Ford and VW show new bakkies

Volkswagen's Single Cab Amarok

Both Volkswagen and Ford used the NAMPO Harvest Day Show in Bothaville to launch their new entrants to the bakkie market, the choice of the agricultural show a clear indication both are seriously seeking fleet approval.

The launch of the Single Cab completes the Amarok model range following the launch of the Double Cab in September 2010.

South Africa has the largest single cab bakkie market in the world convincing the Volkswagen Group  to make South Africa as the first market globally to launch the Amarok Single Cab.

At launch, the Amarok Single Cab will be available with a chaoice of two common rail diesel engines, the 2,0-litre 90 kW and 2,0-litre 120 kW BiTurbo. The four cylinder 90 kW engine generates 340 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 2 000 r/min whilst the two-stage control bi-turbo charging 120 kW engine has maximum of torque of 400 Nm available at a low 1 500 r/min. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

Similar to the Double Cab,the Single Cab is available with an option of selectable 4Motion all wheel drive as well as 4×2 rear wheel drive.

The Amarok Single Cab’s ladder frame chassis is supported by heavy duty springs that allow it to carry a payload up to 1 279 kg.

Standard active safety features include an anti-lock braking system with Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Off-Road ABS, Traction Control System (TCS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Anti Slip Regulation (ASR).

Ford's new Ranger

Ford put its all-new Ranger on display for the first time – the actual vehicle launch only scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

“The all new Ranger delivers outstanding on and off-road performance, combined with the hauling and towing capability many of our customers need, especially in the agriculture sector,” says Jeffery Nemeth, president and CEO of FMCSA.  “The producers and the agriculture community are very important to us, so we built a vehicle especially to show at NAMPO.”

FMCSA’s Silverton Assembly Plant is ramping up production of the all new Ranger, which will be available by the end of the year.

“The launch is on schedule, and we are verifying all our processes and working closely with our supplier partners to make sure we exceed the expectations of our customers by delivering a high quality, fuel-efficient, extremely capable pickup truck,” added Nemeth.

FMCSA is investing R3-billion to transform its Struandale Engine Plant and the Silverton Assembly plant, adding capacity and upgrading technology.

The Silverton Assembly plant will increase its annual capacity to 110 000 vehicles for the production of the all new Ranger. At the Struandale engine plant, the global production hub for the Puma engine, capacity will grow to 220 000 engines to produce Ford’s new diesel engine.

This investment will increase local content from 35% to 65% and will drive a host of additional supplier investment and new jobs in the component supply base for South Africa.

Courtesy: Fleet Magazine

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Going the extra mile

The product growth of Renault in South Africa to provide a fleet solution across all the major sectors stepped up with the introduction of the Fluence into what we refer to as the Medium Lower category, but the story about this car actually goes back to 2004.

In June of 2004 Renault used the Louis Vuitton Classic, Great Britain as a platform to launch its latest concept, the Fluence.

At the time, Renault’s head of design, Patrick le Quément, said: “Fluence is both a drawing and a sculpture. It blends bearing, generosity, elegance and fluidity.”

The concept car was a 4,6-metre coupé with voluptuous forms sculpted from simple, structured lines, but it was only in 2009 the concept became reality in the form of the Fluence as a four-door saloon designed with the aim of standing out as the most attractive car of its class.

This new, four-door saloon is 4,62 metres long and its size and generous levels of standard equipment place it halfway between the C segment, for compact family cars, and the segment immediately above.

Streamlined headlights herald the start of an elegant waistline, which sweeps harmoniously alongFluence’s sides to the boot. The surround and chromed grille of the upper air intake embellish the car’s front-end looks with a sporting flourish, while Renault Fluence’s status-enhancing appeal is heightened by its sculptured wheel arches and long bonnet. At the rear, the horizontal, two-part lights allow a generous boot aperture and reinforce the car’s thoroughly modern styling.

The sense of strength and safety is reinforced by the carefully proportioned balance between the windows and the large surface area of the doors, the lower part of which incorporates protective panels. Seen from the side, a distinctive character line flows rearward from the rounded front wings before emphasizing the solid rear haunches.

Renault Fluence creates an impression of quality, and particular attention has been paid to the fit and finish of body panels (windscreen pillars and refuelling flap, for example). The rear bumper incorporates discreet parking sensors. At rest, the windscreen wipers are tucked away behind the bonnet’s upper edge, partly for aesthetic reasons, but also to reduce wind noise and improve aerodynamic efficiency.

In the cabin, the airy facia design incorporates uncluttered lines complemented by the sweep of the dashboard trim strip. Significant care went into choosing the ideal materials and finish: the integrated upper dashboard cowling has a soft-touch finish, yet it is also resistant to everyday knocks and exposure to direct sunlight.

For the South Africa market, Fluence is offered in three derivatives – the 1,6-litre Dynamic or Expression and the 2,0-litre Privilege. All three options are petrol-driven with the 1 598 cm3 engines offering 81 kW at 6 000 r/min and 156 Nm at 4 400 r/min. The Privilege has a  1 997 cm3 engine with 105 kW on tap at 6 000 r/min and 195 Nm of torque from 3 750 r/min.

All versions have 5-speed manual gearboxes, electrically assisted power steering and feature a MacPherson strut type front suspension with torsion beam axle at the rear.

The sense of on board comfort is embellished by attention to detail in the realm of reduced noise levels and high standards of interior space, including class-topping elbow room (1,480 mm at the front, 1,475 mm at the rear).

Renault Fluence’s cabin provides more than 23 litres of stowage space, including a 2,2-litre centre console and a 2,6-litre bin in each front door. The 530-dm3 boot capacity is one of the biggest in its class. Access is facilitated by a low sill and a large (1 020 mm) aperture, which has been made possible by incorporating one part of the rear light cluster within the boot lid.

All models have a comprehensive range of leading safety features including anti-lock braking with EBD, front, side and curtain air bags, five three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters. The integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system is standard on all models and is integrated within the dashboard for quality and security. It is also easy to update and extend by simply linking its SD card to the internet.

Recently the French company was named the ‘Most Improved Fleet Manufacturer’ at the Fleet News Awards, recognition of  the series of initiatives which it has launched to enhance its fleet offering in the last year, including cost reduction and continued improvements in product and service quality.

According to the judges:  “Renault’s efforts in listening to what fleet operators want and going the extra mile to deliver it has resulted in a transformation in how it is now perceived in the industry.”

Those efforts form part of a global Renault plan known as Renault 2016 – Drive the Change, founded on Renault’s ambition to make sustainable mobility accessible to all. This strategic plan covers a six-year period with a mid-term review at the end of 2013. This will allow Renault to build a long-term strategic outlook to ensure continuity in operations and to establish precise, quantified priorities.

The Renault group will work on seven key levers to meet these objectives, these being to pursue the innovation policy, strengthen the product offer, reinforce the image of the Renault brand, ensure the excellence of the distribution network in customer relations, control investment and R&D expenditure, reduce costs and to maintain positions in Europe and pursue growth internationally.

Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive Officer of Renault, says: “The success of Renault 2016 – Drive the Change relies a more competitive Renault meeting stakeholder’s expectations; a strong Renault with a powerful brand image and a benchmark level of quality and services; a sustainable Renault in line with the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century.”

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

Colin Windell is Editor of Fleet Magazine

Chev Lumina – big, bold and brash

Driving the new restyled Chevrolet Lumina SSV sedan was not going to be an easy job for Fleet in that, the intention was to specifically emulate the conditions the average company car user would encounter on a daily basis during a work week as well as over a weekend’s worth of leisure time – without simply saying a mental ‘to heck with it’ and pushing the hooligan button.

Proudly, we can affirm all objectives were met – during which time we gained newfound respect for a brutish muscle car that is ‘in your face’ and yet has a side so gentle it could be a character in a Mills & Boon romance novel.

General Motors South Africa (GMSA) introduced some subtle changes to the Chevrolet Lumina SS sedan for 2011 that included upgrades to the vehicle’s specification and changes to the exterior and interior styling of both vehicles.
The front of the Lumina now features a revised bumper and air dam as well as new styling treatments for the fog lights and headlamps. A chrome strip is added to the boot lid just above the number plate on the sedan while a more subtle change is the addition of a V to the nomenclature changing the model designation from SS to SSV to bring the South African models in line with naming of other V series vehicles in the Lumina range.

Significant revisions have been made to the instrument cluster and the centre console of the Lumina. The audio system has been upgraded to include a USB socket and advanced Bluetooth functionality – including mobile phone connectivity. The system features satellite controls on the steering wheel and touchscreen controls via the audio display screen.

The Lumina’s 6,0-litre V8 all aluminium engine remains unchanged with a maximum of 270 kW and a massive 530 Nm of torque driving the rear wheels via either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic gearbox, as was the case with our test car.

The Lumina SSV sedan comes standard with leather seats, dual zone climate control air-conditioning, power windows and side mirrors, sports contoured seats with 4-way electronic adjustment and lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat and sports alloy pedals. A driver information centre in the instrument cluster provides trip, vehicle and audio information.

Safety features include a six air bag system, including roof air bags, as well as an anti-lock braking with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Traction control and cruise control are fitted across the range. Handling is enhanced by the advanced linear control suspension system.

Central locking with auto-lock is a standard feature as is an alarm immobiliser system. The alarm system includes a panic alarm.

Generously spacious inside, handsome and robust, the Australian-built car (Holden Commodore over there) offers a useful alternative to more expensive European derived options with similar power and torque and, besides its effortless performance it boasts a massive 496-litre boot.

Whether commuting to the office or hauling down the highway, the Lumina SS displayed a benevolent duality – one part effortless sedan cruiser, the other half, pure four-door muscle car.

Unquestionably, the six-speed auto is superior to the manual version in traffic, GM’s active on demand fuelling technology runs the Lumina SS auto on only half its eight cylinders when things slow down to crawling pace.

The transition from 4-cylinder to 8-cylinder is practically instantaneous and the driver has to really concentrate to try to pick up the lag between throttle input and all-power output.

Thanks to six-engine mountings (instead of four) vibration is well damped, meaning the rewards of a characteristic V8 burble, a gluttony of performance and none of the vibration issues usually associated to sitting behind such a large capacity engine.

There is no question the Lumina SSV is a big….huge…car, so initial impressions tend to suggest it would not be all that nimble through the twisties. Not true. The slightly oversize steering wheel, sort of reminiscent of the ones on cars of yesteryear, feels a little strange at first, soon qualifying its existence as the pace picks up.

With all-wheel independent suspension the Lumina turns into corners with minimal body movement, always seems firmly planted on the road and returns plenty of useful information via the steering to the driver.

The electrickery on board keeps things honest and prevents lurid slides or ‘donuts’ when the loud pedal is pushed too hard, too quickly. Confidence in this system and the response directly from the car mean it can be pushed at pace on most back roads.

However, as mentioned, the intention was not to adrenalize – and we justified out week with the car with an overall consumption of 12,9 l/100 km and managed one highway run getting down to 8,5 l/100 km with the speedo needle glued to 120 km/h.

It is big, bold and brash, but the Lumina is also more car than that suggests.

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

All things to all people

Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDILuxurious

The Volkswagen Touareg (and other vehicles of this ilk) are the rude gesture in the face of political correctness and the weirder, way far left reaches of the tree-hugging greenies – and the further they shy away from a vehicle like this, the less they actually understand.

Like a ‘Leatherman’, the Touareg is voluminous, occupies space and is difficult to justify – until it is needed!

Quite simply, when the route from ‘A’ to ‘B’ is not linked by toll-burdened blacktop, the Touareg takes to rough rural routes like the proverbial duck to water – and does so with minimal compromise to its overall fuel economy.

While the 2011 Touareg looks new, it is still easily identifiable. The major exterior changes see it gaining a bit of width and length while losing some roof height for better aerodynamics and a smoother overall appearance.

At the front there is now a narrower grille opening that connects to the headlight housings with U-shaped LED running lights and Bi-Xenon headlamps. At the rear, the taillights have new L-Design. The new front-end design and smaller frontal area has significantly improved Cd value. Touareg has also dropped some weight, which results in better fuel economy. The new Touareg is 208 kilograms lighter in the base version than the previous model; still the body torsional rigidity has improved by five percent.

The new 3.0 V6 TDI BlueMotion Technology with 176 kW is the first BlueMotion Technology engine to be introduced in South Africa. The 550 Nm (176 kW) strong turbo-diesel engine consumed 8,5 l/100 km on our test route, significantly less than the previous version and with lower overall emissions.

The Touareg is now shifted by a standard 8-speed automatic transmission and the mass of the base model has been reduced by 208 kilograms.

The V6 TDI engine has a Stop-Start system as standard equipment; the power train also utilise regenerative braking to recover kinetic energy. In addition, all engines have an optimised thermal management system; deactivating the water pump in the cold-start phase heats the engines to their operating temperatures much more quickly, resulting in a fuel savings of 0,3 l/100 km.

When it comes to active safety, the ESP electronic stabilisation programme is automatically on board; it includes trailer stabilisation, anti-lock braking, ASR and four electronic differential locks (EDS). Also on board in the active safety area are the Hill Start and Hill Descent Assist as well as electronic parking brake with auto-hold function.

Standard convenience features include automatically dimming rear-view mirror, electric folding and adjustable door mirror, rain sensor, load sill guard in trim colour, multifunction leather steering wheel plus cruise control system, centre armrests front and rear, four 12-Volt accessory sockets, a 230V power socket, coming home and leaving home lighting feature, remotely operated power windows, cargo space cover with automatic opening and a 2-zone automatic climate control system among them.

In addition, there are a number of features that are available as options. These include rear side air bags, silver roof racks, air suspension, climate controlled seats, tow bar (electrically released and foldable), rear view camera (Rear Assist) with parking distance control, Area View with parking distance control, air suspension, wooden multi-function steering, storage package and cargo management system to name but a few.

While all of this does come at a hefty price, the Touareg really uses  as much (or less) fuel than the average D-segment sedan and its emissions are not that much more. In return, it provides a supremely comfortable ride coupled to an equally comfortable interior where traffic and other intrusive noise is shut out.

With car-like ride and handling characteristics on tar roads, it really comes to life on the back roads where the balanced suspension soaks up ruts and pits and the clever four-wheel drive system provides optimal traction at all times.

Ample interior seating space and a large luggage area make this a business cruiser that comes close to actually being all things to all people.

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

Pics: Quickpic/Motorpics

Back to the future

It is quite a bold move for a manufacturer to launch a new car that looks almost exactly like the old car, but Suzuki’s interpretation of ‘back to the future’ involves just that – no changes to the looks that have helped notch up more than 2-million sales worldwide, but lots of change under the skin.

While the looks stays the same, the new car is both longer and wider with new light clusters front and rear and, for the base GL model on test 15-inch steel rims and low-profile 175/65 R15 tyres.

The completely new interior has a fresh, contemporary design  and standard features include an attractive three-spoke steering wheel with height adjustment and variable-ratio electric power steering, as well as a multi-function computer that displays outside temperature, fuel consumption (instantaneous and average) and driving range.

This is bolstered by power windows front and rear, electrically adjustable mirrors, remote central locking for all doors and the tailgate, and a manual air-conditioning system with integrated pollen filter.

The Swift GL is pre-wired with a rear-mounted roof antenna and six-speaker system (four main speakers plus two tweeters), thus facilitating the simple dealer fitment of an optional MP3-compatible CD receiver.

The height-adjustable driver’s seat is a nice touch but we would have liked similar movement on the steering (height and reach), while the rear seat boasts a 60/40-split single-folding mechanism for loading bulky items. This takes the standard luggage capacity of 210 litres to 533 litres.

Suzuki's new Swift

Dual front air bags are standard on the entry-level Swift GL, along with two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, accompanied by three tether points for optimal child safety. On the active safety front, it boasts anti-lock brakes as standard, complemented by Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and the Brake Assist function to ensure optimal stopping performance in all conditions.

It is all-change under the bonnet for the Swift with the fitment of a 1,4-litre powerplant featuring an alloy cylinder head, electronic throttle control and a direct drive valve train with variable valve timing – and is lighter than the previous 1,5-litre engine.

Maximum power is 70 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque is 130 Nm at 4 000 r/min and, while some critics will point to the miniscule drop in power and torque over the previous 1,5-litre engine, the bigger picture shows improvements in fuel consumption (5,5 l/100 km versus 6,2 l/100 km) and reductions in exhaust emissions (132 g/km from 147 g/km).

Hairpin turns with short straights are made for cars like the Swift. The chassis/suspension are in their element on tight bends and bumpy roads. The ride is firm but not harsh and it sits flat and composed under acceleration or brakes. The light and low weight means it holds its line in turns and responds to throttle or brake if the driver overcooks it.

Uphill runs expose the engine’s lack of torque but the 1,4-litre will happily rev at the top of the tacho and the mid-range is strong, so working the manual can result in reasonably quick runs.

Special attention was given to the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension, which is stiffer than the previous model.

The Swift is chasing sales off the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 and first impressions are the extra interior sophistication will earn it more fans. Suzuki Swift is a critical car for Suzuki and has been the key driver in the Japanese company’s global sales surge.

Suffice to say, the all-new Suzuki Swift delivers significant ‘bang-for-your-bucks’ – a critical attribute in the fleet compact car segment where every cent counts.

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

New Nissan Micra

New Nissan Micra

The Nissan Micra returns sans the ‘Micra-speak’ that went with the original and refined to a new role as a city car with power coming from 1,2-litre three-cylinder engine.

The new Micra (the 4th generation) is built on the V-platform, which the company is debuting in this model. While the platform itself focuses strongly on reducing weight while increasing overall rigidity, the engine has been built to reconcile two conflicting customer desires – those of spirited dynamic performance and the most frugal economy and lowest CO2 emissions attainable in its class for 2011.

The engine features an offset counter weight on the crank pulley, which generates an oval motion in the process cancelling out vertical vibrations from the piston movement, while fewer moving parts lower internal friction and improve overall thermal efficiency.

Fitted with a manual transmission,Nissan claims 5,2 l/100 km from an engine producing 56 kW at 6 000 r/min and 104 Nm at 4 000 r/min with CO2 emissions of 124 g/km.

For the SA market, Nissan has also made a 1,5-litre petrol model of the new Micra available for those for whom 56 kW is just not sufficient, and is continuing to offer a 1.5 dCI-powered Micra as well.