Friday, 2 October 2009


RENAULT SAYS: Renault South Africa continued its positive performance during September recording its best market share since February 2006 and its highest sales volume in 24 months.

With Renault’s market share at 4.31% for the month, the French marque has continued to go from strength to strength. While the market remains at its lowest in seven years, signs of recovery are evident with finance application approvals showing a slight increase during September compared with the previous month. Current Interest rate levels also appeared to encourage the motoring public to make new car purchases.

“On the dealer channel we achieved our best month of the year with a volume in excess of 400 units and a market share of 2.85%,” reported Régis Fricotte, Vice President of Marketing at Renault South Africa. “For the first time this year, this positions us amongst the best performers and at the top of the manufacturer log.”

In line with its objective of having the freshest product line-up in South Africa by year end, Renault launched four new models during September. “The Mégane Hatch and Coupé variants as well as the new Scénic and the Grand Scénic have been extremely well received by our dealer network and we are confident that these models with find favour with both existing and new customers,” continued Fricotte. “Each offers good value for money and will be a strong contender in its respective segment.”


SUZUKI SAYS: The pocket-sized Suzuki Jimny 4x4 has kicked dust in the headlights of many of South Africa’s fancied all-terrainers by taking the category laurels in an annual Car of the Year contest voted for exclusively by women.

The 2009 Women’s Car of the Year Awards are organised annually by the Women on Wheels motoring supplement. The supplement is edited by seasoned motoring journalist Charleen Clarke, and published in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Oprah and House and Leisure magazines.

The Jimny, which quickly established an enviable reputation as a big-hearted, agile and affordable all-terrainer, after being launched in SA in September last year, was one of 10 finalists in the 4xFabs category of the contest.

This year’s panel of judges consisted of Clarke, together with fellow motoring scribes Helene Griffiths and Peta Lee, as well as current affairs anchor Fenley Foxen .

In addition, readers of the supplement were invited to vote for their favourite choice in each of eight categories.

While the Jimny was tops in its category, Suzuki was also represented in two other categories: the SX4 lifestyle hatchback in the All-In-One Wonders section, and the Swift compact hatchback in the Movers And Shakers category.

“We are delighted that the Suzuki Jimny continues to distinguish itself on the SA motoring scene,” says Kazuyuki Yamashita, Managing Director of Suzuki South Africa.

“Its combination of wieldy handling, urban warrior styling and go-anywhere versatility continues to win it many friends – including those astute readers of the WOW who voted it into the top SUV slot,” he added.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


“So you wanna play?” she throws a rhetoric question back at me. Her response to my pressing the DTC button for three seconds and thereby switching off the entire traction control system.
“That’s why we’re here” I roar gleefully. A short but telling conversation that took place a the Zwartkops Raceway just south west of Pretoria. I could tell you the clouds covered the sky in grey or that it didn’t rain. I could even tell you there was no breeze, but who’d care? Would you? No. You want to know how the spanking went down, and how much rubber lay wasted on the tarmac.

First of all this was not some kinky get-together with a leather-clad temptress, although she did have full leather seats. No, this was a gathering of three MINI supermodels named John Cooper Works hatch, John Cooper Works Clubman and the newest family member John Cooper Works Convertible. Three different ways to go around Zwartkops.

My previous encounter with the John Cooper Works hatch took place on the karting circuit almost exactly a year ago but this time MINI unfolded the main stage. Most of it anyway; the pit straight was off limits, presumably for our own protection as sometimes-reckless motoring media. Who can blame us? Any date involving this trio is bound to offer boundless smiles and giggles.

One thing I love about Zwartkops is that it’s short and punchy, quick corners, sharp turns and not much in the way of hiding places should a mishap take place. That’s why I tapped on that DTC button cautiously at first, mindful of all these characteristics. But as the day wore on I grew in confidence, not because of my own (highly questionable) driving skills but because the cars did their jobs exceptionally well. Particularly impressive was the Convertible newcomer which is not as rigidly built as the other two because of the nature of its roof. I thought it would be compromised on the track and it was not. Not at all.

Power is sourced from the same 1.6-litre turbo found in the normal John Cooper Works. It produces 155kW at 6000rpm and maximum torque of 260Nm between 1850rpm and 5600rpm. An overboost function of 20Nm is available during certain instances like brisk overtaking. MINI claims a 0 – 100km/h time of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 235km/h. IN4RIDE will have its chance to test these claims but for those 15 laps or so it felt quicker. Mated with it is a 6-speed manual gearbox that facilitates changes without fuss.

The electro-hydraulic roof mechanism opens and closes the soft-top in 15 seconds. It can also be operated fully at up to 30km/h. What’s nice too is that should you wish to open it just like a sunroof then you can. Two steel rollbars behind the headrests will shield the occupants from a roll-over accident.

The daring aerodynamic body kit is standard and other sporty features include fog lights, carbon fibre mirror caps, a sports suspension, red cross-drilled brake discs and side scuttles. Air conditioning, a radio/ CD/ MP3 player, on-board computer, three-spoke leather steering wheel, park distance control and others come standard.

As with other MINIs in the range the John Cooper Works Convertible is extremely customisable with 12 exterior paint colours and various interior leather options, Bluetooth connection, xenon headlights, armrests, a Sport button, satellite navigation and a 6-CD changer among others.

Joy and happiness are guaranteed daily words should you be prepared to finance one of these babies.

MINI John Cooper Works Pricing

MINI John Cooper Works Convertible (R378 850)
MINI John Cooper Works Clubman (R339 950)
MINI John Cooper Works Hatch (R321 850)


Nissan has released two sketches of its next global compact car. Set to launch in Thailand in 2010 the little car will be produced in five countries that include India, China and Thailand. About 150 countries around the world will be able to access it from March next year. South Africa is one of these.

“We aim to make an impact on the B-segment, the biggest market for passenger vehicles in South Africa” says Mike Whitfield, Managing Director of Nissan South Africa. “We are confident that the new Nissan will offer a stylish, yet value for money package.”

Aimed at a segment in which the main players are the Volkswagen Polo, Chevrolet Aveo, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz and Mazda2, this little baby will probably replace the under-performing but nonetheless excellent Micra.

While nothing was said regarding manufacturing at the Rosslyn plant, launch dates for Mzansi will be announced in due course, according to Nissan.


PEUGEOT SAYS: After several days of searing heat, the Georgian weather took a turn for the worse. Showers, storms and flooding caused the race to be interrupted shortly before the halfway point, with the N°08 Peugeot of Montagny and Sarrazin lapping ahead of the N°07 machine of Minassian and Lamy. In the end, the organisers chose not to send the cars back out, handing Peugeot its second one-two finish of the year following its triumph in the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

Not once in the past 11 years has the 10-hour Petit Le Mans endurance race unfolded and ended in such appalling conditions. Following the intense heat that marked qualifying, the heavens opened early on raceday, prompting the warm-up session to be delayed, and the cars were forced to line up on the grid immediately after the handful of warm-up laps that were actually completed. This situation didn't make life easy for Team Peugeot Total which was unable to fine-tune its wet weather set-up prior to the start, especially since the 908 HDi FAP had never previously competed in such conditions.

The early part of the race soon saw the two French cars lose their lead and they were unable to match the pace of the Audis which took control of proceedings. The track then dried out a little on a couple of occasions in the course of the first hour, however, that gave first Pedro Lamy and Nicolas Minassian in the N°07 car a chance to close to within a handful of seconds of McNish's pace-setting Audi. Meanwhile, the N°08 sister car of Franck Montagny and Stéphane Sarrazin – which had trailed the leaders by as much as two laps at one point – succeeded in making up ground thanks to a carefully thought through strategy.

The displays of the two 908 HDi FAPs under the seven safety cars and the return of dry conditions then enabled the two Peugeot crews to take the battle to the McNish/Capello Audi, which led to a thrilling scrap and some breathtaking passing. A further safety-car intervention, the return of torrential rain and a spin by McNish put the seal on the final positions when the race was red flagged for safety reasons after 4 hours and 48 minutes! The teams remained in the starting blocks for almost four hours as they waited for the re-start, but in the end the organisers chose not to send the cars back out…

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Startech has issued this challenge to the official SRT team at Jeep. This Grand Cherokee by the German tuner should give SRT a run for their money as far as looks are concerned. Several things have been done to achieve this and include the fitment of LED daytime running lights running on the front bumper, a lower suspension system and 22-inch wheels. Tyres are 265/35 R 22 up front and 295/30 R 22 at the rear. A stainless steel sport exhaust system features oval chrome-plated tailpipes that apparently make a sweet sound. I wonder if it’s as sweet as the 6.1-litre SRT though.

That’s because power is provide by the 3.0-litre CRD motor making 193kW and peak torque of 580Nm between 1600rpm and 2800rpm.

The interior is peppered with Alcantara and leather pieces that are said to make life inside quite comfy. Other materials used include aluminium for the pedals and door-lock pins as well as polished stainless steel scuff plates.


MERCEDES-BENZ SAYS: The effective control and management of a transport company’s fleet is vital to its short and long term profitability.

Equally important is the choice of vehicles that make up the fleet. This is even more so in the case of Midbank/Thembalethu who operates more than 150 vehicles from three depots in three different provinces.

With rising fuel, vehicle and maintenance cost, increased time pressures, and competition (particularly from less-established commercial vehicle brands) the safety, quality and reliability of a company’s vehicles can mean the difference between prosperity and insolvency.

These are the factors that Johann Bonthuys and Louis Molapo of Midbank/Thembalethu took into consideration when they decided to add twelve new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter buses to their existing fleet.

Bonthuys says that the high standard of the new vehicles as well the fact that they will be driven by the best trained drivers in the industry also played a part in their purchase decision. (Midbank/Thembalethu have won the Mpumalanga Bus Driver of the Year competition numerous times and one of their drivers won the trophy as the overall winner in all of the categories in 2009).

“Once the question of what to buy was decided, the next was from whom to buy,” says company owner Bonthuys. “As they say in the industry, the sale is the wedding but the after sales service is the marriage – and as we all know, the hard work only starts once the honeymoon is over!”

This is where McCarthy Kunene came into the picture. “We started our negotiations with Johann, Louis and the team some time ago,” says McCarthy Kunene Managing Director Gert Prinsloo. “After many meetings we managed to structure a deal to the satisfaction of both parties.”

Business is about relationships and the McCarthy team has worked hard to earn the trust of this reputable company, according to Prinsloo. Midbank Thembalethu marketing manager Louise Swanepoel attests to this. “McCarthy sales executives almost became part of the family and we appreciated that they showed a genuine interest in our business.”

Most rewarding, though, was when Midbank/Thembalethu presented the newly-painted buses to their customer. “They were absolutely delighted, and that again confirmed that we had made the right decision to go with Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles and McCarthy Kunene.”

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


As the phrase goes; “the battle lines have been drawn”. BMW South Africa has introduced the BMW Performance Power Kit for both the 335i and 135i ranges. The engines have been reworked to make more power and torque. All models feature the multi-award-winning 3.0-litre straight six twin turbo petrol which normally pushes out 225kW and 400Nm of torque.

The increases are quite significant, going up to 240kW for maximum power. Torque goes up to 430Nm for the 6-speed manual and a whopping 450Nm for cars with the Steptronic gearbox. Official performance figures were not quoted but I venture to say 0 – 100km/h times should go below 5.5 seconds to make them serious M3 challengers at Gauteng altitudes.

Body kit bits include a front apron with integrated kidney grille surround, a carbon fibre rear spoiler, a rear diffuser and chrome-plated dual tailpipes. Light alloy wheels provide added visual appeal.

Interior is characterised by sports seats, LED displays, a multi-function steering wheel, a sporty gear lever, aluminium pedals and foot rests among others.

Any BMW dealership will be able to fit the fully-accredited factory kit at a price of R24 265 excluding labour costs.


Cars in Action, one of Mzansi’s most prominent motoring magazines, has begun doing performance testing both at Gauteng altitudes and at the coast. CIA as it’s affectionately known, was for a long time the only magazine to do tests here at 1600m above sea level. Of course there are newspaper supplements that do this such as Citizen Motoring and Star Motoring. IN4RIDE is the country’s only independent motoring website that does performance testing and since we are Jozi-based our figures will be different from coastal ones.

"Our dual testing programe has been in the pipeline for a while and took quite some planning," Cars in Action publisher Michele Lupini pointed out. "It's something we have long dreamed of doing and is now a reality - the data we have so far is quickly proving most interesting and we're looking forward to growing to understand the real differences between all cars' costal and high altitude performance differences."

Why is all this important? Well cars generally lose a good deal of their power when they come to Gauteng or when they are in other high altitude areas around the country. That means the 0 – 100km/h times you see in some magazines like CAR and TopCar (both of which are based on the coast and test only there) cannot be replicated in Gauteng or Polokwane or Free State for example. This partly explains why some people complain about their cars’ lack of performance compared to manufacturer’s claimed times.

CIA says its new October 2009 issue will be indicative of this new dual testing system.

Monday, 28 September 2009


It’s been 5 years since Mahindra came into the Mzansi market. During all that time several products were launched, products like the Scorpio SUV and pickup range. Today the company announced new refreshed lines for both ranges. The biggest news though is the availability of a new 6-speed automatic gearbox for the range-topping Scorpio SUV.

Customers and potential customers were apparently also wondering about the safety prospects of their vehicles. Mahindra has responded by installing standard airbags and ABS across the range (except for the bakkie).

Two turbo diesel engines power the range. The first is a new-generation 4-cylinder 2.2-litre mHawk CRDe common rail that puts out 87kW at 4000rpm and peak torque of 270Nm between 1600rpm and 2800rpm. The other is an old trusted 2.5-litre mill with 74kW at 3800rpm and 258Nm at 1800rpm. Mahindra has tested these vehicles at Gerotek (north of Pretoria) and assures that it they perform to expected standards. Performance is said to be 0 – 60km/h in 5.7 seconds which probably means something well over 10 seconds for the regular 0 – 100km/h sprint.

Interior features include a multi-reader sound system that plays back from CDs, USB memory sticks and SD cards.

Good news for big families is that the Scorpio SUV can swallow up to 8 passengers in 3 rows of seats.

Mahindra Scorpio Pricing
Scorpio SUV 2.2 mHawk CRDe 4x4 6-speed Automatic Transmission (R259 900)
Scorpio SUV 2.2 mHawk CRDe 4x2 6-speed Automatic Transmission (R224 900)
Scorpio SUV 2.5 NEF TCI 4x4 (R239 900)
Scorpio SUV 2.5 NEF TCI 4x2 (R199 900)

Scorpio Pik-Up 2.5 NEF TCI 4x4 Double Cab (R239 900)
Scorpio Pik-Up 2.5 NEF TCI 4x4 Single Cab (R199 900)
Scorpio Pik-Up 2.5 NEF TCI 4x2 Double Cab (R199 900)
Scorpio Pik-Up 2.5 NEF TCI 4x2 Single Cab (R157 900 - ABS and airbags optional)


Pretoria, 28th September 2009 – Team Ford Racing shone at this weekend’s penultimate Bridgestone Production Car Championship event, moving one step closer to the title honours. Gary Formato and Shaun Duminy ended the day with a one-two finish elevating Formato to the top of the championship log.

“This was an extremely important weekend for us,” explained Formato. “Heading to Cape Town I was one point adrift of championship leader Graeme Nathan, we are now leaving Killarney one point in the lead with only one round remaining. There’s nothing in it at the moment, which means there’s absolutely no room for error.”

Formato and Duminy put in a fighting performance, in the Nando’s sponsored Ford Focus STs, from the middle of the pack. Formato put in a determined show in the first heat to take the final podium slot while Duminy followed in hot pursuit crossing the line in fourth place. Formato made his intentions clear setting the fastest lap of the race.

With the championship as close as ever the Ford crew were more determined than ever to take maximum points. Formato did just that, taking the second heat victory ahead of teammate Duminy – a dream result for the team.

“We showed steady progress throughout the weekend, the whole team has put in a lot of hard work throughout the season and this was just the result we needed,” added Formato.

Duminy was also rewarded for his efforts by being named the Rooky of the Day. “All in all it was a great weekend for the whole team. Both cars were quick and competitive in both the day’s heats and we now leave Cape Town with the upper hand,” said Duminy.

The final round of the 2009 championship takes place at the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in Midrand on 17 October.  With only one point separating Class T championship protagonists Formato and Nathan there are sure to be fireworks.

“There’s no room for complacency now. We have a lot of work to do ahead of the final event. It’s a home race for us and the perfect conclusion to what has been a nail biting battle throughout the season,” concludes Formato.