Road Impressions – Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDI Executive Sport

More than one motor manufacturer has discovered slapping a ‘Sport’ moniker and some additional body kit onto a dog that battles to pull the skin off a rice pudding has the certainty of coming back to bite them in the rear end.

The seventh generation Hyundai Tucson is, unquestionably, a bit of a looker and easily a candidate for additional and elegant body styling – which is exactly what Hyundai Automotive South Africa did to create the Sport version of the Tucson 1.6 TGDI Executive.

The body kit – front, rear and side skirts – are imported from Korea, while the alloy wheels were chosen with the help of Tiger Wheel & Tyre, exclusively for the Tucson Sport. A different exhaust system with four chrome pipes at the rear audibly announces the sporty nature of this Tucson.

The 19-inch black alloy wheels with its low-profile tyres are exclusive to the Tucson Sport – nobody can buy them off the shelf to fit to their own car.

The 1,6-litre turbo-charged 4-cylinder petrol engine is linked to a 6-speed manual gearbox with well-spaced ratios to get the power and torque to the road effectively through the front-wheel drive system.

The turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine delivers maximum power of 130 kW at        5 5 00 r/min and its torque delivery peaks at 265 Nm from 1 500 r/min to 4 500 r/min – and this has not been altered or tweaked for the Sport with Hyundai believing it provides enough to validate the label.

Does it?

The visual impression creates a mental level of expectancy and the start-up burble from the multiple tail pipes certainly does not disappoint.

Looking at comparisons, the 1,6-litre’s output is down a tad compared to that of compact crossover competitors such as the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5 2.5, but Hyundai’s four bests the field with more torque: 265 Nm developed earlier in the rev range.

Tucson’s torque curve is nice and flat,  reaching maximum elevation at 1 500 r/min and carrying on to 4500 r/min. That means even with part-throttle, it is easy to get to cruising speed and to zip through gaps in the traffic without the need for wide-open-throttle bursts and heroic downshifts.

The sporty exhaust note continues up through the rev range, with even a bit of ‘pop’ on the overrun or through downshifts.

Translated into performance the Tucson runs from zero to 100 km/h in 7,6 seconds and has a maximum speed of 193 km/h with fuel consumption around the 9,8 l/100 km mark for everyday driving and upping to 10,0 l/100 km when driven with a little more vigour.

Providing it is approached with the correct mind set – ie it is not designed to race your mate’s Focus ST or leave a Ferrari looking like it had stalled at the lights – the Tucson can carry the ‘Sport’ tag with some pride.

The front suspension features a McPherson strut system and the rear a multilink suspension system. As in the front, the rear sub frame receives four bush mountings, while the upper and lower suspension arms are longer to enhance overall suspension performance.

The new Tucson received some tweaks to the suspension settings to enhance high-speed and cornering stability, while also maximising the benefits of the long wheelbase (2 670 mm) and wide track to optimise ride and handling characteristics.

A brake system upgrade incorporated larger discs (305 mm front/ 302 mm rear) and this all works well on the Sport version, which remains solidly planted on the road even when pressed hard on the twisty bits.

The electric motor-driven power steering (MDPS) system has a suitably direct response to inputs and is accurate, so the driver knows exactly where the front wheels are pointed.

While it is a SUV, it is not well suited to dirt road excursions on the wide, low profile tyres that are more susceptible to sidewall cuts.

Standard features of the Tucson Sport include an 8-inch screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephone linking and music streaming, as well as a CD player, USB and AUX music input and a several settings for FM and AM radio reception. It also displays a rear view from the park assist camera when reversing the vehicle.

Additional convenience features include cruise control, rain sensors for the automatic windscreen wipers, an automatic air-conditioning system, electrically adjusted leather seats and multifunction controls on the steering wheel.

Among the safety features in the Tucson Sport are an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), an anti-lock braking system, Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and a full set of driver, front passenger, side and curtain air bags.

The Tucson was awarded a full 5-star safety rating in the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP).

The Tucson Sport comes with Hyundai’s 7-year/200 000 km warranty, roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000 km, and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan. Its service interval is 15 000 km.

Road Impressions – Toyota Etios 1.5 Sprint

With the second edition of the Festival of Motoring due at the Kyalami circuit soon, one of the few cars to debut at that event is about to celebrate a birthday, namely the Toyota Etios 1.5 Sprint.

The revised Etios range announced at the time reduced the number of model derivatives and made some badge changes most notably with the ‘X’ variant replaced by the Sprint – all part of a much needed re-energising of a brand name under intense pressure from competitive offerings in the market.

“The Etios represents one of the core models for Toyota, and has proven popular with a wide variety of customers. The pay-off line ‘Here to make you smile’ represents what Etios is all about; simple rewarding motoring – and with the most recent styling, spec and safety upgrades, it is set to continue.” said Glenn Crompton, vice president of Marketing at the time.

So, a year down the line, where does the Etios Sprint fit? At its current price of R172 600 it is flanked on that ladder by the Etios X Sedan and higher up the 1,2-litre Chev Spark LT – but that will soon disappear along with General Motors.

The primary opposition is the Volkswagen Polo Hatch 1.4 Conceptline (R173 800) and, on paper, there is little to choose from between the two in terms of specification and engine – 66 kW from the Etios versus 55 kW from the Polo Vivo and equal on torque at 132 Nm.

Both have two air bags, anti-lock braking, air-conditioning, audio system and Bluetooth.

Cost was an important consideration in the whole Etios range revise and the Sprint comes with power windows and manually operated side mirrors – something I dislike intensely as I would far rather wind my own window down than have to stretch across the car to adjust the left side mirror.

Cost against practicality – always a conundrum for the product planners.

The Etios was given an aesthetic makeover with the key change point being the front bumper design, incorporating a large lower air dam as its main focal point. The lower air dam stretches the entire front width, and features integrated fog lamps with sculpted bezels.

The lower grille is fashioned in matching black and utilises sharp horizontal slats while the upper radiator grille employs a distinctive wing-like motif, with the Toyota ellipse at its centre and a broad chrome ‘brow’ forming the upper border.

The rear also received styling tweaks and the rear bumper incorporated a lower crease line accentuating the profile – flowing from the outer corners and blending into the number plate recess. The revised bumper treatment bumped up the overall length by 109 mm on the hatch.

Sometimes mid-life and range revise styling changes are a visual air of desperation from an automaker scrabbling to find additional sales from an ailing and dated model – not so with the Etios, which can still proudly pose alongside any of its opposition and garner more than a few admiring glances.

In keeping with the ‘fun’ theme envisioned by Toyota, the Etios Sprint has a centre-mounted dash display, the half-moon display looking quite funky. While easily readable, I have to admit to being a bit of a purist and I still like my dials and gauges directly in front of me.

However, is it fun to drive?

Indeed it is. It is not a ‘hot’ hatch by any stretch of the imagination and nor was it intended to compete against the true hot hatches.

What it offers is a suitably swift response off the line, a nice rorty engine note going up the rev range and enough ‘vooma’ to make Officer Plod choke on his fried chicken as he tries to press the trigger of the radar gun.

It is nippy and has a sense of the mischievous, making it quite a fun drive.

Handling details sees a Macpherson strut design at the front with a torsion-beam-type suspension for the rear, augmented by a reinforcement brace to ensure handling stability.

Overall, the dampening system is tuned to achieve a supple, mild ride comfort that confidently allows traversing of bumps in the road surface.

This translates to pretty nifty handling, although the short wheelbase did have the rear wanting to swop ends on occasion when pitched hard into a tight corner. Even though the suspension works well to contain the bumps, our often-rippled road surfaces did provoke some mild twitching off line from time to time.

Good low-speed torque delivery made the Etios a breeze to navigate in and out of traffic with the hatchback recording 6,4 l/100 kilometres average during our test.

All Etios models come with a 2-year/30 000 km service plan, backed by a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and service intervals are set at 10 000 kilometres.

In the tough market segment in which it is playing, the Etios Sprint has stood up strongly in its first year to remain a cost effective option for the price conscious buyer.

RoadImpressions – Kia Rio 1.4 TEC

Possibly the most excruciatingly boring drive in the country is the 600-odd kilometres between Durban and Johannesburg on the N3, monitored as it is by 35 or so fixed camera speed traps, a herd of ‘average speed camera zones’ at least five manned radar gun traps and an ever-increasing stretches limited to 100 km/h or less.

I fully understand the notion when people do not want to save themselves; sometimes you have to do it for them. Equally, I fully support road safety and, given the parlous state of many of the trucks on our roads, recognise the need to have huge restraint on Van Reenen’s Pass, Field’s Hill and Town Hill.

However, the rather hefty toll fees paid for the privilege of driving on what is supposed to be the premier arterial motorway in the country is losing its lustre as it is no longer seamless, swift or pleasant – I mean, 100 km/h all the way from Warden to the other side of Harrismith!

Worse still are the manned speed traps – offering nothing whatsoever to the notion of road safety, these are nothing more than money earners. The fixed traps should release traffic officers to patrol the highway and to mitigate incidents by stopping unroadworthy vehicles before they barrel down one of the hills destroying everything in their path.

Armed with a Kio Rio 1.4 TEC manual, I drove up the hill from Durban to the heady heights of Johannesburg at 1 753 metres above sea level and then back down to sea level again with the cruise control activated wherever possible.

It simply is impossible to modulate control of the throttle to keep within the limits of the law for such long periods – cruise control is a must. Also, with the sound cranked up it alleviates some of the tedium with games such as ‘when will that truck pull out to overtake the other one moving at walking pace and how many gears will I need to drop down’ also taking up some of the slow-passing time.

The sound system in the Rio TEC is up to the task with six speakers in play. Not quite concert levels but enough to blow the cobwebs away.

Since the trip is almost an enforced economy run, consumption watching forms part of the mix and the 6,5 l/100 km achieved on the uphill run at an average of 94 km/h was only marginally more than the 6,2 /100 km recorded on the downhill return at the same average speed.

The new, fourth-generation Rio is defined by straight lines and smooth surfacing, giving the car a distinctive new look and more mature character than its predecessor.

At the front is the latest evolution of Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ grille, now thinner in height and wider across the front of the car, with a gloss black grille mesh and surround. The grille is integrated with the newly designed headlamps, featuring a new U-shaped LED daytime running light signature.

In profile, the lengthened, more balanced stance is achieved with a long bonnet and longer front overhang, a 10 mm longer wheelbase (up to 2 580 mm), a thinner, more upright C-pillar, and a shorter rear overhang. Overall, the new car is 15 mm longer than its predecessor (4 065 mm in length) and 5 mm lower (now 1 450 mm tall). Straight, clearly defined lines run down the full length of the car’s shoulder and along its doors, further stretching the appearance of the car for a more confident look.

The rear section of the Rio is now more upright, with a near-vertical rear windscreen. The straight line that runs from the grille, through the headlamps and along the top of the doors, continues around the back of the car, paired with thinner, more sculpted rear lamps. High specification models are available with LED taillights with a new arrow-shaped light signature.

Inside, the dashboard is angled towards the driver. At the centre is a ‘floating’ HMI (human-machine interface) with a new 7-inch Touch Screen infotainment system. Below the infotainment system, the driver-oriented centre console features fewer buttons, with more ergonomic, concave switches and rotator dials below to control the heating and ventilation.

Convenience items on the TEC include power windows, electrically controlled door mirrors, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a Rear Park Assist System with reverse camera.

New dashboard soundproofing materials have been adopted to reduce engine noise levels in the front of the cabin, while a stiffer front sub frame minimises vibrations from poor road surfaces.

In the silences between songs, I was impressed with the low levels of travel noise intruding into the cabin.

The Rio’s 10 mm longer wheelbase and 15 mm longer body contribute to larger cabin and cargo area dimensions. Legroom grows to 1 070 mm in the front and 850 mm in the rear, achieved with a series of changes to the Rio’s packaging. These include re-profiled door trims, the adoption of new headlining materials and changes to the shape of the dashboard.

Luggage capacity is increased by 37 litres to 325 litres. The uphill journey involved both a wife and a niece on holiday from the UK – and all the luggage plus laptops and etcetera fitted in the boot, a huge plus for a car in this market segment.

The 1,4-litre engine produces 74 kW at 6 300 r/min and 135 Nm torque at 4 200 r/min driving through a six-speed manual transmission.

Compared to what some other manufacturers are achieving with small capacity engines, the Rio’s power plant comes across as being a tad weak. While never intended to be a robot-to-robot dragster, the engines runs out of breath quite quickly.

Gear ratios inclined towards fuel efficiency also mean it has to be ‘rowed’ up hills with two to three downshifts needed when cruising momentum is interrupted. That said, it is hardly a mobile chicane.

One of the downsides of some cars in this segment is the lack of comfort and support from the seats, usually because of thinner padding and the like to keep the cost down. The Rio is more than comfortable and supportive enough over the long haul to minimise fatigue.

The steering is light enough for comfort but responsive and accurate when needed and does not mind been thrown around fairly vigorously, staying mainly neutral and easing into predictable understeer.

The increased application of advanced high strength steel has strengthened the passenger cabin ‘cell’ for greater occupant safety and more effective distribution of impact forces. The stronger steel has been used to reinforce the A and B-pillars, as well as side sills, roof structure, engine bay and floor pan.

Along with driver’s and passenger’s air bags (including side and curtain air bags in the TEC model), the new Rio features front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters, side door impact beams front and rear, child locks, and impact sensing door unlocking. ISOFIX child seat anchors are standard across the range, as is anti-lock braking.

The Rio sits on fully independent MacPherson strut front suspension and a coupled torsion beam rear axle. It benefits from a revised spring and damper set-up noticeably improving the car’s compliance and comfort at all speeds.

A new front suspension system features a more rigid cross member and struts, while the rear shock absorbers are mounted more vertically, absorbing shocks better to improve ride comfort and stability.

The Kia Rio come with a 5-year / unlimited kilometre Warranty, inclusive of 5-years / Unlimited Kilometres Roadside Assistance as well as a 4-year / 60 000 km Service Plan.

KEY FACTS

 

Engine Type In-line 4 cyl, 16 valve DOHC CVVT
Displacement (cc) 1 396
Fuel supply system Multi Point Injection (MPI)
Max Power (kW @ rpm) 74/6300
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 135/4200
Compression Ratio 10.5 : 1
Bore and Stroke (mm) 74 x 74.99
Acceleration (0-100km/h) 11.5
Maximum speed (km/h) 176
CO2 emissions (g/km) 137

 

 

Tested – Toyota Yaris 1.5 Pulse CVT

The once expansive range of Toyota Yaris offerings that h hatch and sedan has been whittled down in the latest iteration to a five-car pot, all badged Pulse in homage to the 1,5-litre engine that replaces the 1,3-litre fitted to the outgoing model.

Perched at the top end of the range (with the exception of the more expensive Hybrid), the Yaris Pulse Plus CVT is our test subject.

Officially launched at the Geneva Show earlier this year, the new Yaris takes on a funkier and more dynamic look. The appearance is also more refined, with fresh detailing in the bodywork and cabin as well as new colour choices.

Particularly here are the Bi-Tones – where Pearl White, Grey or Cinnabar Red are mated to a black roof.

The redesign of the front of the car features a new front bumper that creates a ‘catamaran’ shape with broad sections flowing down from new headlight units, flanking the wide, trapezoidal grille. The result is a more pronounced three-dimensional effect, and the sense of a wider, more planted road stance.

The grille itself has  an arrangement of ‘stepped’ horizontal bars and the integrated fog light housings either side of the grille have also been reworked with a more compact recess.

At the rear is a new tailgate design that extends the horizontal emphasis with new rear light clusters that stretch from the rear wings to the door.

Following the same concept as the new frontal design, a ‘catamaran’ architecture has also been created at the rear with a new bumper design supported by re-shaping the area framing the licence plate and the addition of black garnish details in the lower bumper.

Changes to the interior include a three-spoke steering wheel that has a new look and boasts the addition of piano black trim inserts along with new propeller-style air vents.

 Priced at R249 600, it comes up against the Kia Rio Htch 1.4 LX, Hyundai i20 1.4 Motion and Ford Fiesta 5-dr 1.0 Trend – in all instances beating them out with its 1,5-litre engine.

Compared to the 1,3-litre unit, it is 0,8 seconds quicker in acceleration from 0-100 km/h (11,2 seconds in the CVT) while being more fuel efficient than the unit it replaces – Toyota claiming up to 12% here and looking around 5,8 l/100 km as an average.

Real world use produced 6,2 l/100 km during our testing.

The new 1,5-litre engine is part of the ESTEC (Economy with Superior Thermal Efficient Combustion) engine family. It runs on a high compression ratio (13.5) and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system.

The thing is, the Yaris – in terms of price – is surrounded by high levels of tech in the opposition products and the 82 kW (at 6 000 r/min) and 136 Nm of torque at 4 400 r/min on offer from the Yaris engine is more but, the question is: does it work?

This comes down to the CVT gearbox. In city traffic a CVT can work well enough, where the low speeds allow it to smoothly work out the best options on your behalf.

Remove the traffic and the CVT becomes something of a screamer – a failing of pretty much all CVT gearboxes – as it tries to balance driver input to the best drive choice. The Yaris has both Sport and Eco modes and the switch to Sport quiets the hunting CVT beast a little when an opportunity for brisker driving presents.

For more press on occasions the semi-manual mode eliminates many of the steps taken by the CVT but is not advised if fuel economy is a consideration. Road and wind noise at the national speed limit is nicely abated for such a small car and road-holding is stable and secure.

The Yaris is well appointed and offers comfortable seating with more rear seat space than first glances might indicate – the easy, relaxed drive position mitigating the CVT annoyances somewhat.

It is fitted with front and side air bags, anti-locking braking, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, hill assist control and vehicle stability control as part of the comprehensive package of safety and convenience features.

It has also got a good infotainment display, strong air-conditioning and comes with a Euro-NCAP rating of five stars and it rides on 185-60R15 alloy wheels and tyres.

The Yaris continues to be a good value-for-money product, with all models offered with a 3-year/ 45 000 km service plan and a 3-year/100 000 km warranty.

KEY FIGURES

 

Maximum Power (kW @ r/min) 82@6000,
Maximum Torque (Nm @ r/min) 136@4400,
Number of Cylinders and Arrangement Inline-4,
Engine capacity (litre) 1.5
CVT Gear Ratio 2.480 – 0.396
0-100 (sec) 11.2
Top Speed (km/h) 175
Fuel Consumption (Combined Cycle) (l/100km) 5.8 (Claimed)
CO2 (g/km) 108
Lugagge Capacity (L) 286

 

Tested – Honda Civic 1.5T Sport CVT

The very first Honda Ballade launched in South Africa was a long-bonnet ugly beast with the handling characteristics of a blancmange pudding.

The next iteration was a wondrous revelation and, I believe, set the course for pretty much all Japanese-built Hondas from then on. It was perfectly proportioned, sat square and confident on the road and – most importantly – because you could clearly see both front corners, the ideal point and squirt gymkhana car.

Moving forward to the latest generation of the Honda Civic – the ninth in the series – that sense of proportion (and the fact the front corners are clearly visible) carries through, even in a much more modern design style.

Either cars tug at the heartstrings or they do not. Liking them is a purely emotive reaction and no amount of design-speak will change that. I like the look. A lot. Well, more than a lot…

The Civic 1.5T Sport is not, and never will be, a Golf GTI muncher. It was not designed or intended to take on the hot hatches. Rather its intention is to provide just enough to make the corpuscles break into a gallop when asked, yet take cognisance of fuel efficiency and daily traffic grind needs to pootle along in Eco mode.

In aiming for high levels of design and comfort, the challenge for Honda engineers was to combine a sleek and aerodynamic exterior with D-segment levels of spaciousness and comfort.

Its styling carefully reflects a low silhouette for a four-door sedan, creating the overall impression of a sleek sports coupé.

This gives the Honda sedan a more aggressive, athletic and dynamic appearance, while also creating more interior room compared to the outgoing model. Overall, the wheelbase has been increased by 30 mm, and the total length by 109 mm, while the height has been lowered by 20 mm.

The reduced height and the more dynamic aesthetic appeal also translate into a lower centre of gravity for greater on-road stability, boosting cornering confidence and encouraging sporty, engaging driving.

Advanced full LED headlights and LED daytime running lights are fitted to the 1,5-litre Turbo models for the first time while, at the rear, the Civic’s characteristic bracketed tail light design has been re-interpreted with eye-catching LED light bars on either side.

The Civic’s interior treatment embodies Honda’s ‘Daring ACE Design’ concept, combining high-quality materials with an ergonomically intuitive centre console and a sporty yet comfortable driving position.

The uncluttered interior design features extensive use of attractive soft touch and accent materials that heighten the sense of premium quality. On an ergonomic level, it offers refined, user-friendly access to the various controls.

Overall, Honda has managed significantly to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to achieve high levels of on-road quietness.

Leather seats (heated in front) are standard on all but the entry-level model and the steering wheel offers tilt and telescopic adjustment.

Rear-seat knee space has increased by 55 mm, along with further gains in shoulder room for the rear occupants. Boot capacity has also improved by 20%.

One of the new features is the advanced interface provided by the high-resolution, 7-inch- WVGA LCD display that forms the centrepiece for the digital audio system. The expansive IPS display can be viewed from both driver and passenger seats and the air-conditioning can also be operated on the display panel.

The system enables connection with numerous smartphone functions, including maps for ease of navi operation. This makes it the most convenient and connected Civic ever.

Honda’s first-ever 1.5 VTEC Turbo engine produces 127 kW of maximum power at 5 500 r/min, along with 220 Nm of maximum torque – the latter available in a broad range between 1 700 r/min and 5 500 r/min.

These outputs are comparable to a 2,4-litre naturally aspirated engine, but offer the equivalent fuel economy of a Honda Jazz. The engine achieves Euro4 emission requirements, making it one of the most environmentally friendly engines in its class.

With an engine bore pitch of only 80 mm, this unit is extremely compact, and achieves a substantial weight reduction compared to a conventional naturally aspirated engine.

In line with Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’, it is paired with a new series of CVT gearboxes as standard.

Even though it is one of the better CVT gearboxes around, I really wish Honda would look at a ‘proper’ automatic gearbox along the lines of Volkswagen’s DSG or the Porsche PDK.

However, this combination achieves a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5,9 l/100 km for the 1.5 VTEC Turbo when run in Eco Mode. Switching over to Sport mode does kick this up to 6,3 l/100 km or 7,9 l/100 if full hooligan mode is used.

Underpinning the Civic is a lightweight, low-inertia and high-rigidity platform. Through the expanded use of ACE technology and high-tensile materials, significant improvements have been achieved in the dynamic performance, handling and safety of the new model, while reducing the body weight by 22 kg.

The front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension systems have been newly designed, including the addition of a sub-frame to the rear. Linked to the increases in body and chassis rigidity, the new platform ensures substantial performance and safety improvements.

Steering technology adopts dual-pinion electric power steering (EPS) to create a linear and smooth feel with an integral sense of security. This is further enhanced with the adoption of a variable ratio that adjusts constantly according to the driver inputs and driving conditions – thereby giving the driver the perfect balance between high-speed stability and low-speed agility and responsiveness.

It works. All too often ‘nanny’ systems in modern cars are irritatingly intrusive and on brisker drives actually detract from the driving experience.

 On the Civic, the Agile Handling Assist (AHA) feature is integrated with the Civic’s EPS and vehicle control systems to facilitate driving enjoyment, as well as overall control and stability.

AHA anticipates a loss of control during cornering and helps to prevent it by continuously modulating brake and throttle inputs in small, imperceptible increments to assist overall driver control. For the average driver, if this kicks in you have exceeded the limits of your ability anyway.

An additional safety net is provided by means of the Vehicle Stability Control, which is standard on all models, incorporating Hill Start Assist, along with anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

All models are equipped with dual front, side and curtain airbags, complemented with a reverse camera and rear parking sensors on all but the base model.

The recommended retail pricing includes a 5-year/200 000 km warranty, a 5-year/90 000 km service plan, as well as three years of AA Roadside Assistance.

Key Facts

Engine:             1 498 cc

Power:              127 kW @ 5 500 r/min

Torque:             120 Nm from 1 700 r/min

0-100:               8,2 sec

Top Speed:       194 km/h

Boot:                424 litres

Tank:                47 litres

X-Class launched in Cape Town

There is a character named Travis McGee in a series of novels by John D MacDonald who drives around in a bright blue Rolls Royce pickup.

Besides the greatness of both the character and the books, as a petrolhead the idea of a modifying a Roller into a ‘bakkie’ had huge appeal – even if way, way off the financial radar.

So, after all the hype and shadowy sketches, Mercedes-Benz have kinda stepped into that place with the official launch in Cape Town of the X-Class pickup. Essentially the world’s most luxurious pickup, the company is quick to point out it will also serve the more traditional role of being a workhorse.

There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

In addition there are six different seat covers, including two leather variants, three sets of cockpit trim parts and a diverse range of accessories developed by Mercedes-Benz. These allow the X-Class to be modified to suit personal tastes and requirements like no other pickup, both visually and in terms of functionality.

“The X-Class is the first genuine pickup with convincing passenger car characteristics. It’s robust, strong and with good off-road capability – just like a pickup should be.

“It’s also aesthetically pleasing, dynamic to drive, comfortable, safe, connected and individual – as you would expect from a Mercedes. As a result, the X-Class pushes the boundaries of the classic pickup and makes this vehicle segment attractive for private use, too. With three design and equipment lines and an extensive scope of further individualisation options, we offer the ideal vehicle for a range of different customer groups and their needs,” says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans

The demand for mid-size pickups with typical passenger car characteristics and comfort features has been steadily on the rise for years. At the same time, the number of pickups for private use is increasing and they are no longer viewed purely as workhorses.

Mercedes-Benz says this tough performance pickup delivers a driveability and handling that matches many demands – both with regard to driving dynamics and ride comfort. This is attained thanks to a comfort suspension with the fine tuning expected of a Mercedes. It consists of a ladder-type frame, rear multi-link solid axle, front independent wheel suspension and coil springs on both axles.

Built on this platform, the distinctive design of the X-Class is available in three model variants to suit different lifestyles and work environments:

* The X-Class PURE basic variant is ideal for rugged, functional use. It fulfils all the demands placed on a workhorse. At the same time its comfort and design make it perfect for visiting customers or suppliers and for private activities.

* The X-Class PROGRESSIVE is aimed at people seeking a rugged pickup with extra styling and comfort functions – as a calling card for their own business, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private use.

* The X-Class POWER is the high-end design and equipment line. It is aimed at customers for whom styling, performance and comfort are paramount. The X-Class POWER is a lifestyle vehicle beyond the mainstream – suitable for urban environments as well as for sports and leisure activities off the beaten track. Through its design and high level of equipment it reflects an independent and individualistic lifestyle.

The X-Class can haul a payload of up to 1,1 tons. That is enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area. Able to tow up to 3,5 tons, it can also pull a trailer containing three horses or an eight-metre yacht.

Thanks to its long 3150-millimetre wheelbase, the short and cladded front overhang, the backward shifted passenger compartment and the very long rear overhang, the X-Class has an elongated vehicle body.

The design of the side windows with their dynamic kink along the beltline and taut lines contrasting with muscular, sculpted surfaces also allude to the longitudinal dynamics. Widely flared wheel arches, the commanding front and the purist design of the rear all accentuate the impression of width. Together they give the pickup a powerful on-road presence and make reference to the X-Class’s excellent lateral dynamics.

In terms of width, the load bed is designed in such a way that a Euro-pallet can be loaded straight between the wheel arches.

The X-Class is the only mid-size pickup to be equipped with lighting in the cargo area as standard. The third brake light contains LED lights, which illuminate the whole load bed. Operation is by a switch in the centre console. As soon as the ignition is switched on, those lights turn off automatically.

A 12-volt socket to power additional equipment such as compressors, for example, is also part of the standard equipment in the load bed.

Dimensions of the X-Class:

Vehicle – length 5 340 mm Vehicle width1 920 mm; Vehicle height 1 819 mm; Wheelbase 3 150 mm; Load bed length 587 mm; Load bed width 1 560 mm; Load bed height 474 mm

.The instrument panel has the concave trim element typical of a Mercedes. It stretches across the entire width of the instrument panel – a novel feature in this vehicle segment.

The instrument cluster consists of the large, analogue round dials from the C-Class and V-Class. In the X-Class PROGRESSIVE and POWER they are tubular. A 5,4-inch colour multimedia display is nestled between the round dials. Thanks to the push-buttons on the standard-fit three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, the settings on the colour display can be controlled without drivers having to take their hands off the steering wheel. The steering wheel with its 12 buttons in total is height-adjustable, thereby improving ergonomic posture and allowing a relaxed seating position.

In the X-Class PROGRESSIVE and POWER, the steering wheel, shift lever knob and handbrake lever are also covered in leather. In conjunction with the Audio 20 CD and COMAND Online multimedia systems, and in addition to the central control unit, the X-Class contains the multifunction touchpad familiar from the passenger car model series – the multifunction touchpad is another novelty in this segment. It is located in an ergonomic position on the centre console and, like a smartphone, it can be controlled using gestures or by entering letters and characters.

The high-torque common-rail diesel drive system with a displacement of 2,3 litres is available with a choice of two power outputs.

In the X 220d with single turbo-charger it generates 120 kW and in the biturbo X 250d no less than 140 kW.

Both diesel models are available with purely rear wheel drive or with engageable all-wheel drive.

Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automatic transmission is available on request for the 140 kW X 250d and X 250d 4MATIC models.

A high-torque V6 diesel engine will be released mid-2018, and will generate 190 kW and a maximum torque of 550 Nm. With that the X 350d occupies a leading position in the segment. The top X-Class model will come as standard with permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive and the seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC PLUS with steering-wheel shift paddles and ECO start/stop function.

Coil springs are used both at the front and the rear and the comfort suspension is designed in such a way it achieves a high level of driving dynamics and ride comfort on the road, while also delivering maximum off-road capability in conjunction with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

The suspension consists of a double wishbone front axle and a rear multi-link solid axle that is ideal for transporting heavy loads and has good articulation capability. This combination ensures that the suspension is comfortable and the handling is safe given any permitted load condition.

The X-Class’s high level of occupant protection results from its especially solid car body with a high-strength passenger cell and a structure with a front and rear that can absorb energy through well-aimed deformation.

Furthermore, passive safety is provided thanks to standard equipment such as seven air bags and the i-Size attachment system for two child seats.

For active safety, three driver assistance systems are at the ready, simultaneously increasing safety and comfort: Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Traffic Sign Assist. Additionally, there are Trailer Stability Assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, emergency call system, cruise control and LED headlamps that deliver the brightest light output in the segment thanks to six LEDs respectively. If required, a 360-Degree Camera is available in addition to a reversing camera.

“The segment for mid-size pickups is ripe for a premium vehicle. With the X-Class we will open up this segment to new customer groups, just as we redefined the off-road segment with the M-Class more than 20 years ago. Our pickup convinces as a workhorse, yet also as a family and lifestyle vehicle. In short, the X-Class is the Mercedes among pickups,” says Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The South African versions will be launched during next year.

 

Tested – Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×2 (auto)

As mad as South Africans are about bakkies, they are also often a partisan crowd and different places around the country tend to show a predominance of favour for a certain brand.

Where I live on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal – often called the slow coast for good reason – the Ford Ranger is edging ahead based on visible numbers on the road. However, when one starts paying attention to the make there are still surprising numbers of Colt bakkies on active duty.

The Mitsubishi Colt – particularly the 2,8-litre diesel – was hugely popular and when the marque left the Mercedes-Benz stable and the original Triton came out – well, for folk locally, it just was not quite the same so they hung onto their Colts, tended to the rust and carried on until replacement was essential.

That moment came well before the new generation Triton was launched – hence the rise in popularity of other makes.

Will new Triton make inroads. In this sales microcosm it will be interesting to watch.

Should Triton make inroads. Damn straight!

The 2017 model, the fifth in the Colt/Triton lineage, is the most advanced pick-up ever to be developed by Mitsubishi  and launched in South Africa earlier this year, following successful introduction to Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

Engineers improved 185 key areas of the Triton, compared to its predecessor, ranging from deepening and reinforcing the loading bay, revising the shape of the bonnet for aerodynamic efficiency and refining the driving position for improved in-vehicle visibility and comfort.

Other famous elements such as the distinct J-line between the cabin and the load bay have been reworked for benchmark interior space. This is immediately apparent to all passengers, particularly those seated in the back of the double-cab models.

While I like the looks and flowing lines, achieving those has compromised rear seat (adult) passengers on longer journeys where the reduced visibility from the small windows can become a tad claustrophobic.

The sculpted bonnet, bold grille and wrap-around headlights flow into a deep shoulder-line that connects to the new tail lights and a curved tailgate that now facilitates one-handed operation. The integrated brake light on the tailgate cannot be obscured like those on cab-mounted versions.

The design is further tweaked by the addition of chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles. Newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels complete the updates.

The combined engineering effort, which has radically improved the new Triton over its predecessor, is perhaps most evident inside the cabin, which was purposely shaped to mirror the same level of comfort and convenience as Mitsubishi’s range of SUV-models and iconic Pajero – the upcoming Pajero Sport actually being developed off  the Triton.

Getting in and out of the new Triton is not only much easier, but sitting behind the steering wheel feels more natural thanks to a commanding driver position offering improved visibility over the front of the vehicle.

The driver has the benefit of a new dashboard with easy-to-clean surfaces chosen for practicality. Range-specific features on the new model include an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button Stop/Start system.

Standard are cruise control, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, a reverse camera, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and leather upholstery.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1 745 mm to further improve cabin space, while shoulder room ‒ both front and rear ‒ has been improved. Subtle changes include redesigned seats offering additional bolstering and higher density foam for more comfortable long distance driving.

The double-cab’s rear bench is angled by a class-leading 25 degrees. This not only adds additional leg and shoulder space, but mitigates the typical upright position that is synonymous with double-cab pick-ups. To round off the impressive cabin, Mitsubishi’s engineers have added thicker sound deadening material to the engine firewall and under the floor.

 The Mitsubishi Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The new engine offers the ideal combination of a fast spooling turbo-charger with an unconventionally low compression ratio of 15.5:1 which aids responsive torque delivery at low engine speeds.

The 2.4 MIVEC engine also features reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system. This engine weighs 30 kg less than its predecessor.

Power delivery is rated at 133 kW at 3 500 r/min with torque peaking at 430 Nm at 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption is rated at 7,6 l/100 km in a combined cycle. In the test cycle this was easily achieved and bettered with the vehicle unladen and carrying a full load I managed 8,7 l/100 km.

The new 2.4 MIVEC turbo-diesel delivers power to the rear through the choice of a shorter-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, or a five-speed automatic transmission as was the case with my test unit.

Triton owes its better road manners to revised stabiliser bars, stiffer front springs and significantly larger rubber body mountings on the ladder frame chassis.

The overall combination can be experienced by less body roll and pitching – unwanted tendencies usually associated with a heavy nose and empty load bin. Once again, the J-line allowed engineers to shorten the wheelbase which leads to crisper manoeuvrability.

Further handling gains can be attributed to the Hydraulic Power Steering system that is more direct at 3,8 turns lock-to-lock (as opposed to the 4,3 turns of its predecessor) and tightening the cornering radius to 5,9 metres.

That’s what Mitsubishi says – in reality the steering is still a bit too vague when the vehicle is unladen especially on gravel roads when travelling briskly. The combination of vague steering and front end wash if the turn in is a little too heavy can lead to some nervous moments.

Fortunately, it does come with Active Stability and Traction Control to mitigate and this works rather well without being too intrusive in normal driving situations. It comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

One of the reasons the Colt did so well in this market was its solid dependability. The new Triton gives off that same feeling.

All models have a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty.

2.4 Di-DC 4X2 5-speed A/T
Engine Type
DOHC MIVEC Common Rail
Fuel Type Diesel
Max. Output 133 kW @ 3 500 r/min
Max. Torque 43 Nm @ 2 500 r/min
Fuel Tank Capacity 75L
Towing Capacity (Braked) 1 500 kg
Towing Capacity (Unbraked) 750 kg