyuki Yamashita, Managing Director of Suzuki Auto SA.

“In South Africa, the SJ-series SUVs, and the Samurai, established a loyal following for Suzuki which endures to this day, and it is therefore only fitting that we introduce the latest, and vastly improved, iteration of those vehicles to this market.”

The new Suzuki Jimny’s front-end treatment is strong and distinctive, representing a modern interpretation of the original SJ’s frontal design.

An integrated bumper is home to round fog lamps, while colour-coded side body protection panels add visual muscle. Pronounced wheel arches provide a home to the 15-inch alloy wheels. At the rear, the spare wheel remains conveniently attached to the side-opening tailgate.

The 1.3-litre engine is a latest-generation, powerplant with variable valve timing, fuel injection and 16 valves.

Maximum power comes to 63kW at 6000rpm, with torque peak of 110Nm available at 4100rpm. Variable valve timing optimises torque delivery at low revs, allowing much of the torque peak to come on stream from as low as 2500 rpm. The combined-cycle fuel consumption figure is claimed at 7.2 litres/100 km.

The engine’s urge is delivered to a five-speed manual gearbox linked to a low-range transfer case. It allows push-button selection of rear-wheel drive, high-range four-wheel drive, or low-range four-wheel drive. The braking system links front discs to rear, self-adjusting drums. ABS anti-lock control is standard.

The Jimny's kerb mass remains a humble 1 070 kg, which translates into a power-to-weight ratio of 58,8 kW/ton. It is said to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 14.1 seconds, while the rated top speed is 140 km/h.

But the Jimny really shines when heading off the beaten track. Measuring only 3 645 mm long, 1 600 mm wide and 1 705 mm tall, the Suzuki is every bit as nimble and agile as it looks, while the 190 mm ground clearance aids overall traversability.

The Suzuki’s approach angle is a very impressive 37 degrees, while the departure angle comes to an even more remarkable 46 degrees. The ramp breakover angle is 31 degrees. Together, they allow a degree of all-terrain talent unrivalled at this price point.

Much effort has gone into providing the new Jimny with a comfortable, well-equipped and stylish interior. It features new front and rear seats, revised steering wheel and a redesigned dashboard with clear instruments and well laid out switchgear.

The standard equipment list is comprehensive, providing further proof of the Jimny’s evolution into a versatile all-terrainer with as much on-road appeal as off-road suss.

Convenience items include electric windows, power steering, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, central locking, air-conditioning, two front and two rear cupholders, and height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

The new Suzuki Jimny sets high safety and security standards. Front SRS airbags, inertia reel seatbelts, and progressive front and rear crumple zones are standard, as are side impact protection beams in the doors, and the ABS-equipped braking system.

The Suzuki Jimny is supported by Suzuki’s comprehensive Suzuki Complete package, which combines a three-year/100 000 km warranty, a four-year/ 60 000 km service plan, and a three-year AA roadside assistance package for extended peace of mind.

A Netstar Early Warning tracking system comes pre-installed, and can be activated at additional cost. In addition, Suzuki Jimny purchasers also receive a free 4x4 driver training package.

The Suzuki Jimny 1.3 Manual retails for R149 900 and goes on sale through Suzuki Auto SA’s national network of 19 dealers immediately.


The South African motor industry experienced an extremely disappointing new vehicle sales month in August 2008. According to the latest results released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) and Associated Motor Holdings (AMH), total vehicles sales dropped.

According to Brand Pretorius, chairman of McCarthy Motor Holdings, one can only hope that last month’s results represent the lowest point in the current declining sales cycle.

Passenger vehicle sales declined by 32.7% when compared to August 2007’s results, recording 28 424 sales. Sales in the Light Commercial Vehicle segment declined by 29.2% to 12 878 units. The Medium Commercial Vehicle segment experienced a decline of 30.2%, selling 969 units during August. The only positive performance came from the Heavy Commercial Vehicle segment, where 2 038 sales were recorded – a 4% increase on August 2007’s results.

“The drop of more than 30% in total vehicle sales indicates that an increasing number of both fleet and private buyers are now postponing the decision to replace their vehicles,” said Pretorius. “We believe that their propensity to buy is being undermined by a continuing lack of business and consumer confidence that is currently prevailing in the country.”

Pretorius said that in the case of the private customers, the strict lending criteria, following the introduction of the NCA last year, are difinitely inhibiting the market. “Due to high levels of bad debt, resulting in a substantial number of vehicles being repossessed, vehicle finance houses are also adopting a more conservative stance when providing credit to customers.

In many cases depressed trade-in prices are preventing deals from being done, as the value of the prospective buyer’s trade-in tends to be less than the outstanding balance owed to the bank.”

He said that, these low levels of sales will unfortunately lead to further dealer network rationalisation and consequently, job losses.

Looking at medium term prospects for the new vehicle market, Pretorius said that there is hope that the sales trend will flatten out.

“Sentiment has been impacted positively by stability in the interest rate and the reduction in the fuel price,” said Pretorius. “A further acceleration in fixed investment and excitement about the positive impact of World Cup Soccer 2010, should also stimulate the market over the next year.”


Aston Martin Chief Executive Officer Dr Ulrich Bez has confirmed his intention to revive the Lagonda marque. In a statement today he said: “After my eight years with Aston Martin, four with profitability, and 16 months of independence, it’s time to think about a longer-term future. Aston Martin is an honest, authentic brand, which builds the most beautiful sports cars combining modern technology with craftsmanship.”

Next year AM will launch the four-door Rapide sportscar which will compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz CLS and Porsche Panamera, as well as Audi A7 and the BMW CS Concept-based four-door coupe. This will be followed by the project ‘One-77’, the most spectacular Aston Martin ever. The One-77 will be powered by a 7.0-litre V12 engine pushing out 522kW (700bhp) and will be produced in only 77 units. Hopefully James Bond will drive one of these.

Aston Martins are currently available in 32 countries but they will remain limited in their market penetration by the pure character of the cars – sports cars. “We have now investigated and concluded that the revival of the Lagonda brand would allow us to develop cars which can have a different character than a sports car, and therefore offer a perfect synergy.

“Lagonda will use a unique design language as Aston Martin does. We will take elements of DNA from the past but will be very future orientated as we are with Aston Martin. With Lagonda offering exclusive, luxurious and truly versatile products with high quality and usability and suitable for both existing and emerging markets, I believe we can be present in more than 100 countries in the world. In 2009 Lagonda is about to celebrate its 100th birthday and in its centenary year we are confident that we will show the first concept of a car which could be in the market in 2012,” he confirmed.