Friday, 27 February 2009


The mid-size premium SUV segment is about to get hot under the collar. Audi has launched its long-awaited brand new Q5 compact SUV and the company is taking no prisoners at this point in time. The Q5 measures 4.6 metres in overall length and has a wheelbase of 2.8m. It’s 2.1m wide and 1.6m tall. For those of us badly affected by the credit crunch but still looking for a luxury SUV to get around in, the Q5 may be just what the doctor ordered.

Slotting below the massive Q7, the Q5 combines luxury with soft-road performance as well as spaciousness and versatility. One can see the family resemblance from the vehicle’s imposing front grille, the sloping roofline that emphasises sportiness and the Z-shaped bootline. The tailgate and the bonnet are both made of aluminium in order to save weight and improve overall performance.

The five-seater Q5 is fully equipped with things like optional LED daytime running lights (now typical of Audi products), leather seats, 19-inch wheels of different designs, power steering, MMI with the sat nav option and three styling packages.

Available at launch were three of the initial engine offerings being made available for sale. At the bottom of the list is the 2.0-litre TDI which makes 125kW and a stoking 350Nm of torque between 1750rpm and 2500rpm. Combined C02 emissions from the 2.0TDI are 175g/km. It is quite a drivable machine as I was able to experience during its press introduction yesterday. I got to drive the 6-speed manual version whose short-throw gearbox almost felt like it was too short, like the odd-numbered gears were not engaged when they were. It felt quite strong even on steeps with all that torque.

Above it is a 2.0-litre TFSI petrol whose power output is a high 155kW and torque of 350Nm. Audi says it will run to 100km/h from standstill in just 7.2 seconds and top off at 222km/h. A combined average fuel consumption figure of 8.5 litres/100km and C02 emissions of 192g/km are claimed. This is a strong engine and it pulls off quite admirably.

Two more engines will be sold initially in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned. A 3.2-litre FSI V6 delivers 199kW and 330Nm. Finally the 3.0-litre TDI is for turbo diesel fans who demand extra performance with their frugality. The 3.0 TDI gets 176kW and 500Nm of torque. Audi’s 7-speed S tronic gearbox can be ticked on the options box.

As a sporting SUV the Q5 proved its mettle over tight twists in the Cape mountains thanks in part to the five-link front suspension and trapezoidal-link rear suspension which use aluminium parts. Audi’s Drive Select helped keep the Q5 in shape under treacherous gravel roads. We had the optional 19-inch tyres but buyers can expect to be welcomed by 18-inchers at the base level while who can afford the 3.2 FSI and 3.0 TDI get 19-inch wheels delivered with their vehicles. Prime time pimps will be satisfied with nothing but 20-inch alloy wheels which are optional.

Customers can specify their Q5s with options like MMI with DVD screen, Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports for SD cards and iPod connections, a TV tuner and a banging Bang & Olufsen sound system. Other options include a tyre pressure monitor, roller sun blinds for the rear side windows, keyless access, active cruise control and dynamic headlight cornering system.

Prices for the Audi Q5 are as follows:


R407 000

2.0 TFSI

R460 500

3.2 FSI

R515 500


R533 500


Toyota will premier at least three new cars at the Geneva International Motor Show next week. First up is the new Toyota Verso which features Toyota Easy Flat-7 system that folds the rear seats individually and quickly for good spacial use.

Toyota says its Optimal Drive system improves fuel economy by up to 20% and cuts emissions by 12%. New 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre petrol engines are offered. A 2.0-litre turbo diesel and a 2.2-litre diesel will be available. Toyota will give customers a choice of either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a new 6-speed automatic.

A second model the new Prius will be shown in public for the first time at Geneva. The car is a new design and improves fuel economy by up to 10%. Prius features head-up display, Toyota’s Intelligent Parking System, a solar-powered ventilation system that helps keep the car cool when it’s parked outside in the scorching sun and it has more power.

Finally the IQ makes its debut. The IQ is said to be the world’s smallest four-seater car. It uses a 74kW 1.33 engine for its power. Toyota says it’s capable of returning 4.2 litres/100km in average fuel usage.

For now only the Prius has been confirmed as coming to South Africa later this year. The Verso is also a strong possibility given its sales success here.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


TOYOTA SAYS: The Hino (formerly Toyota Trucks) dealer network has come out as the dominant truck distribution and after sales force in South Africa according to Scott Byers’ Comparative Customer Satisfaction Monitor (CCSM) for the fourth quarter of 2008. This detailed, quarterly survey of the local truck market by the Scott Byers Network is based on replies from between 3 000 and 4 000 respondents and covers 12 makes of truck available on the local market.

Not only was Hino top of the list in terms of the combined customer satisfaction monitor, with a score of 92.39%, but it was also the best performer in both the sales (94.37%) and service (91.03%) categories. It placed second, marginally behind Mercedes-Benz, in the parts section (92.78%), although Hino had the lowest percentage of dissatisfied customers in the latter section.

Only eight of the 12 truck makes in the survey had overall ratings that exceeded the national average of just over 85%.

“We are delighted at the Hino dealers’ performance in the latest Scott Byers Monitor, covering the last quarter of 2008,” said Hino vice president Piet van Wyk de Vries.

“We have all been working very hard at a combined approach by our head office and regional teams, along with our dealers, to sharpen up in areas that had been identified in the past as opportunities to improve our ratings and so improve the service we offer our customers in terms of sales, service and parts supply”

Van Wyk de Vries said he was also satisfied with Hino sales in South Africa in 2008, despite the fact that the market got very tough in the second half of the year as the effects of high fuel prices and the global economic turmoil started to bite.

Total Hino sales for 2008 amounted to 5 236 units, which was only 2.7% below the record total of 5 384 units sold in 2007. Compare this good performance to a fall of 6.5% for the overall SA truck and bus market in 2008.

The 2008 total was made up of 2 824 Dyna medium trucks (extending Dyna’s leadership in this segment to 26 years), 1 828 Hino 500 Series heavy trucks (maintaining Hino's segment leadership for this model) and 584 Hino 700 Series extra-heavy trucks.

“Our strong sales in a tough market in 2008 and our leadership position in the latest customer satisfaction survey have positioned Hino as one of the leading brands on the local truck market. Now we enter a period of financial constraints and difficult trading conditions in 2009, but we are confident that the power of the trusted Hino brand will ensure our ongoing progress in servicing all sectors of the SA truck market,” commented the Hino vice president.

“We believe we are well positioned to continue our recent run of successes in both sales and customer satisfaction as our dealers switch over from the previous Toyota Trucks corporate identity at their facilities to the distinctive new Hino branding.

“Where necessary, changes are being made at the same time to facilities and some of the dealership operational processes all aimed at benefitting the customer. However, the whole change-over will be handled as a systematic, step-by-step process to prevent any disruption to our customers,” concluded Piet van Wyk de Vries.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Renault is committed to the South Africa economy. That’s the crux of the message sent by its executives at the launch of the new Renault Sandero. Renault SA has the highest BBBEE rating of any motor manufacturer based in this country.

The Sandero is a small hatchback car which competes with the likes of Volkswagen Polo, Mazda2, Daihatsu Sirion and Toyota Yaris. But Renault was very keen on demonstrating how much value is derived by buying the Sandero instead of its competitors. At a base price of R98 800 it certainly presents a good value challenge. For Renault this is the car that will turn their recently-sagging fortunes around. It’s estimated that the Sandero will constitute up to 60% of all local Renault sales. As we previously reported the car is built in Rosslyn north of Pretoria at a current rate of about 25 per day. The same platform called the B0 used in the Logan and Nissan NP200 is used to build the Sandero. There are no plans to export it to neighbouring countries yet but if things improve and sales are robust enough that avenue will be seriously looked at.

According to figures presented at the launch, the Sandero offers more interior and boot space than rivals, and that it does in fact, offer as much boot luggage space as cars like the M├ęgane. When asked how they could price the small hatch in similar vein as the bigger Logan, Renault said the two were different in looks and target market. Besides, the Logan’s introductory price is about to go up. Sandero comes in five trim levels, the cheapest being Authentique and the highest is the Dynamique.

Two engine choices are available for the Sandero. At the bottom of the range is a 1.4-litre 8 valve petrol making 55kW and 112Nm of torque. It has a claimed 0 – 100km/h time of 13 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 161km/h. The average fuel consumption figure is said to be 7 litres per 100km and C02 emissions of 164g/km.

Higher up the rung is the 1.6-litre engine with 64kW and 128Nm. Acceleration to 100km/h is 11.5 seconds and top whack is 175km/h. Renault says the 1.6-litre will consume an average of 7.2 litres of fuel per 100km and emit C02 gases measuring 170g/km. Renault is not introducing a turbo diesel at this point.

All models come with 14-inch wheels and tyres as well as a 5-speed manual gearbox. For those looking for a bit more individuality Renault offers extra kit for the Sandero. Things like wind deflectors, a boot spoiler, foglamps, alloy wheels, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, park distance control sensors and a front central armrest can be purchased at an extra cost.

Driving the Sandero around Gauteng I was suitably chaffed that the small car showed such good spunk, especially since our high reef altitude sucks out so much performance from naturally aspirated engines. We got to take it around one or two twisty bends and the Sandero proved itself a worthy enough rival to the brilliant Mazda3. It felt solid in build yet comfortable to the occupants. My co-driver and I had a higher-spec model to drive which featured power steering, electric windows, a CD player and air conditioning. Unfortunately the air conditioning did not work at all during our two hour trip, leaving us to sweat it out with only the windows and exterior wind for relief. It certainly gave the term “hot lap” a whole new meaning for us. I reckon we were unlucky enough to get an untested straight-from-the-factory car that time around.

The Sandero is packed with plenty of features, depending on which trim level one chooses. The range includes things like driver’s airbags, headlights adjuster, tinted windows, a radio/CD/MP3 player, ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and rear electric windows.