Friday, 23 January 2009


Busy little segment this one isn't it?

It’s not hard to argue with mates or with yourself once the prospect of buying the type of car popularly known as a soft-roader comes around. Which one of the various flavour do you go for? Is the Freelander; the Honda CR-V, the Nissan X-Trail or any of the other options not mentioned? And there are plenty more mind you, with any motor manufacturer that has yet to build its own probably doing so as you read this. When Subaru offered the latest incarnation of its Forester SUV, it really begged the question once more that what, if any difference is there among this species of car? For the Forester though, the prospect of the turbocharged XT is exciting enough but it’s not the subject of this article, the 2.5 XS is.

It still looks like a Subaru

When it comes to outward show there really is nothing much to write home about. Subaru has really not pulled out a swan among ostriches but nevertheless, find a favourable paint option, like black, and there’s s quite a lot to be smug about. It comes with impressive outward apparel in the form of chunky rubber on shiny alloys, full bumper colour coordination and that’s it, really. The rest is left to a thorough wash and dry, and perhaps an after market tint.

Has the interior changed or improved?

Ah, the best part indeed. Over the years Subaru may have been spot in the size and shape of the bonnet air-scoops on its performance models but interior brilliance wasn’t its strong points, until the Tribeca SUV. The Forester takes much from that hulk in terms of the kind of material finish and style, ergonomics space nooks, and such, even the quality of the seats, which thanks to the company being on a first name basis with Recaro, has ensured that fine chairs are a guarantee. Overall, it’s a joyous, spacious, stressless place to be this Subaru Forester cabin.

Next week we'll look at some of the vehicle's features and drive experience.



Audi is well on its way to becoming the king of the hill in the premium segment. In 2008 the company reported record profits again, and increased its sales beyond the 1 million mark for the first time. And now word is that it’s become the largest seller of premium cars in its homeland Germany where previously BMW and Mercedes-Benz ruled.

In its segment the A4 became the best-seller. So did the A6 and the TT, which was the best-selling sports car. Already in the UK where the BMW 3 Series was top dog the A4 is outselling it too. Almost 100 000 units of the A4 were registered in Germany in 2008.

But in the US which is currently the world’s biggest market for cars (sales of about 13 200 000 in 2008), BMW runs the show with about 300 000 in sales, followed by Mercedes-Benz with close to 250 000. It may still be a long way to go for Audi but every year it gets closer and closer. Audi owns Lamborghini, is itself owned by Volkswagen Group, which in turn is majority owned by Porsche.

Suddenly Audi is to be taken quite seriously by the other two major players, isn’t it?

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Toyota may replace many of its top executives, says a report from Bloomberg. The company’s next CEO Akio Toyoda is said to be keen on tossing out the old guard in favour of new faces while at the same time cutting down management in total. In June he takes over from the highly-regarded Katsuaki Watanabe.

Toyoda is the grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda, the man who founded Toyota Motor Corporation in 1937 out of his own father Sakichi Toyoda’s loom business.

The 52 year-old takes over a company that in 2008 broke General Motors’ 77-year old record as the world’s biggest automaker. But because of a bad world economy, sales have dropped drastically and Toyota is expected to announce its first loss in years.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


Europe’s current “van of the year”, the Fiat Scudo, is now available for sale in the South African market. Mzansi buyers can get the 9-seater Scudo which is aimed more at the leisure and tourism markets for a minimum price of R363 100. It’s a spacious people mover that features a R1 060 bench-type front seat as an option, thus allowing up to three people to take up the front row in the car.

On either side of the Scudo are two sliding doors that give access to its two sitting rows. Luggage can be accommodated via the boot. Scudo is thrust forward by a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine producing 88kW (120hp) at 3600rpm and torque of 300Nm at 2000rpm. The powerplant is run by a willing 6-speed manual gearbox. Fiat’s figures reflect a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.2 litres per 100km for the Scudo. Zero to 100km/h is said to be covered in a rather lazy 12.8 seconds but such figures aren’t too important for a car of this nature, so it’s ok.

On the other hand safety is a big thing for something so big that transports people. Therefore things like ABS with EBD and driver’s airbag are fitted. All the seats come with their own individual seatbelts as well. Comfort features include air conditioning, power steering, electric side mirrors and front windows.

Included in the price is a 3 year/ 100 000km warranty and a 5 year/ 100 000km service plan. In addition, a 24 hour, 7 days a week AA Fleetcare roadside assistance service is offered for the first 12 months. Thereafter you’re on your own.


HONDA SAYS: Honda models have won four customer satisfaction index (CSI) awards in the annual JD Power and Associates CSI survey – more than any other manufacturer or importer in South Africa.

The four Honda models singled out by the survey are the Jazz compact hatchback, the four-door Civic sedan, the FR-V people mover, and the CR-V compact SUV. A fifth Honda model, the Accord sedan, came second in the medium car category.

The JD Power CSI awards, considered among the most authoritative in the industry, represent overall ownership satisfaction after 10 to 21 months of ownership. The CSI survey incorporates vehicle quality/reliability, vehicle appeal, service satisfaction and ownership costs.

Survey forms were sent to more than 150 000 owners of passenger cars and pick-ups nationally, with 12 181 responses included in the latest JD Power study.

The Honda Jazz took the honours in the lower small car category with a top score of 892 points, while the Honda Civic sedan was the best performer in the upper small car group, with 874 points.

In the compact MPV category, the Honda FR-V ranked first with 864 points, while the Honda CR-V took first place in the compact SUV sector with 874 points.

In overall CSI terms, across all sectors, the Jazz and the Accord placed second and third overall, with the Civic sedan and CR-V fifth and sixth, giving Honda four models in the national CSI top 10.