Get your motor running

From the Steppenwolf song ‘Born To Be Wild’ – “Get your motor runnin’, Head out on the highway, Looking for adventure..” – those sentiments are the passion behind the South Coast Bike Fest and things are already gearing up for the 2019 version from April 26 to 28.

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Once again the prime location of one of the country’s top holiday destinations, Margate, will welcome bikers from all corners of South Africa for a healthy mix of camaraderie, music and fun.

The annual event – presented by Ugu South Coast Tourism with endorsement and support from Ray Nkonyeni Municipality and Ugu District – will take place across Margate Beach promenade.

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“South Coast Bike Fest™ 2019 (#SCBF19) is set to be bigger and better than previous years with a full programme line-up that includes great music, incredible stunts, extreme sports, food and drinks,” says Vicky Wentzel, event organiser. “All the action will be taking place along the palm-fringed beachfront boulevard within beautiful coastal town of Margate, and we’ve ensured a really diverse festival programme that caters to all tastes.”

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Visitors to the South Coast Bike Fest 2019 can look forward to, among other things:

· Entertainment at the Main Beach Stage and Village Pier Rock Stage
· 6 Beachfront Boulevard-Themed Bars
· Street Busking Entertainment
· Demo Rides
· Village Market and Expo Zones
· Stunt Shows
· Food Courts
· EnduroX Staging Arenas
· 9 On-site Restaurants and Pubs
· The Mass Ride

The festival destination is the perfect day-trip from Joburg – under 700km – on safe biking roads. Many of the biking community stay over in the Midlands as a way to break the trip, and there are a number of accommodation venues close to the festival precinct. Simply email info@southcoastbikefest.co.za indicating your preferences, the number of friends and family joining, and accommodation will be sourced!

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Bikers and pillions wanting to access any of the bars or stages (Main Beach Stage, Village Pier Rock Stage, Energy Zone, Reggae Bar and Jazz Bar) must pre-register online (www.southcoastbikefest.co.za) and purchase a South Coast Bike Fest 2019 pin for R35. Bikers and pillions will need to purchase a pin each. Bikers must be accompanied by their pillion to collect the pre-purchased pin at the Sasol Garage, Margate – bike licences must be shown.

The full music line-up will be announced early in 2019. Vendor applications have opened and anyone wishing to be involved in #SCB19 can contact Vicky Wentzel at info@southcoastbikefest.co.za or call 082 812 7944.

Ticket prices for #SCBF19 are:

· VIP 3-day pass which includes full event access plus Golden Circle & VIP Pool Bar – R450
· VIP day pass which includes full event access plus Golden Circle & VIP Pool Bar – R150
· 3-day pedestrian pass – R200
· Daily pedestrian pass – R80
· 3-day pedestrian pass (4 to 12 Years, accompanied by parents) – R100
· Daily pedestrian pass (4 to 12 Years, accompanied by parents) – R40
· Children under 4 years – free
· 3-day pensioners’ pass – R180
· Daily pensioners’ pass – R60

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Six is better

Six is better than four and Kia has made this a reality for its Rio range that now sports a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The new unit replaces the old 4-speed box that served the fourth-generation Rio since its launch in June of last year.

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The new transmission provides increased performance. Kia’s 1,4-litre MPI engine produces 74 kW at 6 300 r/min and 135 Nm at 4 200 r/min. Mated with the new 6-speed automatic transmission, acceleration to 100 km/h improves from 13,2 seconds to 12,9 seconds, while maximum speed increases from 166 km/h to 175 km/h.

The Rio 1.4 is available with three specification options, namely the mid-spec LX, a mid-high spec EX and the high-spec TEC (the Rio 1.2 LS remains unchanged in the line-up).

The Rio 1.4 LX features an extensive list of standard features, including air-conditioning, power windows, electrically operated side mirrors, central locking with an alarm and immobiliser, a radio system with RDS as well as MP3, auxiliary and USB connectivity, six speakers, steering wheel-mounted remote audio controls, a rear USB charging port, rake and reach adjustable steering, automatic headlight control, front fog lights, LED Daytime Running Lights and 15-inch alloy wheels.

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The next derivative in the range – the Rio EX – builds on the already extensive standard features of the LX model through the addition of projection headlamps and LED rear combination lamps, as well as a 7-inch Touchscreen Infotainment System that incorporates a Rear Park Assist System with integrated rear-view camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The range-topping Rio TEC adds further comfort and convenience to the EX grade through the addition of machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, as well as Cruise Control, an electrochromatic rear-view mirror, alloy pedals and leather upholstery.

The Rio range is priced as follows:
Rio 1.2 LS 5-speed Manual R 230,995
Rio 1.4 LX 6-speed Manual R 247,995
Rio 1.4 LX 6-speed Automatic R 264,995
Rio 1.4 EX 6-speed Manual R 261,995
Rio 1.4 EX 6-speed Automatic R 278,995
Rio 1.4 TEC 6-speed Manual R 288,995
Rio 1.4 TEC 6-speed Automatic R 305,995

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An optional sunroof is available for Rio TEC models for an additional R8 000. All Rio’s ship as standard with Kia’s 5-year / Unlimited Kilometre Warranty, inclusive of 5-years / Unlimited Kilometres Roadside Assistance.

The Rio 1.2 includes a 2-year/30 000 km Service Plan, while the Rio 1.4 includes a 4-year / 60 000 km Service Plan.

Road Review – Honda CR-V 1.5 CVT

What was intended as a glorious weekend of racing action at Killarney in Cape Town for the final round of the World Rallycross Championships recently, turned itself on its head when Mrs W pressed me into service as a ‘gopher’.

Well, not me as much as the Honda CR-V 1.5 CVT I had arranged to be my transport to and from the circuit for the weekend.

You see, Mrs W had the job as catering co-ordinator for several of the international racing teams. Armed with voracious appetites, it was necessary to top up – especially things like fresh fruit – so, early in the morning before even the teams arrived it was off to the local suppliers for me and my Honda that, fortunately, comes with a suitably large luggage space and fold-flat rear seats.

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Equally important – the level of the rear sill is ideally positioned for loading and unloading so it is not necessary to bend unduly while hefting large boxes and the like.

Although it was actually launched more than a year ago, this retrospective look at the CR-V, was a welcome opportunity to do things a little outside of the normal road review routine.

Completely redesigned and re-engineered from the ground up for the latest generation, the Honda CR-V gained a more spacious, quieter cabin with extended rear legroom and an expanded cargo compartment and is built on a new platform architecture, improving overall ride quality and refinement, adding crisper steering response, enhanced ride comfort and more composed handling.

Styling mirrors much of Civic, with the curved, slim line headlights that frame the broad-barred grille and the bonnet’s pronounced contours that meet the base of the slim A-pillar for a neatly integrated appearance.

Below the main grille, dual air intakes with a dark meshed finish split the colour-coded bumper, while the top model gains both LED headlights and front LED fog lamps. A metallic scuff plate underlines the new CR-V’s SUV identity.

Viewed in profile, the CR-V’s aerodynamic shape is even more apparent, thanks to the smooth roofline with its smoothly integrated roof rails, the subtly curved waistline, the narrow side glass aperture and the raked rear screen.

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Rear passenger legroom was been by a full 9 cm, and there is more shoulder room both front and rear. The 60/40 split rear bench seat can be folded flat to expand cargo capacity, creating a completely flat loading floor in the process.

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The overall dashboard design is clean and uncluttered and the centre console includes a lidded binnacle that also acts as a centre armrest, while dual cup holders are provided in an open storage box in front of the armrest.

With the seats in place the CR-V offers 522 litres of luggage space, extendable to 1 084 litres with the seatbacks folded down – and I used all of it, several times.

I am no fan of CVT transmissions but Honda has managed to produce one that is not irritatingly noisy nor that hunts incessantly trying to find the optimum gearing.

The 1 498 cc turbo engine is equipped with programmed, direct fuel injection, variable valve timing to deliver 140 kW of maximum power at 5 600 r/min, together with 240 Nm of maximum torque in a broad band between 2 000 r/min and 5 000 r/min.

The CVT gearbox is linked to an intelligent Real Time AWD system that seamlessly transfers power from the front to the rear wheels when additional traction is required.

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The system has undergone significant improvements for the new CR-V, including a substantial increase in maximum rear wheel torque delivery, and a new intelligent control system for improved overall performance, without having to wait for the front wheels to slip before proportioning torque to the rear.

The CR-V combines a MacPherson strut-based front suspension with a multilink rear configuration where liquid-filled bushings and special, low-friction dampers are fitted, while tubular stabiliser bars in front and solid stabiliser bars at the rear ensure improved turn-in response and more composed cornering.

The dual-pinion, variable-ratio electric power steering was also recalibrated to enhance steering precision and feedback – and it greatly appreciated while negotiating the traffic in and out of the racetrack and around the busy suburb of Tableview.

Inside, the 1.5T Executive has leather upholstery, the Digital Driver Information Interface and a 7-inch Display Audio infotainment system – all-in-all a comfortable ‘workspace’ with easy ingress to the driver and passenger seats.

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It also comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, auto-levelling for the headlights and a start/stop button instead of a conventional ignition key, while the remote central locking system includes keyless smart entry.

It is light, manoeuvrable and really easy to drive. It is also quite fun to drive.

With little real opportunity to put it to the test on twisty roads, there is not too much I can say about its high-speed handling. However, with the reputation Honda carries for that on its other vehicles, it is likely this small SUV will acquit itself well under pressure.

The range is backed by a 5-year/200 000 km warranty, as well as a 5-year/90 000 km service plan. Also included is a three-year AA Road Assist package. Scheduled services are at for the 1,5-litre turbo variants.

Road Review – Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

The Mitsubishi Pajero has been an evolution of longevity with tweaks and upgrades almost an annual occurrence in between major styling revisions – the latest version of the Pajero Sport coming less than a year after the major revise of 2017.

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However, it was not all that long ago while standing with a Mitsubishi engineer in the sand dunes on the West Coast he emphatically dismissed my question about the Pajero getting electronic switching between two and four-wheel drive, stating “… our customers are dedicated off-road enthusiasts and demand the manual method…”

Oh yes Mr Bob Dylan, how the times have changed.

Now sporting that electronic switching and driving through an 8-speed automatic gearbox, the Pajero has shifted massively left-field to join the ranks of the luxury SUV class, often a phantom zone filled with very expensive and highly capable vehicles living out their lives never having served the purpose for which they were designed.

As an off-roader, the Pajero has a formidable history with 12 Paris-Dakar wins under its belt including seven consecutive titles – this going back to its first victory in 1985. However, the story starts long before then when Mitsubishi introduced the world’s first passenger vehicle with full-time four-wheel drive, the PX33, in 1933.

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The immensely capable off-roader – that has appeared in short, standard and long-wheelbase formats – is often grossly underestimated but I am not truly convinced by this latest 7-seat format.

Not that the seating configuration interferes with its ability, but purely a personal dislike for the format – the two rearmost seats are just for tiny tots and take up valuable luggage space, with those removable regularly gathering dust in a garage.

Obviously, there are intrepid travellers who really need that seating space at the back and, naturally, the provision is there for them, but it reduces luggage space to 193 litres. With the rear seats folded flat this increases to 813 litres.

With this latest iteration – and a contender in the Auto Trader SA Guild of Motoring Journalists Car of the Year competition – the designers improved the Pajero Sport’s safety by adding ISO-FIX child seat anchors and added a seventh air bag for the protection of the driver’s knees.

The Pajero Sport’s styling is described as ‘distinctive’, ‘energetic’ and ‘striking’. Vehicle design and styling follows trend patterns across all brands whether or not the actual designers like – or care to admit – it and completely in spite of what the marketing brochure says.

Viewed from the side, the shark nose of the Pajero may be great in terms of its improved departure angle but it loses something, I believe, the older and squarer vehicles had going for them – namely the fact the driver could see both front corners, knowing there was nothing ahead of them to worry about.

The current design ticks all the necessary boxes in terms of improved aerodynamics and the saving in fuel that comes with more slippery shape, around 8,1 l/100 km compared to the figures from earlier versions that hovered around the 9,0 l/100 km mark.

LED driving lamps with auto levelling and DRLs, including a headlamp washer for the 4WD version, are standard features, while a LED high-mounted rear stop lamp on the tailgate provides additional safety.

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In line with its Pajero heritage, it boasts double wishbone coil springs with a stabiliser bar in the front and multi-link suspension with stabiliser bar in the back. The quiet drive, thanks to its strong ladder-frame design, which absorbs all levels of NVH, gives the new Pajero Sport a big sedan car-like ride and handling.

Another massive advantage is its turning circle of just 11,2 m (as opposed to between 11,6 m and 12,2 m for some other premium SUVs).

Soft-feel leather seats make the long haul a pleasure and provide ample support when going donga-diving and the driver seat is electrically adjustable. The second row of seats offers a 60:40 split with tumble, reclining and sliding function with a centre armrest and cup holders.

The third row of seats folds flat into the floor to minimise intrusion into the cargo space when not in use.

Passenger comfort is improved with a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with paddle shifts, rear park distance control with a rear-view camera, dual automatic air-conditioning with rear passenger temperature controls and an electric parking brake.

Other standard features include a keyless operating system with electronic start function, multi-function leather steering wheel with audio and cruise control, Bluetooth with hands-free voice control and foldaway electric door mirrors incorporating turn indicators.

Standard built-in safety features include Active Stability and Traction Control (ASTC), anti-lock braking, EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), BAS (Brake Assist System), Brake Override System and seven air bags (Driver, Driver’s Knee, Passenger, Seat and Side Curtains). Hill Descent Control and the new electronic Off-Road Mode Control add additional safety benefits.

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The latest version is still powered by the 2,4-litre MIVEC turbo-diesel engine producing 133 kW at 3 500 r/min and 430 Nm of torque at 2 500 r/min, driving the wheels through its 8-speed automatic transmission with Intelligent Shift Control.

As an example of good things that keep getting better, the latest version of the Pajero Sport is just that bit more refined without losing its core abilities – and taking this vehicle off the beaten path is worth every minute as it tackles just about any obstacle in its path with aplomb.

On the road, it drives and handles like a sedan with the advantage of the extra view from the raised seating position. It has less body roll in tight corners than one might expect and the steering is both true and provides excellent feedback to the driver.

I am not entirely convinced an 8-speed gearbox is absolutely necessary, although this spread of ratios does help with both fuel consumption and overall noise reduction.

It is the kind of car that deserves a lot more time than we had while it was in the test fleet.

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Servicing the fight against poaching

Poaching of wildlife, particularly rhino slaughter, is a despicable activity at any time made even more horrifying by the fact many of the species being destroyed are in grave danger of becoming extinct.

Fortunately, a number of corporates in South Africa take efforts at curbing poaching seriously and are major contributors to these efforts – most recently, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) continued its support in the fight against rhino poaching by refurbishing six vehicles belonging to South African National Parks (SANParks) and extending their service plans.

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In October, TSAM donated a brand new Toyota Hilux Double Cab 4×4 – also to be used by SANParks in the fight against rhino poaching and other wildlife crime.

Rhino poaching is reaching unprecedented levels in South Africa and TSAM believes it is the collective responsibility of both the public and private sectors to extend their resources to the anti-poaching units working in the national parks and reserves across the country.

With this approach in preventing and apprehending the culprits behind the deaths of rhinos, TSAM has committed itself through a new initiative that will see it service and maintain the vehicles of the anti-poaching unit that is active within the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province.

The initiative to assist in vehicle repair and in turn, sponsor six extended service plans for the Toyota Land Cruiser that operate in the park, was driven by TSAM’s own John Thomson (Vice President of Service, Customer Service and Future Toyota).

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Thomson’s commitment to the natural environment, and his subsequent rally for support of the anti-poaching unit, was sparked a few months prior during a visit to the Pilanesberg National Park where he met staff and witnessed first-hand the vehicle issues they were experiencing.

While maintaining and servicing any vehicle is a relatively straightforward task, explains Thomson, the unit simply did not have the funds to get it done:

“After speaking to the anti-poaching unit operating in Pilanesberg National Park, I immediately knew how we at Toyota could make a difference.

“First off, we sent the six Toyota Land Cruisers in their possession to our workshop in Northam for a thorough service, repairing the damage any vehicle would inevitably garner working in wild terrain, but we wanted to see how we could do more,” he says.

The extended service plans sponsored to the unit were handed over and gave TSAM and dealer staff the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a parks ranger. Being taken along on a morning of rhino notching, a means to identify each rhino in the park, was a momentous opportunity for everybody involved.

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After identifying a white rhino mother and calf, each was darted by a specialised veterinarian who works with the unit. Once the rhinos were subdued, the team set about notching the baby rhino, scraping DNA samples, inserting microchips into the horn, and injecting antibiotics and vitamins.

After the groundwork had been completed, the Toyota team had the chance to take photos with the rhinos and experience their presence up close.

“We know this is only a small contribution in the fight against rhino poaching, but we recognise that this was a practical way in which we could help this anti-poaching unit in their relentless task of protecting these national treasures,” says Thomson.

Toyota South Africa Motors is committed to the conservation and the preservation of South Africa’s natural spaces. In addition to initiatives such as the above, Toyota has partnered with and supported three significant environmental NGOs through its Today for Tomorrow Programme: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation SA and Birdlife SA.

Road Review – Suzuki Jimny 1.5 GLX

Nice is one of those interesting words that dot themselves about the English language and is both overused and under-appreciated as well being able to be said in a complimentary, sarcastic or a derogatory tone and, as Jane Austin wrote in ‘Northanger Abbey’ back in 1803…”Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.”

I shall be using it in the nicest possible way.

The Suzuki Jimny is nice.

Giving new models a retro look has worked for some automakers – read BMW’s MINI – and not as well for others – the VW Beetle – so deciding to go this route is quite a brave step and, considering the third generation Suzuki Jimny had a monster 20-year lifecycle, an even braver one.

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Some 2,85-million Jimny’s were sold in 194 countries since its launch in April 1970 through to September 2018 and is a tough act to follow for the new model that looks like a cross between a Mercedes-Benz G Wagon and a Land Rover Defender – more proper SUV, a whole lot more determined and, well, nice.

The first Suzuki-branded four-wheel drive, the LJ10 (Light Jeep 10), was introduced in 1970 and had a 359 cc, air-cooled, two-stroke, in-line two-cylinder engine. The liquid-cooled LJ20 was introduced in 1972 and in 1975; Suzuki complemented the LJ20 with the LJ50, which had a larger 539 cc, two-stroke, in-line three-cylinder engine and bigger differentials.

The Jimny8/LJ80 was an updated version of the LJ50 with an 800 cc, four-stroke, in-line four-cylinder engine, followed by the Jimny 1000/SJ410 and Jimny 1300/SJ413 – and the looks of the latest version pay homage to the looks of those original models.

The new model has the same upturned front fenders, round headlamps and round orange indicators of the LJ Series and the side slits in the clamshell bonnet of the SJ Series. The upright grille is reminiscent of the previous generation’s Jimny (1998 – 2018) and the SJ Series.

The design of the new Jimny has been rewarded through a Good Design Award for combining styling features with practical application – in colder climates the flat surfaces and thin windowsills make it very easy to offload snow. In all conditions, the upright A-pillars and clamshell bonnet help increase spatial awareness and overall visibility and the longer roof over the upright windshield helps to shield the driver from direct sunlight. Nice.

More applicable for overland enthusiasts are the angled front and rear bumpers that not only keep them out of the way of rocks and shrubs, but also increase the approach and departure angles. The front bumper design also exposes more of the tyre tread on a horizontal plane for greater climbing capability in rocky off-road conditions.

At the rear of the vehicle, Suzuki designers have moved all the lights into the horizontal rear bumper, which has allowed them to create a wider rear door, for increased practicality.

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The spare wheel is fitted to the rear door for easy accessibility, while also freeing up space underneath the luggage floor and allowing for an improved departure angle. Lastly, the moulded bumpers and wheel arches keep painted surfaces far away from rocks, and the squared off design allows for more wheel travel.

The dashboard is designed in three horizontal layers and act as visual reference of the horizontal plane when driving off road and it incorporates an assist-grip and cell phone tray on the middle level and a glove box on the lower level.

In front of the driver, the retro theme continues with the tachometer and speedometer housed in separate square binnacles. This is another hat tip to the SJ Series and, in the new Jimny, these instruments are always illuminated.

The upholstery is comfortable but hard-wearing, and the moulded dashboard features hard-wearing resin with a mix of a repeating line pattern and, on the lower parts, the same type of grippy texture as on a professional DSLR camera body.

The instrument panel housings have been finished in a brushed metal finish and the door handles have been enlarged for easy operation.

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Most significant is the wide body means you do not need to have intimate knowledge of the passenger and a couple of large blokes can sit side-by-side without constant contact.

The backbone of the new Jimny’s remains the ladder frame chassis. In the new model, Suzuki’s engineers have added a patented cross member, the Suzuki X-member, between the two rigid axles.

The X-member consists of two diagonal cross members that further strengthen the chassis. This helps to limit body flex in serious cross-axle off-road driving and creates a platform for the fitment of the body and the underbody parts. As an additional benefit, the additional torsional strength has improved the Jimny’s on-road driving dynamics and overall crash safety.

The X-member is supported by the addition of two extra horizontal cross members. The first is located just behind the front wheels and under the gearbox bell housing and the second links the furthermost two points of the ladder frame under the rear bumper.

It also features a rigid axle suspension system. Rigid axles greatly improve serious off-road capabilities, as they mechanically force one wheel down if the opposite wheel is raised from the ground. Furthermore, the axle system prevents the nose from diving under speed, which is a boon when driving in dunes.

The rigid axles are connected to the wheels with three links – a lateral rod on each wheel and two leading (on the front) and trailing (on the rear) arms. Suzuki has strengthened the axle housings by 30% and has added a steering damper to the front suspension to limit steering wheel kickback and vibration on rough terrain.

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The new Jimny replaces the push-button selection between 2H (rear-wheel drive), 4H (4WD high gear) and 4L (full low range, 4WD) with a shift lever that is directly connected to the transfer gear and can switch between 2H and 4H on the fly at speeds of up to 100 km/h.

The system is greatly enhanced by Suzuki’s Brake Limited Slip Differential and electronic stability control systems. The Brake LSD-system adjusts torque to the wheel with grip if another wheel on the same axle starts spinning. The system has an extra-power mode, which kicks in below 30 km/h in low-range mode for the best possible traction.

Brake LSD is supported by Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control, which are standard on all models.

Better off-road ability comes via an approach angle of 37 degrees (35 degrees on the previous model), a departure angle of 49 degrees (46 degrees on the predecessor) and a breakover angle of 28 degrees (previously 27 degrees).

Fuel consumption on a combined cycle is claimed at 6,3 l/100 km for the manual model I had on test but the overall achieved – including a fairly demanding off-road section – came to 6,9 l/100 km.

On the manual gearbox, Suzuki has reworked the shift lever and gear selector to offer a more direct shift feeling and the new selector system is mounted partly to the ladder frame and partly to the gearbox. It works, and the shifts were slick and true.

All versions of the Suzuki Jimny have air-conditioning, power steering and the complete ALLGRIP PRO 4×4 system with Brake LSD, ESP, Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control. The GLX models get climate control, power windows and mirrors, Auto LED projector headlamps, remote central locking and cruise control.

The GLX models are also fitted with Suzuki’s Smartphone Linkage Display Audio (SLDA). This double-DIN audio system has a 7” infrared-touch screen with Android Auto, Apple Carplay and MirrorLink integration.

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The GLX model is standard with a 4-year / 60 000 km service plan and a 5-year / 200 000 km mechanical warranty.

Despite the fact it always looked to fall over, the off-road ability of the previous generation was legendary and the new version takes this to a nice new level. The wider stance and overall look simply exude confidence and in the off-road park, it quite easily played with all the bigger boys’ toys – sometimes easily outperforming them on the technical stuff.

It is a runabout and fun vehicle – long hauls on the highway are not all that comfortable in spite of the improvements to the seating.

All in all, it really is a nice vehicle.

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.