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.”

IT – not just geek stuff

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind. However, IT in this instance stands for Isuzu and Triton – both fairly new but long enough on the market to establish some sales traction.

Our two test vehicles are not actually going head-to-head since the Isuzu is all-wheel drive and the Triton a standard two-wheel drive. Common ground is both are double cabs and specced to appeal to the leisure market.

The leisure end of the South African LCV (bakkie) market is as intriguing as it is diverse with a large gap between the two top sellers and the other players – the two top players in the market, Toyota and Ford, both have enormous ranges with a bakkie to suit almost every level of desire.

Hilux still leads the sales race from the Ranger and then there is quite a gap to the next level where both the Isuzu and Triton compete (joined here by the likes of Fiat Fullback, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok).

Isuzu, perhaps, is out of step with the main players in terms of model renewal so, while the Triton is all-new, the KB recently had a refresh.

Key changes included a new front fascia design including changes to bonnet, radiator grille and fog lamps, new headlamps with projector and integrated LED day time running lights on LX models, new tailgate styling on extended and double cab models, rear view camera integrated to tailgate handle on LX double cab models, new 18-inch alloy wheels for LX models and a new 16-inch styled wheel for the rest of the range.

Our test vehicle carried the 3,0-litre DTEQ turbo-charged diesel engine with 130 kW and 380 Nm on offer. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 7,9 l/100 km for 4×4 double cab.

A key feature of LX models is a touch screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, internet, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration. The screen – a 1 080 high-definition TFT unit with a 6,5-inch dimension – also acts as the display when browsing, or using the DVD player.

The Rear Park Assist reverse camera is now integrated into the rear tailgate handle on all LX double cab models.

Passive entry and start system (PESS) is a keyless entry with Start/Stop ignition button is standard on all LX double cab models. Leather is available as standard on the 4×4 auto and manual double cabs and as an option on 4×2 Double Cab derivatives.

For Mitsubishi, the new vehicle is the fifth iteration of the Colt/Triton legacy and arrived in South Africa some while after launching in markets such as Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

“From the onset, the brief to designers and engineers was to maintain the essence of the Triton, but also to improve on aspects of ride, handling and comfort to create a truly SUV-like experience from behind the wheel,” says Nic Campbell, general manager at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa.

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 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.

The design features chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles, newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels.

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.

The driver is made to feel at home thanks to 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, to name but a few of the standard creature comforts.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1,745 mm to improve cabin space, while shoulder room – both front and rear – has been improved.

The Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system.

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.

On the double-cab versions, Mitsubishi engineers have added the ASTC (Active Stability and Traction Control) system, which modulates both braking and engine power to maintain the chosen driving line in slippery conditions. The range comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

With just 3 kW and 0,3 l/100 km difference between the two vehicles, there is little to separate them there – and equally little in terms of modern luxury fittings or vehicle safety and driver aids.

Although demand for luxury SUV bakkies remains strong in South Africa, the reality is most spend their time negotiating the urban horrors of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces – so the full 4×4 options rarely find themselves doing bush duty (except, of course, for those bought by enthusiasts).

Thus, the main comparison between the Isuzu and the Triton comes in operation as daily commuter vehicles with off-road limited to unpaved surfaces rather than donga-diving.

On the dirt, the Isuzu just shades the Triton – the slightly heavier Isuzu (3 100 kg) feeling a tad more balanced on dirt roads whereas the Triton was just a little too eager to press home its slight power and torque advantage, resulting in it becoming tail happy.

Doing the daily commute, perhaps the additional torque of the Triton gave it advantage by allowing a higher gear to be held for that much longer.

On clearer roads where the two vehicles could stretch their legs, nothing in it at all and both were long haul comfortable with about equal results in terms of wind and road noise – and both of those came in at agreeably low.

In the tighter sections the Triton had a slightly better turn in to corners, but road holding was on a par – perhaps more impressive from the Isuzu as one would have expected the extra mass here would compromise it under hard cornering.

At the end of the day the choice for any buyer has to be whether they want the full facility of 4×4 or just a an upmarket, comfortable and spacious bakkie that can workhorse or trail bike hauler.

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.

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.