Short goes long

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, launched to the South African market this week goes in the opposite direction of its forefathers – from short and tall, it now is low and long.

The new A-Class is also the first Mercedes-Benz model to feature the intelligent multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – which also ushers in a new era in Mercedes me connectivity.

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“The expansion and rejuvenation of the compact car range are key factors behind the sustained market success that Mercedes-Benz enjoys. The Mercedes-Benz brand has also become noticeably more youthful since the introduction of the third-generation compact models,” says Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Merc say the design of the new A-Class is the next step in the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of Sensual Purity. Its exterior is bigger than its predecessor – 120 mm longer, 16 mm higher and 6 mm wider – but, 20 kg  lighter.

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The vehicle is visually extended by the longer wheelbase and character line along the side and the larger wheel arches for wheels from 16 inches to 19 inches make it sit more squarely on the road.

The front and rear wheel spoilers have been specifically optimised to achieve low airflow losses around the wheels. In addition, the wheel arches are insulated from the engine compartment (depending on engine variant) and the radiator surrounds are sealed. This ensures more precise direction of the cooling air and a more efficient cooling system.

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Wind noise inside the cabin has also been significantly reduced in the new A-Class compared to its predecessor, as the A-pillars and new exterior mirrors on the beltlines were enhanced in shape and position.

The interior of the new A-Class is completely redefined it gets easier access to the rear and a larger, more family and recreation-friendly luggage compartment.

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The capacity of the luggage compartment behind the rear seats is 370 litres – 29 litres more than in the preceding model. Thanks to two-section rear lights, the loading aperture is 20cm wider than before, and the luggage compartment floor is 11,5 cm longer.

MBUX, the new multimedia system, offers intelligent voice control with natural language comprehension. By using the phrase “Hey Mercedes”, users can adjust the air-conditioning, send a text message, or find the quickest route out of the Cape Town city centre on a Friday afternoon.

“The new A-Class offers modern luxury at a level previously unthought of in the compact segment. It uses technology to create an emotional connection between the vehicle and driver,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.

“In many ways, our devices are extensions of our personalities and we are now extending this approach to your car. You should not have to adapt to your car, your car should adapt to you. In fact, your car should be just like you. With the new A-Class, achieving this is as simple as striking up a conversation. The new A-Class grows to understand your personal preferences then predicts your needs, making it the ultimate intelligent companion.”

New and improved Mercedes me connect services are launched with MBUX. These include navigation functions such as emergency braking, On-Street Prediction, Real-Time Information and Off-Street Information, which save time and reduce stress levels when searching for a parking space.

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The A‑Class is available in two variants – the A 200 and the A 250 Sport, with the diesel model expected in South Africa in early 2019.

Both models benefit from new engines. The A 200 is powered by a 1,33 litre unit that generates 120 kW and 250 Nm of torque with a 7G‑DCT dual-clutch transmission (5.2 l/100 km). The 2,0 litre engine of the A 250 Sport generates 165 kW and 350 Nm, and is available with the 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission which provides a claimed fuel consumption of 6.2 l/100 km.

There is a choice of suspension systems for the A-Class, depending on engine variant and driver preference.

DYNAMIC SELECT is standard equipment and at the touch of a button, provides an individual driving experience in conjunction with the suspension with active damping control (optional).

Like all its predecessors, the new A-Class has a McPherson front suspension. The more powerful A 250 Sport is equipped with adaptive damping in combination with larger wheels, giving it a sophisticated four-link rear suspension. The rear axle is mounted on a subframe isolated from the bodyshell by rubber bushings so that fewer vibrations are transferred from the suspension to the body. The proportion of aluminium in the suspension components is one of the highest of any suspension system in this vehicle segment.

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Road Review – Renault Stepway Plus

Perception and reality are strange bedfellows, made even more so when the one transmogrifies (thank you Calvin and Hobbs) into the other in a seamless stream where reality is perception and perception becomes the reality.

This is the situation Renault in South Africa lives with on a daily basis.

In an earlier time, going back quite some years, the reality was the company had a fairly small local parts inventory, these were expensive and often there were service delays while parts were shipped in – a reality that gave rise to a perception this applied to all Renault models, all the time.

The reality has changed dramatically over time and management to the point the local company has a very significant parts stockholding and regularly has category wins in the annual Kinsey Report that surveys the retail prices of a basket of parts across a broad spectrum of cars.

Yet, the perception remains. And, it is wrong.

When Sandero first entered the South African market in February 2009, Renault’s key objective was to provide a high-value proposition in the entry level passenger car segment.

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Initially locally produced in alliance partner Nissan’s Rosslyn plant, the newcomer was perfectly in tune with customer needs and market trends. With its introduction of the Sandero range, Renault promised an unparalleled package that would meet the need for affordable motoring and outright value in a tense economic climate.

Since its inception in 2009, the Renault Sandero has evolved dramatically with numerous quality, feature and styling enhancements. The introduction of the First Generation top-of-the-range Sandero Stepway in 2011 set a tone for the crossover concept in South Africa.

Sandero has continued to enjoy ever-increasing success recording sales of 52 200 units to date, a notable achievement considering the aggressive competition within AB Entry Hatch, with the likes of Polo Vivo, Ford Figo, Toyota Etios, Suzuki Ignis, Hyundai Grand i10, a segment which represents the lion’s share of the PC market (YTD being 26%).

The flagship Stepway model has racked up sales in excess of 21 400 cars since 2011.

And now, the new Renault Sandero Stepway Plus.

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To bring it into line with other Renault models, it gains the lighting signature that sees headlamps that incorporate the characteristic C-shape Daytime Running Lights (LED) plus C-shape, while rear lights and both the front and rear bumpers are a new design.

Stepway’s crossover styling remains contemporary and refined with features and fitments that include an integrated roof spoiler, higher ground clearance than the entry Sandero Expression, roof bars, front and rear skid plates, wheel arch mouldings and front fog lights.

The interior is surprisingly generously proprtioned, providing comfortable and roomy seating for five occupants plus luggage while the boot space (292 litres) can be further improved upon thanks to the split rear bench.

Sandero is the only car in its class to include EBA (coupled with anti-lock braking) and ESP + ASR as standard across the range.

In addition to the front seat belts with load limiters and ISOFIX fasteners for child and baby seats, Sandero is the only car in its category to offer a three-point safety belt at the central rear seat.

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By electronically modifying the engine’s response at the push of a button, Eco Mode enables drivers to automatically optimise fuel consumption and correct energy-wasting driving parameters to achieve greater economy. It adjusts engine operation within acceptable limits and can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by as much as 12% depending on driving styles and road conditions.

Powered by a three cylinder, 900 cc petrol Turbo engine, the Sandero has a maximum output of 66 kW at 5 250 r/min and peak torque of 135 Nm at 2 500 r/min of which 90% is available from 1 650 r/min.

This compact new generation Turbo power plant is standard across the Sandero line-up and highly efficient thanks to its lightweight 100% aluminium (HPDC) engine block, low inertia turbo, variable valve timing, piloted variable oil pump and lifetime engine chain.

To put it in context – the Sandero has the same power output as the Toyota Etios Cross 1.5 Xs but has a 3 NM advantage in torque and more of both than the Suzuki Ignis or Volkswagen Cross Up!.

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Mated with a manual 5-speed gearbox, the Sandero returns 5,4 l/100 km and produces 124 g/km of CO2.

The exterior of the Stepway Plus is distinguished by badging with specific two-tone 16-inch flexwheel covers and standard features include side air bags, front and rear power windows, power side mirrors, leather steering wheel and gear knob and rear park assist.

Cruise control and navigation are also standard while leather seats are an option.

In many ways it has more than its nearest rivals and, although more expensive (R11 900 on the Etios), does generate a perception of value for money.

Performance is not everything – and the Sandero will certainly not set the tarmac alight – and solid, reliable and inexpensive to run are active bywords considering the runaway price of fuel and crashing Rand.

Used in context, the Sandero is an easy-to-drive pleasing motoring experience – and that is reality, not perception.

 

Longer arms, shorter pockets

Every motorist, business or personal, has felt the impact of runaway fuel prices and the VAT increase – but just how much more are we paying?

The average costs of motoring have increased by approximately R940 a month, or 14% in the last year, and 31% since 2013 according to the latest data from WesBank.

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Despite prevailing interest rates remaining at low levels and favourable vehicle price inflation, the rising cost of petrol and an increase in VAT from 14% to 15% have resulted in higher overall costs when looking at the total monthly cost of motoring. Vehicle instalments and fuel spend remain the biggest components, accounting for 80% of monthly mobility spend.

These costs are reflected by the WesBank Mobility Calculator, a tool the bank uses to track and calculate historic motoring costs. The total mobility basket comprises all fees that are involved with vehicle ownership: a monthly instalment, the insurance premium, fuel and maintenance.

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Over time, these costs are updated to reflect prevalent inflation rates and fuel prices, with the sample vehicle price based on an average entry-level car that travels approximately 2 500 km a month.

“The past year has been a rollercoaster ride with drastic fuel price fluctuations making it difficult for consumers to keep track of monthly budgets,” says Ghana Msibi, Executive Head of Sales and Marketing, WesBank. “As a rule, we generally advise motorists to allow some breathing room in their budgets to help absorb these changing costs.”

WesBank’s data also indicates the change in vehicle price inflation for new vehicles has had a favourable effect on purchase prices. In July this year, WesBank’s average new vehicle financed deal was only 1,43% higher than the same time last year at R307 445, while the average used vehicle finance deal is 6,9% higher than that of last year at R216 309.

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“International oil prices and local exchange rates continue to play a direct role in the monthly budgets for motorists, in both fuel and vehicle prices,” says Msibi. “Although manufacturers are offering attractive marketing incentives to lure customers into dealerships, consumers still have to spend more on vehicles, fuel, insurance and maintenance than ever before.”

WesBank Mobility Basket % Split

Renault SA launches RS power

Renault South Africa has launched its raciest Mégane yet with the RS Cup manual and RS Lux EDC as well as adding an entry level Expression specification to the range.

The new Mégane RS was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017, and enhancements over the previous generation include a chassis equipped with the 4Control four-wheel steering system and four hydraulic bump stop shock absorbers, a new generation 1,8-litre turbo engine, delivering 205 kW and 390 Nm and technological features, such as RS Vision and Multi-Sense.

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Since the first generation of Mégane RS was released in 2003, greater performance and more technology has been a constant, offering improved driving pleasure without sacrificing the car’s versatility for everyday use.

“We are proud to have produced a car with improved cornering efficiency, largely due to the introduction of 4Control. The system improves both agility on tight corners and stability on fast bends, on the road and on the track. Drawing on the brand’s vast motorsport heritage, New Renault Mégane RS has been designed by people who are passionate about cars for people who love to drive. Its versatility also makes it perfectly suited to everyday use,” says Patrice Ratti, Managing Director, Renault Sport Cars.

“After having been involved in the development process during 2017, I am very proud to be the ambassador for New Renault Mégane RS.

“I had the opportunity to drive the car at various racetracks – Monaco, Montlhéry and Spa-Francorchamps – and I was impressed by the efficiency of the latest on-board technologies. The 4Control system is a dream come true for every driver looking for efficiency, since it improves both the agility and the stability of the car.

“It is a shame that four-wheel steering systems are banned in Formula 1!” says Nico Hülkenberg, Renault Sport Formula One Team driver and Renault Sport Cars ambassador.

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On the new Mégane RS the specific body sides mean the wings have been widened by 60 mm at the front and 45 mm at the back (in comparison to the Mégane GT). With the ride height lowered by 5 mm compared with Mégane GT and new 18-inch or 19-inch wheels, these new proportions make the car naturally more aggressive.

This design is boosted by:
• A wide air intake in the front bumper that incorporates the F1-style front blade, a hallmark of Renault Sport styling that reflects the brand’s involvement in Formula 1. The blade’s Gun Metal Grey satin-finish colour contrasts with the brilliant shine of the bodywork;
• A 3D honeycomb-pattern grill mesh reinterpreted by Renault Sport;
• Sculpted, sides inherited from the design of Renault Mégane are accentuated by the wider front and rear tracks;
• Wing-mounted air extractors, which optimise air flow through the wheel arches;
• A side sill establishes a link between the front and the rear, the black blade of which evokes the undertray of a Formula 1 car;
• A redesigned, narrower rear spoiler to improve aerodynamic performance. Whilst emphasising the width of the car, the vertical vents contribute to aerodynamic efficiency by providing improved lateral air flow;
• A rear bumper with a built-in diffuser and the iconic central exhaust that has come to epitomise Mégane RS, enhanced by a decorative trim;
• Improved efficiency of the diffuser compared with the previous generation. Whilst boosting the sporty feel of the design, this aerodynamic component helps to increase downforce;
• The Brembo brake callipers are painted red on the Cup chassis for instant recognition to enthusiasts.

Provided as standard on the Sport and Cup chassis, the four-wheel steering system is a world first in the compact sports car segment.

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The 4Control system delivers impressive cornering stability at higher speeds:
• At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, up to a maximum angle of 2,7 degrees. The 4Control system really comes into its own on twisty, winding roads, the 20% more direct steering delivering incisive handling. The settings chosen deliver better entry on corners and a ‘playful’ side that is unprecedented on a front-wheel drive car.
• At high speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, limited to a one-degree angle for the rear wheels. With the rear wheels perfectly aligned, the driver enjoys increased stability, and a relaxed yet sporty driving experience.
• The switchover point is set at 60 km/h. This is increased to 100 km/h in Race mode. As this mode is intended to be used when driving on racetracks, the higher cornering speeds encountered explain this specific setting. The 4Control system then helps drivers in positioning the car on the right line through corners, enabling them to get back on the accelerator as soon as possible.

Up front is an independent steering-axis front suspension and the front axle of New Mégane RS has been entirely redesigned in order to adapt the negative offset geometry to the width of the 19-inch wheels and increase rigidity.

The braking system has been improved, and the diameter of the front brake discs has been increased to 355 mm (+15 mm compared with the previous generation).

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The second brand new feature on the chassis of New Mégane RS is hidden in its suspension. Once again, Renault Sport has raised the bar by fitting the hydraulic compression stops to all four shock absorbers.

This rallying-inspired technology involves integrating a ‘shock absorber within the shock absorber’. As the end of travel is approached, a secondary piston dampens the movement of the wheel before the bump stop.

By dissipating the energy without transferring it to the wheel – as a traditional bump stop would – the compression hydraulic stops help avoid any rebound and pendulum effects, enabling optimum control of tyre-ground contact.

The RS comes with a brand new version of the 1,8-litre direct injection turbo engine, derived from synergies with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. This version develops a power output of 205 kW at 6 000 r/min and a peak torque of 390 Nm available from 2 400 r/min to 4 800 r/min.

In order to achieve the required performances, Renault Sport’s engine specialists designed a completely new cylinder head and the air intake was redesigned with the addition of a second air inlet and a new, larger filter element.

Inside, an R-Link 2 touchscreen tablet – vertical 8,7-inch screen – can be used to manage all of the vehicle’s features: activate ADAS, manage the MULTI-SENSE modes, RS Monitor, etc. An audio system developed in conjunction with engineers from Bose – featuring a central loudspeaker at the front, eight other speakers spread around the cabin and a subwoofer integrated in the luggage compartment – provides precise, clear and balanced sound.

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New Mégane’s Expression model is powered by Renault’s 84 kW 1,6-litre engine and mated with a five-speed manual gear box.

Two New Mégane Dynamique variants are now both powered by Renault’s Energy TCe130 97 kW (1,2-litre) engine and there are two transmission options: seven-speed dual-clutch (EDC) auto gear box or six-speed manual gear box.

RECOMMENDED RETAIL PRICING
– Mégane Expression 84kW R 274 900
– Mégane Dynamique Manual 97kW R 314 900
– Mégane Dynamique EDC 97kW R 344 900
– New Mégane RS 280 Cup 205kW Manual R 549 900
– New Mégane RS 280 EDC Lux 205kW EDC R 549 900

As with Renault’s entire product range, the Renault Megane models come standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, a 3-year/45 000 km service plan (with service intervals at 15 000 km intervals on the core range and 10 000 km on RS models) and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Rally to Read

Reading is something all too many of us take for granted yet, for hundreds of children in rural areas of South Africa, not being able to read (or write) is a fact of life.

It is not their fault. How far would your children have got in a school without educational materials: no reading books, exercise books, pens or pencils. No playground or play equipment, beyond paper crushed and taped together to resemble a ball. Perhaps no desks, running water or toilets.

Welcome to the reality of rural schooling for hundreds of thousands of South African children. But it does not have to be like this. A R35 000 sponsorship can make a lifetime of difference to hundreds of children. It can also give you an experience to remember.

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In the 20 years it has been operating, Rally To Read has found that a little goes a very long way in rural schools. That R35 000 will provide a rural primary school with two portable classroom libraries packed with carefully-selected books designed to teach children to read.

It will also fund a year’s additional teacher training for the school’s educators.

Each school is supported for three years — every year the books delivered are a little more advanced — so that by the time the programme finishes, a culture of reading and appropriate teaching is embedded.

Does it work? Independent studies show a rapid improvement in literacy skills at Rally To Read schools. Not convinced? Then come and see for yourself.

At no extra cost (besides fuel and alcoholic drinks), sponsors are invited to join Rally To Read when it delivers books to schools. Each year, hundreds of sponsors and companions join us on weekend rallies into far-flung corners of the country, where we meet the children we are helping, as well as their families and community members.

It is a big event in their lives. Sometimes hundreds of people turn out to greet the strangers offering their children a future. It can be emotional; tears are not uncommon.

There are four rallies in 2018. One, in Kwazulu-Natal, is already full. But there are still spaces in the others.

The Free State rally is on September 8-9 and will support primary schools around Reitz, Petrus Steyn and Tweeling. The Western Cape rally, on October 27-28, will take sponsors into the Winelands region around Robertson. Finally, the Eastern Cape rally will go to schools around Butterworth, in the former Transkei, on November 3-4. This is a new date; the rally was originally scheduled for September.

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Who are you likely to meet on these weekends?

Sponsors come from all kinds of industries, but transport and automotive companies have always been big supporters. Many of SA’s motor companies remain involved. In addition, Shell, Mercedes-Benz SA and the OneLogix/United Bulk group host the KZN, Eastern Cape and Free State rallies respectively, with Jonsson Workwear doing the same in the Western Cape. Hosts cover the costs of sponsors’ weekend food and accommodation.

Weekends start ridiculously early on Saturday morning when sponsors and guests (it may be colleagues or family) meet to load their vehicles with portable libraries and other educational materials. Convoys split later into small groups, each of which visits two schools. Once that’s done, everyone meets up again at nearby accommodation, usually a hotel, for drinks and dinner, where we share feedback and experiences.

On Sunday morning, participants have the opportunity to visit local places of interest, or they may head home after breakfast.

For more information about Rally To Read and details on how to become a sponsor, visit rallytoread.co.za

Road Review – Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a young boy was busy forging a lifelong love of cars by carving out roads on his parents’ dirt driveway where he could play with his Dinky toys. Now, many, many years later, he is again playing with a dinky – but this one is no toy.

This dinky is the new Suzuki Swift. And no, it is not some sort of performance fiend with an oversized engine stuffed into an undersized body. It is not a robot dragster and it is not a racecar disguised by road clothes.

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Rather, it is a bit like the mild-mannered Clark Kent without the need for a phone booth to change into something with a rather special power.

Sitting where it does in the small hatch segment of the market, the Swift is surrounded by a plethora of opposition product with the same, or more, in the way of fixtures and fittings, power or torque – but it does have something they do not.

This is the car people will want to name; to imbue with a human persona, to talk to. . .and about.

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I do not know the reason why (and, sometimes ours is not to) the Suzuki has this persona about it – and the Swift is not the only one as the Ignis prompts the same infusion of feeling it is a living entity as opposed to a bunch of nuts, bolts, sheet metal, plastic and an engine.

Suzuki will tell you the designers modelled the shape on a racing helmet and, with a bit of imagination the similarity can be seen. For this latest version, the overall length was shortened by 10 mm and the wheelbase and width adjusted to give it a better stance on the road.

For the 2018 model, Suzuki’s designers added new styling elements such as rear door handles in the C-pillar.

The Swift has a new grille with large Suzuki badge and a wide and narrow secondary grille. These elements visually lift the height of the nose, while retaining aerodynamic efficiency.

At the rear, the luggage door has an integrated bulge that rounds off the shoulder line, while an additional high-level LED stop lamp is integrated into the discreet roof-spoiler. The rear brake lights also incorporate LED technology.

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From the outside, the high-spec GL-model – my test version – can be distinguished by its wheel cover design, colour-coded side mirrors with integrated turn signals and the addition of front fog lights.

The new dimensions allowed the designers to increase interior space, especially for rear passengers who get 23 mm of additional head room, while front occupants benefit the most from the additional body width with 10 mm extra shoulder room.

All versions of the new Suzuki Swift are equipped with air-conditioning, front and rear power windows, power steering and remote central locking. All models also have a tilt-adjustable steering column, a detailed information display that includes information such as fuel consumption and range, and a security alarm and immobiliser.

On the GL-models, Suzuki adds an audio system with Bluetooth-connectivity and USB socket, steering wheel controls for the audio system and electrically adjustable side view mirrors.

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All versions of the new Swift have ample storage spaces inside the cabin, including two front and one rear cup holder, side door pockets, a console tray box, glove box with lid and a passenger seat pocket. The rear doors have additional bottle holders.

The Swift is powered by a K12M four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 61 kW at 6 000 r/min and 113 Nm at 4 200 r/min and is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox or an Automated Manual Gearbox (AMT) with the same number of gears – ours being the manual option.

Safety kit includes anti-lock brakes with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchors and two air bags.

All pretty much what one has come to expect from cars in this category these days, so where does the Suzuki differ?

Accepting people are different heights, have a wide spread of taste differences in terms of aesthetics and the like, the Suzuki just cuts across all of those by being suitably adaptable in the seating department to suit nearly all shapes and sizes and – without being bland – broadly acceptable in the sight and sense departments.

In all respects, the Swift is simply a ‘together’ car and this makes the driving experience all the better for it because, despite the limitations on power from the sewing machine engine, perambulation is a pleasant pastime.

It actually never really feels underpowered or that it needs to play second fiddle to the swankier stuff in the traffic. The Swift will hold its own – or certainly try very hard to – against the passing throng and will barrel along with enough velocity to become wallet challenging if you are not careful.

The revised dimensions give it a solid feel on the road, it turns on a 5c piece and has no objections to being force-fed into corners when the urge to play strikes. However, this is a city car and needs to be understood in that role.

Suzuki’s new HEARTECT platform received much attention when the Suzuki Swift was named one of the 2018 Urban World Car of the Year finalists.

The new platform is designed to use high-tensile and ultra-high tensile steel and has fewer joints than a traditional monocoque chassis. This creates a smooth shape and very stiff construction that helps to better dissipate energy in a crash, thus preserving the integrity of the cabin and keeping the occupants safe.

Moreover, the new rigid platform also benefits the new Swift’s driving dynamics, with further improved tracking and steering feel.

Suzuki has redesigned the MacPherson front suspension to best utilise the stiff platform and has added a variable ratio steering rack for more direct and sharper handling. The Swift’s steering set-up gives it a tight 4,8 m turning radius.

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Suzuki’s engineers have also shortened the front stabiliser bars, redesigned the rear trailing arms and added a new cross-member to the rear suspension to make the driving experience even sportier.

The new HEARTECT platform integrates with Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT), which applies the same design philosophy and engineering principles by using very high-tensile steel to lighten the body weight, while improving crash safety.

It is not positioned or set up to be a hot hatch challenger. Accept its limitations and the Swift will surprise and delight, which made it so much harder when I had to give Percival back to its rightful owners.

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Service with a smile

There is some service with a smile in the South African auto industry with Volkswagen and Audi dominating the top positions in the latest automotive customer care survey conducted by Ipsos in South Africa.

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This research, based on interviews with more than 20 000 customers in 2017, covered both purchasing and servicing experiences.

The sample of participating brands in the latest survey represented more than three out of every four new cars and light commercial vehicles sold through dealership channels in South Africa in 2017, as well as the consistency of results from year to year supports the credibility of the research as a valuable tool with which to measure customer service in the automotive market in South Africa.

The Volkswagen Group continues to fight the ongoing backwash of its 2015 so-called Dieselgate scandal and a host of vehicle recalls worldwide, but it seems its image remains strong if one looks at its dominance in terms of global vehicle sales and customer loyalty.

The excellent ratings by customers in both the purchasing and servicing aspects of vehicle ownership here in SA are evidence of this good relationship between these brands, their owners and the franchised dealers.

The Volkswagen and Audi brands have been in leadership positions in the purchasing experience in these annual Ipsos surveys for a number of years. In the latest survey Audi and Volkswagen both once again attained gold awards for the customer purchasing experience with Volkswagen also collecting gold in the LCV sales category.

Audi achieved the gold standard in the servicing experience for the past four years too, while Volkswagen has had a gold rating for both passenger car and LCV servicing for the past two years.

Nissan has made very positive strides in both its purchasing and servicing operations at its dealers and collected gold awards in both categories among local passenger car and light commercial vehicle buyers.

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Audi, Nissan, and Volkswagen were the only brands which received gold awards for passenger car purchasing, with several brands – Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Toyota, and Volvo – collecting silver, with Ford, Honda and Renault rating bronze in this category of the survey.

Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen were the only three gold award winners in terms of the light commercial purchasing experience, with Chevrolet, Ford and Isuzu collecting silver.

Five brands – Audi, Lexus, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen – earned gold awards for the passenger car servicing experience, with another five – Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Renault, and Volvo – rating silver. Honda was the sole recipient of a bronze award in this category.

Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen all earned gold awards for the light commercial vehicle servicing experience, with Chevrolet rating silver and Ford bronze.

“The consistency of good service that some brands deliver across their dealer network to so many customers over time is highly commendable as consistency is one of the most important factors in building a powerful brand reputation,” says Patrick Busschau, Business Unit Director at Ipsos.

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“Volkswagen and Audi brands continue to maintain particularly high levels of customer satisfaction in terms of both the buying and servicing of new passenger vehicles, year after year, despite facing very tough opposition in the local market.”

“What is also pleasing to note is a number of other brands are also upping their game to challenge for the Gold medal positions as well. Nissan is now seeing the fruits of their labours in all categories while Toyota can also see reward for their consistent effort in the Passenger Car Servicing and both Sales and Servicing for Light Commercials.”

“These latest results underline the fact the custodians of these brands are certainly not sitting back and resting on their laurels but rather use the customer feedback from our ongoing surveys as well as other sources to improve areas of weakness.”