Honda sedan targets corporates

Fleet and corporate buying remains the dominant force in the South African vehicle market, even though much of this is hidden in the sales returns as ‘dealer sales’, and the sedan is still the body shape of choice for company cars.

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In line with world trends this is slowly changing – with one automaker already having announced it is ending production of small and medium sedans – and that trend will follow suit locally by choice or by force.

In the meanwhile, the way into this market is with a choice sedan and Honda is looking to capture a slice of the pice with the new Amaze.

Designed specifically as a sedan from the ground up, the new Amaze is larger in every dimension than the Brio, which it effectively replaces.

“We believe the new Honda Amaze will set a new, elevated standard for small sedans in South Africa,” says Toshiaki Kusakari, Head of Automobiles at Honda Motor Southern Africa.

“We are expecting the car to appeal to a broad and varied motoring audience, ranging from young singles and start-up families to mature motorists. All will be attracted by the Amaze’s value-added purchase price, excellent fuel efficiency and low operating cost.

“In addition, the new Amaze is exceptionally roomy and offers a generous luggage compartment, while Honda’s revered reputation for reliability and good resale value will also add to the Amaze’s attraction.”

The new Amaze is only 5 mm longer and 15 mm wider than its predecessor, but the wheelbase has grown by a substantial 65 mm, which translates into shorter overhangs and more interior space.

The front is dominated by Honda’s characteristic ‘solid wing’ appearance, which manifests itself in a broad bar extending across the width of the contrasting black honeycomb grille. It also provides a visual link to the bold halogen headlight clusters.

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A lower air intake is framed by recessed, black-framed fog lamps in the case of Comfort models. A slim, colour-coded splitter below the air intake adds a sporty finishing touch.

Viewed from the side, the alloy wheels – standard across the range – are a visual highlight, while also reducing unsprung mass. A crisp shoulder line running from the headlights to the taillight clusters highlights the Amaze’s sculpted flanks while a broad sill contributes to the sedan’s planted, powerful look.

The rear view is dominated by the C-shaped taillight clusters, which frame a bootlid that opens wide and deep. An integrated spoiler on the bootlid’s leading edge adds a sporty touch, while the colour-coded, integrated bumper extends into a stylised rear diffuser.

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Smart cloth upholstery is used to trim the contoured, supportive front seats and rear bench seat. Genuine Honda synthetic leather seat covers can be ordered as a no-cost option.

Gloss piano black detailing on the dashboard adds to the ambience, while the ergonomically designed dashboard features a driver-centric instrument binnacle with analogue dials for speed and rev count. The binnacle also houses a digital trip computer.

The centre stack is home to a sound system offering FM/AM radio functionality, as well as MP3 music file playback and Bluetooth, which allows hands-free telephony and music streaming. The four-speaker system also provides USB connectivity and an AUX socket.

A multifunction steering wheel allows safe and convenient control of the audio system, as well as making Bluetooth-linked hands-free cellphone calls. Generous cabin storage includes pockets in all four doors and cupholders in the centre console, while a fold-down rear seat armrest also incorporates cup holders for rear occupants.

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Because of the new Amaze’s comparatively long 2 470 mm wheelbase, the interior is airy and spacious, with ample leg and headroom both front and rear. The boot capacity is 420 litres – 20 litres more than the original Brio Amaze.

The new Honda Amaze is powered by a 1 199 cc unit that employs Honda’s i-VTEC intelligent valve timing management system. Maximum power output is rated at 66 kW, reached at 6 000 r/min, combined with a torque peak of 110 Nm at 4 800 r/min.

In the baseline Amaze Trend model, a five-speed manual gearbox is standard, while buyers of the Comfort model can also opt for a new-generation Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT).

With a kerb mass of just more than 900 kg, the Amaze is able to deliver swift performance, and frugal fuel economy. Manual-gearbox models will accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 12,3 sec, while the CVT version requires 13,5 sec. Top speed is 160 km/h for all derivatives.

The manual-transmission Amaze models achieve a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5,6 l/100 km, while the CVT version is only slightly thirstier at 5,7 l/100 km.

The Amaze’s all-new platform features an independent, McPherson strut-based front suspension, and a torsion beam rear set-up. It has been designed to offer confident handling and a refined ride, while the electrically assisted power steering ensures effortless, crisp steering response.

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Overall refinement and NVH has been improved substantially, thanks to the new platform’s enhanced sound proofing and reduced engine noise transmission, as well as optimised engine mounts.

All Honda Amaze models are fitted with dual front air bags, inertia reel seatbelts front and rear, and IsoFix child seat anchors. On the active safety front, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) are standard.

The new Honda Amaze range consists of three models, all employing the same engine, but offering a choice between two transmissions, and two trim levels.

The most affordable Amaze is the 1.2 Trend, available as a manual gearbox model only. However, even this so-called base model offers buyers an extensive list of standard equipment.

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Exterior features include 15-inch alloy wheels shod with 175/65 R15 tyres, a roof-mounted sharkfin antenna, and a high-mounted third brake light. Inside, smart cloth upholstery is standard, as is the tilt-adjustable multifunction steering wheel. The four-speaker audio system features FM/AM and MP3 functionality.

It also includes Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming and hands-free telephony. Central locking is standard, while the exterior mirrors are adjusted manually.

Moving up to the 1.2 Comfort, the exterior gains colour-coding for the exterior mirrors and door handles, while low-mounted, recessed fog lamps are standard, too.

Inside, the Comfort includes everything that’s standard on Trend versions, but adds automatic air-conditioning and electric adjustment of the exterior mirrors, as well as automatic door locking once the vehicle starts moving.

The 1.2 Comfort CVT is identical in all respects to its manual-gearbox stablemate, but gains gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel to allow for manual shifts between the CVT’s virtual gears.

PRICING, WARRANTY AND SERVICE PLAN
The new Honda Amaze recommended retail pricing is as follows:
Honda Amaze 1.2 Trend: R179 900
Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort: R193 900
Honda Amaze 1.2 Comfort CVT: R208 900

The range is supported by a full 5-year/200 000 km warranty, as well as a 2-year/30 000 km service plan, and a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Scheduled services are at 15 000 km intervals.

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Gumtree Awards – VW dominates

With fuel prices having reached record highs and little, or no, relief in sight car buyers are increasingly looking at pre-owned stock as a method of containing overall motoring costs.

However, the second-hand market can be a minefield of its own with horror stories about unscrupulous dealers, odomoter rewinding and other nefarious tactics abounding – so, the Gumtree Pre-Owned Vehicle Awards gives potential buyers a good base from where to begin.

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In the most recent awards, Volkswagen increased its dominance by winning five of the 11 categories after taking three awards in the inaugural competition last year.

Only 2016 models with at least six months of depreciation data were considered for this year’s awards, as two-year old vehicles are the most popular models being considered by pre-owned buyers in 2018.

The Gumtree awards seek to recognise and promote the best pre-owned models in the market across 11 categories, based on criteria a buyer may use when evaluating pre-owned cars as well as depreciation and sales figures provided by TransUnion. The important criteria for buyers in this market are: resale value, quality, durability, overall performance and economy and especially outright value for money of various vehicles offered for sale in South Africa.

The winners were selected from a list of 55 finalists made up of the top five vehicles having the most favourable depreciation in each of the 11 categories. These models then underwent further evaluation, including physical road testing.

One category – for SUVs costing less than R505 000 – was added for 2018, replacing the previous sports car category, which was considered too niche.

Representative examples of the 55 finalists were sourced and tested by former national motor sport champion Charl Wilken, who drew up detailed and illustrated information sheets which were sent to a judging panel for voting. The results were audited and verified before being announced.

Members of the 2018 judging panel were: Charl Wilken (Wilken Communication Management), Adam Ford (Ignition TV/Buyers’ Guide), Roger McCleery (Radio Today), Lerato Matebese (Driven), Michele Lupini (AutoBakkieRace), Liana Reiners (AutoLive), Zerildi Pieters (Daily Sun), Matthew Kanniah (Blogger), Alan Rosenmeyer (Motormatters), Sean Nurse (AutoDealer), and Mabuyane Kekana (Metro FM).

Volkswagen dominated the hatchback and sedan categories up to R300 000 this year, winning the Budget City Car category with the Take Up!, the Light Hatchback category with the Polo Vivo, the Medium Sedan category with the Jetta, and the Medium Hatchback category with the Golf 1.4TSI. Volkswagen’s fifth winner was the Golf R, which shared top spot in the performance car category under R615 000 with the Audi S3-S-Tronic.

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Toyota, Mazda and Audi won two categories each and Jaguar took a sole category win.

As expected Toyota triumphed in the categories for SUVs under R505 000 with the Fortuner and 4×2 Double Cabs under R460 000 with the Hilux.

Mazda won the Cross-over category with the CX3 in quite dominant fashion as it was the only category all 11-judges scored the same vehicle as the winner. Mazda also won the SUVs under R330 000 with its CX5 2.0 Active model.

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Audi’s first category winner was the Audi S3 which shared the spoils in the Performance Car category with the Volkswagen Golf R. This was also undoubtedly the closest contested category, as even the third placed BMW 240i was a mere 10-points adrift. In another close duel the Audi A4 2.0TDI S-Tronic narrowly beat the BMW 330D by a mere 2-points to earn Audi’s a second category win.

Jaguar took the award in the category for Luxury SUVs under R700 000 with the very attractively styled F-Pace.

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It was interesting to note three of the 2018 winners were the same models that walked away with the laurels in 2017. They were the Volkswagen Golf 1.4TSI Trendline, Volkswagen Golf R as well as the Mazda CX3 2.0 Individual.

“We were very pleased with the acceptance of the Gumtree pre-owned awards by the public last year and the latest results, which benefit from fine-tuning after last year’s inaugural event and therefore will be of great interest and benefit to buyers in the booming pre-owned market in South Africa,” commented Jeff Osborne, Head of Automotive at Gumtree.

“We see these awards as an overdue recognition of the brands and models which best hold their value while delivering reliable performance with reasonable maintenance costs, particularly as the pre-owned market is currently more than twice the size of the new vehicle market.”

New styling for Duster

Renault has reshaped the Duster with more aggressive lines to give visual confirmation to its SUV status and to modernise the overall look in line with fashion trends in the segment.

With more than two million cars sold globally and 15 000 units sold in South Africa since its initial launch, the new Renault Duster builds on and reinforces existing strengths.

The new Renault Duster boasts exterior styling delivering a distinctly assertive and robust look, highlighting its SUV pedigree. Visually more muscular, the design tone is set by the more aggressive lines and a more expressive front and rear.

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The Duster’s stance is emphasised by its bold, more horizontal lines, 16-inch or new 17-inch wheels, more prominent aluminium roof bars and front and rear skid plates. The chrome trim of the grille, alongside a raised waistline and the powerful C-shaped light signature complete image.

Travelling comfort is heightened by the newly designed and more enveloping seats, numerous easily accessible stowage spaces and improved accessibility of controls and amongst others, an enhanced Multimedia experience.

It also offers a modular interior layout with the rear bench seat featuring a 1/3 – 2/3 split-fold function, while the boot boasts loading capacity of up to 478 litres.

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The New Duster offers a multitude of active and passive safety technology as standard across the range, such as anti-lock braking with EBD in conjunction with EBA.

Rear Park Distance Control enables easier parking manoeuvres by warning the driver of obstacles situated behind the vehicle and Hill Start Assist, triggered by taking one’s foot off the brake, takes over the vehicle by holding it steady for two seconds, allowing the driver to accelerate normally without stalling or rolling back.

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The Duster comes with two fuel options and three engine options.

There is a choice between the 1,6-litre 16V and two versions of the 1.5 dCi turbo engine. The Diesel 1.5 dCi 4×2’s engine has outputs of 66 kW and 210 Nm and consumes just 5,1 l/100 km. The 4×2 EDC and 4×4 Manual versions have outputs of 80 kW and 250 Nm with claimed consumption of 4,.8 l/100 km.

The 6-speed Dual-Clutch EDC Automatic gearbox is now available with the 1.5 dCi Diesel engine. Upshifting is fast and smooth, with no jerking or loss in acceleration, with fuel consumption is comparable to that of the manual.

As is standard across Renault’s entire product range, the new Renault Duster comes standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. Services take place at 15 000 km intervals and a standard 3-year/45 000 km service plan applies.

RECOMMENDED RETAIL PRICING
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.6 Expression 4X2 R249 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×2 R282 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique EDC 4×2 R316 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Dynamique 4×4 R321 900
• NEW Renault DUSTER 1.5 dCi Prestige EDC 4×2 R334 900

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Road Review – Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDI Elite 7DCT2

“I’ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time…”

Those lyrics, penned by Paul McCartney and John Lennon for the seminal 1967 ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album by The Beatles, reflect the progress made by Hyundai as an automaker – co-incidentally formed in 1967.

From its first production car – the Cortina in 1968 in conjunction with Ford – Hyundai Motor Corporation has moved from fledgling to full-grown and a major player on world markets with a structured product range that consistently improves with each iteration.

This is important because – as yet – Hyundai has not shown the complacency some others have done when climbing into the top three in world sales and where product eases backwards from vibrant to boringly predictable.

Heave-ho forward to 2018 and the introduction of the revised Tucson range into South Africa where the derivative has been a top-contender in its market segment since it was first launched in 2009.

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In 2017, the Tucson had an 11,1 % share of the segment and this declined in 2018 in the year-to-date to 9,0%, as the old model completed its runout phase.

The new version has been given a new front and rear appearance with the addition of the Hyundai signature cascading grille, along with a new design headlight, fog lamp, front bumper and skid plate.

The Tucson’s interior is also new, sporting a redesigned dashboard with a floating 7-inch screen for its infotainment system that offers features such as Apple’s CarPlay.

Two new derivatives were introduced in the revised in the Tucson range, and a new 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission and 8-speed automatic transmission form part of the changes in the Tucson line-up.

The Tucson’s sporty exterior design is achieved by the cascading grille and the refined new light signature with full LED headlights. An uplifted front bumper and refined skid plate complement the Tucson’s exterior appearance.

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At the rear, the Tucson was gained a new rear taillight design, with a redesigned bumper and exhaust tailpipe. Its side profile features a new 19-inch wheel design for the flagship 1.6 TGDI Elite derivative.

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Tucson’s completely new upper dashboard features high-quality soft touch material with a double stitching line for a more high-quality feeling in the interior. The focal point of the centre console is the floating audio system screen.

The new Tucson range in South Africa features seven derivatives, with a choice between three engines – a naturally aspirated 2,0-litre petrol engine, a turbo-charged 1,6-litre petrol engine and a 2,0-litre turbo-charged diesel – and three specification levels..

The test unit was the 1.6 Elite – a very significant plus factor in this being Hyundai works on the ‘what you see, you get’ so there is no working through a lengthy list of optional extras to try and find the base that matches the published pricing.

For Tucson, there are simply three specification levels with the Elite being top-of-the-range.

However, base specification is impressive and includes cruise control, the infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, LED daytime running lights, driver, passenger, side and curtain air bags. Executive adds Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), leather seats, Blind Spot Detection for side mirrors, Cross Traffic Alert detectors at the rear, electric seat adjustment for the driver and a full auto air-conditioner with climate control.

Elite, gains a panoramic sun roof, electric seat adjustment for the front passenger as well, a rear USB port, a push-button to start the engine and keyless entry.

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Priced at R559 000 it goes up against the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200, Audi Q3 1.4 FSI and BMW X1, all of which are light in terms of the standard features comparison and offer options that will take their final price up a notch or two.

The Elite is powered by a 130 kW, 265 Nm turbo-charged 4-cylinder petrol engine, which is coupled with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, developed in-house by Hyundai.

There are three distinct drive modes on offer from the benign Eco setting that attempts to keep the vehicle in the highest feasible gear at all times and makes very gentle downshifts through Comfort where the rev range and gear ratios are best suited to daily traffic and short-haul runs.

Sport mode comes as delight and the car gets quite edgy in its desire to hurry up and launch itself at the far distant horizon and it is like having three cars in one.

Overall average fuel consumption ran at 8,1 l/100 km giving truth to the Hyundai claim the new auto box improves economy. However, when switched into ‘angry’ mode be prepared for a substantial increase in fuel use concomitant with burying the right foot and insanely yelling ‘Hoora’ as you power it out of yet another corner.

Equally, once cruising speed is reached and Eco mode engaged, the consumption drops quite dramatically – hence the very competitive overall average.

As a mid-size SUV the Tucson provides the right balance between everyday transport and leisure activities – comfortable seating with plenty of adjustment and enough support to keep long-haul runs from being tiring and painful, enough space for family luggage needs/sports equipment yet still small enough to get in and out of shopping centre parking spaces.

It comes with a 5-year/90 000 km service plan, 7-year/200 000 km warranty (comprised of Hyundai’s 5-year/150 000 km warranty, with an extended 2-year/50 000 km drivetrain warranty) and roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000 km.

As I said: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better (Better)…”

Honda HR-V tweaked

Sporting new front and rear styling, the Honda HR-V has been quite significantly tweaked for the 2019 model year.

While the updated model retains all of the outgoing model’s core characteristics and benefits, it delivers new, striking styling elements that transform the front and rear appearance.

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The interior retains Honda’s Magic Seat System, which allows exceptional space utilisation, but features model-specific upgrades to the upholstery, fabric and finishes. In addition, the HR-V’s full-featured infotainment system has been standardised across the range.

Safety remains an HR-V priority with a full complement of active and safety systems that includes six air bags, vehicle stability assist, hill start assist, and emergency braking indicators.

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The updated HR-V model range still offers a choice of Comfort and Elegance trim levels, as well as 1,5-litre and 1,8-litre drivetrains featuring Honda’s i-VTEC technology and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearboxes.

“The Honda HR-V has been a worldwide success since its introduction, establishing a strong position in the ever-growing SUV category,” says Toshiaki Kusakari, Head of Automobiles at Honda Motor Southern Africa.

“The HR-V’s global popularity is also reflected here in South Africa, where it is one of the key models in the local offering. It slots in perfectly between the larger CR-V and the more compact BR-V. We are convinced that these latest updates will further entrench the urban crossover as one of our top sellers locally.”

While the silhouette of the latest Honda urban crossover remains unmistakably HR-V, the front end now features Honda’s latest ‘solid wing face’, which incorporates an all-new front bumper, a reprofiled bonnet, and redesigned headlights.

The more aggressive front bumper design includes a new licence plate garnish, as well as recessed apertures for LED fog lamps now standard on the 1.8 Elegance model. The new headlights feature LED elements and LED daytime running lights on the Elegance version, while the Comfort derivative headlights employ projector-type halogen units.

The taillight clusters gain a smoked appearance, while the licence plate garnish has also been redesigned to match the front’s more aggressive styling approach.

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While the 1.5 Comfort model retains 16-inch alloy wheels, the 1.8 Elegance is now fitted with new 17-inch wheels.

Inside it gains new fabric designs, while the Elegance gets smarter perforated leather upholstery with double-contrast stitching.

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Less obvious but significant in overall comfort terms, noise and vibration dampening has been upgraded, further enhancing the HR-V’s already impressive refinement levels.

Standard across the board are electrically operated windows and mirrors, remote central locking, air-conditioning, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel and a multi-information trip computer.

As part of the upgrade package, Honda has standardised the touchscreen-based infotainment system, which means that both Comfort and Elegance models now feature a 6,8-inch touchscreen display, instead of the 5-inch screen previously fitted to the Comfort version.

The infotainment system features list includes Bluetooth-based hands-free telephony and audio streaming, extended connectivity via USB and HDMI and smart device screen mirroring for access to device-specific functions such as video and photo files, as well as GPS navigation.

In the case of the 1.8 Elegance model, a rear-view parking camera is linked to the parking sensors to make reverse parking more convenient.

In active safety terms, the HR-V offers anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) activation.

Further peace of mind is provided by Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and a high-mounted, third brake light. IsoFix child seat anchors are also included.

The 1.5 Comfort CVT is powered by Honda’s 1 497cc four-cylinder engine, featuring i-VTEC variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection. The engine is credited with 88 kW of maximum power, attained at 6 600 r/min, together with a torque peak of 145 Nm at 4 600 r/min.

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The 1.8 Elegance CVT employs a 1 799 cc four-cylinder engine, again featuring i-VTEC variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection. Power and torque maximums come to 105 kW at 6 500 r/min and 172 Nm at 4 300 r/min respectively.

The 1.5 Comfort boasts a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6,3 litres/100 km, linked to CO2 emissions of 151 g/km. The 1.8 Elegance model achieves 6,8 litres/100 km in the combined cycle, coupled to 162 g/km of CO2 emissions.

PRICING, WARRANTY AND SERVICE PLAN

HR-V 1.5 Comfort CVT R354 900
HR-V 1.8 Elegance CVT R419 900

The retail prices include a five-year/200 000 km warranty, a four-year/60 000 km service plan, and a three-year AA Roadside Assistance package. Services remain at 15 000 km intervals.

Road Review – Renault Clio RS 18 F1

There is a whole legion of jokes that start with “What is the similarity between…?”, and this one, which is no joke, queries the similarity between a Bumble Bee and the Renault Clio RS18 – the most obvious and immediate response being both are black with yellow markings.

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However, that is not the main one. The Bumble Bee is aerodynamically anatomically incorrect for flight – in other words, it should not be able to fly but simply does not know that, so goes ahead and does it anyway.

While not intended to fly per se, the Clio does some serious low flying as one of the most exciting of the small pocket rockets on the market – and the similarity here is both punch well above their respective fighting weights.

Renault’s best-selling model now moves into its fourth generation and is one of the first Renault models to sport the brand’s new visual identity featuring a bolder version of its trademark diamond-shaped logo at the front.

This small car has consistently achieved Top 5 performer status in the extremely competitive AB New Hatch segment.

The Renault Sport Clio is one of the most popular ‘hot hatches’, with a proven track record as one of the best handling and most rewarding cars on the market.

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The latest addition to the Clio RS Range, the RS 18 F1 was preceded by numerous derivatives including the 1st RS model, the Renault Clio Williams (1993) that was designed to celebrate the success of the Renault-powered F1 team at the time.

More powerful Renault Sport models emerged post the Clio Phase 2’s revamp, in the guise of the Renault Sport Clio V6, with the 3,0-litre V6 engine housed in the rear of the vehicle, with increased power output, making it the fastest model to this day. The limited edition Renault Sport Clio 182 Trophy launched in 2005 was also popular amongst Renault Sport enthusiasts.

The long line of Clio RS models was boosted with the local introduction of the Renault Sport Clio 200 and 200 Cup, the Clio 20th Anniversary model, which was launched in 2010 in celebration of Clio’s 20th year, was distinguished by its Pearl White paint, black alloys and black roof.

The model line-up was further complemented through the Clio RS Red Bull, with its distinct colour scheme and much larger 18-inch wheels.

Now comes the Clio RS18 F1 that bears the same name as the Renault F1 race car competing in the Grand Prix. It also features the same iconic colour scheme as the Renault Sport F1 Team car: its Deep Black cloak and accented Liquid Yellow.

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The feisty Clio RS 18 is powered by a 1,6-litre turbo-charged engine, generating 162 kW of power at 6 050 r/min with peak torque of 280 Nm at 2 000 r/min. This is good for a rest to 100 km/h sprint of 6,6 seconds and a top speed of 235 km/h. The 1-kilometre sprint takes up 26,4 seconds.

Exhaust emissions are 135 g/km of CO2 and the overall average fuel consumption is stated at 5,9 l/100 km but who are we trying to kid here? I could not find a single excuse in the time I had with the car to drive slower than the ‘whoopee’ zone unless caught in traffic.

Actual fuel consumption is going to be higher, probably much higher. Deal with it!

It features a lowered and stiffened Trophy chassis – front suspension featuring hydraulic compression stops – and an Akrapovic exhaust system, the New Clio RS 18 is a purebred sports car, designed to be driven.

Clio RS 18 boasts Launch Control that is activated with paddles at hand, right foot on the accelerator and left foot on the brake. Once the left foot is raised from the aluminium pedal, the New Clio RS explodes off the line, with breathtakingly dynamic gear changes.

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The RS Drive button gives you access to three modes: Normal, Sport and Race. According to the mode, RS Drive alters the mapping of the gearbox, ESC behaviour, steering and the sensitivity of the accelerator pedal.

Driving through a 6-speed auto gearbox, it is hard not to head for ‘hooligan’ mode every time the car starts up – the acceleration is gorgeous, the ‘whap whap’ through the gears music to the ears and the handling simply sublime, especially in Race mode where it will allow appreciable oversteer – but, beware, it does not tolerate incompetence.

I now await its bigger brother, the Mégane, with interest to compare and, talking of comparison, the closest I have driven to the Renault is the Toyota Yaris GRMN which is not available for sale in South Africa.

For ‘normal’ driving situations the Clio comes with onboard navigation on offer via a 7-inch touchscreen, with a range of other functionalities – multimedia, radio and telephone systems with Bluetooth connectivity. It also has cruise control/speed limiter, whereby regulated cruising or maximum speed can be selected, with steering wheel mounted controls to allow for speed adjustment.

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Finally, there are rain sensors, automatically regulating the frequency of the windscreen wipers according to how heavily it is raining and light sensors, enabling the headlights when the sensors detect a certain level of darkness.

The Michelin Pilot Super Sport 205/40R18 tyres fitted to the car play a huge role in keeping it stuck like whatever it is that sticks to a blanket and, like the car itself, are at their best when the pressure is on and they are being made to work.

Commuter driving is – as is always the case with lower profiles – not as much fun with most of the bumps and ripples from the road being transmitted through to the steering and driver. However, even that is survivable in anticipation of the glorious fun that awaits….

On-board safety and protection features and equipment include ESP, anti-lock brakes, EBD with Brake Assist, driver, passenger and side air bags.

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As with Renault’s entire range, the Clio comes standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. The Clio RS has a 3-year/ 30 000 km service plan. Service intervals are 10 000 km.

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Road Review – Renault Stepway Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, the new Renault Sandero Stepway Plus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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