Motoring reviews

Thrifty crossovers, iconic off-roaders: five of the newest cars to hit SA

25 October 2020 - 00:02
Mercedes-AMG A45 S.
Mercedes-AMG A45 S.
Image: Supplied

The South African motoring machine is regaining its stride following the hurdle that was Covid-19. Sales are ramping up and so too is the push to launch products whose timelines were affected by the pandemic.

Over the past month we attended five new model unveilings, from practical hatchbacks and rip-snorting compacts to luxury buses, iconic off-roaders and thrifty crossovers.

The Toyota Starlet is a good place to begin, since affordability is on the lips of most consumers at present. If it looks familiar, that's no coincidence: this is a verbatim copy of the Suzuki Baleno.

The two Japanese brands signed an agreement last year which entails sharing technologies, and complete vehicles in some cases. Pricing starts off at R204,900, while power comes from a 1.4-litre petrol (68kW and 130Nm) that sips just 5.1l/100km.

But if you seek a hatchback with the heat turned up to maximum, then consider the Mercedes-AMG A45 S. Although this version sounds quieter (stricter European regulations), it is faster than the old one. Try 3.9 seconds to 100km/h, still courtesy of a boosted 2.0-litre unit (310kW and 500Nm). Did we mention it has a setting that enables smoky drifts? Yours for R1.1m.

Volkswagen Caravelle (generation 6.1).
Volkswagen Caravelle (generation 6.1).
Image: Supplied

For the same price you could have the Volkswagen Caravelle (generation 6.1). It's slower, but your extended family will thank you, since they can come along for the drive. Forget the David Kramer and veldskoen imagery from yesteryear, the latest incarnation is a genuine luxury bus for the modern era. It can even park itself.

Speaking of reinvented icons, have you seen the Land Rover Defender? You'll be happy to know that although it's taken on a more sophisticated persona, it remains as tough as ever. We put the six-cylinder, petrol P400 model (294kW and 550Nm with a 48-volt hybrid setup) through its paces off-road and didn't get stuck. Not even once.

Its Terrain Response 2 system is virtually fool-proof and the Discovery-derived D7 platform underneath has been reworked for even greater sturdiness. Optional air suspension makes it far more enjoyable on-road than its unforgiving predecessor. Expect to pay upwards of R1m for the privilege of ownership.

Kia Seltos.
Kia Seltos.
Image: Supplied
Land Rover Defender.
Land Rover Defender.
Image: Supplied

Now for something a little more attainable: the plucky Kia Seltos. Wait a second. Was this not launched before lockdown already? Yes, it was, but a diesel flavour has joined the fray, with prices starting at R410,995 and a claimed consumption figure of 5.7l/100km. The 1.5-litre motor delivers 86kW and 250Nm.

But there are offerings still to come. If you have a need for speed welling inside, brace yourself for an assault from Porsche. The latest guises of the 911 Turbo S and Cayenne GTS have touched down on local shores and our man Thomas Falkiner will be giving the lowdown on this duo in the coming weeks.

Then, BMW plans to launch the CS version of its M2. In a manner akin to what was achieved with the M4 CS, this is a lighter, track-focused version of the exciting coupé. Also next month, Honda will bring the enhanced Ballade and new WR-V. The latter is based on the Jazz and brings a touch of crossover ruggedness to proceedings.


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