Road Review – MINI Clubman Cooper

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, the Sir Alec Issigonis Mini grew by 10 cm to become the world’s smallest estate car badged either the Morris Mini Traveller or Austin Mini Countryman.

Introduced in 1960, these models were two-door estate cars with double barn style rear doors. From the start of production, both models had a decorative, non-structural, ash wood trim on the rear body, in the style of a pre-war shooting brake.

This gave the car a similar appearance to the larger Morris Minor Traveller and saw these cars simply being called a ‘Woodie’ – a US expression that gained huge popularity with the rise of the ‘surfing songs’ from the likes of The Beach Boys and The Rip Chords.

Approximately 108 000 Austin Mini Countryman version and 99 000 Morris Mini Travellers were built. Variations of this model were also built in South Africa, by Innocenti in Italy and by Industria de Montagem de Automoveis in Portugal.

Even back then Mini purists and fans ‘harrumphed’ at the Countryman, feeling it belonged in the same category as alcohol leading to dancing and that it disrespected the Issigonis creation.

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Enter BMW as owners of the MINI brand and, naturally the car grew in size, gained plenty of tech but retained that fun-to-drive feeling of the original. As the iterations unfolded, the Clubman was relaunched and it, too, grew in size to a point where – as mentioned my Road Review of the time – it had perhaps exceeded its fighting weight.

Now, with updates to the MINI Clubman Cooper, we return to funky styling and a sleek shape only marginally longer than the base car, yet fully endowed with the aura of mischievous enjoyment that has always been an integral part of the car’s DNA.

The body design of the new MINI Clubman is stylish, featuring an elongated roofline and a steep rear. In addition, the split rear doors make it the only model in the compact segment to offer six doors, along with outstanding versatility due to the fact the luggage compartment can be extended from 360 litres to as much as 1 250 litres according to needs.

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The most striking design feature of the new MINI Clubman is the newly designed radiator grille, which now extends across the entire bumper. With powerfully modelled contours and a new structure for the air inlet, it gives the front view a particularly distinctive appearance.

The standard halogen headlamps now have an enlarged reflector and a black shield on the inside. The daytime driving light is integrated in the parking lights in the lower section of the front apron. The optional adaptive LED headlamps likewise feature a new design and feature an automatic selective dip function for the high beam.

The new MINI Clubman is fitted as standard with LED rear lights. The light units with chrome surround are now especially integrated in the wings of the split door.

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Depending on the model variant, the new MINI Clubman is fitted as standard with light alloy wheels which are either 16-inch or 17-inch in size. As an option, light alloy wheels are available in the sizes 18-inch and 19-inch.

The engine portfolio for the new MINI Clubman includes one 3-cylinder and one 4-cylinder petrol engine, each of which features the latest generation of MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology, both driving through a 7-speed Steptronic transmission.
The MINI Cooper Clubman offers 100 kW of power at 4 400 r/min with peak torque of 220 Nm coming in from 1 250 r/min – enough to get to 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds and on to a top speed of 205 km/h. Fuel consumption on my test cycle averaged 5,7 l/100 km.

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The Cooper name attached to the car is always an invitation to get a little playful and the Clubman obliges rather nicely, hurrying through corners with a gleeful sense of urgency while that naughty little fella that sits on your shoulder screaming “..more, more, give it more wellie” in your ear.

With the option of various modes, drivers can tailor the throttle and gearbox responses to the mood at the time.

The standard range of equipment of the MINI Clubman includes an audio system with six speakers and a USB socket. This enables the use of audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection. There is also a hands-free telephone facility with USB interface.

The standard operating system includes a 6,5-inch colour screen in the central instrument and the MINI Controller on the centre console. The Connected Media option comprises the Radio MINI Visual Boost and a 6,5-inch colour screen with touchscreen function and a newly design graphic display. It is also possible to use numerous online-based MINI Connected services.

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Option is a word that has come up a couple of times and, like all offerings from BMW, there are a variety of these to go with the Clubman in order to personalise and tweak the looks and feel – obviously at a cost.

In addition, the current update of the MINI Connected App offers an exceptionally wide range of digital services that allow mobility planning to be integrated seamlessly in day-to-day digital routine. This includes the possibility of sending navigation destinations from smartphone to vehicle and receiving information regarding the ideal departure time, as well as Remote Services.

The latter function allows the driver not just to display vehicle location, fuel level and other vehicle status details on their digital end device, but also activate the headlight flasher, horn, ventilation and door lock/unlock function.

Not an easy call handing back the keys….

New Corolla launches into lockdown

In the most bizarre of circumstances and mere hours before the country goes into an unprecedented lockdown status, the 12th generation Toyota Corolla has been formally launched – on paper – to dealers and the public.

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Where, normally, a launch such as this would involve media, fleet and dealer activations, the newest Corolla slips gently into the market, the first rush of sales to #toyotaholics curbed by the fact dealerships will close down for 21 days along with the rest of the country.

Coronavirus is real! Perhaps fortuitous Toyota dropped the Corona nameplate from its repertoire in 2001.

In base form, as the 1.8 XS CVT, the new Corolla prices in at R372 700 with the top specification 2.0 XR CVT at R425 200 – putting it among the likes of the VW Polo Sedan 1.6 Comfortline (R264 700), the Hyundai Elantra 1.6 Exectuve (339 900) and BMW 1-Serries 118i at R486 898.

The new Corolla sedan adopts the same front-end treatment as the Corolla Hatch (with minor variation) and featuring a prominent lower apron, sculpted headlights and flowing three-box design.

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The front bumper employs a large trapezoidal lower grille, with black-moulded border and large mesh pattern. The arrow-shaped LED headlamps, with integrated DRL elements, flow towards the centrally-mounted Toyota emblem, surrounded by a slim-line upper grille element.

According to Ueda-san, Corolla Chief Engineer: “One of the big merits of the new platform is it allows designers more freedom to create a dynamic exterior.”

He adds all variants in the Corolla family are now visually distinctive and feature an individual look with a lower stance and more appealing proportions.

“We have also ensured better all-around visibility for the driver by implementing thinner A-pillars and a lowered dashboard and bonnet.”

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The rear bumper also features integrated aero-stabilising fins, to smooth airflow from the wheel arches.

Dimensionally the new Corolla is 20 mm lower, with the bonnet edge sitting 35 mm lower and the front overhang registering 25 mm shorter while front and rear tread have been increased by 11 mm and 22 mm respectively.

Eight exterior colours are on offer, six of them being new with Celestite Grey, Crimson Red, Moonlight Ocean, Scarlet and Dark Blue the metallics. Pearl White, Glacier White and Satin Silver remain the neutral tones on offer.

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Inside, it is the same interior design as its hatch sibling, featuring a reduced upper-panel height, soft-touch finishes and brushed metal accent strips. In sedan execution, blue contrast stitching harmonises with blue illumination for the switchgear and instrument panel.

A revised front seat design with ribbed pattern and bucket-like profile is covered in a new-age synthesized fabric called Rezatec, offering the comfort of fabric with the premium feel of leather. The high-grade (XR) model offers a choice of sporty blue or classic grey accent trim colours.

Aluminium, high-tensile strength steel and hot-stamped materials have been extensively used and the panel thickness of the doors and roof panel reduced. This has resulted in a considerable weight reduction for the body, helping to improve overall fuel efficiency.

At the same time, the addition of adhesives throughout the new bodyshell, an increase in the use of spot welding, and the use of fully closed cross-sections and structural rings, combine to increase body rigidity by some 60% over the outgoing models, promoting a marked increase in handling agility, responsiveness to steering inputs and high-speed stability.

Handling and agility are further improved by the lower mounting height of the engine and lower hip point of the seats. In combination, these measures have lowered the new Corolla’s centre of gravity by some 10 mm.

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The new Corolla range utilises a MacPherson strut front suspension system, an all-new multi-link rear suspension arrangement and new shock absorber valve technology. The front suspension geometry has been revised, with newly developed shock absorbers and coil spring characteristics.

Additional geometry changes have been applied to the suspension arm and bush structures, in order to achieve quicker shock absorber response and minimise the transmission of shock forces from rough surfaces and achieve high-quality ride comfort. The newly developed multi-link rear suspension features compact packaging and exclusively-designed coil springs, which offer both handling stability and ride comfort.

The GA-C platform itself contributes to the suppression of transmission vibration. The steering wheel pad functions as a dynamic damper to suppress steering vibration and even the tool box functions as a dynamic damper to reduce rear floor panel vibration.

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Two engines options are offered in the new Corolla. The 1,8-litre mill is carried over from the previous generation, delivering 10 3kW and 171 Nm. This unit is mated to a ‘7-speed’ Shiftmatic CVT transmission with 7 pre-programmed steps.

Next up is the new 2,0-litre ‘Dynamic Force’ TNGA engine (as first seen on RAV4) which ups the ante to 125 kW and 200 Nm – with a strong focus on fuel efficiency. Two options exist here, a 6-speed manual or ‘10-speed’ Shiftmatic CVT.

Fuel consumption for the 1,8-litre is listed as 6,2 l/100 km, the 2,0-litre manual at 6,.5 l/100 km and finally the 2,0-litre CVT at 6,0 l/100 km.

Two grade options are offered, XS and XR. The XR model serves as the flagship and is available exclusively with the new 2,0-litre Dynamic Force engine.

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The new Corolla sedan sees the inclusion of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and touchscreen interface. Climate control with Eco mode, a reverse camera, power seat adjustment, one-touch functionality for the power windows, keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, steering switches and cruise control all feature on the specification list. XR models feature an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Two levels of Multi-information Display (MID) systems are utilised. The XS grade uses a 4,2-inch display with the XR variants getting a 7-inch MID system with digital speedometer.

On the safety front, all models feature seven crash bags, ISOFIX, active electronic safety aids (anti-lock braking, EBD, BAS, VSC, HAC) and an impact absorbing bodyshell. The flagship XR grade receives Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) – a full complement of active driver aids. The XR also receives an upgrade to Bi-LED headlamps.

This suite combines Pre-collision system, blind spot monitor, all-speed cruise control, automatic high-beam and Lane Trace Assist – conveniently operated via steering switches or the multi-information display.

All Corolla models include a 6-service/90 000 km service plan with service intervals pegged at 15 000 km/12-months. A 3 year/100 000 km warranty is also included.

Model Line-up and Pricing

Corolla 1.8 XS CVT – R 372 700

Corolla 2.0 XR 6MT – R 412 300

Corolla 2.0 XR CVT – R 425 200

Ford suspends production

The ongoing march of Covid-19 as a business disruptor has moved into the local manufacturing sector with Ford Motor Company set to close its factory doors on March 27 in a temprary production suspension.

Vehicle and engine production at Ford’s International Markets Group (IMG) manufacturing sites in response to the growing impact of the coronavirus.

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The IMG production suspensions began Saturday, March 21, and will continue for several weeks depending on the pandemic situation, national restrictions, supplier constraints and dealer stock requirements.

“The health and safety of our employees, dealers, customers, partners and communities is our highest priority,” says Mark Ovenden, president, International Markets Group. “We are continuing to act in real time and taking added safety measures by temporarily halting production at our manufacturing sites in the international markets.”

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While Ford will continue to monitor the situation, the company is adjusting its original IMG production schedule and will temporarily suspend production market-by-market. The last working day per market is as follows:

  • March 21: India — Chennai Vehicle Assembly Plant, Sanand Vehicle Assembly Plant, Sanand Engine Plant and Chennai Engine Plant.
  • March 26: Vietnam — Ford Vietnam Limited Haiduong Assembly Plant.
  • March 27: Thailand — Ford Motor Company (Thailand) Limited.
  • March 27: South Africa – Silverton Assembly Plant (Pretoria) and Struandale Engine Plant (Port Elizabeth).

The measures announced today follow actions previously announced by Ford, including the temporary suspension of vehicle and engine production in North America, Europe and South America. Ford also is requiring employees to work remotely unless they are performing a business-critical job that requires being onsite.

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The company’s working remotely policy will continue until further notice in a continued effort to help contain the virus. Precautionary measures are being taken to protect the safety of the small number of employees who are unable to work from home.

“In these extraordinary times, we must come together to put our people first,” Ovenden said. “We will continue working across our region to explore additional protocols and procedures to help prevent the spread of the virus and define new work practices to lessen its effects wherever we can.”

Coolest Land Cruiser is back

Called ‘the coolest Land Cruiser Americans can’t buy’ by Jalopnik writer Andrew Collins, Toyota has re-introduced the Namib edition in a run of 120 units – 60 each for the single cab and double cab.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The Land Cruiser Namib edition was introduced to the South African market in Q3 of 2019. Featuring a bespoke overlanding accessory package and aesthetic enhancements, the Namib was exceptionally well received – with all 60 units selling out by January 2020.

With this positive market response in mind, Toyota has commissioned a re-run of the Land Cruiser Namib and added a single-cab derivative based on customer requests.

The single – and double-cab Land Cruiser Namib editions will share a common package, distinguishing them from their ‘standard’ Land Cruiser 79 brethren.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The Namib Package consists of a front grille with mesh design and prominent Toyota lettering, stylised Namib badging on fenders and tailgate, heavy-duty steel front bumper with integrated nudge-bar and headlight protectors, large, high-intensity LED spotlights with protective covers, yubular rear step with integrated towbar and a protective loadbin skin.

Inside it get a glovebox with integrated cooling duct, protective canvas seat covers with Namib insignia and anti-scuff panel and a roof-mounted console with LED lighting and storage binnacles.

Technical changes include an upgraded off-road suspension and 265/75/R16 Cooper Discoverer S/T Maxx versions with white lettering

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The ‘Namib’ makes use of the 1VD-FTV 4,5-litre turbo-diesel engine, churning out 151 kW and 430 Nm from a low 1 200 r/min.

 The Namib edition retains all of the standard Land Cruiser 79 D-Cab V8 specification, which include a touchscreen audio system with built-in Navigation, Bluetooth, front power socket, power windows, tilt and telescopic steering column, remote central locking and anti-theft system. The safety systems include driver and passenger crash bags alongside an anti-lock braking system.

 A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is provided and customers can purchase optional service plans according to their needs.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

Model Line-up and Pricing

Land Cruiser 79 4.5D V8 S/C Namib – R 842 200

Land Cruiser 79 4.5D V8 D/C Namib – R 911 500

Infotainment tweak for Kia Sportage

Kia has given its Sportage an infotainment upgrade – remember when car upgrades were all about performance? – and has also made this available as a retrofit option for units before this tweak was announced.

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Originally revealed at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show, Sportage has grown and evolved with each generation and Gary Scott, CEO, Kia Motors South Africa, says: “Kia is renowned for it’s quality, style and value. The Sportage has become an icon of of what customers want in a true SUV: a vehicle that seamlessly fits into your lifestyle. With this latest update, the Sportage remains true to its reputation as a leader in the SUV field by offering the latest technology and capability as part of a highly competitive package in terms of value.”

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Specifically, the infotainment upgrade is applicable to the Ignite and Ignite Plus models in the range, and comprises an 8-inch colour touchscreen with integrated reverse camera, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. The addition of infotainment in these models aligns the full Sportage range with the rest of Kia’s vehicle line-up, adding more convenience and more value to customers.

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Customers who have purchased a Sportage Ignite or Ignite Plus prior to the introduction of the standard 8-inch infotainment system, also have the option of having the system retrofitted at a cost of R6,325, which includes VAT and fitment. The upgrade can be made at any of Kia Motors South Africa’s dealerships.

Customers who are considering a new SUV may well be giving the Kia Sportage a second look thanks to the six-month ‘payment holiday’ currently on offer when purchasing a new Kia Sportage. With this plan, customers can choose to structure their payment plan in such a way that they skip the first six months of instalments, providing some welcome financial breathing space. However, if the payment holiday is not exactly what is needed, a deal structure can be personalised to suit the customer’s individual needs.

“We want to give our customers more options when it comes to vehicle payments, as everyone has different financial needs. This way we can work with new Sportage owners to shape a repayment plan that best suits their budget,” says Scott.

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All Sportage models are sold with Kia’s  Unlimited Kilometre, five-year warranty, as well as a standard 5-year/90 000 km service plan and 5 years of roadside assistance.

Pricing for the Sportage range:

Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi Ignite 6-speed Auto                      R406 995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite PLUS 6-speed Manual               R416 995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite PLUS 6-speed Auto                   R430 995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi Ignite PLUS 8-speed Auto          R481 995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 EX 6-speed Auto                                 R485 995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 EX PLUS 6-speed Auto                       R526 995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi EX 8-speed Auto                        R536,995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi EX AWD 8-speed Auto               R564,995.00

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi EX PLUS 8-speed Auto              R577,995.00

Aggressive pricing for Suzuki S-Presso

The instant first impression is of a ‘Mini-me’ Suzuki Jimny but the new S-Presso arrives as the cheapest car on the South African market and the first major launch to be hit by Covid-19 in the form of a cancellation.

Thankfully, the digital age meant Suzuki could compile a video of the actual planned launch event and live-stream it to motoring writers around the country – obviously the only thing lacking being the tactile sensation and a launch drive.

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However, with pricing in the auto market extremely critical in these tough times, Suzuki’s little urban creeper is welcomes with open arms – and it comes, not as ‘cheap’ but well priced since the car comes with dual front crash bags, anti-lock braking with EBD and reverse parking sensors as part of the standard fare.

The S-Presso joins Suzuki’s range of urban SUVs with a choice of five model derivatives and two transmission options.

“We are very excited to introduce the new Suzuki S-Presso in South Africa. It combines many of our most advanced technologies, such as our HEARTECT platform, with our compact SUV expertise to offer a compact, but roomy and well-specified new urban SUV that is truly within everyone’s reach,” says André Venter, divisional manager for sales and marketing at Suzuki Auto South Africa.

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Viewed from the front, the S-Presso has a four-slot grille with large S-emblem. The grille is flanked by squared-off halogen headlamps, with a distinct differentiation between the integrated indicators and main headlamps.

Below the grille, the lower black bumper is swept up in a trapezoidal shape into the coloured main bumper to create a larger air intake and the visual impression of a high-riding SUV. Not that it is simply a visual trick – the S-Presso has a ground clearance of 180 mm on all models, thanks in part to its the 14-inch steel wheels.

The wheels have been placed at the outer corners of the S-Presso to ensure good road holding and to allow the engineers to fit a 2,38 m wheelbase into this 3,56 m long vehicle.

All models also feature colour-coded door handles and side mirrors, with the choice of six exterior colours: Sizzle Orange, Pearl Starry Blue, Fire Red, Metallic Granite Grey, Metallic Silky Silver and White.

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At the rear, a small integrated spoiler is added to the hatch door, while the square rear lights with their C-design have been moved above the shoulder line to strengthen the SUV design theme. A black rear bumper, with a design similar to the front bumper, is fitted below the coloured section and features the number plate recess and integrated parking sensors, which are standard across the entire S-Presso range.

For buyers looking for something more exclusive, Suzuki has designed a premium S-Edition model that highlights all of the S-Presso’s most prominent SUV features. The S-Edition draws its SUV inspiration from the Suzuki Escudo S-Edition, which was launched in Japan in 2004.

This model features silver highlights in the four-slot grille, silver front and rear skid plates and bold side cladding over the wheel arches and on the lower sections of the doors. The protective side cladding on the doors is further emphasised by a large silver panel insert, which visually connects the front and rear silver skid plates.

The bulky design of the S-Presso, its high ride height and wide track allowed the engineers to fit the S-Presso body on to Suzuki’s proprietary HEARTECT platform.

HEARTECT is Suzuki’s latest-generation platform that underpins models such as the Dzire, Ignis and Swift. It utilises precision engineering and high and ultra-high tensile steel to create a platform that is not only very light, but also very rigid. This translates into better performance and handling, lower noise, vibration and harshness as well as class-leading passive safety.

Sitting atop the HEARTECT platform is Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT) bodyshell, which uses all of the same materials and engineering principles to create an equally safe and rigid shell around the occupants.

“By using our modern passive safety technology in the design of the S-Presso, we have proven affordable vehicles do not have to compromise on family safety,” says Venter. “It also means our active safety features, which include two crash bags and anti-lock braking with EBD, will offer the best possible protection within the TECT safety cocoon.”

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Inside, The centre console houses a digital speedometer and trip computer, the radio or infotainment system and the centrally mounted power window and hazard switches.

All versions of the S-Presso feature power windows for the front occupants, rear parking sensors, air-conditioning, power steering and a multi-information display, which includes information such as distance to empty, trip duration and distance travelled.

On the GL+ model, Suzuki has bumped up the specification with its full colour infotainment system. This system is touch sensitive and includes full integration for most smartphones through the in-built Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems.

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This full colour infotainment system also offers USB and auxiliary ports and Bluetooth connectivity as standard and will display the image from the in-built reverse camera on the screen.

S-Edition models retain the infotainment system and mirror the silver detailing on the exterior with similar highlights on the centre console, air conditioning louvers and side door panels.

All versions of the S-Presso have a foldable rear bench seat and parcel tray as standard, with extra storage spaces available in the front and rear console pockets, the door pockets with integrated bottle holders and the large glove box.

The new Suzuki S-Presso shares its engine with the Suzuki Celerio. This three-cylinder engine is code-named K10B and offers 50 kW at 5 500 r/min and 90 Nm of torque at 3 500 r/min, thanks to its use of multi-point fuel injection and four valves per cylinder.

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The K10B engine drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automated manual transmission (AMT), with the latter using Suzuki’s Automated Gear Selection (AGS) technology for smooth shifts using a manual transmission with self-actuating clutch. The AGS system also has an in-built crawl function to allow for fuss-free driving in stop-and-go traffic.

Under the skin, the S-Presso rides on a combination of McPherson struts in front and torsion beams linked to the rear wheels. This system has proven itself in several other compact Suzuki models and helps to keep the kerb weight – a maximum of 770 kg with all extras on the S-Presso – to an absolute minimum.

Suzuki Auto will offer all versions of the Suzuki S-Presso together with a 2-year / 30 000 km service plan and 5-year / 200 000 km mechanical warranty, along with a year of complementary insurance included in the price.

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The mechanical warranty includes a 3-year / unlimited roadside assistance plan, which now includes features such as battery and locksmith support, call-out services, mechanical and electrical support, breakdown towing and emergency medical rescue. The service also includes stand-by-you roadside security, while you wait for roadside assistance.

“With our long list of standard features, our stand-out design, the option of manual or AMT transmission and our comprehensive service plan and mechanical warranty, we want to introduce a whole new segment of the market to Suzuki’s generosity. We hope that the all-new S-Presso will help us grow our family and prove to the market we are the value-market leaders,” says Venter.

Pricing

1.0 GL MT                     R134 900

1.0GL+ MT                    R139 900

1.0GL+ AMT                  R152 900

1.0 S-Edition MT           R147 900

1.0 S-Edition AMT         R160 900

 

Your phone could be the death of you

Worrying results from a new study show the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems, designed to improve road safety, are failing and impair reactions times behind the wheel more than alcohol and cannabis use.

Among the shocking results, the study – commissioned by the UK’s largest independent road-safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, found reaction times at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between four and five car lengths.

The study also found that drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving (equivalent to a distance of more than 500 metres at 110 km/h) and using touch control resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving.

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Commenting on the alarming findings, Neil Greig, policy and research director, IAM RoadSmart, said: “Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year.

“While previous research indicates that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems. Anything that distracts a driver’s eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.

“We’re now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction.”

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During the study, which was undertaken by TRL on behalf of IAM RoadSmart, the FIA and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, drivers completed a series of three drives on the same simulated test route to assess the level of impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the first run, drivers did not interact with the system. On subsequent runs, drivers interacted with the system using voice control only and then using touch control only.

Both methods of control were found to significantly distract drivers, however touchscreen control proved the more distracting of the two. While many drivers realised the system was causing a distraction and modified their behaviour by, for example, slowing down, performance was still adversely affected with drivers unable to maintain a constant distance to the vehicle in front, reacting more slowly to sudden occurrences and deviating outside of their lane.

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Neil added: “While we would like to see a review of these systems in the future, we’d encourage owners of vehicles fitted with these systems to use them in the safest possible way, including setting everything up before starting a journey.

“Most participants in the study report they use touch rather than voice control in real world driving. As the results clearly show, this is the most distracting, so if there is a need to use the systems while on the go, voice control is a far safer method.

“Individuals driving for work are just as at risk as the general public, so we would also encourage employers to review their advice and policies in light of this research.”

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The key findings from the report are:

  • Controlling the vehicle’s position in the lane and keeping a consistent speed and headway to the vehicle in front suffered significantly when interacting with either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, particularly when using touch control
  • Participants failed to react as often to a stimulus on the road ahead when engaging with either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay – with reaction times being more than 50 per cent slower
  • Reaction time to a stimulus on the road ahead was slower when selecting music through Spotify while using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (via touch control rather than voice control), compared to texting while driving (based on previous studies)
  • Use of either system via touch control caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than 12 seconds. This does not meet the guidelines set out by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). When using voice control all measures were within NHTSA guidelines
  • Participants underestimated the time they thought they spent looking away from the road, by as much as five seconds, when engaging with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay via touch control

To find out the full findings of the study, please visit: www.iamroadsmart.com/infotainment

IAM RoadSmart and TRL - Reaction times graphic - March 2020 (1)