Celerio updated – no price change

It is always a bonus when a car goes through it ‘refresh’ process and eases back into the market with changes but no increase in price – as has the Suzuki Celerio, although this time the revisions are all aesthetic and specification levels are untouched.

The revised Celerio sports a redesigned front bumper, which features an integrated lower air intake and more aggressive design.

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Starting from the tar up, the bumper has a more integrated lower air intake, which narrows towards the top and ends narrower than the grille below the front number plate holder. The shape of the intake is mimicked by the moulded colour section around it to accentuate the wide blacked-out grille with its large Suzuki emblem.

With the new bumper, Suzuki’s designers created a distinct separate section for the front fog lights, which stretches all the way to the front lights and integrates neatly with the Celerio’s shoulder-liner. As before, Suzuki will add front fog lights as standard on the GL model.

Viewed in profile, the shoulder line now runs across the car from the rear light clusters all the way to the front fog lights, as well as redesigned wheel covers,

At the back, the new design is rounded off with the addition of a wide rear garnish strip that aligns with the shoulder line on the vehicle, which visually widens the Celerio’s stance on the road. As before, the GL specification level is distinguishable from outside by the colour coded mirrors and door handles and by the addition of chrome accents in the front grille.

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The general layout of the front console and central instrument cluster remain unchanged but there is a two-tone design to the dashboard, with a lighter coloured bottom section.

The two-tone theme is mirrored in the new cloth upholstery, which has a lighter patterned section in the seat-inlays. The cloth was selected for its durability and ease of cleaning.

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Both the entry-level GA and more luxurious GL models offer power steering, air-conditioning with pollen filter, vanity mirrors in both sun visors, a security cover and shopping bag hook in the luggage area and a 12V accessory socket as standard.

Both also offer anti-lock brakes, two front air bags, seat belts for five occupants, a high mounted additional stop lamp, an immobiliser and childproof rear door locks.

The GL specification level gains a Bluetooth-enabled audio system with phone integration and USB jack. GA models have been fitted with the necessary wiring and two speakers for optional radio fitment.

Other creature comforts in the GL model include front and rear power windows, remote central door locks with a hazard-lamp answer-back function and integrated security alarm, tilt adjustment for the multi-functional steering wheel and electrically adjustable rear side mirrors.

On the instrument cluster, Suzuki adds a tachometer and outside temperature gauge. It has also added cloth inserts in the doors, a 60/40 split foldable rear bench seat and a day/night rear-view mirror to the GL specification level.

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The Celerio is fitted with Suzuki’s K10B 1,0-litre, three-cylinder engine, which offers 55 kW at 6 000 r/min and 90 Nm of torque at a peak of 3 500 r/min.

Owners can choose between the five-speed manual transmission and the five-speed automated manual transmission (AMT).

Suzuki has also retained the standard 2-year/60 000 km service plan on Celerio GL models.

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Big investment from Opel

Since the withdrawal of General Motors from South Africa, Unitrans – the dealer group that took over importation and distribution of the Opel brand – has fulfilled its new product promise by launching the Crossland X in November last year and the Grandland in May this year.

Perhaps more importantly though, there has been ‘behind the scenes activity’ with Opel Germany setting up a wholly-owned local subsidiary, Opel South Africa, and investing more than R700-million into parts, warranty and service plans for Opel customers in Southern Africa.

In addition to that ,Opel’s South African dealership networkis engaged in a R20-million investment in corporate identity facility upgrades to bring the new Opel dealerships in line with the brand’s international ‘look and feel’.

Unitrans elected to employ local signage contractors to roll out the new Opel brand identity and improved customer experience centres.

“Opel wants to stimulate additional local job creation and support local business, and our local suppliers met the German required standards,” says Brian Hunter, General Manager of Unitrans.

General Motors (who traditionally handled the distribution for German brand Opel) withdrew from various right-hand drive markets around the globe in 2017, and Opel used the opportunity to re-focus its dealership network in South Africa.

There are currently 35 fully operational Opel dealerships, with more expected to open inthe next 60 months as the brand regains its traction locally.

Bill Mott, Opel’s director of international sales operations in Germany, indicated Opel is focused on growth in Southern Africa and has clear objectives to achieve this.

“We view South Africa as a very important market,” Mott says. “South Africa is a strategic investment for Opel and our aim is to take the brand from strength to strength in South Africa and other key markets.”

Hunter added: “We are delighted investment in the Opel brand in South Africa has now exceeded R1,5-billion when one combines the investment of Opel International, the Unitrans Opel distributor and the group of Opel Dealers. We estimate that this investment now employs more than 1 000 people.”

Having been in South Africa for over 80 years, Opel is one of the oldest car brands operating in the country and the brand the South African Motoring Guild voted the new Opel Astra as the South African ‘Car of the Year for 2017’.

Ford EcoSport upgraded

The updated Ford EcoSport arrives on the local market hot on the heels of the new Figo and amid changes at the company that see former marketing boss, Neale Hill taking over as managing director.

In that sense, exciting times for the company and sorely needed.

Borrowing from the design styling of the new Kuga, launched late last year, the EcoSport also receives a completely new interior look and design.

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“Ford has sold more than 45 000 EcoSport models in South Africa since it was launched in 2013 and it has been a major player in its segment ever since thanks to its great looks, impressive space and versatility, superb all-round performance and exceptional value for money,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“The new Ford EcoSport offers customers even more style, comfort, capability and choice – blending rugged SUV functionality with unrivalled city car practicality.”

A large trapezoidal grille and angular headlights, incorporating LED daytime running lights on the Trend and range-topping Titanium models, dominate the revised front-end design.

I suppose if the original Renault Megane’s design was influenced by a kid wearing his cap backwards, there is no fault in taking the straps of rucksack and turning that into the inspiration for the front fog light housings and three-quarter profile of the EcoSport.

At the rear, the bumper and tail light designs also are revised to deliver a cleaner, more sculpted appearance. New alloy wheel designs offered in Gunmetal grey five-spoke 16-inch versions on the Trend series, or 17-inch rims on the Titanium. The entry-level Ambiente model is fitted with 16-inch steel rims with wheel covers.

Inside, new seat designs offer greater front and rear occupant comfort with full leather on the Titanium derivatives. The interior features a host of smart stowage solutions, including a new height adjustable boot floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres.

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A new centre console features a built-in folding, sliding armrest (Titanium models) with an integrated storage compartment that is ideal for tablet computers or snacks. Buyers will also enjoy the practicality of under-seat storage underneath the passenger seat (Titanium models).

Ford’s SYNC3 communications and entertainment system is fitted as standard on the Trend and Titanium models, and incorporates Bluetooth and Voice Control. SYNC3 is supported by the new floating colour touchscreen, which can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures.

A 6.5-inch screen is fitted on the Trend models, while the Titanium features an 8-inch version as well as embedded turn-by-turn navigation.

EcoSport for the first time provides Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiter on the Titanium derivative that helps drivers keep within speed limits, while rear parking sensors are provided on all models to make parking manoeuvres more efficient and safer.

Active driving safety has been stepped up across the range with standard fitment of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control (TC), as well as Roll Stability Control (RSC) in the EcoBoost range, which adjusts engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control. Additionally, the 1.0 EcoBoost-powered models gain Hill Launch Assist (HLA) that makes pulling off on steep inclines easier, along with Ford’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

On the top-spec EcoSport Titanium, there are automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

Six air bags are fitted as standard on the EcoSport Ambiente, comprising dual front, side and curtain air bags, while the Trend and Titanium models are additionally equipped with a driver’s knee air bag. The side air bags have been redesigned to provide extra thorax protection and direct the occupant away from an impact and new curtain air bags provide increased side-impact coverage.

Ford’s 1,0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine takes centre stage in the revised line-up, exclusively powering the Trend and Titanium models.

It produces 92 kW of power matched to a peak torque output of 170 Nm all the way from 1 400 r/min to 4 500 r/min.

Trend and Titanium customers have the choice between a six-speed manual gearbox or the latest-generation six-speed automatic that recently made its debut on the all-new Ford Fiesta.

The 1,5-litre TDCi turbo-diesel engine remains part of the line-up, offered in Ambiente trim, linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. It delivers 74 kW and a substantial 205 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 3 250 r/min.

Prices (incl. Vat and CO2 emission tax):
EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Ambiente 5MT R 264 500
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Trend 6MT R 287 500
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Trend 6AT R 300 700
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6MT R 327 800
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT R 339 900

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a 4-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A 4-year/60 000 km service plan is included, with 15 000 km service intervals.

 

C-Class to stay in East London

The next generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class will be produced in East London and to help make it happen, the company is investing a further 600-million Euro to expand the plant.

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This includes the construction of a new paint shop and a new body shop, an upgrade of the assembly shop and new logistic warehouses. Overall the new buildings comprise an area of approximately 100 000 sqm –  an addition of two thirds of the already existing buildings for the passenger vehicle production. The new workshops will incorporate environmental friendly and state of the art technologies.

“With the investment of 600-Million Euro we are significantly expanding our plant in East London and equipping it for the future. The decision to have the new generation of the C-Class built in East London re-affirms the plant and MercedesBenz South Africa,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain.

“The investment is also a sign of our commitment to South Africa and efforts to revive economic growth as well as the socio-economic development of the East London region.”

The announcement was made during a plant visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said: “A central priority for government this year has been to encourage significant new investment in our economy, necessary to realise economic growth, employment and reduce inequality.

“The announcement by Mercedes-Benz Cars to inject R10-billion in the South African economy signals to the positive momentum we are making to realise the ambitious target of raising R1,2-trillion in new investment. This investment by Mercedes-Benz Cars endorses South Africa as a favourable destination for investment and correspondingly, demonstrates our determination to work with all social partners to seize the opportunities that are opening up for greater investment and faster growth.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicle production at the East London plant. Over the years, the plant has evolved as a significant contributor to South Africa’s trade balance and an economic multiplier for East London.

Furthermore, the plant actively commits to the community of East London and the Eastern Cape. One example is the Mercedes-Benz Learning Academy (MBLA) – a flagship and sustainable Public Private Partnership in cooperation with the National Treasury and the Jobs Fund. Since 2004, MBLA has offered world-class quality training and transferrable skills, qualifying hundreds of skilled artisans in the Eastern Cape.

The investment of 600-million Euro will be used for a wide expansion of the plant. Many different parts of the plant are affected by the expansion, both Green and Brownfield.

The new body shop is designed for higher capacities and features more than 500 ‘Internet of Things’ –  ready robots laying the foundation for Industry 4.0 readiness. Some 700 tons of steel will be installed for the addition of three lines in the assembly shop and this expansion will take place in the current building.

Utilising new methods, the new paint shop will be more energy efficient and more environmental friendly and the energy consumption per produced vehicle will be further reduced with 25% in the East London plant.

This is in line with the plants initiative for a green production. Other examples include on-site battery storage container, rain water harvesting on rooftops, water storage of 1-million Litres and the creation of green corridors.

 

VW shatters record

Volkswagen has shattered the record at the daunting Pikes Peak hillclimb by a full 16 seconds – with an electric car!

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Driving the 500 kW ID R Pikes Peak, Romain Dumas defeated a field including cars with conventional drivetrain technology. In doing so, he not only broke the previous record for electric vehicles, but also bettered Sébastien Loeb’s all-time record from 2013 – by a full 16 seconds.

Dumas’ new record of 7m 57,148s minutes is now top of the list of Pikes Peak champions, which includes such acclaimed drivers as Loeb, Walter Röhrl (D), Michèle Mouton (F), Stig Blomqvist (S), Nobuhiro Tajima (J) and also Rod Millen and his son Rhys (both NZ).

“The ID R Pikes Peak is the sporty forerunner of Volkswagen’s ID family,” says Dr Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for ‘Technical Development’.

“Every Volkswagen employee can be extremely proud of the result. I congratulate the team from the bottom of my heart.”

Romain Dumas claimed his fourth overall victory at the iconic Pikes Peak International Hill Climb – 19,99 kilometres, 156 corners and which has been held 96 times since 1916.

With the ID R Pikes Peak, Volkswagen created a racing car specifically tailored to the demands of the most famous of hill climbs: a combination of minimum weight, as much downforce as possible and maximum power, designed to achieve the best possible performance.

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Including its battery cells, the ID R Pikes Peak weighs less than 1 100 kilograms. When evaluating performance, Volkswagen employed simulation software to calculate exactly how to achieve the optimum in energy demand and performance for the record attempt on Pikes Peak. In the matter of aerodynamics, the key was to compensate for the loss of downforce caused by the thin air on Pikes Peak.

Volkswagen also struck out in a new direction when it came to charging technology – the goal being to charge the car as quickly as possible with minimum environmental impact. The time was defined by the regulations: In case of the race being suspended, it must be possible to completely charge the car in under 20 minutes.

The electricity required was provided by generators at the foot of Pikes Peak. Glycerol, which in chemical terms is a sugar alcohol, was selected as the fuel. A by-product of the manufacture of biodiesel, for example, Glycerol combusts with virtually no harmful exhaust fumes or residues. Glycerol itself is non-toxic and is even permitted as an additive in the food and cosmetics industries.

Romain Dumas said after the run: “Awesome! We exceeded even our own high expectations with that result. Since the tests, we have known it was possible to break the all-time record. For it to come off, everything had to come together perfectly – from the technology to the driver. And the weather had to play ball too.

“That everything ran so smoothly is an incredible feeling, and the new record on Pikes Peak is the icing on the cake. I still cannot believe that Volkswagen and my name are behind this incredible time. The ID R Pikes Peak is the most impressive car I have ever driven in competition.”

Ford revamps the Figo

‘Cool’ might well be an adjective used to describe the updated Ford Figo – and apt expression as the name Figo is a colloquial Italian expression meaning . . .well, ‘cool’.

The Ford Figo was unveiled in Delhi in September 2009 based on the same small car platform used for the Ford Fiesta and resembled the mark 5 Fiesta but with revised front and rear treatments.

It was launched to the Indian market in March 2010 and released in South Africa in January 2013.

Now, Ford Motor Company is lifting its game in the compact car segment with an updated Ford Figo that gains a more sophisticated, upmarket appearance and improved specification levels.

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“The Figo is an important model for Ford in South Africa, as it is represents the entry point for customers into the Ford brand,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“The latest model brings a fresh new look and equipment upgrades to the range, and we have rationalised the line-up to make it a more competitive and compelling choice in a segment where value for money and affordability are the primary purchase considerations.”

Significantly, in an economically constrained market, the car comes with a revised standard Service Plan that is upped to 4-years/60 000 km covering the vehicle for up to four services over a period of four years.

“With its great new styling, impressive levels of comfort and safety features, exceptional value and the segment-defining new Service Plan as standard, we expect the new Figo to be a strong contender in the important sub-B segment.”

At the front is an entirely new bumper design that houses a restyled honeycomb grille, reflecting the latest Ford design language. This is complemented by detailing for the front fog lamp surrounds, framed by accents that link the lower bezel to the upper section of the bumper.

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There are chrome inserts in the headlamps and new dual-tone multi-spoke 14-inch alloy wheels for the Trend models and updated wheel caps for the Ambiente versions, which have 14-inch steel rims.

At the rear, the new Figo gets subtle changes to the tail light clusters, along with an all-new rear bumper design that gives the car a notably more contemporary character.

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The interior has been updated with a cleaner design for the centre console and upper instrument panel that enhances ease of use.

The Ambiente is the entry-level model, and is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. It is equipped with electrically operated front windows with one-touch operation on the driver’s side, a factory-fitted immobiliser, electric power-assisted steering, tilt adjustment for the steering column and headlight level adjustment.

A built-in Ford Audio unit is standard with an integrated display and four speakers, offering Bluetooth connectivity, a USB slot, as well as Ford’s Device Dock in the upper section of the centre console for connecting and powering smart phone devices.

Driver and passenger air bags are standard, with anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).

Additional features available on the Trend models, available in sedan or hatchback, extend to remote central locking, a belt minder for driver and front passenger, power rear windows with child lock, rear window defroster, perimeter anti-theft alarm, and a gear-shift indicator for manual models.

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One of the new features of the Figo range is the 1,5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that powers the entire line-up. This unit uses an aluminium engine block and cylinder head for reduced weight.

It also relies on twin independent variable camshaft timing (TiVCT) for the four-valves-per-cylinder engine to deliver improved low-down torque as well as top-end power. The fitment of a dual-stage variable oil pump further enhances efficiency, while reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

The 1.5 TiVCT engine is credited with a maximum power output of 88 kW and peak torque of 150 Nm and drives through a five-speed manual gearbox or a new high-tech six-speed automatic gearbox exclusively available on the five-door Trend hatch.

As a replacement for the previous PowerShift transmission, the six-speed version is a conventional torque converter automatic.

Prices:

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Hatch 5MT                      R181 300

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch 5MT                             R190 600

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch 6AT                              R205 700

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Sedan 5MT                        R187 200

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Trend Sedan 5MT                            R196 000

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a 4-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A 4-year/60 000 km service plan is included, with 15 000 km service intervals.

 

 

Still speaking Micra

It seems like yesterday Nissan’s little car was launched into South Africa with the pay line of “Do you speak Micra” – a kind of attempt at being really funky that failed where the car itself certainly did not – and now, we up to generation five and it is looking good.

The new Micra gets stepped up a notch to play at the upper end of the B-segment of the market, so it has undergone all the necessary tweaks of longer, lower and wider to fit right in, while the older Micra Active variant will remain as the contender in the lower end of the market.

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Naysayers will quickly point to the core bits the new Micra takes from the Renault Clio and, while much of that is true, Nissan has given the new car its own identity with styling reflecting the more modern styling trend coming from the Japanese automaker – the front of the Micra looking familial with the recently launched and updated Leaf.

The new Nissan Micra has dynamic hatchback proportions and features a sculpted body with strong and sharp character lines visible from every angle.

From the front, the shortened bonnet design and reduced A-pillar angle create a poised silhouette. The narrow headlamps stretch through the front wings and include signature LED daytime running lights on every trim level. Halogen headlamps are standard on all grades. The lights frame Nissan’s familiar ‘V-motion’ grille, reinterpreted to complete the new Micra’s bold front-end design.

Below the car’s sloping roofline is the expressive character that runs the entire length of the new Micra’s body, dipping dramatically as it passes over the front door and sweeping upwards towards the rear. The black B and C-pillars create a floating roof effect, while the C-pillar is home to the discrete door handles, which provide access for rear passengers.

At the rear are the striking new boomerang-shaped light clusters. Below them is the sculpted bumper, which features a carbon-look finish as standard and hides the car’s exhaust pipe. Above is the sports-style rear roof spoiler, also standard to enhance aerodynamic performance. Together, these features create a recognisable motif for the back of the car.

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Inside, it boasts two-tone soft-touch materials as standard across the range and the cabin is based around a T-shaped ‘gliding wing’ dashboard, with simple structures that create excellent space for the driver and front passenger. The instruments and controls have been grouped together for comfort, convenience and safety.

Special attention was given to the design of the front seats in order to provide continuous back support, helping to decrease driver fatigue on long journeys. The car’s width means enhanced elbow space for rear passengers, who also benefit excellent shoulder and knee room.

Boot capacity is a competitive 300 litres and delivered without compromising on rear passenger knee room. That figure expands to 1 004 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are folded down.

There are three specification levels available – the Visia, the Acenta and the Acenta Plus. The Visia comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, daytime running lights, front power windows, a manual air-conditioning, a Bluetooth and MP3 compatible audio system, cruise control, automatic headlights and six air bags.

The Acenta adds 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights among other features while the Acenta Plus has 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and an Energy Orange interior.

The 7-inch touch-screen colour display on the Acenta and Acenta Plus allows the driver to access features such as music, messages and maps through Apple CarPlay in addition to the MP3, USB and Bluetooth in the Visia model.

Every new Micra comes with six air bags as standard, plus seat belt warnings and seat belt height adjustment for the front and rear. Isofix child seats are standard in the new Micra, including in the front passenger seat. Electronic safety systems include Vehicle Dynamic Control, Anti-locking Braking System, Electronic Brake force Distribution and Hill Start Assist.

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 There is one engine available at launch – the 66 kW, 140 Nm turbo-charged petrol engine.

Perhaps not the best day for auto journalists to be sampling a new product but the heavy rain in and around Cape Town was gleefully received by residents still in the grip of the worst drought in living memory.

This meant flooded roads and some route closures but not enough to deny most of us an opportunity to stretch the legs of the Micra and to be comforted by its willingness to respond and fairly perky performance, despite the sodden roads.

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Bearing in mind this is a city runabout, the despite to punch above its fighting weight gave it a nice element of fun.

The new Micra has been built on Nissan’s existing V-platform and has been significantly enhanced to deliver new levels of performance. The new Micra provides exceptional stability and reduced body roll through corners thanks to its high body stiffness and advanced suspension. In addition, the low driving position promoted by the excellent ergonomics of the interior reduces the centre of gravity, further enhancing the secure driving feel. Responsive and accurate steering comes from a new brushless electric power unit, and provides a high degree of manoeuvrability.

As with all other Nissan vehicles, the Nissan Micra is covered by Nissan Assured and comes with a 6-year/150,000km warranty; a 3-year/90,000km service plan; and 24/7 roadside assistance.

 Nissan Micra Visia:                          R233, 500

Nissan Micra Acenta:                      R257, 400

Nissan Micra Acenta Plus               R272, 400