The New Toyota Hilux, Ford Figo, and missed chances

ALL-NEW TOYOTA HILUX

Anyone remember Arnold Schwarzenegger snarling “I’ll pee pack!” in the early Terminator movies?

No?

Oh, well… anyway, the Toyota Hilux might as well be the T-800 CSM Model 101, because it is back for the eighth generation; meaner, slicker and even more Invincible (pun intended) than before.

The world’s favourite commercial vehicle now has an all-new iteration; and this news is thanks to an afternoon spent trawling the Internet for interesting stuff to read rather than the result of an inbox message from Toyota Kenya’s PR department.

The facade on the new car looks nothing like the outgoing one. Gone are the swoopy eyes and raked bonnet; replaced with an oddly (for contemporary safety standards) flat bonnet and a countenance that is more Arnold Schwarzenegger than Akira Kurosawa; what with the steely gaze (I need your clothes…), the jutting jaw (…your boots…) and prominent leading edge (…and your motorcycle) — furrowed brow is more like it.

The vehicle looks menacing. It looks like it wants to masticate a Ford Ranger; trafficator by trunnion, wheel-cap by wing-nut; con-rod and camshaft. Be afraid, be very afraid.

SHOUTING FROM ROOFTOPS

And there’s good reason to be. Toyota, gushing euphoric about the new car, say that they’ve been paying close attention to client demands in Australia by actually listening to these people; and they’ve addressed the outgoing vehicle’s major failings: structural rigidity (called it!) and comfort (called it too!).

The result, they say, is a frame that is a lot stronger — no more bendy centrelines — while at the same time more flexible — no more crashy, jarring rides and no more cabin noise. Australians take their Toyotas very seriously, which is why they get certain models that the rest of the world doesn’t.

The new Hilux doesn’t look very new from the B pillar rearward, though. The lines are all familiar, as are the tail-lamps, rear bumpers (where available) and the vehicle stance.

However, the interior is something else altogether. The designers certainly took their time… looking at the new Corolla dashboard and cobbling together a convincing knock-off that imbues what is, for all intents and purposes, a rugged warhorse (insurgents of the Middle East, rejoice!) with the accoutrements of a semi-plush Tokyo cab (taxi drivers of the Far East, rejoice!). The outcome is not only very becoming, but is high up the ambience thermometer enough to cause worries in the ranks of the competition.

There are engines too; two of which I don’t care much for: a 2.4-litre turbodiesel good for 160hp and a 2.7-litre 4-cylinder petrol worth 164hp. Then there is the slightly juicier 2.8 litre 177hp diesel (where are you, Navara?) and the cream of the crop, a 280hp 4.0-litre straight six petrol (hasta la vista, baby).

This is where I remind you, dear reader, that 280hp is the exact same figure that the Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution develop from their engines. The Hilux will not beat these two, naturally; but I’d like to see someone, anyone, step up to me in a double-cab of their own choosing when I’m behind the wheel of this 4.0 litre terrorist’s transport.

More information will be made available as soon as the PR people at Toyota Kenya realise such momentous events as the launch of an all-new Hilux are meant to be broadcast from the rooftops, even if the car is not here yet.

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FORD FIGO

The new ‘Ford Kidney’ (that is what ‘Figo’ means in Kiswahili, isn’t it?) is “destined to be a compact car champion”, according to FoMoCo.

They don’t specify what competition it will be a champion of, but they do say that it will have style, technology, safety, efficiency and value “at unprecedented levels”, which I think means it will be a Volkswagen Polo… or a Volkswagen Up.

From the pictures they gave, it looks like a more rounded version of the sharp-looking Fiesta, which I think is a very good car. The rest of the information is not very helpful.

Engines will run on diesel or petrol. Transmissions will be automatic or manual. Body styles are hatchback or sedan. It will have airbags and traction control. Tell us something we don’t know.

About the value: that much I can agree with them, but only if they price the new car like the old one.

The previous ‘Kidney’ sold for a million shillings, which is less than some used seven-year old hatchbacks with 70,000km on the clock are going for here (Volkswagen Golf, to be exact); but then with the Ford you get zero mileage and a warranty; plus the gearbox will not be an expensive failure long before your next service date.

Nothing was said about the pricing of the new one, so this is simply syllogism on my part.

 

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SPORTS NEWS

This is more of gossip than news, but trust me, you want to read this.

Lewis Hamilton, an Englishman known for wearing large, expensive watches that always indicate ten minutes past ten in every single photo and video he appears in, has either already signed or is about to sign the kind of contract that one can only assume came from the devil (too good to be true).

Mercedes-Benz have apparently offered him the princely sum of $155 million (Sh15 billion) over a three-year period as a retainer.

Wait, what? I forgot to mention: Lewis Hamilton is a Formula 1 driver for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team.

The money he is about to see does not include a basic salary of about $32 million (Sh3 billion) which after bonuses could shoot up to $45 million (Sh4 billion). Then of course there are the endorsement deals that always follow such a driver.

Anyone who remembers Michael Schumacher as the world’s highest paid sportsman can tell you such deals in F1 carry a lot of zeroes with them. The contract figure sans the perks amounts to $140,000 per day, every day, for the next three years.

That is the equivalent of almost Sh13 million paid to him every 24 hours between now and May 27 2018, outside of his “stipend”. I think I will stop now, my head hurts…

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READER FEEDBACK

It so happens that quite a number of you followed keenly my investigation into the matter concerning double-cab pick-ups and the Traffic Act. These are two of the more outstanding responses I got:

“Hi, concerning the double-cabins, kindly inform your readers that they need to change the insurance stickers from commercial to private ones at fee of Sh400 from the insurer as soon as possible, or else one will be prosecuted.

Thanks a lot for the good work.

John Munge”

 

Thank you for the heads up, John. The next one is even more enlightening:

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“Hi Friend. Monday and Tuesday (a few weeks ago) found me hopping from KRA to insurance companies to a motor vehicle inspection centre to find out the legal status of double-cab pick-ups’ inspection. KRA and insurance companies were not very sure and so none committed to a position one can back on if stopped by a traffic police.

“At the inspection centre, however, an officer informed me that “one has to pay advance tax and book inspection then present the vehicle for inspection after which we will do a memo in a fortnight to the registrar of motor vehicles to change class from commercial to private in the registry. Until that is done, have the vehicle inspected and an inspection sticker issued.

“I knew there was a directive that the pick-ups be classified as private vehicles, but just like you, I didn’t have the document. And so, as if telepathic, I saw your piece today, walked to the Government Printer and got, for Sh30, a copy of the legal notice number 180 of December 31, 2014. It has found abode in my glove box, to be fished out at the inevitable next stop by a traffic cop.

“The best bet for double-cab pick-up owners would be to follow the inspection officer’s advice since even insurance companies will issue a cover based on particulars of the log book; which are entered by the motor vehicle registrar who follows advice from the inspector, who must be physically presented with the vehicle to ascertain that it is indeed a double-cab.”

 

Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? There is a wealth of information out there; and it warms the cockles of my heart knowing some of you are willing to share your experiences for the edification of others. So I will share mine too:

KRA is a hell-hole, particularly the Times Tower headquarters. Most of the people there are the most unhelpful, uninformed (or unwilling to inform) and lazy lot of civil servants one can come across. From misleading directions to convoluted instructions to lack of information to lengthy queues to extended three-hour lunch breaks by clerks who man busy stalls… my latest visits there have not been gratifying on any level.

Interestingly enough, I did meet several people in the queue who were pursuing this exact same matter: the conversion of a double-cab pick-up’s status from commercial to private car. There was debate about whether or not the vehicle has to be physically presented for verification; but one of my fellow victims of the taxman’s inhospitality said no, not really; he was told a photo or two of the vehicle in question will suffice.

I think it would be smart to present the vehicle itself, just to be sure.

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