LONG-TERM TEST | We review four festive rides for under R500k
You will find a quartet of rather sensible choices in the extended-term test section of our motoring hub garage this festive season. All hail from the Far East and range in price from R275,995 to R459,900 — a reasonable price spread for most new car buyers in the country. All are powered by petrol engines with four cylinders. We will report back on how each of vehicle fared in our initial editions of January 2022.
Budget star: Kia Sonet 1.5 LX manual
It is not often that manufacturers proffer their most entry-level grade model for testing, but we wish that was not the case. Hopping into a base model allows one to identify exactly what the customer gets before price-inflating options are added. Luckily, owners of the least expensive version of the Kia Sonet are not going to feel short-changed. Yes, the exterior lacks some of the garnishes sported by its grander siblings. But inside one is greeted by a number of surprises, such as a clear eight-inch infotainment system, wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play, plus USB ports front and rear. The rear passengers benefit from their own centre arm-rest and air-conditioning vents. The engine produces 84.7kW/143.8Nm and is mated to a six-speed manual. It feels sturdy and has an impressive hooter tone, befitting that of a much larger car. The Sonet should hold up well under December downpours, potholes and shopping forays.
Compact yet spacious: Honda Fit 1.5 Elegance CVT
Honda opted to retire the Jazz nameplate in SA, with a replacement model taking on the Fit moniker that is more popular abroad. No reason to be dissuaded by the lack of familiarity because all the ingredients that made the Jazz such a hit are very much present. As before, the designers managed to eke out a great deal of interior space from a relatively compact shape. For occupants, the sense of airiness is amplified by a window-intensive ambience which includes a sizable expanse of glass just aft of the A-pillar. Quality is a massive leap over the outgoing vehicle, with swankier materials used and soft-touch surfaces throughout. Power is rated at 89kW/145Nm and a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) is on duty. Visually, the Fit certainly looks a whole lot more grown-up than any of its predecessors. As for that face? Well, you could describe it as assertive. We will park it there for now.
Local hero: Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 Xr HV CVT
Good things have been said about the new Toyota Corolla Cross since its recent launch. It is a vehicle that will pander to your sense of patriotism, being produced in KwaZulu-Natal at the long-standing Prospecton facility. Also helping its cause is the identity of the Corolla title — steeped in heritage and with millions of loyal fans around the world. What we admired about the Cross after driving it at launch was its blend of quality, comfort, visual pizzazz and exceptional value. On test here is the HV derivative, with an engine output of 72kW/142Nm and an electric motor delivering 53kW/163Nm. The system in tandem promises an impressive consumption figure of 4.3l/100km. A long-distance trek to the Western Cape and back is on the agenda for this one, which should provide a true test of economy.
Bringing the funk: Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive CVT
Hyundai has been pulling no punches in its resolve to become a world champion. In its bag of tricks is an aesthetic language many would describe as pretty radical. The Kona is one example, with a face that looks like an angry sea serpent. A jazzy shade of blue, as worn by our tester, also adds to the funky appeal of the South Korean model. But there is more to it than conversation-starting aesthetics. Tactile quality, a pleasant drive and a surprising amount of cabin and luggage space are among its strengths. Power is respectable, with 109.5kW/179.5Nm, and the CVT is easily one of the best examples of the setup you will find today. Next year buyers can also look forward to a high-performance Kona N model.
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