From budget to big bucks: Can these new cars edge out their rivals?
We weigh in on the 2020 Hyundai Grand i10, Honda Ballade and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class
Of the latest launches staged in the past month, we picked three models across different categories for your consideration.
Hyundai Grand i10
First up, the increasingly relevant budget car arena. Hyundai has always had a good contender in the Grand i10, and the latest version brings added visual spunk, improved interior plushness and enhanced road manners to the mix.
These merits ought to hold it in good stead when taking the fight to rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, Suzuki Swift, Ford Figo and Renault Sandero.
Versus the model launched in 2014, the latest offering is larger in most aspects. It is longer by 40mm, wider by 20mm and with a wheelbase that gains an extra 25mm. The boot is bigger, too, but only by four litres (260l total). It is marginally shorter by 10mm.
Two engine and transmission choices are on offer, both proven normally aspirated petrol units. First up is the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder (49kW and 94Nm), followed by the 1.2-litre, four-cylinder (61kW and 114Nm). Both can be had with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
The Hyundai Grand i10 needs to be wound-up to extract the most in freeway conditions, but around town proved zesty enough
We drove the 1.2-litre manual pairing. It needs to be wound-up to extract the most in freeway conditions, but around town proved zesty enough.
The Grand i10 treks with more confidence than expected from a small car. And the seats deserve special praise on their own - easily the comfiest in the category.
Perhaps the only downside to the car is its poor performance in the recent round of Global NCAP crash tests. It scored two stars for adult and child occupant protection. The model tested was of Indian market specification and although it had dual front airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and anti-lock brakes, it lacked Isofix anchorage points, which South African cars get standard.
Prices start at R191,000.
Sedans might be waning in popularity but Honda hopes to buck the trend with its latest Ballade. But there are a few barriers to its success, chief among which is an unrealistic ambition to rival the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 — nameplates that have moved upmarket.
Most buyers will still associate the Ballade with the previous model, which was a budget-orientated offering to the entry-level market. That gap has since been filled by the Amaze and the Ballade now sits in a strange, uneasy position, where little over R10,000 could get you into the superior Civic. Yes, the range-topping 1.5 RS CVT costs R396,900!
And best not let that RS moniker fool you. There is nothing remotely sporting about the way the Ballade goes and the next sentence explains it all. Power across the range comes from a 1.5-litre, normally-aspirated, four-cylinder petrol unit. It produces 89kW and 145Nm. This is coupled with a continuously variable transmission.
Rather get the same value from a Toyota Corolla Quest, Suzuki Ciaz or sedan variants of the Volkswagen Polo, Fiat Tipo and Hyundai Accent, for less outlay.
If you have a bit more to spend on some new metal, then allow us to introduce you to the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. Yours for upwards of R1.842m.
The brand says it is the S-class of sport-utility vehicles, a promise you may struggle to fault after spending time in one of its sumptuously trimmed seats. Even the third row of chairs promises to accommodate frames of up to 1.92m.
The GLS 400d we tested packs 243kW and 700Nm courtesy of a straight-six, turbocharged-diesel unit with a 2,925cc displacement. It propels the hefty German to 100km/h from standstill in just 6.3 seconds, faster than certain hot hatchbacks.
For those upfront, the MBUX infotainment system offers slick operation via the centre-mounted touchpad. And if that is too much effort, certain system functions can be executed by hand gestures too.
Pneumatic suspension is standard at both axles, which not only secures cloud-like ride comfort, but also provides an edge on the rough stuff. Specified with the extended off-road package, the vehicle is able to rock itself free when bogged down, as the suspension autonomously initiates a sequence of up-and-down movement.
At this end of the scale, buyers face the unenviable choice of picking between this, the BMW X7 and Range Rover in its classic, big-body configuration.
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