It’s just a jump to the left

For someone who grew up adoring the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT and the iconic Alfetta GTV6, the notion of these becoming a stand-tall SUV was about as unnerving as seeing an E-Type Jaguar morph into a F-Pace.

However, since change is probably the one true constant in life, the shifting needs of consumers currently dictates the SUV is the vehicle type of choice and, for automakers; it is simply adapt or die.

In the case of Alfa Romeo, this was probably a bigger decision than most. Following its heyday, which I believe ended with the GTV6, the company went into a slide and dished up some really crappy product before making a comeback with the 156 and then vanishing again to contemplate its own navel or whatever motor manufacturers do when they need to reinvent their own wheel.

Brilliantly, from this out pops the new generation Giulia. A true Alfa Romeo. Yippee Yay!

And this serves just to put even more pressure on the Stelvio, Alfa Romeo’s first SUV. Does it handle the pressure? An unqualified yes.

It is named after the Stelvio Pass, Italy’s highest mountain pass of some 20 km in length with more than 75 hairpin bends. Having had the opportunity to drive this pass, I can confirm it is a great test of the handling, poise and composure of any vehicle traversing the route.

To justify the name the Alfa had to produce all three of those characteristics in bucket loads as well as providing true Alfa sprint performance and top speed – and the Stelvio ticks all of those boxes.

In true Alfa Romeo tradition, the Stelvio delivers handling, worthy of a real sports car, balanced weight distribution, the most direct steering ratio in the segment and state-of-the-art suspension with the exclusive Alfalink technology.

The Stelvio offers the Alfa Romeo Q4 all-wheel drive system and can be optionally equipped with mechanical locking rear differential.

The Stelvio has a length of 4,7m, height of 1,7 m and width of 2,2 m, – big enough without being bulky and sleek enough in the design execution to look lower than it actually is.

Stelvio has a strong identity, built around select features, such as the Cloverleaf front, the dual sports exhaust tips and ‘Kamm tail’ styling at the rear.

It also ensures a high level of on-board comfort with the dual zone climate control system, the Alfa Connect infotainment system and an audio system, with 8, 10 or 14 speakers (in this case by Harman Kardon) depending on version.

Finally yet importantly, the 525-litre boot competes with the best in the segment and has a convenient electric tailgate that can be set with three different opening levels, directly from the Alfa Rotary selector.

Stelvio features a number of safety systems, available as standard and key amongst them is the Integrated Brake System (IBS), Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Brake with pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) with Rear Cross-Path.

Under the bonnet is a 2,0-litre turbo-charged petrol engine featuring a power output of 206 kW and 400 Nm of torque. The 4-cylinder unit, built entirely from aluminium is combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission, driving a carbon drive shaft and Q4 all-wheel drive.

In addition to MultiAir electro-hydraulic valve actuation, the engine features ‘2-in-1’ turbo and 200-bar high-pressure direct fuel injection, delivering rapid accelerator response, powering from 0 to 100 km/h in 5,7 seconds, with a top speed of 230 km/h.

The 8-speed automatic transmission fitted to the Stelvio is specifically calibrated for fast, smooth gearshifts. The transmission has a lock-up clutch and, depending on the mode chosen with the Alfa DNA selector, the automatic transmission optimises fluidity, comfort and ease of driving in all environments, including around town and improves fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Steering-column-mounted, aluminium paddle shifters are available as standard.

Dynamic mode accentuates performance and handling with precise steering response and immediate braking; resulting in a sporty driving style. Natural mode is ideal for urban and highway driving with handling tailored for comfort and fuel economy. Finally, the Advanced Efficiency maximises energy savings and minimises emissions levels.

Achieving its surprisingly (for a SUV) good handling, a key factor is the weight distribution between the two axles – an Alfa Romeo tradition – requiring management of the weights and materials involved, achieved by adjusting the car’s layout and by placing the heaviest units in the most central position.

While I may not have the Stelvia Pass as a playground on the test, my usual route involves a reasonably useful climb with some fast sweeps and a couple of really tight turns that allow both braking performance and handling to be closely examined.

You know the old saying – if it looks like and Alfa, feels like an Alfa and sounds like an Alfa, it must be an Alfa.

The Stelvia turns in neatly, never feels top heavy as some SUVs do when in press on mode and, with both grip and drive from all four wheels, I battled to get it to become unsettled – and on dirt roads the ‘nanny’ systems allow quite a long leeway before kicking in so it can be induced into a slide when needed.

A double wishbone suspension with a semi-virtual steering axis sits up front and the rear suspension uses a four-and-a-half link system – patented by Alfa Romeo – to deliver precise control of the wheel’s characteristic angles.

The Q4 system continuously monitors numerous parameters to optimise torque distribution between the two axles according to what the car is doing and how much grip the road surface offers.

In normal grip conditions, the Stelvio with Q4 system acts like a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, with 100% of the torque sent to the rear axle. As the wheels approach their grip limit, the system transfers up to 50% of the torque to the front axle.

If this (along with the Giulia) are the ‘new’ Alfa Romeo, then I look forward to the next offerings.

All Alfa Romeo Stelvio’s feature a 3 year / 100,000 km Warranty and a 6 year / 100,000km Maintenance plan as standard.



Road Impressions – BMW M240i Convertible

Arguably, the most famous multiple personality combination – real or imagined – is the Jekyll and Hyde tale by Robert Louis Stevenson and it is this ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ combination that best suits the character of the BMW M240i.

From being an ideal top-down docile beachfront cruiser, it can transform, instantly, into a ferocious, snarling beast.

In Eco mode, the car returns excellent fuel consumption for a straight six, the suspension copes so much better with rippled and potholed roads and the rate of progress is kept to genteel increments.

In Sport Plus mode there is sense the whole car is doing an Optimus Prime thing and all of it is transforming by growing tighter around the driver as well as tweaking suspension and gearbox settings.

It is then the beast will play.

The 240i is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the fastest accelerating or most rapid car on the road but what it is capable of, is made to feel more impressive because of the contrast in characters.

The new model features sharper front-end styling, LED headlights fitted as standard, interior upgrades and new connectivity services.

Both coupé and convertible models are now fitted as standard with bi-LED headlights and the main headlights can be specified in adaptive full-LED form as an option. The familiar twin-circular-headlight look has a hexagonal interpretation, while a larger kidney grille gives the front end of the new models a wider look and allows it to project a sportier impression.

The outer air intakes in the three-section front end are now larger and the rear end features single-piece rear lights (LEDs as standard) with hallmark BMW L-shape extending well into the flanks.

The interior of the new BMW 2 Series models features an all-new design for the instrument panel, which gives it a more spacious and clearer feel. New cloth or leather seat upholstery variants, interior trim strips in aluminium or fine wood and high-gloss black panels with chrome accents provide even greater scope for individualisation.

At 4 432 millimetres in length, the Convertible condenses its sporting prowess into a compact package offering 335 litres of boot space and 280 litres with the top down – enough for a quick weekend getaway or grocery run. The boot is relatively deep but its narrow opening means getting particularly wide bits of luggage inside could be a struggle.

Up front, space is generous for both driver and passenger with good headroom (with the top up) and legroom, a decent glovebox, deep door pockets and a central cubby.

Nominally, a 2+2, the 240i rear seats are quite difficult to access, especially with the top up, and the space is really cramped and uncomfortable over anything more than brief squirt down to the coffee shop.

Still, the four seats do offer a plus compared to its main rival in class, the Porsche Cayman.

The M240i – weirdly – still offers only manual seat adjustment as standard fare and this is a hassle to get the absolute perfect positioning so it worth spending the extra to have the electronic adjustment fitted. The sports seats are comfortable and supportive though, both absolute necessities when it comes time to unleash the fun.

Standard items on our test car included multifunction steering wheel, M Sport brakes, locking wheel bolts, sport automatic transmission, variable sport steering, alarm system with radio remote control, wind deflector, rain sensor and automatic headlight control, cruise control with brake function, M Sports Suspension and M aerodynamic kit.

Options fitted to the test car included 18-inch double-spoke wheels shod with run flat tyres, Chrome-line exterior, rear view camera, interior and exterior mirror with automatic anti-dazzle function, seat heating for driver and front passenger, headlamp washer system, Park Distance Control (PDC), front and rear, automatic air-conditioning with micro filter, adaptive LED headlights, navigation system and a Harman Kardon sound system.

This made the on-road price R896 235,99

The options are mentioned simply because, like any BMW, these come as listing nearly as long as ‘War and Peace‘.

The high-resolution 8,8-inch central display now comes in touchscreen form if the optional Navigation system Professional is specified. This provides the driver with another way of operating various functions, in addition to the latest generation of the iDrive operating system (standard), the Touch Controller and the intelligent voice control system.

The standard SIM card integrated into the car enables connectivity and access to BMW services via BMW ConnectedDrive, without the need for a linked smartphone. These include Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI) with hazard preview and access to the vehicle via Remote Services.

However, it is what lies under the bonnet that truly counts. The 3,0-litre straight-six engine with direct injection and M Performance TwinPower Turbo technology develops 250 kW, propelling the BMW M240i from 0 to 100 km/h in 4,7 seconds with fuel consumption combined 7,4 l/100 km. CO2 emissions combined are 169 g/km.

The M240i’s six-cylinder engine is superbly strong from low revs and it has absolutely no issue being at the other end of its rev band where it triumphantly roars out its challenge to all and sundry.

In fact the M240i could be accused of having a bit too much to offer – in Sport Plus mode the rear tyres struggle to put the power down on damp or uneven roads, making it quite lively, albeit not for the faint of heart or untrained in the art of rear wheel driving.

Sport Plus does not completely disengage the ‘nanny’ systems – just tempers their reaction time to allow for much more pro-active driving. The throttle, steering and optional adaptive dampers are primed for action and all feel their best in this mode, ensuring the M240i is poised, agile and communicative.

Our car came fitted with the 8-speed auto gearbox and this responds instantly to driver input from the wheel-mounted paddle shifts.

Keep the M240i in its Comfort or Sport driving modes and the traction control is quick to step in and save the day.

Because it has this Jekyll and Hyde personality, its ultimate performance handling is not quite as good as the Cayman, for example, whereas its soft ride status does iron out more of the ripples than the Porsche. We were also impressed with the overall body stiffness of the convertible and the fact scuttle shake has been almost completely eliminated.

I remain, personally, not a great fan of convertibles – except for boulevard cruising – and prefer solid metal around me when pushing things to the limit, but the 240i would be on the list if I changed my mind.

Road Impressions – Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GLX

Once upon a time, there was Mini. And Mini was good. It put a capital ‘F’ in the sheer fun of driving a car and then things – as they are wont to do – changed as vast volumes of makes and models poured into the market.

At the same time a changing world demanded more and more efficiency, less and less emissions and in order to service these demands, we entered the age of the ‘vanilla’ car where boring became (largely) the norm across the small and mid-range sectors.

Brief flashes of individualism did offer a firecracker spark in the darkness with imaginings such as the PT Cruiser, original Kia Soul (before it got all plump and rounded) and the Citroën Cactus.

And then, there is the Suzuki Ignis. Looks different, feels different and is, well…. #LikeNoOther …and sneaks past the being cute and brainless to being damn cute and a whole bunch of fun to be with.

It was first shown at the Paris Show in 2015 and then took a while to get to South Africa, during which time it picked up a runner-up slot in the World Urban Car Award and bucket loads of them were sold into crowded cities in Europe.

At just 3,7 metres long and 1,69 metres wide it is compactly proportioned without actually looking small and uncomfortable – in fact, interior space for occupants is quite generous unless you are planning on transporting the front row of The Cheetahs rugby team. The 180 mm ground clearance confirms it can also take on rural and unpaved roads with confidence.

The modular chassis underpinning the Ignis contributes to the crossover’s low mass, while also offering a rigid platform for the suspension. The result is enhanced ride comfort and engaging handling.

Powered by the K12M 1,2-litre four-cylinder engine, the Ignis benefits from a lightweight 850 kg kerb mass so the engine’s maximum power output of 61 kW at 6 000 r/min translates into a generous power-to-weight ratio of 71,65 kW/ton. The maximum torque output of 113 Nm is reached at 4 200 r/min.

The standard transmission is a five-speed manual design, driving the front wheels.

The Ignis sits on Suzuki’s latest-generation HEARTECTTM lightweight chassis. The modular platform is already a feature of the larger Baleno, and makes use of a high percentage of high-tensile steel that allows high levels of rigidity, while reducing overall mass.

The front suspension combines MacPherson struts and coil springs with gas-filled dampers and an anti-roll bar, while the rear set-up makes use of a torsion beam, combined with coil springs and an anti-roll bar.

Steering is a rack and pinion system with electric power assistance. The turning circle is 9,4 metres it runs on 15-inch alloy wheels with 175/65 R15 tyres standard.

The GLX feature piano black rims that I felt looked rather unattractive and contrasted heavily against the car, making them too much of a focal point. Chrome or silver would, I believe, look much better.

The Ignis is not meant to be a robot dragster so the move from zero to 100 km/h takes a fairly leisurely  11,8 seconds, while top speed is 161 km/h. Combined cycle fuel consumption figure averaged 5,6 l/100 km in the case of my test unit.

The luggage compartment offers 260 litres of cargo space, expandable to 469 litres with the rear seatback folded flat.

Standard items include power windows, remote central locking, automatic air-conditioning, electric power steering and an MP3-compatible CD sound system with USB port and 12V accessory power socket. The GLX gets projector-type LED headlight designs with daytime running lights, while front fog lamps are incorporated into the integrated front bumper. The exterior mirrors include turn signal repeaters.

Driving ‘Iggy’ is fun. Not because it shred the tarmac or blitz past anything else on the road. No, it is fun because it is unpretentious, yet individual enough not to simply blend into the grey crowd of vanilla inching its way along the motorway.

It does not out handle everything on the road although, within the limitations of is design spec, it is competent enough whizzing around corners. In fact, I would like to see one fitted with 16-inch wheels or a different profile that would give it just that bit extra stability.

Like the Mini of old, the Ignis brings a sense of the mischievous – ready to dart into little gaps in the traffic and swoop into miniscule parking bays, leaving the bulky urban kerb crawlers to make their four or five point approaches.

The Suzuki Ignis is covered by a standard 5-year/200 000 km warranty, as well as a 2-year/30 000 km service plan. Services are at 15 000 km/12 month intervals.

Ignis is not nice; it is ‘lekker’ – and again, #LikeNoOther.

Road Impressions – Lexus NX300 F-Sport

There is little doubt the song of the open road – be it heavy metal, rock, blues, pop or nature’s own orchestral manoeuvres – are best appreciated while plumped in a form-fitting seat atop a finely tuned suspension and propelled by enough power to handle everything asked.

The Lexus NX does just that. I am, however, just that ‘old school’ enough to still believe if I intend driving really quickly my butt should be mere centimetres from the road rather than reaching for clouds – in fact, old school enough to question why anyone would want an SUV capable of 200 km/h.

Sure, it is a thing – there is the brutal Jeep SRT and Range Rover’s Sport – but the marriage of good off-road capability and sports type speed has me flummoxed. True, almost none of the trick SUV’s ever find themselves outside of an urban environment, but that is not the point.

To be fair, the Lexus NX handles both good tarmac and smooth dirt roads with aplomb and it is difficult to find fault with its handling on either surface even when pressed beyond the limits likely to be achieved by Joe Average.

The Lexus NX was Lexus’ first foray into the compact premium SUV market. Featuring an unmistakeable angular design language, with strong body lines and prominent contouring the NX is hard to miss in any playground.

Late last year all models received front styling refinements, with new headlamps, a bold new front grille utilising a chrome frame, altered side grille, bumper and lower bumper elements.

At the rear, came new LED combination lamps. The rear bumper and license plate garnish have also gone under the surgeon’s knife and tie in with the overall design theme.

In F-Sport guise, the spindle-grille ‘frame’ is finished off in a ‘black chrome’ effect, which ties in with the dark ‘F-mesh’ grille.

The brushed-aluminium-effect lower apron, which runs the full length of the front, creates a sporty appearance and ties all the frontal design elements together. Graphite-coloured vent trim on the edges of the bumper accentuate the powerful stance and F-Sport identity.

 As part of Lexus’ global strategy, the ‘200t’ moniker (signifying a 2,0-litre turbo-charged engine) was been replaced by ‘300’. The 300 badging bears reference to offering an equivalent power output to that of a 3,0-litre powerplant – this has been adopted to achieve parity between the petrol  and hybrid engine models’ badging convention.

As such, the badging changed to NX 300 in E, EX and F-Sport iterations respectively.

 The F-Sport as tested is delivered with the all-wheel drive configuration and 6-speed automatic transmission to serve the 2,0-litre turbo-charged ‘4-pot’ engine – offering 175 kW with 350 Nm on tap between 1 650 r/min and 4 000 r/min.

The engine utilises a combination of port and direct injection (known as D-4ST) along with Variable Valve Timing intelligent Wide (VVTi-W), to optimise combustion in the pursuit of both power and efficiency. The twin-scroll turbo-charger delivers a wide-spread of torque assisting with acceleration.

It runs an 8,4 second sprint to 100 km/h and is capable of 200 km/h. In Eco mode, the overall fuel consumption could be squeezed to below 9,0 l/100 km, pushing up to over 10 l/100 km when in press on mode in Sport or Sport+.

My test average (combining all modes) came to 9,7 l/100 km, making it competitive with its peers in the marketplace.

Compared to the previous version, the upgrades to the suspension provide a much firmer and stable ride with less body movement.

Refinements include a new calibration for the rear stabiliser bar and stabiliser-bar bushing, as well as new front dampers with reduced friction, while the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) on F-Sport has been upgraded to the latest iteration, borrowed from the LC premium sports coupé.

F-Sport has a unique suspension calibration and alloy wheel design. Rear stabiliser-bar stiffness on the refreshed NX, has been increased by 22% in order to suppress roll angle and optimise vehicle turning posture.

Specification upgrades on the F-Sport brought in dynamic headlamp levelling, chrome steering switch accents and aluminium detailing on the instrument cluster.

A key feature is the new 10,3-inch display audio screen (previous 7-inch) with enhanced graphics and clarity and the button design has been modernised while the analogue clock redesigned with increased contrast between the hands and background for ease of viewing. The clock is now linked to the GPS function, so the time is set automatically.

I am not a huge fan of the finger operated ‘mousepad’ and found making changes involved too much time with eyes off the road to ensure accurate placement of the cursor. Admittedly, I had the car only a week and in all likelihood, this operation would become more intuitive over time, with most owners making fewer changes than someone trying to investigate every feature does.

The usual comprehensive active safety systems are of course on-board and include anti-lock braking, EBD, Brake Assist, Traction Control, Enhanced VSC, Hill-start Assist, Trailer Sway Control. Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).

Lexus prides itself on ‘what you see is what you get’ with no lengthy list of costly options to bring the base car up to a decent spec but, what is missing from this package – in a car costing R786 600 – are Adaptive Cruise Control and auto dimming headlights.

All Lexus NX models come with a 4-year/100 000 kilometre warranty. F-Sport also gets the Distance Plan Complete (full maintenance plan), all over a 4-year/100 000 kilometre period.

Limitless concept

The sharply chiselled lines of the luxury Lexus NX go even further on the LF-1 Limitless concept car, presented at the Detroit Auto Show – as does the tech installed in what the company calls a ‘new genre’ of luxury vehicle.

Combining high performance with unrestrained luxury, the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept is a showcase of technology, innovation and the latest evolution of design at Lexus.

The concept envisages fully autonomous driving and could be powered by fuel cells, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, petrol or even all-electric. By around 2025, every Lexus model around the world will be available either as a dedicated electrified model, or have an electrified option.

Lexus International president; Yoshihiro Sawa says Lexus models such as the RX had helped drive the global popularity of the luxury SUV category.

“This new crossover concept captures a future that involves a high level of dynamic capability and utility matched by a more exciting, emotional design that we hope challenges expectations in the category,” he says.

The innovative spirit styling of the LF-1 was created at CALTY Design Research in California.

The design language is rooted in the design concept of ‘molten katana’ – fusing the organic shapes of liquid (molten) metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword (katana).

CALTY Design Research president Kevin Hunter said imagining that shift – from a smooth, flowing mass into a solid, chiselled shape – formed the basis for the fluid, yet aggressive design of the LF-1.

“This is our vision for a new kind of flagship vehicle that embraces crossover capability without giving up the performance and luxury delivered by today’s top sedans,” Hunter says. “The Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept incorporates imaginative technology while creating a strong emotional connection by improving the human experience for the driver and passengers.”

The LF-1 has an exaggerated dash-to-axle ratio (long bonnet, short front overhang)  and combined with a cabin that sits deep within the rear-wheel-drive chassis and aggressive 22-inch wheels under bulging fenders, has a powerful stance that conveys its performance intentions at a glance.

Like all current Lexus models, the spindle grille on the LF-1 is a core element to the overall design. On the LF-1, it has been taken even further: details suggest the start of the spindle forms at the rear of the vehicle, then continues forward toward the nose.

The grille itself features a three-dimensional design with colours developed in-house by CALTY. Ridges radiating away from the central emblem suggest magnetism guiding metal filings into shape. There is no chrome, as the LF-1 instead uses LED lighting around the grille that greets you on arrival.

The Lexus LF-1 rear features a split roof spoiler and there are interesting curves and details along every inch of the rear fascia. The sculpted openings at each corner might look like exhaust pipes, but they are actually vents for the air coming past the rear wheels.

The cockpit is designed to allow the driver to concentrate on the task at hand: distracting analogue knobs and buttons have been removed in favour of motion-activated controls and a minimalist display directly ahead.

The front passenger space is far more open, with even fewer controls and a wide unobstructed dashboard. Those in back get the same seats as those in front with expansive legroom and individual display screens for adjusting the climate control or entertainment options.

Technology enhances the luxurious feel of the LF-1 by expanding the options offered to the driver. It starts with the LF-1’s Chauffeur mode, which allows for hands-free operation thanks to the vehicle’s by-wire steering, braking, acceleration, lights and signals.

For engaged driving, all powertrain controls are on the steering wheel to keep the driver focused on the road. Paddles mounted to the steering wheel control the transmission in manual mode for sporty driving while buttons on the lower section of the steering wheel engage standard drive mode options like park and reverse.

There is also a four-dimensional navigation system, which builds on traditional systems by adding the element of time to the equation.

It acts as a concierge for the occupants by anticipating the needs of the driver and passengers based on the progress, traffic and road conditions along the programmed trip, suggesting fuel stops, rest breaks and restaurants, even offering to make hotel reservations.

Navigation and route information are displayed on the in-dash monitor, the rear seat entertainment screens, or wirelessly connected to passengers’ tablets and smart phones.

Touch-responsive haptic controls easily reached from the steering wheel link provide a seamless interface with the 4D navigation system and integrated comfort and entertainment systems.

A touch-tracer pad embedded in the leather-covered centre console supports character recognition for data entry. An additional haptic controller in the rear-seat centre console allows passengers to make their own comfort and entertainment choices.



Road Impressions – Mahindra Pik Up Double Cab S10 4×4

Idioms and expressions – in the English language certainly – can sometimes be unfair or even politically incorrect and the (oft) used ‘so ugly he/she/it is beautiful’ comes to mind when referring to the all-new Mahindra PikUp.

It is unfair because the designers have made significant changes to the styling, especially at the front, and even if it does look as if it were carved from a brick, the return on that is excellent front and rear headroom – often compromised on the more svelte looking opposition.

Although it retains much of the look of the original Scorpio bakkie, the most compelling changes are to the front of the Mahindra Pik Up, where the grille, headlights, bonnet and fog lamps have all undergone a substantial redesign.

The new grille design is smarter, utilising a glossy black finish with subtle chrome accents, as well as a more prominent Mahindra badge, while the lower air intake has been reshaped to provide a stronger visual integration with the grille.

Black mesh inserts are consistently applied to both the main grille and the lower air intake, creating a more consistent appearance.

The headlights on either side of the grille are also completely new, with a cleaner, more resolute appearance and a new curved LED daytime running light signature for the S10 Double Cab.

Bolder fog lamps are mounted in restyled apertures that are linked to the lower edge of the headlights. The redesigned front-end styling is accompanied by 16-inch alloy wheels.

These, however, need a redesign and the protruding wheel centres are ugly and cheapen the overall outside appearance.

Inside, the most obvious improvements are the upholstery and the large six-inch, full colour touch screen display on the S10 Double Cab models located in the centre console.

The Mahindra Pik Up’s cabin is also comprehensively equipped. As the flagship model of the range, the S10 Double Cab gets remote central locking, cruise control, navigation and a multifunction steering wheel.

Safety features such as anti-lock brakes, EBD, Dual air bags, crash protection crumple zones and collapsible steering column are standard features.

The management system provides vehicle related information, while the automatic temperature control maintains the cabin ambience.

On the driver’s side the easy to read instrument cluster provides the vital statistics of the drive and journey and the new steering wheel incorporates  cruise control, audio and telephone controls.

Other advances include the introduction of Micro-hybrid technology that enables the engine intelligently to switch into standby mode when not in use, saving on both fuel and the environment. Rain and light sensors automatically turn the lights on in adverse lighting conditions and the wipers on in the rain.

There are three headrests in the rear and three-point seat belts for all seats along with two ISOFIX anchors in rear seat. Static bending headlamp technology improves the comfort of driving during the night.

The Pik Up has an updated 2,2-litre four-cylinder mHawk turbo-diesel engine, which makes use of a variable geometry turbo-charger to produce 103 kW. The torque peak of 320 Nm is reached at just 1 600 r/min and sustained to 2 800 r/min,.

The turbo-diesel engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels and  features ‘on-the-fly’ switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. The entire range is fitted with an Eaton MLD (Mechanical Locking Differential) as standard.

Initial impressions on the launch drive were of a quiet engine, much improved ride and handling, less deviance in cross winds – in short, a capable vehicle that should have huge fleet appeal, especially in the small business sector.

This is emphasised by its 1 000 kg maximum payload and 2 500 kg braked towing capacity – supporting the pay off line of ‘Loves Work, Loves Weekends’.

It offers a load space measuring 1 489 x 1 520 x 550 mm and even with some intrusion from the rear wheel arches, the additional depth of the load bed compared to other double cabs on the market is some level of compensation.

Comparisons are inevitable, if possibly a little unfair as the PikUp has no garden party aspirations where the only ‘off-road’ experience likely are urban speed humps and the odd pothole.

The PikUp is designed to work and play and most weekend off-roaders will be a lot happier to press this into more demanding ‘donga-diving’ with the chance of a couple of dings and scrapes than they would their vastly more expensive kerb-crawlers.

Against vehicles such as the Hilux 2.4 GD6, Amarok 2.0 BiTDi, Triton 2.4Di and Ranger 2.2, it does give away a fair bit in terms of both power and torque – the Hilux offering 110/400, the Amarok 132/420 and the Ranger 118/385 for example. It is, however, a tad stronger than the Isuzu KB 2500 D-Teq, which has 100 kW and 320 Nm.

There is not a lot in it – on the highway the PikUp will easily chortle along at the speed limit with enough in reserve for most overtaking requirements without the need to drop a cog and it runs with an overall fuel consumption of 7,9 l/100 km. Carbon emission are 211 g/km.

In 4×4 country, it offers more than enough low rev grunt to weasel its way through pretty much any obstacle. Perhaps its biggest downfall in really tight situations is its 5 175 mm length but compensation for this is the good height of the driver’s seat and the forward vision over the shortish bonnet.

The 6,7 metre turning circle radius could, I believe, be improved and it needs a rear parking distance sensor – but definitely needs to lose the audible shriek every time reverse gear is engaged.

The pricing – well below that of its opposition – includes a 4 Year /120 000 km Warranty and roadside assistance, and a 5 Year / 90 000 km Service Plan. Services are at 20 000 km intervals or every 12 months, whichever comes first.

In the world of double cab off-roaders, the Mahindra PikUp is the unsophisticated sophisticate.

What the difference in Retail price is really worth:

  Mahindra Hilux Amarok Ranger
Retail Price R354 995 R570 700 R596 200 R586 900
Lease Repayments

(4 years/120 000km

R7 253 R11 660 R12 180 R11 990
Insurance – Monthly R1 509 R2 425 R2 534 R2 494


Wasted hours

Cape Town is South Africa’s most congested city and number 48 on the world rankings with Johannesburg number 70 in the world – and South Africans are wasting an extra 119 travel hours a year on the roads.

According to TomTom Telematics research, South Africa is reported to have an average congestion level of 27%, resulting in 14,8 lost business days a year. This will come as no surprise to business owners and fleet managers who lose time and money to traffic jams daily.

Cape Town is once again the country’s most congested city,and the 5% congestion increase experienced over the 2016 period resulted in 163 extra travel hours a year – that’s 20,3 business days lost to traffic and congestion. Johannesburg, ranked 70 in the world, saw a 3% increase resulting in 141 extra hours a year, or 17,6 business days.

The report found Monday morning from 7am to 8am is the worst time to travel in five of the six most congested South African cities, although if you live in Bloemfontein, Tuesday mornings between 7am and 8am see the heaviest traffic. Cape Town experienced the most significant evening traffic, with congestion levels peaking from Tuesday to Friday.

East London, Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein have all seen an increase in congestion, according to the new report, with commuters losing out on between 8,5 (Bloemfontein) and 15,3 (Pretoria) extra business days a year.

Justin Manson, Business Development Manager at TomTom Telematics South Africa, says, “Traffic congestion is a reality we all have to face, and it will not be going away anytime soon. Businesses that rely on a mobile workforce are impacted most negatively by congestion.

“In most cases the impact relates to loss of billable hours, fuel wastage, overtime paid, a negative impact on customer service, and of course the frustration and irritability that congestion causes the drivers.”

“It is imperative any business with a mobile workforce, whether this entails deliveries, sales, maintenance, merchandising, etc, make use of a telematics solution that will keep drivers out of traffic congestion,” says Manson.

“The benefits are massive, less time spent in traffic means better customer service, more billable hours, less overtime and wasted fuel, and just as important – a less stressed mobile workforce.

“Knowing and understanding traffic patterns and congestion peaks will also help office staff to plan and dispatch drivers more efficiently.”

An effective telematics solution, such as Webfleet, helps fleet drivers avoid the most heavily congested routes. Real-time data gathered from thousands of devices across the country ensures drivers and fleet managers are able to plan the most cost- and fuel-efficient routes, avoid congestion and major traffic incidents, re-route quickly when necessary, and manage realistic ETAs.

This results in time, fuel and cost savings, as well as an increase in service delivery efficiency, despite the ever-increasing congestion facing drivers today.

The TomTom Traffic Index can also help fleet managers plan routes and times that avoid the heaviest congestion – a win for drivers and business.

South Africa’s’s Top 6 Most Congested Cities

City Congestion Level Extra Travel Per Year (Hours)
Cape Town 35% 163
Johannesburg 30% 141
East London 29% 121
Pretoria 26% 123
Durban 22% 100
Bloemfontein 18% 68