Friday, 30 October 2009


FORD SAYS: One year after its debut, more than half a million customers have purchased the new Ford Fiesta, marking an important milestone as Ford Motor Company prepares to bring the fuel-efficient, global car to the US and other key Asian Pacific markets next year.

The new Fiesta, the first in a wave of stylish vehicles being brought to world-wide markets under the ONE Ford plan, went on sale in Germany in October 2008. It quickly became the second-best-selling car for all markets in Europe and the leader in the European small car segment. The new Fiesta has also been a key driver behind Ford of Europe's market share gains, which are up 0.5 percentage points this year through September to 9.2%, the highest since 1999.

After its European introduction, the Fiesta was launched in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and China. Global retail sales of the car reached 470 000 units through September of this year, with 430 000 sales in Europe and 40 000 in the Asia Pacific region. Continued strong demand for Fiesta through October has pushed the total number beyond 500 000. In South Africa, Fiesta is the third best performing B-segment vehicle sold through the dealer network and continuously appears in the top ten passenger car sales.

"Customers around the world are recognizing the new Fiesta delivers on the global Ford DNA — eye-catching design, innovation, outstanding driving dynamics and great value," said Jim Farley, group vice president of global marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America.

The new Fiesta will make its North American debut when it is revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December. Set to arrive in North American dealer showrooms next summer, the Fiesta already can claim more than 50 000 potential U.S. customers thanks to the Fiesta Movement, a social media initiative in which 100 young trendsetters are test driving and living with a European-spec Ford Fiesta for six months.
Customers so far have been drawn to higher end models of the Fiesta, with more than 40% of European buyers choosing the Titanium and Ghia trim levels. The variety of colours that Fiesta offers is also proving to be a hit.

So far this year customers in the UK and Germany, Ford of Europe's two largest markets, drive off in a "Panther Black" Fiesta more than any other colour. Drivers in Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands and Greece are also among those countries that favour black.

However, buyers in Spain, Austria and Russia are selecting "Hot Magenta" as their top colour. The Scandinavian countries are setting a pattern all their own. The Swedes select "Moondust Silver" most often. Norwegians favour "Hot Magenta." Denmark goes with "Panther Black," while the Finns tilt toward "Tango."

Top choices among China buyers are "Passion Orange" and "Winning Blue." But throughout Asia Pacific overall, the top-selling colour is "Moondust Silver," with South African's also favouring "Frozen White" while Australians go for "Panther Black" in nearly equal numbers.

When the Fiesta hits American shores next year it will feature bold colour choices, including "Bright Magenta” and "Lime Squeeze.”


NISSAN SAYS: Duncan Vos and Ralph Pitchford (Donaldson Nissan Navara) take on the final round of the Absa Off Road Championship for production vehicles, the RFS Magalies 400, in Gauteng this weekend (November 6 and 7) as the newly crowned national off road champions and winners of the premier class SP.

They will be aiming to win the season-ending event for the second year in succession and take their total wins this year to six out of eight.  Nissan Motorsport is aiming for its seventh win of the season (Hannes Grobler and Juan Mohr won the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 in KwaZulu Natal in May in a Donaldson Nissan Navara) and its 58th from 72 races since entering off road racing in 2001.

Grobler, national champion driver with Nissan in 2003, 2004 and 2006, is locked in a battle for runner-up honours with Nissan Motorsport team-mate Ivar Tollefsen (who is second with 82 points) and Toyota Hilux driver Gary Bertholdt (third with 73 points).  Grobler is fourth with 62 points and, with a maximum of 25 points on offer for an outright win, has his work cut out to haul in his Norwegian team-mate.

While Pitchford has wrapped up the co-drivers’ championship, Tollefsen’s co-driver Quin Evans (82 points), Grobler’s co-driver, 2008 champion Juan Mohr (62 points) and Bertholdt’s co-driver Andre Vermeulen (61 points) will squabble over who takes the overall honours for the season.

“Last year’s event was made particularly difficult by the rocky terrain and if the route is dry it will be very dusty this year,” said Glyn Hall, general manager of Nissan Motorsport.  “We’re hoping it will be rougher than last year.  While Duncan is under no real pressure, Ivar will be doing his best to finish second in the championship and Hannes will be pushing hard to score a win in his final appearance for Nissan.”


FORD SAYS: FIA World Rally Championship runner-up Mikko Hirvonen will drive the record-breaking Ford Focus RS World Rally Car in the Race of Champions in China next week.  The 29-year-old Finn, who missed out on a maiden world drivers' title by just a single point in Wales last weekend, will compete in both the ROC Nations Cup and the Race of Champions itself in Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium – home to the 2008 Olympic Games.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver will partner former team-mate Marcus Grönholm in the Finnish team in Tuesday's Nations Cup team event, before taking on stars from various motorsport disciplines in Wednesday's Race of Champions individual competition. 

Rivals will include Formula 1 stars Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and David Coulthard, former 500cc motorcycle world champion Mick Doohan, Le Mans 24 Hour winner Tom Kristensen and X Games multi gold medallist Travis Pastrana.

Hirvonen will drive a variety of vehicles at his maiden ROC appearance, including the familiar Ford Focus RS World Rally Car which he drove to second place in Wales on Sunday.  The car has now scored points on a record 119 consecutive world rallies, dating back to the start of the 2002 season.  M-Sport, Ford's senior partner in WRC, has provided three white Focus RS WRCs, which will appear in a special Race of Champions livery.

"After the disappointing result of last weekend's Rally of Great Britain, I'm looking forward to the fun of the Race of Champions," said Hirvonen.  "I won't have to worry about points and world championship positions in Beijing.  But that doesn't mean I won't be taking it seriously.  I'll be as keen to win as every other driver and it will be good to link up with Marcus again in the Finland team for the Nations Cup.  Just like the old days!"

Hirvonen, co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen and Ford team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila will be at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend as guests of one of the team's principal partners.  Also in attendance will be Ford of Europe motorsport boss Gerard Quinn and BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson.  


Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC), announced today that the "MiEV OS" integrated vehicle control system installed in Mitsubishi Motors' new-generation electric vehicle i-MiEV, has been selected by the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame, a non-profit organisation (NPO), as the winner for its "2009 Japan Automotive Hall of Fame Car Technology of the Year" award.

Utilising the long wheelbase from the gasoline-powered "i" rear-midship layout on which the i-MiEV is based, the high-capacity drive battery is installed under the floor, and the high-output high-efficiency power unit is mounted under the luggage area. Through this structure, the i-MiEV has plenty of range for daily driving while keeping the spacious interior of the "i" base vehicle.

The introduction of the MiEV OS (MiEV Operating System) - an advanced integrated vehicle management system into which the company has poured its wealth of know-how gained from decades of electric vehicle (EV) research and development - has provided the kind of high performance and reliability that befits a new-generation EV. The i-MiEV garnered praise as the realization of the ultimate in environmental efficiency as it emits no CO2 while being driven.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


MITSUBISHI SAYS: The Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the most versatile vehicles in its segment, offering superior performance and high levels of comfort. Newly introduced are design and feature updates for the 2010 model year, which are exciting, modern and makes the face-lifted model easily distinguishable from its predecessor.

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a capable and aggressive all-wheel-drive vehicle, powered by the proven 2,4 L DOHC 16 valve MIVEC GLS engine, which offers 125 kW of power and 226 Nm of torque.  The transmission is the popular Mitsubishi CVT gearbox with sports mode INVECS III.

This drive-train is revered for its accessible all-round performance, ultra-smooth city driving characteristics, and the distinctly eager, sporty responses when pressing on and making the most of the transmission's six-step Sports Mode.

Further driving versatility, control and safety are assured by the electronically controlled 4WD system, operated by the centrally located drive-mode selector dial, offering 2WD, 4WD or 4WD Lock modes. This makes the Outlander ideally suited to urban driving as well as varying road conditions.

The sheer size of the new Mitsubishi Outlander denotes presence and strength with its new jet-fighter look, derived from the stylish chrome finishing around the front grille.  The newly enhanced exterior features are eye catching and bold, with the added chrome side window mouldings and a new chrome tailgate rounding off the classy looks. Customers have the choice of three striking new colour choices:  Cosmic Blue Mica, Red Metallic and Solid White.

The Mitsubishi Outlander is known as the ‘Urban Warrior’, as it appeals to those with an active and busy lifestyle.   These are people with a care free, go anywhere, do anything approach to life, who will appreciate its welcoming and inviting interior, which offers high levers of space and comfort.

The cabin is adorned with a useful array of storage areas, and a family of five can easily be accommodated in the comfortable seating environment, with no shortage of leg, head or elbow room. The addition of an upper glove box with cooling and warming functionality is an innovative feature that enhances the Outlander's already well-established lifestyle orientation.

Further enhanced interior features are the synthetic leather finish of the dashboard, and the front- and rear-door trims, affording the cabin a distinctly more luxurious look and feel. The instrument cluster has also been given a fresh appearance with back-lit dials and LCD multi-information display that enhance visibility and ease of use.

A first for Mitsubishi products in safety technology is the standard adaptive front lighting system (AFS), which is a headlamp orientation control system that takes into account both steering angle and vehicle speed to orient the headlamps to an angle that provides better night-time visibility.  AFS provides a wider range of visibility during cornering, the illumination of a gaze point of up to 300% of that offered by conventional fixed headlamps, with visible distance increased by some 35%.  

Further convenience safety features include the rear-parking sensors, which alert the driver when parking the Outlander. Added to the already feature-packed standard specification list is the popular keyless operating system and start function, cruise control, full automatic climate control, multi-function steering wheel, full leather interior, an electric tilt-and-slide glass sunroof, integrated roof rails and the trademark privacy glass for the rear windows. 

Active and passive safety continues to be a high priority with a total of six airbags (front driver and passenger, as well as front-seat side and curtain airbags), along with Active Stability Control (ASC) and ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).  EBD varies the braking power between the front and rear wheels according to vehicle load, assisting in emergency braking, to bring the vehicle under control and in a straight line.

One of the Outlander's most appealing features is the Rockford Fosgate premium audio system, complete with a six-disc MP3-compatible CD changer and a total of nine speakers, including a powerful subwoofer in the luggage compartment. This impressive system, including a 6-CD changer, delivers exceptional audio entertainment with a remarkable output of 710W is a standard fitment.

With bold new styling and even more great features at no extra cost, the new Outlander is more appealing than ever and will attract the young, dynamic and active set.

The Mitsubishi Outlander is priced at R381 000 including VAT and comes with a three-year 100 000 km warranty and a service plan of three-year/60 000 km with service intervals at 15 000 km.

Monday, 26 October 2009


Microsoft South Africa finally let loose the Forza Motorsport 3 game for the XBox 360 console. Launched at the Rand Airport in Ekurhuleni the Forza 3 racing game is very much everything that any boy racer wants. A range of over 400 cars is available for players to choose from, from the classics Ferrari 250 GTO to the brand new Ferrari 458 Italia, the Bugatti Veyron to the Audi R8 V10, BMW M5 to Dodge Ram SRT10s, it’s all here. Even some racing cars can be driven, such as the Audi R15 Le Mans car. One of the best things is that you don’t have to win races or unlock any hidden garages to get your dream car; just go and click on it. So anyone can play.

You can play single player mode or you can choose a sparring partner to test each other out. Those on XBox Live can connect to a global community and play against others in other countries. Players are able to pick from a wide range of different racing tracks, some very famous like the Nurburgring while others are relatively unknown.

I had a few turns on the game itself and boy was I blown away. One of the main reasons Forza has been so successful as a gaming genre is because of the level of detail displayed in its games. Forza 3 takes it to the next level. So advanced is the rendering engine that it even shows cracks on the tar while you drive! Not content on that the cars are also very detailed and reflect reality when bumped or scratched during a race.

Put up the volume when playing Forza 3 as most of the cars sound quite sensational and are exceptionally close to the real deal.


FIAT SAYS: The ubiquitous Fiat 500 has popped up in Brazil, in fact it officially went on sale in Fiat’s biggest market outside of Italy on the 1st October. The car will also be launched during the same period in Colombia, Barbados and Panama - and presented in Jamaica before the end of 2009. Not to mention the fact that the little ‘un is already present in Argentina, Chile, Curaçao, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Sain Martin and Paraguay.

The Cinquencento marketed in Brazil is available in Sport and Lounge outfits, powered by the lively 74 kW 1.4 16v engine teamed with a manual 6-speed gearbox or a 5-speed Dualogic gearbox (robotised, sequential). The power unit and suspension have been adapted to local market needs: the injection system has been re-calibrated to adjust to the 22% of ethanol present in the petrol sold in Brazil. Certain components in direct contact with this specific fuel have also been changed. The suspension has also been revised for the Brazilian roads by increasing the flexibility of the springs and the shock absorber travel.

The Brazilian edition of the car retains the generous safety spec that has given it the top EuroNCAP 5-star ranking: 7 airbags as standard (two front airbags, two window bags, two side bags and one knee bag) plus state-of-the-art hi-tech active safety features: ABS with electronic brake distribution (EBD), the sophisticated electronic stability program (ESP), an antislip regulation (ASR) system, a Hill Holder to help the driver with hill starts and hydraulic brake assistance (HBA) to help with emergency stops.

The Fiat 500 model is an authentic Italian style icon that has won the hearts of the international public and critics alike, as confirmed by more than 390,000 orders collected to date around the world and more than 40 international awards.

Watch this space for some exciting developments from the 500 in SA in 2010. Watch out Rio!


This past weekend saw several championships being sewn up in the off-road world. One of them was the Class A5 which was clinched by none other than Gugu Zulu and co-driver Carl Peskin in a BP Ultimate VW 1400 cc Class A5 CitiGolf. The pair just edged out André Cleenwerck and Des de Fortier in the same car.

“Stepping back into A5 for 2009 was certainly not a welcome position to be in after having won the class championship in 2007 and having moved up into A7,” says Zulu. “But the economic recession certainly affected sponsorship and one had to appreciate the opportunity of still being in the game.

“That said and done,” he continues, “I had to focus and ensure that we give the best we have and win the championship. The season started well as we notched up the first two wins of the season. At mid season, we had mechanical malladies that affected our good form, but this gave my team mates Andre Cleenwerk and navigator Des De Fortier to catch up. We both drove identical VW/BP backed CitiGolfs. Throughout the season we both commanded the class A5 field often leading the rest of the field by 5 minutes or more.

“Between my teammate and I, we battled and swapped seconds throughout the season. This past weekend going into the last round we had to finish 4th or higher in order to clinch the championship. But after Friday’s stages we were lying 10 minutes behind our teammates and in 9th place. On day two we drove like possessed demons to eventually make up the time to fourth placed competitor and eventually everyone had issues of sorts and in the end we finished 2nd and took championship honours for the 2009 National class A5 Championship. This could possibly be the last Citigolf/Golf Mark 1 official works entry Champion in the world.”

The last statement could prove prophetic because Volkswagen is set to announce something major concerning the Citi Golf and its future. The expectation is that this iconic but controversial car will finally be pulled from production after over 30 years in various guises.

Zulu first burst on to the motor racing scene as a 22-year-old in 2000 without the usual background of motocross or karting experience.  His first taste of the sport was as a participant in the inaugural Vodacom-backed Isondo Development sports car series called Sports 2000.  He won 16 out of 18 races and the title at his first attempt.  He graduated to senior circuit racing as team-mate to the legendary Sarel van der Merwe in the WesBank V8 championship, driving a Ford Mustang in 2001 and a Chevrolet Camaro in 2002.

He joined the factory Volkswagen rally team in 2003 and competed in class A5 with Carl Peskin as his co-driver in a Citi Golf.  In between winning their two class A5 titles in 2007 and 2009, the pair campaigned a factory VW Polo in class A7 in 2008.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY Peter Burroughes Communications


Sunday, 25 October 2009


In many ways Audi has caught up with BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the ongoing fight to capture the imagination and wallets of premium car buyers. Once while on a launch a rival CEO said to me that Audi is not yet on the level of its competitors in terms of build quality, overall performance and refinement. He said indeed they were catching up but were not quite there yet. That was five years ago. I wonder what he’d say today.

Given half a chance Audi will go after its competitors but especially BMW, the world’s biggest maker of premium cars and the benchmark in terms of focused performance in the trio. Therefore an equivalent Audi exists for every BMW performance car at any given time. In one or two cases it’s BMW that has no answer to the Audi question, such as when the question is the R8.

The S4 on the other hand seems intent on bending BMW’s dominance of the executive performance segment. Ever since the previous-generation car with its 4.2-litre V8, the challenge has been lurking. Back then the S4 was an M3 rival, that is of course, until the RS 4 came along. It may very well be that by creating the RS 4 Audi left the S4 in the lurch, with no one to attack. Therefore the arrival of the 335i with its twin turbo engine technology provided a new foe and gave S4 reason to live.

E90 has been around since 2004 and was given a minor facelift in 2008. Bolder and wiser the new car features things like rear LED lights, a kinky bonnet, new headlights, side mirrors and a generally sharper image. Nothing says performance apart from the single tailpipes on either side. With the S4 Audi also seems to have taken a conservative position. Apart from a few telltale signs like the front lip, rear spoiler, aluminium mirrors and four tailpipes, nothing really says “I’m about to whip your ass”. Sure the S4 badge and front grille make a statement but it’s one more likely to fall on deaf ears than inspire a war cry. It could very well be the B8 itself; large, elegant, not aggressive enough. Consider that even Mercedes-Benz went aggro with the current C-Class, a step very few thought would be taken.

In the end though it was the Beemer’s lack of body kit that swayed opinions to the Audi and not necessarily S4’s own doing.

At some point BMW moved towards clean minimalism in their interior spaces, with iDrive driving that philosophy. Some unsophisticated media put heavy criticism on the brilliant iDrive system, helping to keep a negative public perception of it. Meanwhile Audi had caught on to the idea and made a system that uses more buttons, which really defeats the purpose of what the system ought to do which is to simplify processes. I’ve seen MMI (the Audi system) being described as “intuitive” and frankly I don’t see how. It is quite messy; yes the buttons are all there but what’s the point of a “mouse” if you have all these knobs lurking about?

Seating comfort is similar in both the S4 and the 335i, with Audi going for a more sporty feel than the Beemer’s standard emotion. Both are electronically multi-adjustable but the S4 offers slightly more rear space. Actually the S4 only feels and looks like a bigger car overall measuring 4.7m in length, 1.8m in width, 1.4 in height and with a wheelbase of 2.8m. In comparison the 335i is 4.5 long, 1.8 wide, 1.4m high and has a wheelbase of 2.8m.

I am nitpicking here because the contest is so closely matched but I’d say the BMW has a better, higher quality feel to its materials. It looks and feels more solid to the build, contrary to what you may have read elsewhere. One for the 335i then.

Both iDrive and MMI are now quite similar, offering accessing navigation, music, climate control, car settings, change of time and date etc etc etc. The differences are minimal but I liked Audi’s SD card slot because I now have an SD card to slot it in. BMW uses USB but in order to download from it you have to buy the necessary cable. Music can still be played off a USB device though. You have Bluetooth connectivity too, a CD/ radio combination, cruise control, power steering and so on. They are evenly matched even in the options’ price lists (CD changer R4 200, Voice Control R3 500, front and rear Park Distance Control R7 200 for both cars). Call this one a draw.

Audi has been in the turbo business for donkeys’ years but never really took a liking to superchargers. Word has it that they initially planned on using twin turbo technology for the S4 but couldn’t find the necessary space. With force feeding the object, it then befell a supercharger to do the job. The 3.0-litre V6 running it provides instant go which is available through a very wide band of rpms so that overtaking is almost effortless. To access it a 6-speed manual was fitted and quattro AWD gives power to both the front and rear axles.

In contrast BMW utilised the services of the multi-award-winning 3.0-litre straight 6/ twin turbo combo. Each turbo runs its own bank of cylinders with one taking a hold of 1, 3 and 5 while the other powers 2, 4 and 6. Linking the engine to the rear wheels is a 6-speed manual gearbox.

Figures reflect an even stevens situation again so in the end the choice is personal. This round is also a draw.

With the S4 power is plenty, no complaints there and placing it is also a simple task. The mechanical charger with two intercoolers and direct injection may be down on its V8 predecessor, however where it matters the situation is flipped. Gone is the nose heaviness and in comes lighter, nimbler and ultimately more bite. The 6 shifter is tighter than before but not as direct as in the RS 4. Quattro AWD comes into play but not all the time. When it does intrusions are minimal giving the car a rear-biased disposition.

As a rear-wheel-drive the 335i is ideally suited for performance where the rear wheels push the car forward while the steering turns it with no interference from the engine. The converse there is that under extreme conditions such as heavy rain or snow RWD is as useful as a credit card at a taxi rank. Always more composed, the 335i not only surges forward like a possessed werewolf but keeps its line statue-solid. In the dry. Though little puddles are not an issue thanks to the ESP, it’s best not to try and pull stunts when it pours.

The Audi will certainly do better under these conditions but admittedly they are far and few in between in South Africa. For the rest of the time you get better driver enjoyment from the Beemer; it just feels this much closer to the driver.

When building a car, manufacturers have to consider tons of information; who might buy it, what will its performance be like, the cost of machinery and personnel training, the environment. It’s a very long list. But when a manufacturer turns an ordinary car into a performance saloon such considerations can never be after-thoughts. They need to be there right from the start, from the designer sketches right up ‘til the end. With the S4 the feeling that more could have been done, that it wasn’t thoroughly considered fro the ground up was always present. On the other hand the 335i felt primed for its task, rooted in performance from the very beginning. I get the feeling Audi held back on the S4, that it’s keeping the best for last with the upcoming RS 5.

Take either S4 or 335i and the difference won’t exist to you. Take both and it becomes apparent. That’s why the 335i wins.

ENGINE: 3.0-litre twin turbo straight 6 cylinder
POWER: 225kW (306hp) at 5800rpm
TORQUE: 400Nm between 1300rpm and 5000rpm
0 – 100KM/H: 5.5 seconds
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual
TOP SPEED: 250km/h
FUEL AVERAGE: 13.1 l/100km
CO2 e: 269 g/km
WHEELS AND TYRES: Front: 8Jx17” 225/45 R17, rear: 8.5Jx17” 255/40 R17

*PRICE RIVALS: Alfa Romeo Spider 2.2 JTS Cabriolet, Cadillac SRX, Mercedes-Benz C350 CDi Elegance Estate Auto, Volvo XC60 D5 2.4 Geartronic, Chrysler 300C 5.7 Auto, Audi TT Coupe Quattro 3.2 S-Tronic, Nissan 370 Z, Audi A5 Quattro Coupe 3.2 FSI Tiptronic


ENGINE: 3.0-litre supercharged V6
POWER: 245kW (367hp) at 7000rpm
TORQUE: 440Nm at 2900rpm
0 – 100KM/H: 5.5 seconds
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual
TOP SPEED: 250km/h
FUEL AVERAGE: 13.5 l/100km
CO2 e: 270 g/km
WHEELS AND TYRES: 8J x 18 wheels, size 245/40 R18 tyres


*PRICE RIVALS: Audi TT S Roadster 2.0 TFSI, Volvo XC90 3.2 AWD Geartronic, BMW 530d Auto, BMW Z4 sDrive30i Roadster, Audi Q7 3.0 TDI, Chrysler 300C SRT-8, Porsche Cayenne 3.6 Tiptronic, Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Premium Luxury


*A price rival falls within R20 000 or so of the subject’s price on either side of its price spectrum for cars over R350 000, R10 000 for cars of between R250 000 and R350 000 and R5 000 for cars below R250 000.