Car clinic: expert answers to your motoring woes

I’m in the process of acquiring a used car. I have realised that I can get a nice Mitsubishi, Mazda or Subaru for about Sh400,000, but the same quality of Toyota costs almost Sh600,000.

However, I’ve been advised that these cheaper cars have serious problems when it comes to spare parts, and that they consume a lot of fuel even when their engines have low ratings.

I have had two Toyotas in the past and though their spare parts are easily available and cheap, one often runs the risk of buying fakes, which raises the cost of maintaining the car.

I have especially fallen for the Mitsubishi, either Lancer, Cedia or Galant. I will use the car to go to work daily, a round trip of about 32 km on a rough road. What’s the truth about the availability and cost of their spares as well as fuel consumption?

Njeru.

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Hello Njeru,

I keep saying over and over that though some cars consume more fuel than others generally, the biggest deciding factor is one’s own driving style. The spares cannot stay rare forever, especially given the abundance of Cedia/Lancer cars on the road.

As for fakes, I cannot risk giving you a definite answer right now without proper research; I might be forced to eat my words tomorrow.

I am yet to see a small Japanese car grounded on account of spares. The problem is usually money (or the lack thereof) on the owner’s part.

The spares themselves may cost more than equivalent Toyota parts, but if you take good care of your car, what you will need to replace are universal sundries like brakes, tyres, wipers and other small things, which means it will cost no more to maintain a Lancer/Cedia than it would a Toyota.

And, no, these cars are not thirsty, at all. In fact you could drive them as carelessly as you wanted and you still would not feel the pinch felt by someone running a petrol engine SUV.

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Dear Mr Baraza,

I have a Toyota Vista saloon with a 1800cc VVT-i engine whose steering wheel shakes when speeding at 140km/h. What could be causing this?

I’m selling this car and going for a bigger one. My options are Mercedes Benz 2010 E300CDi, 2004 S320CDi or 2004 BMW 520i.

My main concern is fuel consumption and maintenance costs. I’m told that diesel engines, especially for the S320CDi model, may not be compatible with our kind of diesel and such cars are made for European countries, yet I see them on our roads.

Kindly advise.

David Malonza

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Hello Malonza,

The steering shaking at 140 km/h could be due to bad alignment or unbalanced wheels, especially at the front.

I did not experience that kind of thing with the Vista I wrote about (and that was one Vista I drove quite extensively).

Just wondering: did you mean the E300 CGI by any chance, because I doubt there is a 2010 300 CDI. I know of an E320 CDI.

One is petrol-powered (the former-CGI), the other one (the latter) diesel. If you can afford a 2010 E-Class Benz, why would you want to plump for a 2004 5-Series, instead of a 2009 or 2010?

Anyway, that is not for me to judge. What I would advise you is this: step carefully around Mercedes cars, especially those with diesel power.

And BMW cars have far superior dynamic abilities. For sheer pose-worthiness, go for the S320 (if you can avoid the diesel, even better).

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Hello Baraza,

As a WRX owner, it was of interest to find out that you would prefer the Evo to the WRX, even with the Evo’s limitations. Is it that the WRX has more serious limitations than the Evo?

Muriithi

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Hello Muriithi,

Fear not, one man’s meat and all that. Actually the Impreza STi has consistently beaten the Evolution in terms of torque and outright performance (especially in-gear acceleration), but I would still go for the Evo because all those computers (AYC, ACD, AWC and so on) make the car handle sharply and zero-counter driving is easy (four wheel drifting).

But with the two latest models (Evo X vs 2010 Impreza), I think the Evo finally outdoes the Soob in everything. When I finally lay my hands on these two I will definitely let you people know what’s up.

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Dear Baraza,

I am about to buy a car and a German make is my preference for reasons of stability, power and durability. My first option (within my range of budget) is a VW Golf 2005 model.

My brothers, however, insist that a BMW 318i or a Merc C-200 Kompressor are a better bet since they will cost me about the same to purchase and a VW will be more expensive in the long run in terms of parts, maintenance and consumption.

Apparently, VW parts are mostly only available at CMC. Kindly help me unravel these issues.

Grace.

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What your friends tell you about the spares and CMC might be true but the rest is horse manure. Consumption will depend on how and where you drive, as will maintenance.

Parts will vary, but a little bird once told me that the exhaust system of a 3-Series goes for about Sh300,000, that is Kenya shillings and not Zimbabwean dollars (but I don’t know how true this is). Try and top that with a Golf.

Maybe your brothers just want a prestigious brand of car in the family. An ex-Singapore Benz will cause you nothing but grief, and the 3 has minimal ground clearance.

It is up to you to make the call but the choice in this instance is between the 3 (class leader, outstanding dynamics, excellent performance and BMW reliability) and the VW (another class leader, in the hatchback world, good dynamics and more practical than the other two).

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Hi Baraza,

I’m interested in buying the older model Pajero (the one just before the new one currently in the market).

Would you recommend it? If so, diesel or petrol? How is its consumption? Manual or auto? What other issues do I need to know about?

Henry.

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Hello,

Diesel/Petrol: Depends on where you intend to use it and how deep your pockets are. For exclusive on-road use, the petrol is better, but if you have the finance to keep it running.

If you will venture off-road, the torque offered by the 3.2 diesel is awesome and better than most rivals. Consumption: Stratospheric for the 3.5 litre petrol, and I wonder why they still do not offer a V8.

The diesel is okay, but it is still outclassed by the BMW X5, ML 270 CDI and Landcruiser Prado. Manual/Auto: Depends on how deft you are with your left foot, but I’d choose the manual.

Better performance (marginally), better economy (marginally) and the freedom to choose your own gears.

Any other issues? Yes. The car is outdated by now. And if you intend to go off-road, the body kit will be an inhibiting factor, as will the long rear overhang and long wheelbase.

But it is quite comfortable and very capable on-road. A good used buy.

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Hi Baraza,

I recently bought a Nissan X-Trail, 2007 2.2 Turbo Diesel. The car runs smoothly but it emits a lot of black smoke from the exhaust when trying to pick speed on the highway and has no power when climbing hills.

I tried getting advice from DT Dobie to no avail (this a local vehicle bought from them by the previous owner).

I hear it’s a common problem with the 2.2 Turbo Diesel X-Trails. Please advise on what you think could be the problem.

Really Frustrated X-Trail Owner

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Sorry, Mr Frustrated,

The problem could lie in the quality of diesel being fed to the engine: if it has been corrupted in any way (typically by adding a dash of paraffin), black smoke will be the order of the day for not just the X-trail, but generally any diesel engine.

I’m yet to establish if this problem is endemic to X-Trails, especially the Mark II versions.

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