Opel stays and launches new models

The Opel brand will remain in South Africa, driven by a raft of new product starting with the Crossland X in the latter half of this year – with Williams Hunt taking over the exclusive distributorship of the product.

Opel South Africa, which still has to be formally structured as the separation from General Motors South Africa continues with the decision by the US company to end it operations locally, and this entity will be the importer and handle issues such as product planning, brand activation and the like.

From 2018, Williams Hunt will have 35 Opel dealers in play, not all of which will be owned by them according to divisional executive, Roy Pepper who adds: “Some will be franchised dealers.”

Williams Hunt has been an Opel partner in South Africa for many years contributing to some 20% of the sales. With this setup Opel plans to further grow in South Africa and strengthen brand and service to its customers.

The German car brand will launch the new Opel Crossland X in the second half of 2017 and the Opel Grandland X in 2018. Opel customers can expect a continued focus on strengthening the portfolio with new and exciting German-engineered vehicles that meet and exceed expectations.

“Opel has had great success in South Africa,” says Bill Mott, director of International Sales Operations.

“Many of our models have enjoyed great popularity among the buying public and have received rewards and acclaim from the motoring press. Just this year, the Opel Astra was the winner of the South African Car of the Year competition – a great indication of the brand’s ongoing success in this market.

“Opel customers can expect the same quality of aftersales support and no changes to existing warranties, and we will ensure our customers receive outstanding sales and aftersales support as we continue to further grow in the South African market.”

Opel is fast on its way to achieving its vision of becoming the number two passenger car brand in Europe by 2022.

In 2016, Opel sales in Europe increased approximately 4% with more than 1,6-million vehicles sold, representing the company’s best year in terms of sales since 2011. Opel’s market share grew in 12 markets, while sales grew in 18 markets.

Over the past two years, Opel sales in South Africa have grown 9,6%, compared to an overall market decline of 15,5%.

“We view South Africa as an important market. We are confident the brand will continue to grow from strength to strength globally, and here in South Africa, because of the solid foundation that has been built in the 80-plus years Opel has been here,” says Mott.

On the downside, it seems the Chev Utility that started life as the Opel Corsa bakkie will not be rebadged and Opel and will not be taken up for continuation by any of the players in this complex scenario.

Decisions taken by General Motors in the US to divest themselves of any business not making financial sense were triggered by the sale of Opel to the PSA Group in France (Peugeot) and followed by withdrawing from countries such as South Africa and India.

While Peugeot now actually owns Opel, the South African scenario is – as usual, bless us – unique in that there will be no association between Peugeot and Opel with the two brands operating independently of each other.

Peugeot Citroën South Africa sold a majority stake to Japan-based company VT Holdings, meaning that it is no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of the PSA Group.

VT Holdings, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock exchange, has been in the automobile industry for some 34 years, distributing vehicles in five countries.

The holding company officially acquired a 51% stake on June 1, with Peugeot Citroën South Africa saying the joint venture “allows the Peugeot brand to strengthen its position in South Africa through an upgrade of the entire value chain”.

“It is time to move forward in creating a new and exciting vision, one that produces even greater opportunities to our employees, dealers and most importantly to our customers,” said Francis Gaie, the new managing director of  the local operation.

“We have new developments planned around products, aftersales and parts which we are confident will result in greater efficiencies, increase our market share and strengthen our position in the South African market place,” he added.

In Europe, there will be considerable interaction between the two brands in terms of vehicle platform sharing, engine and drivetrain technology collaboration among them – in fact, the soon to be launched Crossland X is powered by a Peugeot-derived engine.

The Grandland X, due for release next year, is a joint development between Opel and Peugeot and could well feature a version of the Prince engine – the company name for a family of straight-4 engines developed by PSA Peugeot Citroën and used by BMW.

The current Peugeot 208 uses this technology.

Ia n Nicholls, president and managing director of General Motors Sub Saharan

Africa, is in charge of overseeing the GM withdrawal but says, “This announcement by Opel is based on a solid foundation that will be ideal for its new journey in Africa.”

Elantra gets some zest

Having just had a drive, albeit brief, in the all-new Hyundai Elantra Sport, it seems incongruous the company has taken several iterations of the nameplate to come up with a derivative that is a zesty challenge to some other ‘hot’ cars on the market.

To be fair. My first encounter with Hyundai came way back in the Billy Rautenbach days and a visit to Seoul to gain insight to the, then, fledgling company just beginning to dip into export markets that revealed a very clear five, 10 and 20 year plan committed to gaining market share and recognition.

Sporty performance was simply not a requirement.

Even the ill-fated Daewoo answered the call locally from a performance and motor sport driven country when it entered, and, won the Castrol Rally – such a turn up it surprised everyone including, possibly, overall winner Sarel van der Merwe who thanked Hyundai in his speech.

A slip of the tongue or wishful thinking – we will never know. However, Hyundai has made the leap and is successfully campaigning in the World Rally Championship.

So, to the new Elantra Sport. Well, new Elantra, since the entire range has been significantly updated with a completely new look and underpinnings.

The 2017 Elantra enters the South African market in four derivatives: The Elantra 1.6 Executive manual and Elantra 1.6 Executive automatic (both driven by a 1,6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine); the Elantra 2.0 Elite, with a naturally aspirated 2,0-litre petrol engine and the range-topping Elantra 1.6 TGDI Elite DCT Sport, with a 1,6-litre turbo-charged petrol engine.

Both specification levels – Executive and Elite – offer comprehensive features, which are all included in the recommended retail prices, starting at R299 900 and ending at R399 900 for the Elantra Sport with several special design, trim and technical characteristics.

“First-time drivers of the new Elantra will be pleasantly surprised to see standard features such as an 8-inch hi-resolution infotainment system, rear park assist, six air bags, Isofix latching points for child seats, cruise control and alloy wheels on all the derivatives,” says Stanley Anderson, sales and operations director of Hyundai Automotive South Africa.

“We are confident we are bringing a very attractive and well-rounded package to an important segment in our market. The new Elantra will again fill an important slot in our model line-up for car buyers who are looking for a bigger or a family sedan.”

 Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille gives the Elantra a strong presence from the front, with automatic projection headlamps including LED Daytime Running lights as part of the cluster. The Elantra’s sporty lower front fascia integrates functional front wheel air curtains that help manage air flow from the front of the vehicle and around the wheels to minimize turbulence and wind resistance.

In addition, underbody covers, an aerodynamic rear bumper bottom spoiler and rear deck lid designed with an expanded trunk edge contribute to the Elantra’s 0,27 coefficient of drag.

Model-exclusive front and rear fascias give the Sport crucial visual differentiation from the rest of the Elantra lineup.

The rear light cluster of the new Elantra with its bright LED display is also distinctive of the Hyundai range. For the Elantra Sport, a different bottom half of the rear bumper reiterates its sporty nature, with a unique skid plate and visible chrome-plated dual exhaust pipes.

The Executive derivatives are kitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, whereas the Elite trim level get 17-inch alloy wheels.

All four derivatives’ gain leather seats with model-specific interior appointments such as a flat-bottomed steering wheel, red sport seats and red contrast stitching for the Sport.

The standard 8-inch infotainment system, which includes satellite navigation, provides a USB Mirror Link for Android cell phones, HDMI connectivity for iPhones to view the iPhone screen on the head unit, hands-free Bluetooth telephone link with remote controls on the steering wheel, Bluetooth music streaming and AUX and USB input ports. It also features a CD player.

Electrically operated side mirrors and windows, cruise control and rear park assist are also standard convenience features across the range. The Elite derivatives have an automatic air-conditioner, rain sensors for the windscreen wipers, and a smart key push-button to start the engine.

 The new Elantra is available with three petrol engines: A 1 591 cm3 four-cylinder engine that produces 94 kW at 6 300 r/min and 154 Nm at 4 850 r/min in the Elantra 1.6 Executive manual and 1.6 Executive Elite automatic.

Then there is the 1 999 cm3 Nu MPI Atkinson four-cylinder engine producing a peak 115 kW at 6 200 r/min and 195 Nm of torque at 4 500 r/min in the Elantra 2.0 Elite automatic and the turbo-charged 1 591 cm3 four-cylinder engine in the Elantra 1.6 TGDI Elite DCT Sport producing 150 kW at 6 000 r/min and 265 Nm torque from 1 500 r/min to 4 500 r/min.

The Elantra 1.6 Executive comes with a choice between a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, while the Elantra 2.0 Elite is available only with a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

The Elantra 1.6 TGDI Elite Sport has a 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission with paddle shifters, and the driver can choose between a Normal, Eco or Sport driving mode with the press of a button.

Fuel economy ranges from 6,5 l/100 km (manual) and 6,9 l/100 km (auto) in the two Executive derivatives, to 8,3 l/100 km and 7,9 l/100 km in the Elantra 2.0 Elite auto and the Elantra 1.6 TGDI DCT Sport respectively.

The 2017 Elantra is lighter than the outgoing model and its rigid chassis is now reinforced with 53% advanced high-strength steel, providing improved stiffness at a lower body weight. This increased usage results in a 29,5% stiffer torsional rigidity and 25,3% greater bending strength, which bring improvements in vehicle ride and handling, quietness, durability and driving performance.

Improved ride comfort, handling and stability are achieved through Elantra’s redesigned rear suspension geometry that modifies the angle of the rear shock absorbers and changed the position of the coil springs on the coupled torsion beam axle. Additionally, an increase in rear bushing diameter helps to improve long term durability.

In the Elantra Sport an exclusive rear multi-link independent suspension helps deliver outstanding dynamics.

The Elantra’s front suspension uses a McPherson strut with coil springs and gas shock absorbers along with a front stabiliser bar to help reduce body roll when cornering.

An anti-lock braking system with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) is standard on all derivatives for active safety, with the addition of an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) in the Elantra Sport.

Passive safety is taken care of by driver, front passenger, side and curtain air bags in all the derivatives.

Pricing

The recommended retail prices of the new Elantra range are:

  • Elantra 1.6 Executive (manual)      R299 900
  • Elantra 1.6 Executive (auto)  R314 900
  • Elantra 2.0 Elite (auto)            R349 900
  • Elantra 1.6 TGDI Elite DCT    R399 900

Hyundai’s 5-year/150 000 km warranty and additional 2-year/500 powertrain warranty is part of the standard package, which also includes 5-year/150 000 km roadside assistance and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.

Service intervals are 15 000 km for all derivatives, with an additional initial service after 5 000 km for the Elantra Sport.

Better with time

Audi A5 2.0T FSI Sport STronic

Latin and I never really gelled at school. I thought it was a pretty useless language and, to borrow a line from a film whose name I have long since forgotten, “I couldn’t speak to a dead Roman even if I wanted to…”

Apart from Amo, Amas, Amat and Veni, Vidi, Vici, there is little from those endlessly boring school classes that remains – yet, oddly enough, both memory fragments are particularly valid in this impression of the Audi A5.

Certainly, in the South African market, Audi still does not quite have the bonnet badge cred of its German counterparts but in so many ways, it epitomises the second of those Latin words, having come, seen and conquered.

The evolution of the Audi range of sedans, hatches and SUV’s has been a carefully planned staging to respond to buyer preferences and changing trends without appearing to be chasing the market in what its major rivals were up to.

Out of this came the original A5 – a car that, in 2007, stood the B-segment on its head with a left-of-field design.

Ten years later, comes the second generation – now with a new, honed look that is athletic, sporty and elegant, while its design goes hand-in-hand with sophisticated aerodynamics. Under the skin, the Audi A5 impresses with an all-new chassis, innovative infotainment features and driver assistance systems.

The new Audi A5 Coupé sports a fresh and modern look. It is nevertheless true to its DNA with the sporty – the wave-shaped shoulder line that characterised the previous model now given a 3D look.

The proportions remain balanced with the long engine hood, stretched wheelbase and short overhangs hinting at the sportiness of the A5 Coupé. The sculpted single frame grille is significantly flatter and wider than in the previous model.

The four-cylinder 2.0T FSI engine produces 140 kW and 320 Nm of torque, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.7 seconds. This engine has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 5,1 l/100 km, while being exempt from CO2 tax with an emissions figure of 117 g/km.

Real world testing moved that claimed figure to around 6,6 l/100 km/h and that was only through exercising some restraint – I can think of no earthly reason actually to want to drive this car anything less than vigorously.

The all-new chassis offers comfort combined with a high degree of agility. The A5 thus handles narrow, winding mountain roads and long trips with equal aplomb – helped considerably the slick seven-speed STronic gearbox.

Left to its own devices, it starts to grow an intuitive feel for driver habits and responds swiftly to those inputs to the throttle and brakes. For those who want to, manual control is there for the taking.

I, however, found the response time quick enough not to need the manual option for most levels of driving – even doing the adrenalin injection thing through some superlative twisties.

The electromechanical power steering is also a new development from Audi. It adapts according to the vehicle’s current speed and provides highly precise road feedback. Optionally available is the dynamic steering, which varies its gear ratio depending on the speed and steering angle.

On the new car, engineers were able to trim the curb weight by as much as 60 kilograms and the body is the lightest in the competitive field. With a drag coefficient of 0,25, the A5 Coupé is also the segment leader with respect to aerodynamics.

The increased dimensions and longer wheelbase mean more space for driver and passengers, while the luggage compartment offers a volume of 465 litres, 10 litres more than with the previous model. The rear seat has a 40:20:40 split and can be easily folded forward using levers in the luggage compartment. Audi also offers the two-door coupé with optional gesture control for opening the luggage compartment lid via a foot motion. The optional trailer hitch is electrically released at the press of a button.

Our test car was fitted with the optional Audi virtual cockpit, a 12,3-inch TFT display with a resolution of 1,440 x 540 pixels. Together with the MMI navigation plus including 8,3-inch monitor on the centre console, it forms the central information unit.

The whole MMI control logic is similar to that of a smartphone, including the intelligent free text search function. The new, more natural voice control system can recognize input made using everyday language.

Choosing MMI navigation plus automatically gets the hardware module Audi connect, which allows the vehicle to be a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 devices, while also accessing Google Earth Navigation and Google Street View.

Standard on the 2.0T FSI 140 kW are items such 17 inch alloy wheels, space-saving spare wheel, Leather steering wheel in 3-spoke design with multifunction plus, Audi drive select, ISOFIX child seat mounting anchorage point for outer rear seats, full size air bags with front passenger air bag deactivation, side air bags at front and head air bag system, Xenon plus headlights and LED rear lights, cruise control, headlight washers, Automatic air-conditioning, driver information system with colour display, Audi sound system and leather/artificial leather combination.

A suitably comprehensive package and the price of our unit as tested came to R795 470.

Good things to come

It might be unscientific, but the door test nonetheless remains an important first line introduction to a motor car – the fact the doors on the MG6 1.8 Turbo sedan went ‘thunk’ as opposed to ‘clunk’ was a portent of good things to come.

Indeed, it came as a surprise, considering the tinny sounds emanating from many Chinese cars finding their way to our shores.

The Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC) that bought the MG business did the right thing – it is being built in Shanghai but the iconic MG factory in Longbridge, England remains a manufacturing plant and SAIC has not sought to cheapen the marque (except to be able to supply at much lower cost).

The MG6 is not a sports car in the true sense of the history of MG – it is a four-door saloon (or fastback) that moves in as a challenger in the same segment with Corolla, Jetta, Focus and similar brands and is distributed locally through Combined Motor Holdings as a standalone brand, MG South Africa trading as Morris Garages (which is what the MG stands for).

With 10 dealers up and running and several more due to start service during the year, MG South Africa is also set to launch additional models as they become available.

The svelte style, which somehow manages a fine balance of Euro sensibility with just a few suggestions of eastern promise (those piercing headlamp details, a hint of Mazda 6 from the side), suggests that future MGs will possess style and competitive engineering.

The MG6 is essentially a new car. The front sub-frame is related to that in the old Rover 75, since it means the same pick-up points can be used on the Longbridge line and in Shanghai; and the fuse box is an old Rover unit, too. The K-series engine has been hugely fettled by the Chinese, but this 1.8 is essentially an upgraded, turbocharged K. Everything else is new.

It is fitted with a 1796 cm3 four-cylinder turbo-charged engine producing 118 kW at 5 500 r/min with 215 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 4 500 r/min driving the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. Fuel consumption is claimed at 7,9 l/100 km but our test showed a more likely scenario of 8,3 l/100 km. CO2 emissions are 184 g/km.

Having passed the ‘thunk’ or ‘clunk’ test and once finished ogling the rather svelte exterior shape, the interior comes as a mix – oodles of leg room, comfortable seats even though the ‘leather’ might never have seen a cow, but somewhat plasticky switchgear and a decided lack of oddment space – although it has a huge boot.

That aside, the interior is well laid out and most actions intuitive – except the trip computer that is a knurled dial on the steering wheel and takes a bit of practice to use properly. The cabin design is unusual, and in some ways all the more charming for that. A hefty padded dashboard hood looms over a pair of strangely small dials, but the information and sat-nav screens are up-to-date in their graphics.

Weighing in at 1485 kilograms the MG feels less sporty than its name would imply off the line and some stirring of the gearlever is required to make brisk progress – a pleasurable affair since the change is positive of action if a touch long of throw.

Featuring front MacPherson struts and multilink rear end the ride is well judged: there is a Ford-like firm damping, with just enough pliancy to take the jag out of bumps, and body control is first rate. Traction is good too, with nary a flicker from the electronic aids. The steering is hardly alive with feel or laser turn-in, but it is just as responsive and precise as buyers in this class would expect.

Some might find the brakes ‘heavy’ if they have grown used to the over-assisted, snatchy systems fitted to many new cars, but actually, the MG6’s brakes are refreshingly progressive and credible in their action, much like the rest of the car.

The MG 6 impressed us. Dynamically, it is a big success. The 6 feels well made, precise and of competitive quality in this class.

It is also competitively priced, although a niggle in this category is the lack of Bluetooth connectivity. There is no doubt the parent company is eager to make sure the MG name regains some – if not all – its former status as the supplier of well-priced sporty cars, and with the smaller MG3 on the way along with an SUV and, yes, the traditional 2-seater sports car, this is all good.

This also means the local operation has a foundation of which to build a reputation, the final test here obviously coming in terms of after sales service backup, parts pricing and fleet support – for this certainly a car fleet managers could well consider.

New Nissan Micra

New Nissan Micra

The Nissan Micra returns sans the ‘Micra-speak’ that went with the original and refined to a new role as a city car with power coming from 1,2-litre three-cylinder engine.

The new Micra (the 4th generation) is built on the V-platform, which the company is debuting in this model. While the platform itself focuses strongly on reducing weight while increasing overall rigidity, the engine has been built to reconcile two conflicting customer desires – those of spirited dynamic performance and the most frugal economy and lowest CO2 emissions attainable in its class for 2011.

The engine features an offset counter weight on the crank pulley, which generates an oval motion in the process cancelling out vertical vibrations from the piston movement, while fewer moving parts lower internal friction and improve overall thermal efficiency.

Fitted with a manual transmission,Nissan claims 5,2 l/100 km from an engine producing 56 kW at 6 000 r/min and 104 Nm at 4 000 r/min with CO2 emissions of 124 g/km.

For the SA market, Nissan has also made a 1,5-litre petrol model of the new Micra available for those for whom 56 kW is just not sufficient, and is continuing to offer a 1.5 dCI-powered Micra as well.