Oh yes, the Harrier 2015 model is certainly worth a closer appraisal

Hi Baraza,

First, thank you for helping me evolve from a bike enthusiast to a petrolhead. Kindly address the following issues.

1  Please review the FJ Cruiser (any model). I have seen the car a few times and it’s quite unique, however, I can’t understand why it has not penetrated the Kenyan market, yet Kenyans are very good at trial-and- error methods. Is there something about the car that discourages buyers?

2   Given that there is not much to talk about the earlier Harrier models, yet the car has enjoyed relatively high sales in Kenya, what would you say about the 2015 model, which is a complete makeover as far as the exterior is concerned?

3 Lastly, I checked the Great Run Website and while the information is well put, I was a bit disappointed with the gallery section. I was expecting a comprehensive coverage of the vehicles involved. Petrolheads are attracted by those great machines and maybe showcasing the cars would attract more people to your noble cause.

Charles Kanyi



Thank you for the compliment  and I’m glad I converted you from the vagaries of being a cyclist.

  1. The FJ Cruiser: Funny looking thing. Quite a number of people seem to love its oddball looks but I do not understand it. The face is some sort of retro-throwback attempt at the original FJ40 a là MINI/Volkswagen New Beetle (and it works), but from the

B pillar rearwards, it’s hard to explain. It shares a platform with the Prado and it shows when taken off-road; it’s not easy to defeat this car. Some light research reveals that it comes only with the 4.0 litre 1GR V6 petrol engine. Not bad either.

The concept was aimed at a young, male market, a segment Toyota thought it was losing at the time (Why?) and, therefore, came with neat little touches such as a gear lever that also works as a shovel (Eh?) and detachable interior lights that were also

flashlights. For some reason, these details did not make it to the production version. What made it to the factory floor were backward-opening rear doors and a shell without a B-pillar for easier ingress to the back seat. That did not make it any less of a

hassle, and from the 2011 model, the front seats have had to have different hinge mechanisms to further assist in passenger ingress. The blind spots created by that strange (some call it bold) design are huge, but the car has been praised for its tractability in

the rough stuff. I still don’t see why one would walk past a Prado to buy the considerably pricier FJ.

  1. The new Harrier is prettier than its forebears, that much is beyond contest. It’s also better engineered. The shocking thing is that it is also a lot cheaper: prices start at $27,000 (Sh2,754,000)  for the 2.0 litre models, which is what people have been paying

for second-hand Harriers. I was surprised when one 2015 car with delivery mileage showed up for sale at Sh4.1 million on one of my social media platforms. I expected a much higher price tag. It is definitely worth checking out as you say.

3 There are thousands of photos in our Great Run gallery. I would think that qualifies as “comprehensive coverage”. Do you mean we should probably include profiles of these vehicles (details and/or brief histories) in our albums? We could, but this is

subject to permission from the owners. There are those who ==would prefer to remain anonymous, those who are constantly modifying their cars, and some of these vehicles also change hands/ownership frequently. Part of the beauty of the Great Run is

that one gets to meet in person the faces behind these incredible machines. Your observation has been noted, though, and I will consult with my colleagues about sexing up the page a little.


On December 15, 2014, I got this rather nice Toyota Caldina from the proverbial Indian lady driver, which means it has never been on any rough terrain and is/was in top ship-shape shape, in spite of being a second-hand motor vehicle.

The problem is, I don’t know how to drive, so I parked the Caldina in a sheltered place and said I would learn learn to drive in 2015.  However, I didn’t. The other day I opened an envelope and realised my girlfriend had paid for, and enrolled me, in a driving

school starting February 15, 2016 (I’ll feign surprise on Valentine’s Day). This  means the Caldina will have been on wheels for 14 months without being touched/switched on, with only outer washes to remove the dust. Before I get one of those mechanics

who will charge me for body parts, are there any problems I should expect with my car. Do help a fellow columnist, and I sure hope you are enjoying riding your “Njoki Chege Express” (Wwink wink)

Tony Mochama


Hello Tony,

Glad to hear from a fellow columnist. Now, for a car that has been asleep for more than a year, a physical check by a mech is necessary. You will definitely need to change the oil, whether or not the service mileage was due. Fourteen months is a long time,

long enough for the air in the sump to have condensed several times, meaning the oil has now been mixed with water and running that engine will mix the two and form sludge.

Check the tyres too: unused tyres tend to “rot” after a while. Check the brakes, just in case the pads have fused with the discs over time. Of course, you will also need to wash the car.

However, all these are just checks. The most urgent thing to change is the oil; the rest of the vehicle should be as it was 14 months ago. If your girlfriend follows this column, I think we have just ruined the element of surprise; Valentine’s Day is still four

days away.



I own a 2001 Subaru Legacy, twin turbo e-tune model. The problem is that it has terrible revving and acceleration power. It kind of behaves as though it has a miss. I have changed the plugs and maintain it with quality fuel. 

Secondly, it has an engine oil leak from the lower side which emits uncomfortable fumes into the passenger chamber. Three months ago, I got the engine disabled and placed seals to prevent the oil leakage without success. Please advise.




Your story is depressing. That is the same car I have right now and I’m not sure I want to hear about terrible revving  or acceleration power. Given the relatively high mileage on my car, now I’m nervous. Fixing turbo engines is not cheap.

The poor acceleration, miss and bad revving could be from a vacuum leak somewhere. One of the more sobering facts I learnt about this engine is that while most others (including the insane STi versions) have only one vacuum line, the EJ206/208 block in

the Legacy GT has 24 of them. Twenty four. Yikes! The exact words from a Subaru “expert” I conversed with were, “Good luck isolating a vacuum leak when the problem arises. You are about to learn the hard way why nobody buys GTs”.

That engine sounds knackered. If the oil leak has persisted even after you replaced the seals, it might be time to replace the block. Good news: Subaru engines are infinitely interchangeable. They all basically use different versions of the same 2.0 litre engine,

so swaps are fairly easy. A common replacement for the twin turbo in the GT is the 2.0 litre single-turbo from the WRX. You will lose the 280hp (260 if automatic) you had with the original engine and have to make do with 227hp, at which point the

hardcore Subaru enthusiast would replace the stock WRX turbo with a bigger TD04 unit. Getting back to 280hp will not be easy without further modification. If you can afford it, you could just install an STi engine, getting the full 280hp, but while both the

GT’s twin turbo and the single-turbo STi block make 280hp, how they develop that 280hp is slightly different. The STi engine is a bit mental and will need handling with care. The GT’s engine revs to 7500 rpm before redline while the STi goes to “only”

  1. That means it has more torque and with a single turbo, boost comes in more suddenly than progressively. It will take skill and presence of mind to prevent dramatic incidents when you go full throttle.


Hi Baraza,

I had a disappointing weekend after test-driving my friends 2.4 Mark  X on the Thika Superhighway. This is what happened:  I got onto the road and stepped on the accelerator ready to take off but, alas, the accelerator did not start working for about

15seconds of hard pressing! By this time all the Demios and Premios has disappeared, only for me to catch up with them after 10 kilometres. This recurred every time I  slowed down at bumps; the car just wouldn’t just go, even when I pushed the pedal to

the floor. What causes this kind of delayed response, because  a similar Mark X showed me dust in acceleration when I was in my 2.0 D4 Caldina. I expected to experience the marvelous acceleration hands-on with this borrowed beauty. In a nutshell, how

can you compare Mark X with the likes of the German Passat, 2019/2010 model, and the 2010Toyota Crown if I  am looking for performance, comfort, quick/fast acceleration, reliability, specs levels, etc.




Yours sounds like a problem with the TPS (throttle position sensor). It might need replacement. Also, I had no idea the Mark X came with a 2.4 litre engine (does it really?); I know only of a 2.5, a 3.0 litre and for  the new generation, a 3.5.

Depending on which Passat and Crown you refer to, the Mark X might be either superior in performance, or inferior. It only loses out if we are talking of rivals with bigger displacements.

The Passat has a 3.2 litre six-cylinder version while the Crown can be had with a 4.6 litre V8. These are not to be trifled with, Mark X or not. The Crown is the most comfortable of the three, and easily the most reliable, plus it comes with more features as standard if you opt for the top-tier spec models.

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