Road Review – Opel Grandland X 1.6T Enjoy A/T

Opel, which celebrates 120 years of automobile manufacture next year, has had a long history of producing cars that either innovate in their category or are out left-field of everyone else at the time and, in the latter case, one just has to remember the Opel Manta or the 2001 Zafira OPC that was then the fastest production-model van in Europe.

South Africans will remember the track antics on the Opel ‘Superboss’ Kadetts in the hands of Grant McCleery and Michael Briggs or the fact the brand has won the South African Car of the Year title four times – Monza 160 Gsi (1991), Kadett 140 (1994), Astra 160S (1995) and Astra (2017).

When General Motors first left the country, the Opel brand remained under the guidance of Delta Motor Corporation and when GM again pulled up stakes, it is the Opel brand that remains.

This longevity in this specific situation is a mirror of the company as a whole, formed by Adam Opel January 21, 1862 in Rüsselsheim to manufacture sewing machines. By entering the booming business of bicycle manufacture, Opel secures a second foothold for his company. The Opel sons were enthusiastic cyclists, winning several hundred races on Opel bicycles in the years up to 1898. In less than 40 years, Opel became the world’s largest bicycle producer.

Adam Opel died in 1895 at the age of 58. His wife Sophie assumed responsibility for running the business, with the support of her sons and in 1899 Opel Patent Motor Car, System Lutzmann was the name given to the first Opel automobile. It marked the beginning of production in Rüsselsheim, and formed the basis for building the first utility vehicles.

Within the year, the company made its international motor sport début and in 1901 Heinrich von Opel won the Königsstuhl hill climb near Heidelberg in an Opel Lutzmann – and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Like many other automakers, Opel did go through a period where it appeared to have lost is vim and vigour, producing bland and boring cars until it re-invented itself with the new Astra and started that move to left of field again with the Mokka.

The Grandland X, the third member of the ‘X’ family was launched in Frankfurt in 2017 to take on the booming ‘C’ segment of the SUV market that holds around 10% of the total share of vehicles sales today.

At 4477 millimeters long, 1 844 millimeters wide and 1 636 millimeters high, the Opel Grandland X certainly looks the part in a modern design style and is based on the PSA EMP2 platform, which refers to the collaboration with Peugeot, making it a 3008 underneath.

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In the front the Opel Blitz is flanked by chrome winglets that flow outwards to the slim, double-wing LED headlamps, while the hood features the signature Opel crease – an expression of the Opel design philosophy ‘Sculptural Artistry meets German Precision’.

The rear view of the Grandland X shows shows the wide stance, silver underride protection with integrated tailpipes on the left and right and above that protective cladding and slim LED taillights.

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Inside, the center stack has three horizontal rows of controls for access to infotainment, climate control and chassis functions. The interior surfaces feature high-class haptics, giving the driver and passengers a feeling of well-being and comfort in all seats.

Its long wheelbase of 2,68 m means it SUV has plenty of space for up to five people and the luggage compartment, with a load volume from 514 litres to a maximum of 1 652 litres. FlexFold seats disappear with a one hand movement and the 40:60 split ratio lets the user adapt the seating to their needs.

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The Grandland X has a 1,6-litre turbo petrol engine producing 121 kW and 240 Nm, mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

Standard fare includes 360° surround vision via a camera in the front and one in the back, LED headlamps with Adaptive Forward Lighting and 30% brighter vision than with conventional headlamps, heated and ventilated ergonomic AGR front seats that adjust electrically in up to 16 ways, hands-free autonomous parking and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible Radio R 4.0 IntelliLink infotainment system with an eight-inch colour touchscreen or voice control.

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It also offers Traffic Sign Recognition, Headlamp High-Beam Assist – Auto Control and Lane Departure Warning, features that are not always standard in this segment.

In terms of safety, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and a bundle of air-bags help to limit untoward events and keep the passengers safe.

On the road it is a smooth performer but, do not be fooled by the Turbo badging. It is not a road racer and the gearing is quite lazy, being tuned more for economy than speed and this, coupled with a bit of lag from the turbo means sedate cruising is the default mode.

The suspension is also wired towards comfort so the Grandland will tend to wallow a bit when forced into a corner – although it must be said, that aside, it remains comfortably neutral under pressure and will head towards where it is pointed after some initial understeer.

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Definitely a long-haul highway cruiser – a fact borne out by a fully-laden test session where it happily just muched away at the miles – the highway fuel data showing 7,1 l/100 km and our overall result in all road conditions 8,6 l/100 km.

The Opel comes standard with a 5-year/90 000 km Service Plan and a 5-year/120 000 km Warranty.

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Range topper added to X-Class

Earlier this year Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) took the bold step of introducing a bakkie into its local portfolio. The X-Class was a highly anticipated introduction from the premium vehicle manufacturer.

This week, MBSA expanded the X-Class family by adding a range-leading X350d to the line-up. We spent a few hours driving around the Western Cape in the newcomer.

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Exterieur X 350 d 4MATIC

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Exterieur X 350 d 4MATIC

We are all, probably, already familiar with the X-Class X250d models. These all feature 2,3-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. There are two power outputs: 120 and 140 kW. You can choose between automatic and manual gearbox options.

The X350d boasts a turbo-charged, 3,0-litre V6 diesel engine. Adding two cylinders means more power and torque. Headline figures are 190 kW of power peaking at 3 400 r/min and a prodigious 550 Nm of torque from 1 400 r/min – 3 200 r/min.

A seven-speed automatic transmission is responsible for transferring power to the wheels. Power is permanently delivered to all four wheels via Mercedes’ 4Matic drivetrain. All V6 models feature a low range transfer case, with off-road specific calibration for the stability programme.

From an aesthetic and features point of view, the X350d does not differ markedly from its lesser-powered siblings. Were it not for the badges, this model would not be easy to differentiate from the X250d.

Mercedes-Benz komplettiert sein Pickup-Modellprogramm: Die X-Klasse mit V6-Motor und permanentem Allradantrieb – der Performance-Pickup für den sportlichen Lifestyle

Mercedes-Benz completes its pickup model range: The X-Class with V6 engine and permane

Inside, much the same can be said. The trim levels are similar to the X250d. This model is also available in Progressive and Power specifications; the latter is a bit of a misnomer as it does not boast any additional power.

The Progressive variant includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air vents in electroplated silver chrome, leather-lined steering wheel and Mercedes Audio 20 eight-speaker hi-fi all as standard.

The Power version includes a faux bash plate in the front bumper, a chrome-plated rear bumper, 18-inch alloys, LED headlamps, electrically adjustable seats, and multifunction touchpad infotainment interface.

Mercedes-Benz komplettiert sein Pickup-Modellprogramm: Die X-Klasse mit V6-Motor und permanentem Allradantrieb – der Performance-Pickup für den sportlichen Lifestyle

Mercedes-Benz completes its pickup model range: The X-Class with V6 engine and permane

Mercedes-Benz laid out a brilliant array of driving experiences for us at the local launch event. We tackled bits of the urban grind, plenty of motorway cruising, farmland B-roads, mountain passes and even a spot of off-roading thrown in for good measure.

The off-roading section, which took place early in the day, cast the V6 X-Class in a great light. With plenty of low-down torque, a rear diff’ lock and the low-range set of gears, the X350d made light work of any obstacle we put in its way.

From, side slopes to axle-twisters to skywards-facing inclines the X-Class hardly broke a sweat. We wonder if any owners will ever do the same, but it’s good to know that this near million-buck bakkie can venture far off the beaten path.

Later in the day we traversed the winelands region. On the open road the X350d is refined and well isolated from exterior noise, including its own engine. On this particularly windy Cape day the only intrusion we experienced was a bit of wind whistle around the large side mirrors housings.

As expected, there is plenty of overtaking grunt from the force-fed diesel motor. We could dispatch with slower traffic easily and safely. While the V6 X-Class does have paddle shifters on the steering wheel to select gears, the transmission does a good job on its own and we seldom found need to second guess its gear choice.

On a rough piece of mountain pass my co-driver did note that there seemed to be high levels of steering kick-back over mid-corner bumps, though we were travelling a tad quick at the time.

Mercedes-Benz komplettiert sein Pickup-Modellprogramm: Die X-Klasse mit V6-Motor und permanentem Allradantrieb – der Performance-Pickup für den sportlichen Lifestyle

Mercedes-Benz completes its pickup model range: The X-Class with V6 engine and permane

While we’d like to report that it feels car-like in execution, the reality is that a body-on-frame vehicle cannot match a unibody in terms of comfort. The ever-present discord between chassis and body, as experienced in all bakkies, is present here, too.

Priced at R904 188 for the Progressive and R973 188 for the Power, these two are the most expensive new bakkies on sale in South Africa today. The more expensive version trounces the nearest competitor, VW’s Amarok V6 by nearly R170 000, not chump change.

With that in mind, we do not think the price will be a deterrent for those who must have a Mercedes-Benz bakkie. The bragging rights of that V6 badge and Three-Pointed star will be too much for many to resist and there will be X350ds on our road in number that will surprise many people.

Report: Sudhir ‘Banzai’ Matai

Major upgrades for Santa Fe

Hot on the heels of the launch of the updated Hyundai Tucson, the company has released the fourth-generation Santa Fe in South Africa that features a new all-wheel drive system and eight-speed gearbox along with upgraded tech inside the cabin.

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This “ambassador for the brand’s new design language”, as Hyundai Motor Group’s new design chief Luc Donckerwolke refers to the new Santa Fe, was first launched in 2001 and 5 331 units have been sold in South Africa since then.

The new-generation Santa Fe is introduced in South Africa in three derivatives:
• Santa Fe R 2.2 Premium automatic (with front-wheel drive);
• Santa Fe R 2.2 Executive automatic (with front-wheel drive); and
• Santa Fe R 2.2 Elite automatic (with HTRAC all-wheel drive).

The new-generation Santa Fe features an advanced four-wheel drive system in the Elite derivative with an enhanced torque application depending on wheel grip and the speed of vehicle, called HTRAC. Hyundai’s next generation all-wheel-drive technology controls the torque distribution and braking power of the front and rear wheels variably. It supports drivers in all kinds of driving situations, whether on slippery roads or in regular road conditions and enhances stability in cornering.

The power for the new Santa Fe’s drivetrain comes from the 2,2-litre CRDi engine that delivers 142 kW maximum power and 440 Nm maximum torque. Linked to the newly developed 8-speed automatic gearbox, which is engineered with a transversal layout, it delivers enhanced fuel efficiency of 3% to 4%.

The new gearbox layout offers a more compact set-up and an increased gear span for enhanced performance and reduced fuel consumption. The gear ratio is widened by 18,3 %, resulting in an improved engine response during start and acceleration.

The fourth-generation Santa Fe offers one of the best-in-class safety packages and industry-first safety features. The innovative Rear Occupant Alert (in the Elite derivative) monitors the rear seats to detect passengers and alerts the driver when leaving the car. The Elite also comes with an Electronic Child Safety Lock.

The Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist ¬– a standard feature in the Executive and Elite derivatives – is a Hyundai first. When reversing out of areas with low visibility, the system not only warns the driver if vehicles approach from the rear side – it also applies the brakes automatically. The Executive and Elite also boasts a Blind Spot Detection system.

The Safety Exit Assist, also standard in the Executive and Elite derivatives, prevents accidents when vehicles approach from behind by temporarily locking the doors before being opened, so that passengers will exit the car safely.

All derivatives have anti-Lock Braking, ESP (Electronic Stability Program), DBC (Downhill Brake Control) and HAC (Hill start Assist Control).

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The new-generation Santa Fe benefits from superior rigidity through the application of high strength steel, high impact energy absorption and minimised distortion in order to protect passengers in the event of a collision.

Thanks to hot stamping being applied over an enlarged area along with larger weld diameters, the car’s overall weight is reduced while providing top-level crashworthiness. The Santa Fe features more high-strength steel than any other Hyundai vehicle with 57% – that is 15% above the previous model.

Around the interior of the Santa Fe a total of six air bags are installed (two front ai rbags, two side air bags and two curtain air bags from first to second row protecting both driver and passengers).

The 7-inch infotainment system in the Santa Fe – which is a standard feature in all three derivatives – integrates all media and connectivity features, allowing drivers to always stay tuned to the traffic ahead.

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The Display Audio offers customers accessible connectivity with the seven-inch high-resolution colour LCD touchscreen to connect their smartphones via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Passengers can also use the navigation applications of their smartphone, to be displayed on the touch screen. The system recognises the passenger’s voice allowing them to dictate messages or to make phone calls. The Display Audio also features an integrated rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines.
For further connection of customer’s devices, the Santa Fe comes standard with a USB port and an AUX jack.

The front introduces the Cascading Grille design that is complemented by the Composite Light – a design comprising LED Daytime Running Lights positioned on top of the headlights. The Elite and Executive have full LED headlights, while the Premium derivative is equipped with halogen lights. The Elite’s headlights have dynamic bending into a corner as an added feature.

The exterior dimensions make the new Santa Fe appear even more prominent. With a length of 4 770 mm, a width of 1 890 mm and a longer wheelbase of 2 765 mm, the Santa Fe has an even stronger stance on the road and provides more comfort for its passengers.

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The new Santa Fe increases comfort on short and long trips for passengers in the second and third row – even for adults. In the second row, leg room is increased by 38 mm and the seat is 18 mm higher. The new one-touch walk into the third row eases passenger access to these seats. Headroom in the third row has been improved by 22 mm.

Standard luggage capacity is increased by 31 litres to 547 litres behind the second row of seats, and can be extended to 1 625 litres with both the third and second row of seats folded down.

Pricing
The prices of the new Santa Fe range are:
• Santa Fe R 2.2 Premium automatic – R599 900
• Santa Fe R 2.2 Executive automatic – R659 900
• Santa Fe R 2.2 Elite automatic – R749 900.

All prices include Hyundai Automotive SA’s 7-year/200 000 km manufacturer’s warranty (consisting of the standard 5-year/150 000 km warranty plus the additional 2-year/50 000 km drivetrain warranty extension).

An additional part of the package is a 5-year/90 000 km service plan, and roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000 km.

Top contenders named

The race is now on for the coveted title of South African Car of the Year with 12 finalists having been whittled out of a starting list of more than 20.

The list comprises vehicles from Italy, Japan, Korea, Germany, France and Sweden and, in keeping with the diverse South African automotive landscape, it covers almost every motoring genre.

George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO and sponsor for the event, believes it is fitting to see the spread of vehicle categories contained within the list of finalists.

“South African motorists have access to vehicles from all over the world and to every conceivable type. This is reflected in the list of finalists,” he says.

“The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists believes each and every finalist is a contender worthy of wearing the 2019 AutoTrader SA Car of the Year crown.

“The judges will have their work cut out for them when it comes to evaluating the finalists because they represent the crème de la crème of the crop, but we believe we have a jury that has vast experience in judging our competition.

“Colin Windell and Stuart Johnston are current jurors who were part of the Jury at the very first historic Car Of The Year Competition 33 years ago.”

Although the cars and price categories vary considerably, it must be emphasised the finalists are not judged against each other. Rather, each Juror has extensive data available to them allowing direct comparison of the competing vehicle against its peers in its own market niche.

As anticipated, voting revealed such close scores the SAGMJ increased the Finalists from 10 vehicles to 12 worthy contenders. They are, in alphabetical order:

1. Alfa Romeo Stelvio
2. Honda Civic Type R
3. Hyundai Kona
4. Lexus ES
5. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
6. Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
7. Nissan Micra
8. Porsche Cayenne
9. Renault Duster
10. Suzuki Jimny
11. Suzuki Swift
12. Volvo XC40

The 25 Jurors will be given the opportunity to drive all the finalist vehicles over the next three months under normal driving conditions experienced by the average consumer. The formal evaluation days that will be held in Gauteng in March 2019 will allow judges the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the vehicles.

At these evaluation days – the most critical of which will be the scheduled procedures to be held at Kyalami – the COTY Jury will assess the cars independently, with routes and modules designed to test the vehicles on specific criteria. The Jury will also have access to performance test data, comparative pricing and specification data, as well as comparative parts pricing data.

 

Kia tweaks Sportage range

Kia has tweaked its Sportage range with nine derivatives now on offer, although the SX AWD and GT Line specification grades are discontinued.

Kia Motors has retained the Ignite specification grade as entry point into the Sportage range, but have enhanced the overall grade to include air-conditioning (manual), automatic headlamp control (incorporating ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Escort’ lighting), power side mirrors with integrated indicator lamps, a centre console armrest with integrated storage box, Bluetooth connectivity, a radio with six speakers, electrically operated windows front and rear, rear park distance control and high performance dampers.

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Ignite models feature fabric upholstery, as well as a new leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote controls for audio, telephony and cruise control, and a new leather-wrapped gearshift. Newly designed 16-inch alloy wheels with 215/70 R16 rubber complete the picture, along with standard LED Daytime Running Lights.

Building on the Ignite specification, the revised Ignite Plus range also includes auto-folding side mirrors and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror on the inside, gaining notably on its exterior appeal with the addition of front fog lamps and 17-inch wheels shod with 225/60 R17 tyres.

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The Sportage EX range makes further progress, with exterior enhancements including new 17-inch wheels shod with 225/60 R17 tyres. EX models also gain front parking sensors, auto rain-sensing wipers and an Electric Parking Brake with Auto Hold function.

Its Bluetooth system incorporates Voice Recognition, and the air-conditioning system is upgraded from manual to automatic. Seats are upgraded to leather upholstery, and gain electric adjustment functionality (including adjustable lumbar support).

Notably, the infotainment system is upgraded to include a 7-inch colour touchscreen that incorporates not only the reverse camera display, but also Apple CarPlay (Sportage is Android Auto ready).

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Included in the EX grade is a singular all-wheel drive model, which also includes an upgrade to sporty 19-inch wheels on 245/45 R19 tyres.

The new Sportage range-topper, the Sportage EX Plus, builds on the EX specification grade, and features the same sporty 19-inch wheels as the EX AWD model, as well as a panoramic sunroof. Rear passengers now have access to a USB port, while driver and front passenger benefit from an upgrade to an 8-inch colour touchscreen that incorporates satellite navigation, the reverse camera display, full Apple CarPlay functionality (Sportage is Android Auto ready), as well as a wireless smartphone charger.

The Sportage made its first appearance at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show, and a new version was introduced in 2004 and, after seven years of production, recorded sales of 1 223 776 units globally.

The global award-winning third generation Sportage, which debuted in 2010, racked up a million sales in only four years, reaching 2-million cumulative sales during its sixth year in production.

“Since 1993, the Sportage has become a benchmark car in the compact SUV segment, and is not only Kia’s most popular model globally, but also one of the most successful models in the brand’s South African line-up,” says Gary Scott, CEO, Kia Motors South Africa. “The arrival of the enhanced Sportage is the culmination of our 20th anniversary celebrations in South Africa, and we are excited to usher in the next 20 years with a car that ticks every box.”

Sportage is now even more visible thanks to a slight nip-and-tuck to its exterior for the 2019 model year. At the front, Sportage gets a slightly revised, more prominent ‘tiger nose’ grille. A new bumper design gives Sportage a stronger visage, with a more prominent housing for the front fog lamps.

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At the rear, Sportage also gains a revised bumper and, while the rear taillights retain their original shape, now feature a new lighting signature.

“While Sportage has always delivered on stylish looks, abundant space for modern families and a raft of specification, we embraced the opportunity to critically assess the model in a segment that is growing increasingly competitive,” says Stephen Crosse, Sales Director, Kia Motors South Africa. “We are confident that the revised range, including new engines and transmissions, again places Sportage front and centre in the medium SUV segment.”

Proving to be the most popular choices over the past two years, Kia has retained both its familiar 2,0-litre Multi-point Injection (MPI) and 2,0-litre CRDI (Common Rail Diesel Injection) engines for use in the Sportage, discontinuing both the 2.4 GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) and 1.6 T-GDI (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection) engines found in the previous SX AWD and GT Line models.

“Careful analysis of the Sportage range’s most popular models in conjunction with extensive feedback from our customers proved that what is most important in an SUV is a durable and efficient powertrain,” comments Crosse. “Kia’s familiar 2,0-litre engines, in both petrol and diesel, have proven themselves on both of these factors and remain the most popular choices in the range.”

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New to the range, however, is the 1,6-litre GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine, utilised exclusively in the Sportage Ignite. This new-generation 1,591 cc ‘Gamma’ engine produces 97 kW of power, with 161 Nm of torque available from 4 850 r/min.

The 2,0-litre ‘Nu’ MPI engine delivers 115 kW of power and 196 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min.

The 2.0 CRDI engine produces 131 kW of power, and 400 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 2 750 r/min. As part of the Sportage’s mid-life enhancement, the engine is now mated exclusively to Kia’s new eight-speed automatic transmission in both the Ignite Plus, EX and EX Plus specification grades.

The Sportage range features a full complement of safety and driver assistance systems, including anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), six air bags and ISOFIX child seat anchors as standard. Vehicle safety is ensured through the standard inclusion of central locking, as well as an alarm, immobiliser and Data Dot.

Drivers will also benefit from Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill-start Assist (HAC), and Downhill Brake Control (DBC). All models feature Park Distance Control at the rear, while higher specification EX and EX Plus models also gain front parking sensors and a reverse camera, displayed on the 7- or 8-inch colour touchscreen.

All Sportage models ship as standard with Kia’s industry-leading unlimited kilometre, five-year warranty, as well as a standard 5-year/90 000km service plan and 5 years of roadside assistance.

“One of the pioneers in the SUV era, Sportage has been one of Kia’s most popular models in South Africa for close to a decade,” says David Sieff, Marketing Director, Kia Motors South Africa. “The enhanced Sportage range builds on years of success and brings with it even more refinement, more value, and more functionality.”

Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI Ignite (6-Speed Auto) R379,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite Plus (6-Speed Manual) R389,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite Plus (6-Speed Auto) R403,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDI Ignite Plus (8-Speed Auto) R453,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 EX (6-Speed Auto) R459,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDI EX (8-Speed Auto) R509,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDI EX AWD (8-Speed Auto) R536,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 EX Plus (6-Speed Auto) R499,995
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDI EX Plus (8-Speed Auto) R549,995

Ford Kuga revised

Ford has canned its Titanium specification Kuga in favour of revised and sportier ST-Line that come with a choice of 2,0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine of the 2,0-litre TDCi.

The Kuga range also gains an all-new offering in the form of 88 kW 1.5 TDCi turbo-diesel models, available in Ambiente and Trend specification levels matched to a six-speed manual gearbox.

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“The new Ford Kuga is an exceptional offering in the highly competitive SUV segment, and we’ve now made it even more appealing to buyers across the spectrum,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager, Marketing at FMCSA. “At the pinnacle of the range, the stunning new ST-Line gives the Kuga the eye-catching design and dynamic flair to match the superb performance of the 2,0-litre petrol and diesel models.

“At the same time, the introduction of the extremely efficient yet lively 1,5-litre TDCi engine ensures we fulfil the requirements of customers that prioritise low fuel consumption and budget-friendly running costs.”

The Kuga ST-Line stands out from the rest of the range thanks to the high-gloss Ebony Black finish for the front grille, along with a striking honeycomb design for the lower portion of the grille and matching sports mesh finish on the fog lamp bezels.

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Extensive colour coding for the integrated body kit incorporates the front skid plate, side skirts, mirrors, door handles, rear roof spoiler and wheel arches, set against contrasting elements such as the high-gloss Ebony Black rear diffuser, black roof rails, tinted front and rear lights, as well as privacy glass for the rear windows.

A black beltline beneath the windows and ST-Line exterior badging on the front fenders complement a choice of 18-inch high-gloss black alloy wheels with a bright machined surface, or optional 19-inch versions in Ebony Black.

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The cabin gains sport seats trimmed in partial leather, picked out with contrasting stitching for the seats, steering wheel and gear lever gaiter. A dark headliner and pillar trims, combined with a special two-layer metallic-effect Deep Space paint on the centre console, alloy pedals and scuff plates incorporate the ST-Line logo.

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Chassis enhancementsinclude optimised suspension and steering. The revised set-up benefits from thicker anti-roll bars, a 10mm lower ride height for reduced body roll and sharper responses, as well as the fitment of stiffer suspension bushes. Spring and damper rates have also been fine-tuned to deliver unparalleled comfort and performance.

Furthermore, the Kuga’s steering system employs a revised calibration to deliver a tighter, more responsive and sporty feel.

As before, a selection of option packs is available with the range-topping models. The Driver Assistance Pack for the ST-Line adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Active Park Assist, Blind Spot Information System and Lane Keeping Aid.

The Styling Pack includes the power opening panoramic roof, 19-inch alloy wheels and a larger single-wing rear spoiler that gives the Kuga an even more spirited appearance. High Intensity Discharge (HID) Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights can also be specified on ST-Line models.

Offering low fuel consumption and running costs, the 1,5-litre unit shares the advanced diesel technologies with the existing 2.0 TDCi engine, including a lean NOX trap for cleaner exhaust emissions, components with a special diamond-like coating that reduces friction, and a sophisticated Variable Nozzle turbo-charger for enhanced engine breathing. Power is rated at 88 kW along with a peak torque output of 270 Nm.

Two 1.5 TDCi models have been introduced to the line-up, comprising the Ambiente and Trend series, both of which employ front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission.

The 2.0 TDCi, which produces 132 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque, is now exclusive to the new ST-Line series, combined with Ford’s Intelligent All Wheel Drive system and six-speed PowerShift Automatic gearbox.

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The 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol models are availableonly in FWD guise, starting off with the Ambiente that uses a six-speed manual transmission and delivers 110 kW and 240 Nm. Buyers can also opt for the six-speed torque converter automatic with 132 kW on tap, available in Ambiente or the more luxurious Trend specification.

The most powerful offering is the 2.0 EcoBoost ST-Line, which delivers 177 kW and 340 Nm of torque. Power is transmitted to the AWD system via a smooth-shifting six-speed torque converter automatic transmission.

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 6-year/90 00 0km service plan is included, with 15 000 km service intervals.

WRX – up close and personal

Tickets for the Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa at Killarney Raceway in Cape Town on the November 24/25 are rapidly selling out – but, for those who cannot get tickets or make it to the circuit there is a chance to get up close and personal.

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The RX Supercars will be making a quick stop at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on Thursday, November 22. They will drive in convoy from the back of the Table Bay Hotel and park in the Amphitheatre near the Big Wheel where fans can get a look at the cars and interact directly with the drivers.

It all gets going at 11:00, and it is going to be a sight to behold: metal glistening in the warm summer sun, engines roaring through the streets, rubber burning, tyres screeching.

Petter Solberg will be there, as well as French legend Sebastien Loeb, Mattias Ekstrom, Kevin and Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, our very own Ashley Haigh-Smith to mention a few.

“We see this as the precursor to a fantastically fast weekend,” says Claire Cobbledick, General Manger of Gumtree. “The parade will contain all the energy, excitement and power that is going to set the track alight on Saturday and Sunday and, against the majestic natural backdrop that is Cape Town, it is not to be missed. We urge all fans to be there.”

The good news does not stop – and local racer, Ashley Haig-Smith has been confirmed as an entry in the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires, joining 15 other drivers for its 2018 season finale in Cape Town.

Ashley Haig-Smith 2

Although best known for his rallying exploits, having competed in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship – the only South African driver to have done so – and made history as the youngest-ever South African S1600 Champion, Haigh-Smith does have some rallycross experience under his belt. He made his debut in the discipline in last season’s inaugural World RX of South Africa at Killarney International Raceway with Olsbergs MSE.

Twelve months on, the 26-year-old – a Capetonian born-and-bred – is set to return to the fray, but this time in RX2, World RX’s official feeder series. Having caught the rallycross bug, he has struck a deal with Finnish outfit SET Promotion to take the place of Simon Syversen, who has vacated his seat in order to focus his preparations on 2019.

“I can’t wait to get back out on-track for the RX2 season finale in Cape Town,” says Haigh-Smith. “Last year’s event was epic, and it was a real honour to be a part of it. I’m really looking forward to representing South African motorsport and going head-to-head with the current cream of the RX2 crop – there are some extremely talented drivers in the field so it will certainly be a tough challenge, but I love a challenge!

“I need to thank Andreas Eriksson from Olsbergs MSE for the support he has shown me and especially Ian Davies for putting me in contact with Jussi Pinomäki from SET Promotion, who I am looking forward to working with next weekend. I’m passionate about proving that South African drivers can truly excel on the international stage, so hopefully I can go out there and really give the home fans something to cheer about!”

“It’s fantastic to have Ashley joining SET for the final round of RX2 in South Africa,” echoed SET Promotion Team Principal, Pinomäki. “The opportunity for him to drive with us came about because Simon has decided to skip the event as he focusses on his programme for 2019.

“The fact that Ashley has already raced at Killarney in World RX will help him to get up-to-speed more quickly than if everything was new to him. Our two regular RX2 drivers Sami-Matti Trogen and Jami Kalliomäki will go to Cape Town having shown good pace this season, and we will use that experience to help Ashley at his home event. If last year is anything to go by, he will receive huge support from the fans.”