Yes, Prados keel over easily, but they’re great if you don’t speed

Hello Baraza,

Thank you for the good job you are doing educating us on matters motoring. In your article on September 30, 2014, you said that Prados can easily tip over, which could be understood to mean that they might not be good cars, yet in a different article you had said that “a Landcruiser Prado is about all the car you will ever need if your driving covers a wide range of conditions.” Now, how would you evaluate the Toyota Landcruiser Prado TX in terms of performance, reliability and safety? Your insight and advice will be highly appreciated.


A Prado is a good car, centre of gravity notwithstanding. Yes, it will tip over easily, but this just means you have to be more careful when driving it. Circumstances that would lead to a roll-over accident are almost always preceded by foolish acts such as taking corners at inappropriate speeds, so there isn’t a legitimate complaint here.

The ratings: Performance is about as much as you need. If anything, it is a little bit more than you need. Prados can be scary fast for such a tall car in almost all its engine variants, except for the 2.7 litre petrol, which does struggle a bit. The turbocharged diesel and the petrol V6 engines push this car to ridiculous speeds, which might explain its propensity to keel over every now and then. The 150 Series diesel is especially torquey and pulls like a train from low revs. It can out-accelerate many small saloon cars.

Reliability: What do you think? An off-road car built by Toyota. Need I say more?

Safety: This is where things get a little yellow for the Prado. It handles relatively well but will lose traction easily when pushed. As stated earlier, it also corners like it is drunk when you start chaining bends together without dropping anchor a little. If one of them rams into your car, you are unlikely to fare well. If one rams into you, you will most probably die. If you hit a wall in it… well, 3 stars means it’s a 50:50 affair whether or not you will see tomorrow. The survival rate in rollover accidents is surprisingly high, oddly enough.



Whenever I’m driving with my dad and he sees a black vehicle, he tells me that the law stipulates that when one is driving a black vehicle, one should have the lights on during the day to ensure one visible on the road.

I doubt that there is such a law. Can you shed some light on this? 


I seriously doubt that such a law exists on paper too. I’ve never heard of it. However, it does make some sense, as a black or dark grey car moving on black or dark grey tarmac will be barely visible until it is quite close.

This is why some manufacturers, especially Germans, nowadays make their cars with daytime running lights (DRLs) as standard. These are sharply bright light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that do not dazzle, but simply increase the visibility of the car bearing them.

Now, the DRLs: Many are the times my friends and colleagues have been given grief by a traffic policeman for  having them “on” during the day. For some car models, one can’t help it because  they remain on by design,and unless one pokes one’s head under the bonnet and pulls some wires or disconnects some fuses, those LEDs will remain on.

I know the opposite law exists for some reason: having your headlights on during the day is illegal, unless visibility is compromised by bad weather, extremely dusty conditions or in  case of a solar eclipse. The reason is that  driving with one’s lights on during the day denotes that one is facing an emergency and needs other  motorists to  get out of their way immediately.

This is usually accompanied by the flashing of hazard lights. The only cars allowed this manoeuvre are emergency vehicles, and possibly the security team of a high-ranking government official such as a president or his deputy.

You can see why this is illegal. The law might  be archaic, but it is the law.


Hi Baraza,

Thank you for the great work you are doing.  I was guided by your articles when buying my first car, particularly after I read your article on the Toyota Raum. I acquired the car soon afterwards and it has served me well  for four years.

Now I want to upgrade and I have in mind a larger car like a Toyota Voxy/Noah or a Nissan Serena. I have shopped around and found that the price difference between the Toyotas and the Nissan is very big yet they are the same in terms of size and capacity; what brings about this difference?

And in terms of performance, which is better?

Wilfred Chirchir


Chirchir, the reasons for the disparity in price boils down to the market dynamics of supply and demand. Toyotas are in high demand, so they will cost more. Nissan? Not so much.

The interesting thing comes about when one looks at why the demand is low for the Serena and high for the Toyota. The Noah/Voxy is good-looking in its own square-edged, van-shaped way. The Serena’s appearance may take some getting used to. Toyota has a reputation for building solid, reputable and reliable cars. Nissan? Not so much.

History also works against the Nissan. The Serena might be a good car now, but in its former life it was trashy. Honestly, the car was terrible: it was ugly, slow (0-100 took 19 seconds), noisy, with a diesel engine and built badly. With this kind of record, not many people are attracted to a Serena.

Performance: Why is this important? We live in an era of CCTV surveillance, speed cameras and overly enthusiastic NTSA officers, what difference will “performance” make? The two cars are similar and perform similarly; any disparities in horsepower will be summarily diluted by a man holding a speed gun.

(PS: The Toyota has marginally better outputs, if you really need an answer to your question).


Hi Baraza,

I want to buy a vehicle that carries many passengers but with low fuel consumption. I am torn between the Toyota Isis, Wish and Volkswagen Touran. Please advise.



Obuar, all these carry many passengers and all have low fuel consumption. However, the Isis has better interior space and a fancy party-trick powered sliding door that is amusing to have on a car. Get the Isis.


Hello Baraza. I am considering buying a 2008 Toyota Prado and my options are the 2.7 litre version or the 4.0 litre. What are the pros of each as I believe the chassis and exterior workings of the two cars are very similar.  (Both have the options I am looking for – a 7-seater with a sunroof).  I am mainly considering fuel consumption and any other major differentiators.

PS: The 4.0 litre costs Sh400,000 less than the 2.7 litre and mileage is in the same general range of  8.0 to 9.0 km/l.



If fuel consumption is your worry, then avoid the 4.0 litre by all means. However, if you  want the better buy,  grab it. The 2.7 is underpowered, plus, if the two cars have the same mileage but the 4.0 is Sh400,000 less, then the 4.0 is quite literally a steal. Where will you ever get a bigger engine at a lower price?

The extra fuel that the 4.0 will consume  compared to  the 2.7 can be chalked up against the Sh400,000 you will save, so it evens out.


Dear JM Baraza,

I need your help on which type of engine oil and coolant to use on my 2001 Nissan X-trail NT 30 automatic. Regarding the engine oil, which is better, natural or synthetic? Also, which brand is better between Total and Shell products. I know you do not endorse products, but I am kindly requesting for your advice on this (this is my first car). Regarding the engine coolant, which colour is best: green, red or blue, and which is better between Total and Shell coolants?

When started in the morning, the engine makes a lot of noise like knocking metal for about five seconds and then  the noise disappears. This happens yet the level of the engine oil is between hot and cold. I have consulted several mechanics but none of them has any idea of what the problem is. What could the problem be?

Also, in the morning the brakes make a jacking noise for about a kilometre and then the noise diasppears.

Finally, after how long, roughly, does one need to open the sumps of both the engine and the automatic gearbox?

May Clarkson


Odd name, May Clarkson. Is your middle name Hammond, by any chance?

What you are asking for is an endorsement, not advice. You are asking me to decide who makes better fluids for cars between Shell and Total. The honest answer is, I don’t know. The best way to decide is to refer to the manufacturer’s handbook; they sometimes specify. For example, BMW will tell you to use Castrol GTX while Ferrari will insist on Shell Helix. I don’t know anybody who ever recommends Total; probably Peugeot or Renault, seeing how they are French just like the oil company.

Interesting thought, this. If Total is French and French manufacturers recommended their products in a frenzy of patriotic fervour, then what happens with Nissan? Nissan is part French, just so you know; it merged with Renault in what was basically a European bailout of a Japanese company on the ropes. Maybe they’d recommend Total.

I mostly use Shell products for a variety of reasons, some of which I cannot, or will not, go into. Shell V Power goes into my tank at least twice a month while Shell Helix goes into my engine every 5,000km. The V Power has its known benefits while the Helix is a hang-up from my youth, when one of the Formula One drivers I glorified back then drove for a team that partnered with Shell (Michael Schumacher and Ferrari).

I don’t think coolant colour really matters. What matters is to mix it with water in a 1:1 ratio for both economy and efficiency (financial, not fuel).

What do you mean the engine oil is “between hot and cold”? Is that the oil temperature gauge you are referring to or the oil levels as seen on the dipstick? Anyway, the ticking noise is typically associated with low oil levels, so you’d better check the oil itself (using the dipstick) rather than relying on the dashboard instrument which shows temperature, not physical level. If the oil level is okay but you still get a warning light, then that might indicate low oil pressure, in which case your oil pump might be about to call it a day. I’d say you check the oil level and oil pump to ensure they are all within acceptable parameters before resorting to the third diagnosis, which might be a little unlikely.

It could be loose valves or a loose exhaust. However, you say the noise lasts five seconds, so dismiss this third theory for now. I’m sure your problem is oil-related.

I don’t know what you mean by “jacking noise” so that part of your question will go unanswered today. The opening of oil pans and/or sumps is usually a step in a curative process and is not part of a maintenance procedure. The sumps are usually removed when disassembling the engine/gearbox, or if the accumulated sludge is too much and too thick to ooze out through the drain plugs.


Hi Baraza, 

I am elated by the way you articulate issues concerning motor vehicles. I would like to ask for your input regarding the Range Rover Vogue since I am in the process of buying one. Kindly tell me the pros and cons.



Meeli, which particular Vogue do you want to know about? The very first one from 1989 has a beautiful, classic shape that wreaks havoc on the aerodynamicist’s sketchpad. It handles badly, rolls too much, is susceptible to rust, unreliable, thirsty and will generate envy from petrolheads everywhere should you land a clean unit.

The second one, the P38A from 1994, is thirsty, heavy, suffers from collapsing trim, has an air suspension that will be a headache at one point or the other, and is not particularly fast.

The L322 is beautiful and was made under BMW’s management, so it’s built really well. It’s quick and powerful, while the diesel returns impressive economy. Later updates (the 4.4 turbo diesel V8 and the 8-speed automatic transmission) transformed an impressive car into an unbeatable one. The biggest problem is that this car is even heavier than its two predecessors and, as a result, it eats brake discs like you wouldn’t believe. Brake discs are very expensive to replace.

The L405 is  the one I drove first in Morocco before the vehicle was even officially released in 2013. They sorted out all the problems that were in previous models: it is 400kg lighter than the L322, it handles like a dream, it is more economical and more powerful, it is designed and built like a Rolls Royce so it feels like a Rolls Royce, the electronics are cleverer (but not totally immune to glitches, unfortunately) and it looks so very awesome. This, Meeli, is the one to have, if you have the wherewithal.

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