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 – 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

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

Tested – Fiat Tipo 1.3L D Easy Sedan

Time is not a kind master. Everything and everyone is victim to its harsh whipping with the only mitigation against the sentence being the ability to evolve and re-invent – the constant struggle for eternal youth.

In the automotive sphere it is most demonstrated by a company that tops the sales charts for a period of time and then fails to make that re-invention quickly enough and is lashed into submission as an also-ran in just a couple of years.

Fiat in South Africa has been through this from the heady days of innovative and iconic models offerings such as the 124 Sport through the mass hysteria love affair with the Uno to a period of dreadfully bland product and such quiet only the neon lights at dealerships affirmed the brand was actually still alive.

True, in all of that the company itself – both locally and internationally – underwent changes and started to work the process of re-invention, the 500 and Abarth part of that.

However, mass market is the true goal of a major automaker and Fiat needed to put something into play that would satisfy customers not just within its European orbit but in other markets as well.

Enter the Fiat Tipo.

The Fiat Tipo hatchback and its sedan sibling mark Fiat’s return to the medium-compact segment with four sedan variants and four hatch models.

Our test car, the diesel-powered 1.3L Easy came in Ambient White, which actually served to enhance the contour lines of the car and attract some parking lot attention. It is 4,53 m long, 1,79 m wide and stands 1,5 m high so is fully C-segment in dimensions.

On price – R274 900 – it is bracketed by the Hyundai Accent 1.6 Fluid (R269 900), Mazda3 1.6 Active (R271 700), Ford Focus 1.0 Trend (R271 900) and the Volkswagen Jetta 1.6 Conceptline (R278 300) in terms of sedans. There are several hatch offerings in the same price grouping.

The Fiat, however, is the only diesel in that mix.

The 1.3 MultiJet II diesel engine has a Start&Stop system as standard. It is equipped with a manual five-speed gearbox and develops 70 kW at 3 750 r/min, while the variable geometry turbo-charger ensures high torque from low revs and a maximum torque of 200 Nm from 1 500 r/min.

A feature of the third-generation Common Rail MultiJet II system is a high-tech solution for controlling injection pressures, whatever the engine speed and injected fuel quantity. In practice, the engine introduces small fuel quantities (pilot injections) to minimise noise and optimise emissions and, with the main injection, manages the injected quantity of fuel ensuring smooth engine operation in all driving conditions.

That is the theory. In practice, despite the willingness of the engine to work, it was a little breathless and left me looking for more. It is also driven through a 5-speed manual gearbox when six is the norm even for smaller capacity engines.

At the upper end of the rev range there is also a bit more diesel clatter – that, perhaps, would be quieted with the inclusion of an additional ratio.

The Fiat Tipo hatchback measures 4,37 m in length, 1,79 m in width and stands 1,50m high, while the sedan measures 4,53 m in length with the width and height the same as the hatchback.

The new car features a suspension layout made up of independent McPherson struts on the front axle and an interconnected torque beam on the rear. The two layouts are optimised to reduce weight and contribute to improved fuel efficiency, without compromising the dynamic driving experience.

I cannot fault that setup and the Tipo was comfortable to drive on long and short-haul journeys, the cloth-clad driver’s seat offering enough bolstering in the right places to minimise journey fatigue and with enough movement options to find an ideal driving position.

Never designed for real press-on motoring, the Tipo has a top speed of 183 km/h and ambles up to 100 km/h in 11,8 seconds.

More significant as a commuter vehicle it is a fuel sipper. Fiat claims 4,5 l/100 km in the urban cycle and 3,7 l/100 km overall. Reality was a little tougher and our urban measurement was 4,8 l/100 km with overall 4,1 l/100 km.

Allowed to get on the plane in its own time, the diesel engine finds a happy place that permits long stints of sustained cruising up hill and down dale with no need to row it along – it also sits nice and flat through the curves with little body movement.

In tighter sections, it does opt for understeer, but nothing outside of a controllable norm.

The Tipo accommodates five passengers, even tall people up to 1,87 m in height at the front and 1,80 m in the rear travel in comfort. The secret, according to Fiat, is the regular shape of the rear end, with the horizontal roof profile providing passengers added cabin headroom. Legroom is also class leading, with 1,07 m between the edge of the front seat and the passenger’s heel and 934 mm for the rear seat.

In fact, the interior dimensions edge it closer to those offered by D-Class sedans.

The load capacity is also impressive with 520 litres available. The boot sill is low and stepless, to facilitate loading even the bulkiest of packages. At the sides of the luggage compartment two panels for holding small items can be removed to further increase the width of the luggage compartment.

The interior of the Tipo features numerous compartments with a variety of shapes and capacities totalling no less than 12 litres. Easily reachable by driver and passengers, these compartments are perfect for storing personal objects, smartphones, bottles, coins and more. Furthermore, a media centre for connecting devices is situated in front of the gear lever.

The Tipo features the latest-generation audio systems including a hands-free Bluetooth interface, audio streaming, text reader and voice recognition, AUX and USB ports with iPod integration, controls on the steering wheel and, on demand, the optional rear parking camera and the new TomTom 3D built-in navigation system is optionally available on all models except the Easy.

Standard items include automatic air-conditioning, power front windows, electrically adjustable door mirrors with defrosting function, 16″ alloy rims, LED daytime running lights, chrome door handles, body-coloured mirror covers and a leather steering wheel.

Active and passive safety devices include driver and front passenger air bags (with side and curtain air bags as an option).

Also standard is electronic stability control (ESC), that  includes system includes Panic Brake Assist (PBA), which intervenes in case of emergency braking by increasing the braking force; anti-lock braking; traction control (TCS) and Hill Start Assist.

All Fiat Tipo models come with a standard 3-year / 100 000 km warranty and service plan.

KEY FIGURES

Displacement:   1 248 cc

Power:              70 kW at 4 000 r/min

Torque:             200 Nm at 1 500 r/min

CO2:                 117 g/km

Fuel Tank:         45 litres

Price:                R274 900

Lease:              R5 660

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.”