Hiace is great on road, the Caravan on wallet

Hi JM, Thank you for the good work you are doing. I wish to acquire a van for personal use and I am torn between going for a Toyota Hiace and a Nissan Caravan — petrol or diesel.

I mostly drive in town and in the rural areas every other weekend, mostly alone, and rarely carry heavy stuff. I rarely, if ever, drive above 100 kph.

My main area of interest in the comparison between these vehicles is performance, maintenance, fuel consumption, and general wear with time.

Also, I have heard that a 3000cc diesel engine is more efficient than a 2700cc one. Kindly elaborate.

Waimiri.

The Hiace is slightly superior to the Caravan on several fronts, but before we continue I have to ask: You want a van for personal use? You drive alone, in town, rarely ferry stuff, and travel to the bush on alternate weekends. Why on earth would you want a large van? These things can easily carry up to 18 people (14 in this post-Michuki era) and the load capacity stretches up to 1,250kg (factory sanctioned). What exactly is the van for?

Anyway, the Hiace performs better than the Caravan. Maintenance will not be too bad, given that you do not intend to subject your vehicle to heavy use, but the Nissan’s parts may be cheaper compared to the Toyota’s.

Fuel consumption will hover around the 8 km/l area for both, sinking to 5 km/l or slightly less in traffic. General wear? Well, a Toyota is a Toyota, if you get what I mean.

Whoever said a 3-litre engine is more efficient than a 2.7 is not exactly right. As Kenyans say: “How now?” Yes, on paper the 3.0 will develop more power and more torque and will, thus, pull as well as the 2.7 at lower engine speeds, but this disparity is best seen in sub 1.8 litre cars. In vans, SUVs, and large saloon cars, the cubic capacity does become a limiting factor in fuel economy in that the bigger the engine, the more fuel it consumes.

For a 2.7 against a 3.0, the gearbox ratios tend to be the same without any major sacrifices being made in pulling power, so on the highway, at 100 km/h, both the 2.7 and the 3.0 will be running along at, say, 2000 rpm in top gear.

The difference is, sticking to stoichiometric AFRs (air-fuel ratios), the 3,000cc engine has a bigger space to fill with the intake charge (air-fuel mixture), and will, thus, burn a little more fuel. If you are going for full bore standing starts, manic acceleration, or terminal velocity, the 2.7 will have its work cut out for it trying to keep up with the 3.0.

That is when the 2.7 will burn more fuel than the 3.0. Otherwise, no, the smaller engine is more economical.

Hi Baraza,

I salute you for your knowledge of motor cars, although I know you are sometimes careless with your words and can hurt a person who asks a question about motorcycles in a column clearly titled “Car Clinic”.

However, I still feel that I should ask. I ride a Chinese motorcycle that works well, but I feel that I should find a better bike. What is your opinion on the Indian bikes in the market, and which would you recommend in the 150cc to 250cc classes considering the look, reliabity, maintenance cost, and fuel economy? Could you also highlight genuine market prices of the model(s) you recommend?

Mwahanje

Greetings, Sir,

Thank you for the salute, but I take exception to the accusation of random carelessness with my choice of words.

The intention is not to hurt; it is to educate. And I will educate, emphasis being on impact and ease of memory.

I never sugar-coat anything; if I consider a question ridiculous, inappropriate, or downright unintelligent, there will surely be a literary salvo headed that question’s way. No matter, as you said, this is Car Clinic, not therapy.

Anyway, as I have said before, I am not a fan of two-wheeled transport for a variety of reasons. As such, I do not even ride bicycles anymore, let alone motorbikes, so I know precious little about them. However, the little I have I will share:

Indian bikes are generally better than Chinese ones. Another way of saying this is: Chinese bikes are possibly the worst you can ever come across. Low-build quality, poor reliability, and a housefly-esque lifespan define their existence.

They even look suspect, though maintenance is manageable even for those living below the bread line, courtesy of the cheapness of parts. For a sub-250cc motorbike, I think fuel economy is not something worth discussing, but remember: The smaller the engine, the better the economy, and always carry thin passengers. An overweight load could easily double your fuel consumption.

On the other end of the scale sit Japanese motorcycles: Well-built, highly reliable, and they last forever if not abused.

Even their appearance is reassuring. They are highly economical: A person from my childhood once had a 125cc Yamaha DT and he clocked 70 km/l on it easily (or so he claims), and this did not include freewheeling or pedalling.

They do not break down easily, but they do cost a wee bit more than the Chinese versions. Just so you know, like millions of other things, these have not been spared the Chinese duplication protocol: I have spotted Yamakha and Keweseki motorcycles on the streets of Nairobi. They look as suspicious as their names sound.

Dead in the middle lies the Indian output. Hardy little things these, far better than Chinese but not as good as Japanese. Everything about them is an average of the two extremes.

This advice is based on regular workaday motorbikes, the type used by rural pastors and urban messengers, the type on which one sits bolt upright and buzzes around noisily at relatively low speed. For performance bikes, I might have to consult with The Jaw.

Hi,
I guess you must be a genius when it comes to vehicles because you seem to know almost everything! Anyway, a big thumbs-up for the excellent work you are doing.

I was thinking of buying a cheap car and after some research, I learnt that the Toyota AE91 is a good car. A friend also told me that since he bought his Nissan B13, he has never had any problem with it. I also learnt that the Nissan B12 with an EFI engine is cheap, economical, and has readily available spares. My question is, is this old B12 a good car if I get one in a good condition?

Freddy Ambitious.

I guess calling me a genius when it comes to cars may be overstating things a little, but hey, thanks for the compliment.

The answer to your question is, yes, the B12 is a very good car if you get one in good condition. My question is, where will you get one in good condition? These cars are getting fewer on the road and far between, and quite a good number served as taxi cabs in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

About the B13: I am not so keen on it. It is more delicate than the B12 and highly unstable at speeds above 110 km/h on the open road when crosswinds are involved.

Wind one up to 100 km/h on the highway and open the windows then tell me what happens. See if it will not feel like you are about to take flight. Even worse is the B14: Underpowered, ugly, suspension that feels like wet cardboard, and a propensity to bend in the middle, along the B pillar. Let me not even start on the B15…

Hi,

Whenever I come across a Wednesday Daily Nation, my first stop is Car Clinic. Anyway that aside, I have  got some issues with the Subaru Outback 2500cc and Legacy 2000cc. Lately, they come in almost the same wagon shape, which I like, so I am kind of torn between the two.

Could you explain in a nutshell the pros and cons of the two in terms of fuel efficiency, performance, and overall cost?

Which of the two is the better buy, taking all things into consideration?

Robert Mboga.

Well, yours is an easy question to answer.

Fuel efficiency: Legacy all the way. 2000cc in a less frilly car compared to 2500cc in a car fitted with many toys? No contest.

Performance: Barring any turbocharged Legacy (especially the STi tuned versions), the Outback wins.

Overall cost: The Legacy is a lot cheaper. Of the two, I would buy a Legacy, but then mine would be turbocharged.

I like going quickly and the puff from the dump valve when closing the throttle is a noise I can never get tired of. Use your three parameters to make a decision, then add this:

The Outback makes you look trendy and lifestyle-y, as though you spend your weekends going to interesting places with your physically fit, yuppie-grade, tablet-wielding, twenty-something-year-old friends. Or at least that is one of the target markets for this car…

Alternatively, you could look like you take your family on picnics in scenic locales, ferrying baskets laden with sandwiches and tea, bringing along the family dog, and enjoying the various amenities Subaru chooses to imbue the Outback with. This is another image that the company hopes to project with this vehicle, which explains the car’s popularity with suburban parents in Europe and America.

In Kenya, the Outback is used to visit the pub and overtake anything naturally aspirated and with less than 2500cc on the highway. It is also used to visit the farm, straddling paths that would best suit a Land Rover Defender or a Lada Niva.

This is just my observation, though I am sure there are Outback owners out there who go picnicking in interesting locales with their rock-climbing, kayaking, bungee-jumping, lifestyling, super-fit yuppie companions… exactly as Subaru intended.

Buy the Legacy.

Hi Baraza, I wonder what criteria you use to answer readers’ mail. This is because I am sending this mail for the third time. I guess you receive so much mail that it might be challenging to print some. Anyway I will not tire, so here it is again.

First, I must congratulate you for the good motoring advice you give readers. Some time ago, you spoke ill of the Nissan Note in comparison to the Mazda Demio. Well, I owned a Demio and now own a Note and I must say the Note drives better.
To my question: When I turn it on (Note) a “Sport” light appears on the dashboard and disappears immediately (with all the other necessary lights). On the gear lever where there is normally an OD button, it is labelled “S”. When I press it, nothing happens (I assume).

Please enlighten me on what this “Sport” light is and the meaning of the “S” button on the gear lever instead of OD. The car is an automatic (CVT) transmission, 1500cc.

Peter M.
Sorry for not answering your email earlier. My inbox does tend to get flooded sometimes and it, thus, follows that certain messages go unseen or unanswered. So here is your answer:

When I “spoke ill” of the Note, it was relative. It is not as awful as I made it sound, but then again, it is not the last word in driving dynamics.

You owned a Demio, I have one now, and I drive it daily. I have also sampled a Nissan Note, and the drive was unmemorable. It was like making a photocopy of a newspaper or something; an event so boring and devoid of lustre that I doubt if I will remember it ever, which explains why I have never reviewed it.

The Note is exciting because it has a light on the dashboard that says “Sport”, no? Or is it because it has a Sport button, the one labelled “S”, where normally the overdrive button would be?

The Demio I drive has no Sport button, nor Sport dashboard illumination, but it does have a 5-speed, close-ratio manual gearbox with a short final drive, short pedal-travel clutch set-up, quick steering, sharp brakes, tight suspension, alloy wheels, and a body kit, complete with a rear roof spoiler, none of which I recall seeing on the Note. So, whose car is exciting now…?

I have sampled the two vehicles and found the Demio better.

The “S” button you refer to, I guess, is for Sport, which makes the CVT adopt a more aggressive shift pattern, if you can even call it shifting. CVTs are strange. For you to Note (pun intended) any difference, I suggest you explore the little-visited world that lies beyond 60 per cent throttle opening? Go flat out in normal mode. Gauge the car’s responsiveness and acceleration. Then go flat out in “S” mode and take Note (pun intended) of the difference. If there is a difference, then, there you go.

If there is no difference: 1. That button is malfunctioning or 2. That button does not work at all, so the Note is not as good as the Demio, which was the point I made originally!

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