This Week On Car Clinic: I Want An Outback Turbo, So Help Me God


Kudos for the good work.

I’m planning on buying a Honda CRV 2008 which is ex UK and going for Sh1.4 million.  I’ve been having the vehicle for about two weeks and loving it each day. The only problem is that it runs on diesel and has a 6-speed manual gear. My friend, who aspires to be a Baraza in their county newspapers, claims that I am getting a raw deal, saying it is a time bomb waiting to explode in my wallet due to maintenance costs of the diesel engine.  I love the manual transmision since I have been using the same system in my old Premio. What would you advise on this 2.4 litre engine and value for money and what makes people fear diesel engines in family vehicles?



Hello Mwangi,

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There are two facets that we will go into here in support of your driving a diesel-powered CRV: fact and conjecture.

Fact: the car has a manual transmission, which is always a win for any petrolhead worth his octane (or should I say cetane) rating. The engine runs on derv, which is good for two things:  massive torque and economy. Then you also say that you like the car, love it even. Clearly, you are proud of your choice. There is nothing wrong with that.

Conjecture: Honda engines’ reputation for reliability beggars disbelief. Toyota has nothing on them, to be honest; Honda has been building VTEC engines that rev to 9000rpm and beyond since 1989 and not one has failed. How is that for a success rate? It, therefore, follows that the probability of their diesel engines being just as reliable is very high. Who wouldn’t want to mix it up with a manufacturer boasting such impeccable credentials?

The outsider’s view: The county-dwelling Baraza-wannabe might not be too far off the mark. Diesel engines have their shortfalls. The service intervals are very short, so to speak. Engine life is also not that impressive. Contemporary diesel engines come with high-pressure turbos and these have their attendant complications. Diesel stinks, literally. The torque band of the engine is typically very narrow, so with a manual transmission, you are pushed to the extremes: you will either hate the hiccupy response if you are yet to fully master the ropes of row-your-own ratio selection, or if you are deft with your feet and keen with your left hand, you could maintain the revs right where the torque lives and enjoy the living hell out of the intergalactic shove that comes from pairing a black pump feeder with a tin snail* (or two), like I did with the Volkswagen Amarok last year. Not everybody understands what I’ve just written, so many will claim that diesel engines are “weird”. They are.

I am still lost in the grey about fuel quality. Energy companies insist the fully-imported diesel we now get is safe enough to cook with, so it should run fine in whatever European junk you might throw it into, but some people still say that they are having problems. Fuel adulteration at retail/distributor level might be to blame.

*A tin snail is street parlance for a turbocharger, just in case you went astray in that word salad I unwittingly spewed.


Hi Baraza,

Your article about the Mazda Demio on January 4 was spot-on. I have owned one for a year and I have enjoyed every minute of driving it. The only complaint I have about  this vehicle is the looks – yes it is pretty, but feminine, ladies look great in it compared to a man and this has been my source of pain since acquiring one as the boys won’t stop making fun of me. So I have, painfully, decided to get rid of it and am thinking of replacing it with either a Mazda Axela or Premacy.

I am aware of the problems that many Mazda family owners faced in the past and I am seeking your thoughts on these  two vehicles (Mazda Axela and Premacy) or have you done a review of them in the past you send me the link?



Hello Victor,

Thank you for the compliment. I did say that the car is a bit feminine but, would you know, I have editors, and some of what I write ends up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes the editors might not know that what they are trimming out is the exact talking point I might have been driving at, and that sometimes causes issues, especially with keen and critical readers. We have learnt to live with it.

Peer pressure should never be enough to make you get rid of a car unless you are driving a Peugeot… or a Subaru. The Demio is a lovely little car, girlish appearance be damned, and I’ll confess that I miss my little blue DY. The verdant DE that we started the year with did a fine job of squeezing every little bit of nostalgic, automotive angst out of that evocative drive and now I’m thinking of getting another Mazda.

As you are too, going by your email. Past problems are exactly that: past problems. Current Mazda ownership is as pain-free as it is enjoyable. For the two years I had the DY, not once did it put a foot wrong. You don’t need a Premacy, unless you run a day care centre and do road trips with your charges or you have an exceptionally large family. Look at the Axela instead; it is exactly what you had, only at 110 per cent. It is bigger, more powerful, faster, more practical and, would you believe it, even more fun to drive – 110 per cent, I tell you.


Hello Baraza,

Thank you for the good job you’re doing educating clueless drivers like myself on the deep stuff about cars. I especially loved the comparison between the Forester STI v Legacy (I am a Subaru fan, after all). By the way, if money were not a factor, which Subaru would you recommend?

Now, I own a Subaru Impreza, manufactured 2007. It has been used locally for about two-and-a-half years. I bought it in April, and did not really have many problems with it.

However, of late, I have noticed that it accelerates sluggishly, and sometimes has frustrated me when overtaking. I consulted two different mechanics, who told me two different things: one said the timing belt needs replacement, the other said I just need to check the engine oil. Given the significant disparity in what they told me, I am yet to fix it.

About two weeks ago, the co-driver’s window developed some problem. I could raise and lower it from the driver’s panel, but the co-driver could only raise it but not lower it. A few days later, the rear door on the same side could be opened only from the outside. Please advise on what might be causing this?



Hello Lawrence,

Money no object, I’d buy an Outback Turbo… or the 3.6R. I am getting on in years, so the Impreza STi (nowadays just called the WRX STi), exciting as it is, is starting to look a bit inappropriate, plus it carries the stigma instigated by its yobbish boy-racer association and further exacerbated by a certain social commenter who has since learnt to tape it shut as far certain matters outside the scope of their subject material are concerned. The Legacy wagon is dead; nowadays it comes only  in sedan form and I’m a sucker for longroofs. The Forester is a sellout, a turncoat. It has become a RAV4 in all but name and lacks that Subaru quirkiness that so endeared the previous SF and SG models to enthusiasts (Bring back the frameless doors!). The Levorg could be a contender, especially in STi guise, but the Outback is infinitely more practical, more adaptable and more versatile. Old age does not mean a lack of need for adrenaline, hence the choice of forced induction — the turbo version — or cubic inches: the 3.6R.

Lack of power is symptomatic of a fault in either the fuel system or ignition system, but there is a third possibility: a clogged catalytic converter. To find out if it is the cat, top speed is also affected negatively. Is there a rough idle? If yes, then your ignition system (plugs and/or wires) are old or on the brink of failure. If the idle is not rough, then you probably have a clogged fuel injector.

The power windows either need relearning (sometimes curable by simply disconnecting the battery for a while or playing with the switches until a certain combination is reached that resets the programming) or the motors and/or wiring within the doors need looking at. Interestingly enough, I have the same problem in my own car: the passenger window goes up and down from the driver’s control panel but the passenger can only raise it, they have to beseech me to lower it when it starts feeling like a cauldron inside the car.

As for that rear door, I only have two words for you: child lock. Look for a little movable tab that has nothing to do with holding the door in place and move it – it only occupies two positions. It might or might not be labelled “child lock”.



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