Where to UD Trucks?

In the wake of what is one of the most significant announcements in trucking in many years – namely, the fact Isuzu Trucks is to buy UD Trucks (part of the Volvo Group) – the public relations business carries on merrily with both Volvo and UD locally telling tales how well they did in 2019 and how 2020 looks; with only the briefest mention of the BIG DEAL.

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In December 2019 the Volvo Group and Isuzu Motors signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with ‘the intent to form a strategic alliance within commercial vehicles in order to capture the opportunities in the ongoing transformation of the industry’.

In a first step, the intention is to establish a global technology partnership and to create a stronger, combined heavy-duty truck business for Isuzu Motors and UD Trucks in Japan and across international markets. This will entail transferring ownership of the complete UD Trucks business globally from the Volvo Group to Isuzu Motors in order to accelerate growth by leveraging greater volumes and complementary capabilities.

A key word in this is ‘non-binding’ but even so speculation is rife as to what it actually means in the massively changing world of trucking . . .and if UD Trucks is simply going tobe chewed to the bone Piranha style by Isuzu.

Meanwhile both UD Trucks and Volvo Trucks were positive about their activities in South Africa in 2019 with UD entering a new era with the appointment of a new managing director.  Filip Van den Heede has replaced Gert Swanepoel, who retired after 32 years with the company.

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Gert Swanepoel (left) hands over to Filip van den Heede

“It has been an incredible journey with UD Trucks and it is truly the people and the relationships with customers and dealers that have made it worthwhile,” said Swanepoel.  “It has been a privilege to be a part of the brand’s growth and development throughout the years, and I am excited about the future of UD Trucks in the region.”

Van den Heede has been involved in the trucking industry and the Volvo Group for the past 22 years and was previously Vice President of Vehicle Sales and Marketing for UD Trucks International Sales, which included responsibility for the southern African market. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the business, including aftermarket, business development, new product introductions and sales.

“Last year was an extraordinary year for UD Trucks Southern Africa, as we launched three new model ranges in the region,” says Van den Heede.  “Our customers now have access to an extensive model line-up, from medium to extra heavy commercial vehicles, backed by the company’s 58 years of experience in the local industry.

“We have one of the most extensive dealer networks in the region, with 36 dealers and service agents in South Africa and 30 in other southern African countries such as Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As UD Trucks, we believe it comes down to the basics of supporting our customers every step of the way. To be there with professional service, parts and sales support throughout a truck’s lifecycle, and to keep on adding value to our customers’ businesses.”

Marketing Director, Rory Schulz said the performance of the commercial vehicle market was certainly erratic during 2019, as local economic conditions continued to be less than favourable.

“Despite all the odds, the total commercial vehicle market remained resilient and logged year-on-year growth of 2,1% at the end of 2019. However, transport operators continue to face severe cost pressures, with fluctuating diesel prices, overall safety of drivers and trucks, as well as instances of civil unrest, hitting many operations hard in the past year.”

Schulz said that the Southern Africa truck market is quite unique as on the one hand there are customers who want their fleets to have highly developed technologies and systems, while others are happy to stick to the very basics.

“The region is somewhat of a dichotomy as you can drive by hi-tech logistical warehouses that support large international corporations, while at the same time trying to avoid potholes on the road.  As a manufacturer, we must take these two worlds into consideration when introducing new products and technologies,” says Schulz.

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Volvo Trucks Southern Africa ended 2019 as the top-selling extra heavy truck manufacturer in South Africa having sold 3 206 units in South Africa and other African countries during last year, giving them a 23,2% market share of the segment.

The first place for Volvo Trucks is an improvement of its position in 2018, when the company finished in third position – a 4,8% growth in market share.

Volvo Trucks Southern Africa has assembly facilities in Durban and currently has four ranges available: the FH16, FH, FM and FMX.  The company is also responsible for export to countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Marcus Hörberg

“Our customers and our staff are the main driving force behind everything we do,” said Marcus Hörberg, vice president of Volvo Group Southern Africa.  “We believe the quality of our products, our staff, service, parts and support, played a central role in increasing our market share.  We will now work even harder to keep the trust our fleet owners have placed in us.”

Hörberg said that in order to efficiently support the growing Volvo Trucks vehicle parc, the company will invest in additional facilities and service dealers. The company will also train and develop additional technicians to keep service levels up to the highest standards.

At the end of the fourth quarter in 2019, Volvo Trucks was also the top-ranked truck manufacturer in terms of overall customer satisfaction, according to the latest report released by Data Track, a local research company that analyses customer experiences of more than 37 500 truck and fleet operators in South Africa.

New Haval H2 goes auto

You know the name, you have seen the cars on the road but, if asked, probably struggle to get that name to emerge from the deepest recesses of your mind – yet, between 2017 and the end of last year, had sold 7 525 units locally.

The name is Haval, the passenger vehicle division of Great Wall Motors (GWM) of China.

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Like Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, GWM and Haval have grown from being cheap car manufacturers feeding a voracious local market to being significant players on the global stage with subsidiary companies in dozens of countries.

Locally, what began as a distributorship has morphed into being one of those wholly-owned (by GWM) subsidiaries with 55 dealers across South Africa and its immediate neighbours with a further five likely to be appointed during 2020.

At the launch of the new Haval H2, the company announced it had recently opened an assembly plant in Russia and even hinted there might be one on the cards for South Africa to service the continent as public confidence in the young brand turns to increased product volumes.

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The original H2, launched in 2017, notched up a modest 34 sales in June of that year but, now sits at average monthly sales of 400 a month – reaching 464 in December last year.

With a local parts stockholding exceeding R100-million and a first pick rate of 97%, the local company is confident it has completed the step up from ‘cheap Chinese’ to be able to stand proudly against other contenders in the classes in which it competes.

The H2, which competes in small SUV segment has been quite extensively revised and now features a six-speed automatic transmission for the first time. This outsourced unit is essentially the same as found in both Hyundai and Kia products.

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The 1,5-litre turbo-charged petrol engine at the heart of the H2 is an in-house Haval design and the car itself is the result of input from the several R&D centres the company has in various parts of the world.

From the outside there are subtle changes to the grille and front end, while the new car is lower and the visual effect from front to rear is smoother, more modern and beginning to grow a character of its own.

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Inside, fit and finish is good quality and the dashboard layout is modern, neat and uncluttered with all operational switches and buttons clearly marked and within easy reach. The centre console adopts piano-lacquer materials along with atmosphere lighting.

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The seats are at an average hip-height, which provides easy entry and exit, so there is no awkward climbing as is the case with some other SUVs.

Behind the wheel, the comfortable upright driving position provides enhanced vision of the road ahead, while the 3D, fashionable and multi-functional dashboard shows essential driving information, including instantaneous fuel consumption, remaining driving mileage and the latest technical entertainment options.

The multi-function steering wheel bristles with controls for audio, page display on the screen and dash, cruise controls and the hands-free Bluetooth telephone.

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The new Haval H2 incorporates advanced technology for the 4-cylinder 1,5-litre turbo-charged enginethat provides 105 kW maximum power output and 202 Nm peak torque output.

The safety features on the new H2 include six crash bags, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, keyless entry, featuring advanced radio frequency identification technology and anti-lock braking – the H2 having received a 5-start ANCAP crash test rating.

The launch drive was held in high winds and heavy rain so somewhat skewed perceptions but I cam away impressed with the handling (in the conditions), lack of body roll, stability in the face of the strong Cape winds.

For me, the automatic gearbox was a bit ‘grabby’ and constantly hunting for gears. To be fair my car had only 300 km on the clock and colleagues said they were impressed with the smoothness of the auto both in up and downshifts.

Haval use the catchphrase ‘drive to impress’ . . . and it did!

 

Pricing 2019 new H2
Configuration (versions) 2WD   2WD  
  City Luxury City Luxury
6MT 6AT
Retail R269 900,00 R294 900,00 R304 900,00 R329 900,00

 

Seeing around corners

Looking well ahead is a vital part of safer driving but, what if drivers could ‘see’ over the brow of the hill or around the next corner.

Technology moves at such speed these days most of us are inured to changes in that landscape but that is not stopping people from trying to make life safer for all of us – and Ford now has a system that does allow ‘seeing around the corner’.

Thanks to Ford’s new connected car technology, Local Hazard Information (LHI) marks a significant step on the journey towards a connected transport infrastructure by helping drivers prepare for and potentially avoid dangers on the road.

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When drivers ahead encounter sudden tailbacks, accidents or spilled loads, the driver behind – and possibly out of sight – is given advance warning. This could also apply to everything from freak hailstorms, to sudden flooding or even landslides.

The triggers for the system come from what is happening in the cars ahead. It could be that crash bags have been activated, hazard warning lights are flashing or windscreen wipers are in operation.

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Previous traffic incident alert systems have relied on drivers to input information in order to generate alerts, whereas LHI works autonomously, without the need for any driver interaction, to generate information and issue warnings.

Hazards are only displayed – via the dashboard display – if the incident is likely to impact on the driver’s journey. LHI is designed to be more beneficial to drivers than hazard information from current radio broadcasting systems, which often deliver notifications not relevant to them.

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Already featuring as standard and free of charge for the first year on the new Ford Puma, LHI technology is being rolled out across more than 80% of Ford’s passenger vehicle line-up. Crucially, the benefit will not be limited only to those travelling in Ford vehicles. Information sent can be used to alert drivers of other manufacturers’ vehicles, and vice-versa.

“What makes Local Hazard Information different is it is the cars that are connected – via the Internet of Things. There is no reliance on third party apps. This is a significant step forward. Warnings are specific, relevant and tailored to try to help improve your specific journey,” says Joerg Beyer, executive director, Engineering, Ford of Europe

Sensors monitor activities including emergency braking, fog lights and traction control to detect adverse weather or road conditions. Data from these activities is then computed to determine the hazard location and whether a traffic incident has occurred.

The vehicle automatically provides updates through a secure connection to ‘the cloud’ using the Ford Pass Connect modem. Ford’s technology partner HERE Technologies operates the central cloud-based platform that collates information from multiple vehicle brands, governed by a business-to-business agreement.

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The more cars are connected to the network, the greater the efficiency of the system. When many vehicles generate the same warning, others in the vicinity receive incident information from the cloud via the cellular network, enabling drivers to reduce speed or take appropriate action.

Additional information is sourced from public authority incident databases and traffic reports to provide drivers with further advance warnings including approaching vehicles driving on the wrong side of the carriageway, animals or people in the road ahead, and roadworks.

 

Land Cruiser upspecced

Toyota’s hardy terrain-tamer Land Cruiser 200 – the flagship of the range – gains additional feel-good specification for 2020.

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The ‘LC200’ in VX-R guise has been outfitted with a 14-speaker JBL Premium sound system and Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE) system. The rear-seat entertainment comprises two 11,6-inch screens (29 cm) with multimedia inputs located in the rear console (along with the four-zone climate control).

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The other specification items remain unchanged, and include a raft of comfort and convenience features along with Toyota Safety Sense. Safety Sense provides Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Assist and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

The advanced Multi-Terrain System with Crawl Control and surround-view cameras, makes light work of any off-road terrain. The acclaimed KDSS suspension control and impressive approach and departure angles; have helped the Land Cruiser 200 earn the accolade of Master of Africa.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The LC 200 is powered by a 4,5-litre turbodiesel V8 engine, delivering 195 kW and 650 Nm from a low 1 600 r/min (up to 2 600 r/min), which is transmitted to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Six exterior colours are available, Sparkling Black Pearl has replaced Attitude Black (offering enhanced depth and pearlescent qualities), whilst Midnight Blue and Sunset Dune have been discontinued. Customers have the option of either Black or Beige interior trim on the VX-R grade.

Each Land Cruiser 200 is sold with a 9-service/90 000 km service plan, with intervals set at 10 000 km or 12 months. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is included.

 Model Line-up and Pricing

Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 GX-R*                  – R 1 086 200

Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 VX-R Black          – R 1 510 100

Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 VX-R Beige          – R 1 510 100

*The utilitarian GX-R grade continues unaltered.

Nissan gets the force

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas every January, always produces a fascinating array of product from the truly bizarre to the wholly impractical – along with some very clever innovations.

One that stood out this year is the Nissan technology dubbed e-4ORCE. Nissan is elevating the performance capability of electric vehicles with its new twin-motor all-wheel-control technology that provides instant torque to all four wheels to deliver balanced, predictable power and handling on par with many premium sports cars.

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The ‘e’ represents Nissan’s technologies enabled by a 100% electric motor drive system, while ‘4ORCE’, pronounced ‘force’, evokes physical power and energy with ‘4’ standing for the all-wheel control driving capability.

“The e-4ORCE twin-motor all-wheel control technology offers precise handling and stability, which gives drivers greater confidence and even more excitement than ever before,” says Takao Asami, Nissan’s senior vice president of research and advanced engineering.

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“This technology enables excellent cornering performance and traction on slippery surfaces and comfortable ride for all passengers.” The technology was born from lessons learned in the development of the Nissan GT-R’s ATTESA E-TS torque split system and the Nissan Patrol’s intelligent 4X4 system.

Engineers developed the e-4ORCE technology to specifically manage electric vehicle power output and braking performance to be smooth and stable. Unparalleled ride comfort is the result of the e-4ORCE technology’s ability to minimize vehicle pitch and dive.

This is accomplished by employing regenerative braking from both front and rear motors, making city stop-and-go traffic less jostling. Similarly, on rough, bumpy roads and when accelerating, motor control is optimized to maintain ride comfort by minimizing irregular movement. e-4ORCE increases driver confidence by faithfully tracing the driver’s intended line thanks to ultra-high-precision motor and brake control.

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With the confidence to handle such a variety of road surfaces, even for novice drivers on slippery surfaces, driving becomes more enjoyable.

Nissan displayed its zero-emission crossover Ariya Concept — which features e-4ORCE — at CES this year.

Big plans for Opel in 2020

The Opel brand – distributed in South Africa by Unitrans – is planning to go big in 2020 with three major model range launches.

The planned arrival of the Astra – with its adjusted styling – happens in the second quarter, followed by the Zafira Life andthe Vivaro Cargo panel van in the third quarter; both boasting 2,0-litre turbo-diesel engines to extend the Opel range in the LCV sector. Finally there is the new-generation Corsa that will be hitting the streets during the third and fourth quarters, offering a comprehensive model range to satisfy the B-segment category.

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Opel Astra

 Opel Astra

The Astra’s front grill will now conform to the new Opel design language with its slim, double-wing chrome winglets embracing the brand logo and flowing outwards to the Eco-LED headlamps. Opel’s design philosophy ‘Sculptural Artistry meets German Precision’ is further enhanced by the hood’s signature Opel crease and new fog light design.

Opel Corsa

Opel is going full-speed ahead into the future with Corsa ‘Number 6’ – the latest generation of the small car, which celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Frankfurt International Motor Show.

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Opel Corsa

Recently, the small car won the title of ‘Best Buy Car of Europe in 2020’. The AUTOBEST jury, made up of international journalists from 31 countries, chose the Opel newcomer as the winner and the award for the new Corsa completes an AUTOBEST hat-trick for Opel, with Corsa generations four and five taking overall victory in 2007 and 2015 respectively. No other model has been named ‘Best Buy Car of Europe’ in three successive generations.

A real highlight is the adaptive glare-free IntelliLux LED matrix light, which Opel also offers for the first time in the small car segment. In addition, there are numerous state-of-the-art driver assistance systems such as Forward Collision Alert with Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection, as well as radar-based Adaptive Speed Control.

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Opel Corsa

With a length of 4,06 metres and reduced weight of 980 kg, the 5-seat Corsa’s handling, clear layout and practicality remain exemplary. The coupé-like roofline is 48 millimetres lower than its predecessor – without any detriment to head space as the driver sits 28 millimetres lower. The low centre of gravity benefits driving performance and handling.

“Aerodynamics is just one area where Opel is increasing the efficiency of its automobiles,” says Managing Director: Engineering, Christian Müller. “Advanced powertrains are the other tools we are using to significantly cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. All these technologies are fully embraced by our new Corsa.”

As with all the other newly developed cars, Opel optimised the Corsa’s aerodynamics at the Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines in the wind tunnel of the Stuttgart University. The new Corsa’s design includes an active aero shutter, smooth underbody and rear roof spoiler to make the model as clean through the air as possible.

With a reduction in frontal area of 2,13 mversus the previous model, the new Corsa achieves a drag coefficient of 0,29, and the new generation version already meets the future Euro 6d emissions standard.

 Opel Zafira Life

The Zafira Life offers practicality, connectivity, comfort and safety for 9 occupants.

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Opel Zafira Life

“Our new Opel Zafira Life is the ideal family, leisure and business van with space for up to nine occupants. Here, every passenger enjoys comfort – never mind where they sit,” says International Marketing Director: Opel/Vauxhall, Tobias Gubitz.

Especially practical in everyday life, the spacious 2,0-litre turbo-diesel van is less than 1,90 m high and drives easily into normal underground garages – an important feature for use as a hotel shuttle, but also for any user who wants to park hassle-free.

In addition to the highly flexible space and comfort, the Zafira Life scores with numerous technologies that make travelling even more relaxed and safer. The portfolio includes, among others, state-of-the-art driver assistance, infotainment systems and IntelliGrip electronic traction control. This modern technology is combined with the typical Opel-look and attractive proportions with short overhangs. 

 

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Opel Vivaro panelvan

Opel Vivaro Cargo Panel Van

The light commercial vehicle offensive gains traction with the safer, more comfortable and practical third-generation Vivaro 2,0-litre turbo-diesel van, which continues to build its strong reputation as a cargo carrier or ‘office on wheels’, placing it as the perfect partner for professionals in this rapidly growing market for mid-size delivery vans.

Keeping Opel’s momentum, the new, third-generation Vivaro is now safer, more comfortable and more practical than ever, thanks to Opel’s ongoing vision to produce vehicles to suit the various requirements in a competitive industry.

 

Road Review – Hyundai Venue 1.0 Fluid

Despite the growing numbers of them in the market the 1,0-litre ‘little ‘uns’ of the automotive world have been looked down upon as unsuitable for long-haul motoring.

Obviously, there was only one way to put this to the test so I used up every available millimetre of the 350-litre boot on the Hyundai Venue 1.0 Fluid manual one test, packed some more stuff in the rear passenger compartment, strapped Mrs W into the passenger seat and set off for a 1 300 kilometre road trip.

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Going from the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast to Johannesburg involves an uphill climb of around 2 000 metres so also a test of how effective the turbo-petrol engine is in eliminating the power loss that comes with altitude – at the same time using cruise control to maintain a constant average (and foil the dozens of fixed and average speed camera traps that make this one of the most boring drives in the country).

The pleasantly surprising upshot was 6,4 l/100 km on the uphill haul and 6,2 l/100 km on the downhill return but, even better was the fact the Venue – idiot lane changers aside – could maintain cruise in sixth gear up hill and down dale with nary a hint of struggle.

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I liked the cascading grille and split front lights when I first saw car at launch and the whole, almost square box, design delivered on practicality the longer I spent time with it – the front corners always visible for precise positioning in mundane moves such as parking or when ‘giving it some wellie’ on a nice twisty bit of road.

The manual version, as I noted after the launch, delivers its 88 kW of power much more efficiently than the automatic option, meaning it can be made to behave like a hooligan – and, despite the SUV styling and higher ride, behaves rather well on the limits.

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Body roll is limited and the handling remains netural until break point when the natural front-wheel drive understeer does become oversteer and the back steps out. It is a progression and quite easily controlled while the revs are within the powerband.

There are a couple of options for the word ‘venue’ in Korean – gaechoeji and jaepanji among them – but neither flows all that easily off a Western tongue. Venue was not the original name but that was dropped as it was an offensive word in another language.

The rationale behind the name is Hyundai wants owners to feel this car is ‘the place to be’ – and, after my road trip I cannot fault the thinking.

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Where many small cars skimp in terms of seat comfort, hip, head and leg room, the Venue offers plenty of all of those. The seats were comfortable and supportive so the hours on the road went by with no onset of lower back pain, thigh cramping or any of the other discomforts that sometimes arise.

Although Hyundai engineers reduced the thickness of the front seat backrests to improve rear passenger knee room – this did nothing to reduce the comfort of the driving position.

The Venue is offered in Motion, Fluid and Glide specification grades, with all models powered by Hyundai’s 1,0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. Producing 88 kW and 172 Nm in all versions, the engine can be mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automated transmission.

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The engine is same unit as fitted to the Kona that was launched last year and, considering its mere 998 cc, is surprisingly peppy, especially in the manual version, and will hold its own quite easily on the freeway.

Measuring 3 995 mm in length and 1 770 mm in width, the Venue is one of the smaller offerings in its class although it does offer 350 litres of boot space.

Basic standard specification includes air-conditioning, remote central locking, a conventional four-speaker radio with Bluetooth connectivity, multi-function steering wheel, on-board computer, power windows and mirrors, dual front crash bags, ESP stability control and anti-lock brakes.

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The midrange Fluid adds 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome grille trim to the features list, along with a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, rear park assist with reverse camera, cruise control, auto headlights, partial leather seats, side and curtain crash bags and a rear demister and wiper.

All versions are sold with a 5-year/150 000 km warranty (with 2-year/50 000 km powertrain extension) and a 3-year/45 000 km service plan.

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