Saturday, 7 November 2009


BMW‘s new M3 GTS as the most extreme version of the E92 series. Its makers say the aim is to beat the old M3 CSL’s time around the Nürburgring, but to do that you’d have to be really good. They say this is.

Sporting a new 4.4-litre V8 under the bonnet the M3 GTS makes a heady 336kW of power which is transferred to the rear wheels via the 7-speed M-DCT gearbox. Tyres fitted are 255/35 at the front and 285/30 at the rear. They are shod outside of 19-inch aluminium wheels.

Several modifications, some of which are clear to be seen on these pictures, were included. These are the use of a carbon fibre roof to save weight, yellow threaded springs for suspension, a new titanium rear silencer and that rear wing for extra downforce.

The inside comes with a rollover cage but comfort creatures such as air conditioning were removed. So clearly this car is meant for speed and handling, not everyday use. Check the fire extinguisher for extra safety.

The GTS will be sold as an order-only model at a price of around €115 000 (R1.29 million) each. Most countries should expect first deliveries to happen after May 2010. BMW South Africa has said nothing about local sales therefore I don’t see the car coming here, especially at that price.


PEUGEOT SAYS: Some say life is too short to drink instant coffee, some say life is too short to smoke (if you must smoke) machine-made cigars. Some say life is too short to drink blended whisky, preferring to stick to single malts. Peugeot says life is too short not to travel in style, even if you must travel en mass.

That’s why Peugeot Motors South Africa has introduced the Tepee, a generously-equipped eight-seater bus aimed primarily at the hospitality industry, but with considerable appeal for those with large families who want an enticing mix of space, comfort, and safety.

Sharing chassis fundamentals with the acclaimed Expert van range means that the Tepee comes with durable underpinnings, making it eminently suited to an application where it may be required to spend many hours on the road everyday, much of that time with a substantial cargo of passengers and their luggage.

In essence, the Tepee represents a new way of travelling thanks to its bold design, car-like dynamics, and an exceptionally spacious and comfortable cabin which can quickly and easily be configured to carry between two and eight occupants. With its sleek nose and black plastic exterior mirrors and similarly unadorned bumpers and side protection moulding, the Tepee clearly combines the practical and the aesthetic, confirming that this vehicle is perfectly suited to a number of roles too. The front bumper forms an integral part of the distinctive countenance and the structures behind it have been designed for ease of repair.

And with Peugeot’s leadership in the turbodiesel field with their HDi engine range, the Tepee’s powerplant is ideally suited for its function. Under the stubby bonnet is a willing and able version of the company’s direct injection, common-rail 2,0-litre HDi, rated at 88 kW at 4 000 rpm and 300 Nm at just 2 000 rpm – this high torque output at a low speed makes it ideal for carrying heavy loads at low engine speeds. When mated to the light-shifting ML6C six-speed box its breadth of capability is enhanced further, giving it a combination of lugging power and open road cruising ability which is hard to match.

Thanks to features such as a two-stage injection process, the engine meets Euro 4 emission standards and emits just 198 grams of CO2 per kilometre. This translates into fuel consumption of just 7,5 litres per 100 km in the Combined cycle, dropping down to 6,5 on the open road. With an 80 litre fuel tank, operators will waste little time at the fuel pumps and because it is so clean-burning, oil changes are required only every 30 000 km.

Speed-sensitive electro-hydraulic steering contributes further to its frugal appetite. On the subject of the mechanical hardware, the Tepee combines MacPherson struts with a coil-sprung torsion beam axle at the rear. Ensuring ride comfort for all three rows and still giving the driver a sense of control is a tough ask in this class of vehicle but it has been achieved by fine-tuning the spring and damper rates to reach a healthy compromise across broad usage patterns.

A cabin designed by Pininfarina suggests driver comfort (and therefore attentiveness) has been placed high on the design agenda. The driver’s needs in terms of comfort and convenience are further attended to by a height-adjustable seat with lumbar support and a steering column which adjusts in vertical and horizontal planes. All doors lock automatically once underway and cruise control is just the press of a button away to reduce the driver’s workload once on the freeway. The front passenger also gets an individual seat, which like the driver’s, has a fold-down armrest.

Passengers are able to dictate their own heating and cooling requirements thanks to separate air conditioning controls (six separate vents ensure an even distribution), while there are sliding windows for those in the second row, and hinged rear quarter lights for those even further back. All of this results in an open and airy ambience, conducive to a pleasant motoring experience.
Access to the second and third rows is via a sliding door on each side of the vehicle, with a tilt/fold mechanism for the 60:40 split ensuring easy access to the third row from either side.

The Tepee is a first-class people carrier and because people invariably come with luggage, there’s plenty of space for that. There is 761 litres of storage space when loaded to window level and a giant 1 195 litres up to the roof. And that’s before a single seat has been removed.

In addition to a high level of dynamic ability from a chassis which behaves with decorum seldom associated with people-carriers, the Tepee benefits from Peugeot’s deep-seated belief in occupant safety as a core of vehicle design. For example, the engine compartment has been designed with upper and lower impact absorption structures that spread the energy – irrespective of the type of accident the vehicle is involved in – and prevent the powertrain from intruding into the front of the passenger compartment. Then there are retention pins fitted into the front doors to help keep them located in the door aperture, which along with the reinforcing bars in the doors themselves results in enhanced side impact protection. At the rear, an aluminium impact beam with deformable crash boxes is fitted to control energy absorption in the length of the luggage compartment, once again leaving the passenger compartment undamaged.

The Tepee model sold in South Africa also has driver and passenger airbags and disc brakes all round enhanced by anti-lock and electronic pressure distribution systems. It is a child-friendly vehicle and the passenger airbag can be disarmed while the outer seats in the second row have ISOFIX child seat tethers.

Finally, the Tepee boasts the levels of refinement expected in a passenger vehicle, underpinned by the inherent smoothness of the DW10 engine. A major source of noise into a large single-box vehicle comes from the floor area and the Tepee has a special underbody treatment to negate this. In addition, acoustic insulators and extra sound proofing has been fitted in the engine compartment. As a result, whatever happens to be playing on the tuner or in the CD slot will be received loud and clear.
The Tepee, as part of Peugeot Motors SA’s increasingly broad-based offering, is expected to play an important role in the brand reaching a new segments of the market. With the sector for people-movers expected to be a dynamic one in the next year, the Lion is well-placed to meet the expected demand in a safe, comfortable and stylish package.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


The Mazda MX-5 has been selling internationally for 20 years. It’s actually the biggest-selling roadster in history with over 850 000 units shifted since 1989. Mazda has now refreshed it for a 2009 new look and it’s available for sale at your nearest Mazda dealer anywhere in South Africa.

“The MX-5 represents Mazda’s philosophy of car making,” says Brendan Lyne, Mazda General Manager. “It perfectly embodies the spirit of Zoom-Zoom, the exhilaration and liberation that comes from experiencing the sheer joy of motion. The newly evolved MX-5 builds on these philosophies and ensures the car remains current and as enjoyable as ever.”

Changes extend all around the car and include the larger front grille with the company’s new smiley face, a chrome ring, silver fog lamp inner bezels, a new front bumper, a new rear bumper and new rear lights.

Being a roadster the new facelift MX-5 features a retractable hard top operated through a button. It’s not all electronic though as the user still needs to unlock it before releasing. The 3-piece roof retracts into the back of the cabin and not into the boot which always keeps boot space at its maximum.

Power is courtesy of the familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder natural aspirated engine making 118kW at 7000rpm and 188Nm at 5000rpm. As you can see this is a soprano of note which doesn’t get up unless the accelerator pedal is firmly on the floor. The rev limit has now been pushed up to 7500rpm from the previous 7000rpm. The 6-speed short-throw manual gearbox is a sharp and precise, giving good feedback and fun driving.

Interior equipment includes a BOSE sound system with a 6-channel equaliser, auxiliary jack, power windows, air conditioning, a 6-CD changer and heated leather seats.

The car comes with a 15 000km service interval, a 4-year/120 000km fully comprehensive manufacturer warranty, as well as the MazdaMotion 4-year/60 000km service plan. A 3-year roadside assistance plan comes standard with the purchase of any Mazda vehicle.

2009 Mazda MX-5 Pricing
MX-5 6-speed manual (R337 500)


YOKOHAMA (Nov. 4, 2009) – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., today announced financial results for the first half of fiscal year 2009, ending March 31, 2010, as well as second-quarter performance.  In the six months through September, net income after taxes totalled 9.0 billion yen (US$90 million, euro 70 million), down 92.9% compared with the same period last year.  The better-than-expected results were due mainly to scrapping incentives in major markets, sales volume growth in China and the effective execution of the Nissan Recovery Plan.

Net revenues were 3.3834 trillion yen (US $35.43 billion, euro 25.4 billion) in the April-to-September period, down 30.5% compared with a year ago.  Operating profit was 94.9 billion yen (US $990 million, euro 710 million), down 50.5%, and the operating profit margin came to 2.8%.  Ordinary profit was 33.2 billion yen (US $350 million, euro 250 million), down 83.6%.

In the first half, Nissan sold 1 623 000 vehicles worldwide, down 14.6% compared with last year.

“We continue to operate in an environment that is volatile and uncertain,” said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn.  “Our performance in the first half of fiscal 2009 is encouraging, demonstrating that Nissan’s Recovery Plan is on track.  Our outlook will remain cautious until we see evidence that economic recovery can be sustained in world markets.”

In the July-to-September second quarter, Nissan’s net income was 25.5 billion yen (US $270 million, euro 190 million), down 65.3%.  Net revenues were 1.8685 trillion yen (US $19.57 billion, euro 14.03 billion), down 25.9% compared with a year ago.  Operating profit was 83.3 billion yen (US $870 million, euro 630 million), down 25.4%, and operating profit margin came to 4.5%.  Ordinary profit was 59.3 billion yen (US $620 million, euro 450 million), down 50.7%.

Nissan sold 901 000 vehicles in the second quarter, down 6.8% compared with the prior year.

In fiscal year 2009, Nissan will launch globally eight all-new products.  The second half will feature five introductions: Patrol in the Middle East; Fuga and Roox minicar in Japan; a new global compact car in Asia; and the 370Z convertible in the United States.


GM SAYS: Given an improving business environment for GM over the past few months, and the importance of Opel//Vauxhall to GM’s global strategy, the GM Board of Directors has decided to retain Opel and will initiate a restructuring of its European operations in earnest.

“GM will soon present its restructuring plan to Germany and other governments and hopes for its favourable consideration,” said Fritz Henderson, president and CEO. “We understand the complexity and length of this issue has been draining for all involved. However, from the outset, our goal has been to secure the best long term solution for our customers, employee, suppliers and dealers, which is reflected in the decision reached today. This was deemed to be the most stable and least costly approach for securing Opel/Vauxhall’s long-term future.”

On a preliminary basis, the GM plan entails total restructuring expenses of about US$3 billion, significantly lower than all bids submitted as part of the investor solicitation. GM will work with all European labour unions to develop a plan for meaningful contributions to Opel's restructuring. While Opel continues to outperform against its viability plan assumptions and immediate liquidity is stable, time is of the essence.

“While strained, the business environment in Europe has improved.” Henderson said. “At the same time, GM’s overall financial health and stability have improved significantly over the past few months, giving us confidence that the European business can be successfully restructured. We are grateful for the hard work of the German and other EU governments in navigating this difficult economic period. We’re also appreciative of the effort put forward by Magna and its partners in Russia in trying to reach an equitable agreement.”

Henderson added that GM also hopes to build on its already significant business in Russia and to resume work directly with GAZ to contribute to both the modernization of its operations and the joint development of the Russian vehicle market on a mutually attractive basis. More details on the next steps in the restructuring will be provided as the plans and developments warrant.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


SUZUKI SAYS: After a successful New Zealand North-South drive at an average of just over 3.5 litres/100 km last month, the highly fuel efficient Suzuki Alto has taken part in a further fuel efficiency marathon, this time down through Australia, managing to complete the journey at an average consumption of 3.2 litres per 100km overall, an 18.5 per cent improvement over the official Australian combined figure (+13 per cent over European figure) and a staggering 2.0 litres per 100km attained in City traffic – the lowest recorded of any entered vehicle.
The Global Green Challenge ran North-South from Darwin to Adelaide and placed conventional and alternative fuel cars against each other in a 3000km real world test. The winner of the challenge was the vehicle judged to have recorded the biggest improvement over its official fuel consumption figure.

Alto won the ‘Light’ and ‘Small’ car categories; ‘best urban cycle’ category and an overall CO2 emission of 89.9g/km, using just 123 litres of fuel for the seven day trip.

Despite some extremely trying conditions for drivers and cars alike, with most teams opting to turn off the air conditioning to save fuel even in temperatures soaring to 43 degrees centigrade, the 1.0-litre petrol engined Alto continued to defy expectations by showing some of the much more expensive diesel cars the true meaning of fuel economy.

Using a simple combination of lightweight design, aerodynamic efficiency and a small and efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine the Alto managed to outrank similar size diesel cars including the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic Turbo Diesel and MINI Cooper D which recorded an overall improvement in litres per 100km of 15.4 per cent and 12.2 per cent respectively.

The Alto GL and GLS models are retailed in South Africa at a recommended price of R104 900 and R119 900 respectively. A three-year/100 000 km warranty is included as standard.


October new vehicle sales provide further evidence that the sharply negative trend has been arrested and that the market is in the process of bottoming out.

However, according to Brand Pretorius, chief executive of McCarthy Limited, the motor industry is not out of the woods as yet.

According to the latest results released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) and Associated Motor Holding (AMH) yesterday, sales last month showed only a marginal 0.5% improvement over sales recorded in September, despite the fact that October had 6.5% more selling days (24.5 days compared to 23).

The total vehicle sales of 36 082 units also showed a 12.5% decline on sales recorded in October 2008. 

Sales of commercial vehicles remain depressed.  The Light Commercial Vehicle Segment recorded a 24.4% decline in sales when compared to October last year, totalling 9 908 sales.  Sales in the Medium Commercial Vehicle segment dropped by 22.7% to 627 units and Heavy Commercial Vehicles by a substantial 46,4% to only 955 units. 

“Commercial vehicle sales represent an accurate barometer of real economic activity and the current level of business confidence,” said Pretorius.  “We observe the same trend in the car market namely subdued demand from fleet-owners who are hesitant to renew fleets.”

The 24 592 passenger vehicles sold last month were again underpinned by purchases from car rental companies.  Over the three month period July to September, sales to rental companies accounted for over 20% of the market and it is estimated that more than 4 000 cars went into those fleets during October.

According to Pretorius, two additional factors had a positive influence on car sales last month. 

“Firstly, the credit application approval rate improved slightly due to more creditworthy customers re-entering the market.  Secondly, customers with vehicles to trade-in are getting pleasant surprises as a result of more attractive trade-in prices being offered,” said Pretorius.  “This is happening due to the shortage of quality used cars on the one hand and a healthy demand on the other hand.  More favourable trade-in values are undoubtedly enhancing new vehicle affordability.”

On a year-to-date basis the total market is now down by a significant 28.8%.  Pretorius said that it is likely that the numbers will show a very similar decline by year-end.



Good and bad news for Volkswagen fans in South Africa. Next year sees the introduction of the two hottest hatches ever to come out of the company in the form of the GTI R and the Scirocco R. The latter makes 199kW and 350Nm while the peppery Scirocco R does with 195kW and the same torque. Unfortunately these figures will be reduced for the South African market.

According to a close source, we are looking at about 188kW and 350Nm for both cars, a step said to have been taken because of the poor quality of our pump fuel. This is extremely disappointing news as it means the GTI R will be on the same power level as the upcoming Renault Megane RS but shy of the Mazda3’s 191kW. VW SA did the same thing with the Audi S3 by detuning from 195kW to 188kW but funny enough the TT S retains its power.

I really hope these are just bad rumours but if they are true then another potentially great VW product will be somewhat dampened. Just like the overrated, overpriced and overweight Golf R 32.

Monday, 2 November 2009


Mercedes-Benz South Africa has beefed up its E-Class lineup with the addition of three new models. actually it’s just two for the moment as the third was delayed due to logistical issues. These are the E200 CGI, E 250 CDI and the E350 CDI. It’s the mid one that was not available at launch, it is only expected in the country first quarter of 2010.

“The E-Class is by far the best-established and most successful business sedan, and is the "heart" of the Mercedes brand -- it is the typical Mercedes-Benz. No other model reflects the core values of the brand as precisely as the E-Class: safety, comfort, environmental compatibility, design, quality and individuality,” says Eckart Mayer, Divisional Manager, Mercedes-Benz Cars.

I got to drive both the baby E200 CGI (Charged Gasoline Injection) and the E 350 CDI in Gauteng conditions. The E200 CGI, as the name suggests, is powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine. The company is ditching the supercharger in favour of turbocharging, which is the method used in this car. Maximum power is 135kW and torque of 270Nm. These are very good numbers for the size of the engine. In fact you must remember that the Golf 4 GTI had a 1.8-litre with 132kW. A 5-speed automatic gearbox runs things. Mercedes-Benz says it will return average figures of 7.5l/100km and C02 emissions of between 177 and 184g/km.

The car feels smooth and controlled, and power is on tap quite early giving it as comfortable a ride as you’ll get from a Mercedes-Benz. Remember this is not a performance model but an entry-model into the E-Class range. Nevertheless you will not be left shy on the freeway or in suburban roads.

The E350 CDI is the turbo diesel car and its mechanicals are basically carried over from the previous-generation. It uses a 3.0-litre V6 motor to make its 170kW and 540Nm (between 1600rpm and 2400rpm) of torque. On the road these numbers translate to fluent agility both on a flat surface and on steep hills. A high-pressure fuel injection system with common rail technology and a new-generation set of piezo injectors ensures an optimal fuel flow at all times.

Its 7-speed automatic helps it get a claimed 0 – 100km/h time in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 250km/h. Mercedes-Benz says an average of 6.8 litres per 100km of fuel can be expected while C02 emissions fall between 179g/km and 186g/km.

Because the E250 CDI is not yet in the country there was no way to drive it. But in case you want to know, the car uses a 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine with two turbos (one big, one smaller) to produce 150kW and a strong torque figure of 480Nm. It also comes with a 5-speed automatic and can apparently go from 0 – 100km/h in 7.8 seconds, average 5.3l/100km of fuel and emit C02 gases of between 154 and 159g/km.

All three vehicles carry the company’s new BlueEfficiency badge which means they are very fuel efficient as well as environmentally-conscious. Part of their development takes place inside a wind tunnel to improve their co-efficient of drag and improve fuel efficiency. Actually the E-Class has the lowest Cd rating (0.25) of any car in its class.

Handling is partly taken care of by a three-link front suspension and coil springs while the rear features a multi-link independent system also with coil springs, anti-squat and anti-dive systems. Standard safety items include ABS, Brake Assist and a current-generation ESP. Wheels and tyres are 245/45 R 17 and 8 J x 17 ET 48 respectively. Low-resistance tyres needed to further improve fuel consumption are not offered at this stage because suppliers cannot guarantee the tyre’s supplies.

Elegance is the standard trim for all models and includes electronic side mirrors, LED rear lights, chrome trim strips on front bumper, sides and rear bumper, the ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection system, a CD player with eight speakers, automatic climate control, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity.

There are also packages like the Memory package, the Sun package and the Sun Protection package depending on what customers are interested in adding to their base cars.

E200 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY (R471 000)
E250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY (R496 000)
E350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY (R617 000)


BUA NEWS SAYS: South Africa's petrol price is to remain unchanged at R7.65, the Department of Minerals and Energy announced on Friday.

The cost of petrol will not change when government makes its adjustment in the first week of November.

However, the price of Diesel 0.05 percent Sulphur wholesale will increase by 10 cents a litre, while Diesel 0.005 will increase by eight cents a litre.

The wholesale price of illuminating paraffin is to increase by 14 cents and the single maximum national retail price for illuminating paraffin will increase by 19 cents.

"During the period under review, the average international product prices of Petrol, Diesel and Illuminating Paraffin increased," said the department.

Picture courtesy of


After 25 years in production the Volkswagen Golf (Mk 1 or the A1 using its internal codename) has finally met its end. The last Golf 1 came off the production line at VW SA’s Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth factory on the 21st of August 2009 amid much fanfare and plenty of tears. Factory workers who make up the bulk of company’s 5 100 workforce and been part of its existence, were emotional when saying farewell.

At a media conference today VW SA Managing Director Mr David Powells took us through the history of the Golf 1, now referred to in various guises as the Citi Golf. The idea first came about at the end of the Golf’s first production schedule which ran from 1978. Golf had come in as a successor to the legendary Volkswagen (aka Beetle) and filled those shoes with aplomb. Its replacement the Golf 2 or Mk2 was imminent and VW SA executives became nervous after seeing its launch price. Would the public move up a class with the new car? Would they accept that their precious Golf had become bigger, wider and invariably more expensive? Could VW SA stay in the entry-level market and most importantly, how?

After much deliberation it was decided to continue the Golf 1 but as a stripped-down model called the Econo Golf. The advertising agency responsible for VW at the time saw their prototype vehicle (Kalahari beige exterior, bad wheels, bland interior) and fell asleep from boredom. One of the creatives was a lady by the name of Jenni Button (yes, the same one) and she came up with the idea of targeting young customers with a funky, colourful and youthful car. Thus the RED, YELLOW, BLUE campaign was launched and the first cars only came in those colours. Ms Button has since gone on to become a fashion icon with boutique shops all over the place while the Citi earned its own place in motor history. Over 500 000 units of the Golf 1 have been produced in South Africa. Funny enough the initial estimates were that they would sell about 300 units a month and stop production three years later. Well from 1984 when the CitiGolf cars went on sale the market has been exceptionally receptive. Just then at the end of production in July 2009, 1 600 units were sold.

My late friend Steve Dlamini made a name for himself at the 2008 Johannesburg Motor Show when he asked how VW SA could be so irresponsible as to sell a car with such poor safety features (none really). Since then a driver’s airbag has been installed.

The CitiGolf has acquired a number of different model variations over the years including Golf CTI, Designa, Shuttle, Chico, Blues, Deco, DotCom, VeloCiti and CitiRox. In the process it gained features like CD/MP3 players, air conditioning, an upgraded interior and central locking.

Boy racers and wannabes start off from a Golf base and work their way up. Even official national rally championships run Citis. Heck Gugu Zulu just won his A5 Class championship in one of these just two weeks ago.

The cheap CitiGolf cost R7 630 to buy in 1984. Today the cheapest model comes in at R84 700. Therein lies the rub; continue escalating the “entry-level” Golf’s price and cement VW’s growing reputation as “rich people’s cars” or stop making it altogether? They chose the latter. And so 25 years has come to an end.

To send it off VW is launching a nationwide farewell campaign where selected fans from all the country’s major cities will be able to see a special car and write messages on it. VW assured the media that no one working on the closed Golf 1 production line would lose their job and that only a few suppliers would no longer work with the company as a result.

A new limited edition 1000-unit CitiGolf called the Citi Mk1 will go on sale as a hark back to the original. It’s powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder with 74kW. Only two exterior colours will be available; Black and Shadow Blue metallic. Features include 15-inch gunmetal alloys, chrome highlighting around the grille, dark taillights and GT-styled stripes in chrome foil on the sides. The interior has sport seats with partial leather, leather steering wheel, the original golf ball gear knob, floor mats with an Mk1 logo and red stitching detail throughout.

The special edition Mk1 will be priced at R113 500.