Does mileage matter? In some cars, yes. In others, the mill keeps going

Baraza,

let me begin by appreciating what you do. I have a 1996 KIA Sportage that has done more than 260,000 kilometres but still runs like a good clock.

The engine is perfect and, other than minor electricals like window winders sometimes acting up, I am a satisfied owner.

However, now that the car has done all that mileage, I would like to know whether it is about time I rested it. Am I nearing that point in time when cars spend more time in garages than in the hands of their owners, or is the Sportage likely to give me more years of service?

Jesse Owino

 

Jesse, the 1996 KIA Sportage should be the first-generation car, right? In which case, congratulations are in order if yours is still running. Most of them did not last very long as they came from a time when Korea was still trying to find itself automotively, and it showed the need for direction that the industry so desperately lacked.

Retire the car when the frequency of garage visits overcomes your patience and your wallet. A mileage of 260,000 kilometres is low for some cars; for others (like the Sportage) it is a miracle.

There isn’t any definite mileage at which one should ground his vehicle — some cars have clocked more than a million kilometres while others blew their engines before the 100,000 mark — and so using your own discretion is the best way.

What do you think? Can the car run a little longer or does it feel like it will disintegrate the next time you change gear?

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Asalaam aleikhum, Baraza.

I recently drove to Nakuru in a Honda Fit, and on my way back I observed that PSVs were doing slightly over 100km/h, meaning there were no speed guns, so I decided to see what the Fit was capable of. Man, I got confused. The car had so much power and could accelerate shockingly fast. I raced past Subaru Imprezas — and don’t tell me the drivers were not in a racing mood, because one desperately tried catching up with me but he lost severally as he couldn’t accelerate fast enough.

I noticed two other guys were willing to race with me, and from Gilgil to Westlands I emerged second, after a Mercedes Benz that kept beating me on the hills.

Otherwise I was doing between 150 and 170km/h, and, bar the smelling brakes, the car was quite stable. Is Honda Fit really that good, or were the other road users just uninspired on that particular day?

Confirm my fears please, because if a Fit can outperform most Toyotas and some Subarus, then I’m very afraid. Your ardent reader,

James Wachira.

 

Wa aleikhum asalaam, Bwana Wachira. Interesting tale, this one. I will not pass judgment on your motorway antics though, so I will just wait for another email from you narrating what happened the day the NTSA caught up with you. That aside:

Your brakes smelled because either you were overusing them or they were binding. Since you report speeds of up to 170km/h and do not lament a hesitation in performance, we can safely dismiss the binding theory.

You were a little too enthusiastic with the anchors; and I can’t blame you: doing 170 in a Fit must be quite the experience and the need to stop must be overwhelming.

I’m tempted to say the other road users were uninspired (besides your little convoy of impromptu Fury Road war boys), but then again, maybe they were driving 1500cc Imprezas loaded with agricultural products from the village.

The Fit is what biologists would call “a bottom feeder”, it only feeds on (overtakes) scraps long dismissed by the big boys; stuff which includes vehicles with smaller engines, vehicles running on fewer cylinders than they really should and vehicles driven by uninterested pensioners.

Let’s be honest, if we were to take the Fit into a showdown, flat out driving against several other random cars, what would it overtake? Besides another Fit, that is…

Lastly, what exactly are you afraid of, Mr Wachira?

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Baraza,

I’m concerned about an issue you discussed some time back on the turning radius of a car. I did some digging and found out that there are three factors which affect the turning radius.

These are the wheelbase, overhangs (only affecting wall-to-wall or kerb-to-kerb), and gearing of the steering wheel (one turn of steering may result in a 15-degree turn of the wheel). I do not think, as you alleged, the size of the wheels matters.

Kigera Samuel

 

Kigera, you are right. But you are also wrong. The factors you list affect the turning radii of different vehicles; for instance, when comparing the turning radius of, say, a Suzuki Swift and that of an Alfa Romeo 166.

The Swift has a short wheelbase, non-existent overhangs and the steering is “quick” or has what we call a “fast ratio” (fewer turns lock-to-lock); it will therefore turn on a dime, so to speak.

The Alfa 166 has a long wheelbase and overhangs like an American school bus, plus it is a mid-size premium saloon car, so it’s steering is geared towards smooth predictable turns rather than the flea-like twitching of the smaller hatchbacks.

It will therefore circumscribe a larger donut when defining the locus of a point equidistant from that point.

What I discussed was different: factors affecting the turning circle of the same vehicle. Changes in ride height, steering geometry, suspension setup and tyre size will all meddle with the factory-set turning circle, in most cases making it bigger. I believe the discussion that day centred on tyre size.

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Baraza, kindly allow me two questions:

1: I am informed that some compact SUV models like the Toyota Vanguard and Honda Crossroad come equipped with an emergency puncture repair kit, hence replacing the need for a spare wheel and creating space for a third row of seats. What’s your take regarding the efficacy of such a kit in our local driving conditions? And,

2: Is your column available online? I would love to read some of your earlier works.

Henry Were.

 

  1. The emergency repair kit is used as a selling tool in most cars, whereby the blurb asserts that “the absence of a full-size spare wheel means that even more space is available in the boot, increasing the capacity to so many litres and you can therefore carry so much more stuff or people, unlike our competitor’s kangaroo-pocket of a rear compartment in which a toothbrush would fit with little space to spare…”. The logic is this: the repair kit should see you as far as the next garage/petrol station where the ailing tyre can be fully repaired or replaced, because you will have to repair or replace it either way even if it was a proper spare. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
  2. Yes, the column is available online. You could either do a (thorough) search of the www.nation.co.ke website — and it has to be thorough because the IT geeks hiding in the basement of Nation Centre do a bloody good job of making it damn-near untraceable via orthodox clicks from the home page — or join my Facebook group where some enterprising members manage to unearth the article from the depths of the interweb and post the links as soon as it goes up every Wednesday.

I’m guessing these members are also IT geeks.

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Baraza, you have ignored a number of my mails and I pray to the Almighty that this one attracts your attention. There is one thing I can’t understand about an engines CCs and cylinders, especially the V6s, which Kenyans say have poor fuel economy. Let’s say two cars have the same engine capacity — for instance, 2500cc with one equipped with four cylinders and the other six. Shouldn’t the case be that, if other factors are kept constant, including the weight and aerodynamic profile of the car, both cares have the same fuel consumption and power? My thinking is that no matter how many cylinders the engine has, the capacity will always add up to 2500 cubic centimetres, hence the same amount of air and fuel are burnt in one stroke.

Maclaude Mark

 

Maclaude, no I did not ignore your e-mails, maybe it is you who ignored the responses I put in the paper. Many are the times I have discussed fuel consumption in various engines; many are the times I have discussed factors affecting fuel consumption; I have explained how two different engines of the same capacity can have different consumption figures and why, and I even once calculated the exact amount of fuel a vehicle will use during 30 minutes of idling.

Anyway, a straight-four and a V6 will never have the same fuel consumption, even if they are both of the same capacity. The rev ceiling will decide, as will the frictional losses, heat losses and mass of moving parts. Also, the engine configuration (straight, V, W, H) and the number of cylinders create a difference in power outputs.

This is a branch of classical mechanics that takes more than two years to learn the basics (centers of mass, moments of inertia, rotating moments, etc) and they have to be calculated for different crankshafts, pistons, valves, camshafts, etc.

The layout of the V engine versus the straight engine means all these turning moments are different from engine to engine, and you see where I am going with this, right? It is not as black and white as you are putting it.

The V6 in most cases is thirstier because it is heavier and the higher number of cylinders means more surfaces in mutual contact, therefore more frictional losses. Oddly, though, the V6 develops more power than the straight-four, which is in essence more hole than substance, therefore lighter. Also, in most cases where there is a V6 as a high spec, there is the option of a lower spec four-cylinder (this does not apply to Range Rovers, though). If it is economy you want, most people will opt for the lowlier four-cylinder option.

 

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Dear John, a beer sommelier who, after numerous years of tasting beer, decides a stout, ale, malt and lager taste the same generally deserves to be retrenched and reassigned to a zoo as an elephant poop collector.

Reason being the customer is King; if the customer wants to know the difference between the 2008 RAV4 and 2008 Honda CRV, kindly indulge them all year round.

Even if the Japanese largely make consumer appliances instead of temperamental cars with character like the Europeans, the Kenyan consumer who pays the piper wants to know which of the two compact SUVs will make her look cooler at her next chama meeting and has lots of cubby holes for her lipstick and make-up kit.

The newly employed young man wants to know which, between the Corolla NZE and the Nissan Sylphy, has cheaper knock off parts from Taiwan on Kirinyaga Road that he will replace the same year.

Indulge your customers with the patience of a saint, lest you end up punching an editor when the last straw is broken by the umpteenth e-mail of a used car that will not lose a cent in resale value, will cost peanuts to maintain, will ferry a choir to practice and yet attain the economy figures of a scooter.

PS: When are you going to review the 2008 Mazda Demio, the tiara holder for World Car of the Year 2008?

Regards, Pied Piper.

 

Pied Piper, a motoring columnist, who after numerous years of driving different Japanese cars, decides cross-overs from Toyota, Nissan and Honda have no major differences between them generally deserves to be given Ferraris to drive instead and reassigned to an international magazine as the East African correspondent (see the e-mail reader feedback below this one, Sir). If the customer wants to know the difference in the number of cubbyholes between the 2008 RAV4 and 2008 CRV, he can check the Internet. If it is about looking cool at the next chama meeting, let them raise the matter at that meeting with their confederates, in a section commonly tabled as AOB in recorded minutes.

I am not into punching editors. The reasons are fairly obvious: first, they are bigger than I am and would probably punch me back (a lot harder, I presume, with a generous dishing out of pain) and, secondly, one of them is a lady and I was brought up knowing that it is uncool to hit women, an adage I still live by. Lastly, they don’t deserve to be punched: if it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be reading this now, would you?

I will review the 2008 Mazda Demio as soon as someone hands me the keys to one. Meanwhile, I am running around in a 2006; and reviewing my own car seems… tasteless. So it won’t happen.

PS: The name is not John.

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(Editor’s Note: The Pied Piper is right; the customer is King. The man who runs a kiosk never asks Mama Boi why she keeps buying a loaf of bread for breakfast when there is cake on offer as well. He just keeps stocking his kiosk with bread, because that’s what Mama Boi wants. And could someone, anyone, give us a 2008 Mazda Demio to review? We would be eternally grateful).

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Baraza, I just wanted to commend you on the Discovery Sport review.

It was very insightful and highly entertaining.

I wish you could be doing reviews more often as those Q&As tend to get boring after a while.

Now, if only our local Porsche dealer would let you test-drive the 918 Spyder.

Regards, Muzakir Parkar. 

Muzakir, now we’re talking! Pied Piper, see?

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