Toyotas cost more than Subarus because their demand is high

Hi Baro! (Sounds cool, right?)

I am planning to acquire a car locally, given that the cost of importing cars has now skyrocketed, thanks to the new excise duty rates. Most of the people I ask for advice tell me that I am better off importing a car from Japan than buying one locally but hey,

I am working with a budget. I have zeroed in on three cars that fit into my budget:

  1. Subaru Legacy BP5, 2L (non-turbo) 2005 models, range between Sh550,000 and Sh800,000.
  2. Subaru Forester, 2L Auto (non-turbo) 2002 to 2005 models, range between Sh550,000 and Sh850,000.
  3. Toyota Raum, Sh650,000.

Needless to say, I have fallen for the Subarus. A friend of mine has told me that once I get a Subaru, I will never look back. However, my question is, why are the Subarus cheaper than, say Toyota Premios and  Allions of the same age? Is it that at that age they start developing issues or is it purely “The car in front is always a Toyota” thing?

Finally, if you were in my shoes, which car would you  choose (pros and cons)?

  1. I have driven a Probox before and I loved its versatility, speed (Yes, it’s relatively fast – story for another day) and economy. However, its power was nothing to write home about.

I am afraid that I will have some sort of culture shock when I acquire a Subaru.



Hi Jacko! (Sounds cool, right?)

Most people are right. With a DIY import, the middleman and his markup are eliminated, saving you as much as 200 grand, if not more.

The difference is, it is more convenient buying a vehicle you can actually see, touch and get immediately, rather than wait three months for a ship that might not sail past Somalia’s coast line.

You could therefore save money at the expense of time and risk, or you could save time and eliminate risk but at higher cost. Your choice.

Your friend needs to define what “looking back” means. If you are graduating to a Subaru from, say, the Toyota Passo/Nissan Note automotive rank, then yes, you will never look back, and you shouldn’t.

Those cars are for beginners and driving schools. If you have gone the Subaru way from, maybe a German car, then one day you will need to look back as your station in life improves.

There are only so many Subarus you can upgrade to before running out of options.

I have said it time and again: the laws of demand and supply apply. Toyotas are in high demand, so they fetch higher prices. Subarus are in low demand, so the sellers need price incentives (lower markups, if any) to lure buyers.

It is called market dynamics. That is what it is. Yes, Subarus can, and do, develop issues (as was made clear last week), but then again, so do Toyotas.

The two are broadly similar in terms of reliability, but on one condition: that the car remains unmodified. The moment one starts fiddling with factory settings, one starts sliding down a slippery slope of blown engines, failed transmissions, Check Engine

Lights and costly maintenance. If you don’t mind being overtaken once in a while, just leave the car as it is. You will have peace of mind.

Speaking of modifying cars, on to your real question: which one would I buy? The one I did buy is a Legacy (BH5, not BP5, but potato-tomato, the difference is the same) and there is one addendum.

Again, I have stated several times that if one buys a Subaru, one is better off with a turbo version; naturally aspirated Subarus are kind of self-defeating.

What is the point of having such a sturdy platform, taut suspension, symmetrical all-wheel-drive and then limiting oneself to 130hp? Get a Fielder or something.

It is in this light that I would have said stick to the Raum and leave the Subies alone if you won’t do forced induction, but that is bad advice and very misleading.

Anything is better than a Raum, even a naturally aspirated Subaru. The Forester is more versatile, the Legacy more practical. The Forester is more comfortable, the Legacy has better rear legroom.

The Forester has weak stabilizer links (but cheap and easily replaceable), the Legacy will scrape its belly over speed bumps (nothing that a small lift kit can’t solve).

Take your pick. I wanted a Forester and ended up with a Legacy, so you can see not everything is cast in stone.

Listen here, Proboxes, Probices, Probi… whatever, are not fast, at least not relatively. It is just that they are driven at 95 per cent throttle opening 95 per cent of the time, even in traffic, which is enough to make any car look fast.

You just contradicted yourself by saying,  “It is relatively fast” then saying, “Its power is nothing to write home about.” Those two facets of motoring go together: to go fast, you need power. Simple as that.


Hello Baraza,

I must say nothing  brightened up my university days like your Wednesday column, and now that I am done with school, I am looking for my first car (can I get a place at the men’s table, please!)

The problem is, I can’t make up my mind which car to buy between the Teana, Bluebird and Sylphy. My preference is mostly  influenced by how nice the car looks (I am leaning towards the Teana),

fuel consumption and availability of spare parts. Given that I am really not an off-road person, I would be interested in hearing what you think about the three Nissan models.

James Gachie


If it’s looks you are after, get the Teana. I don’t have much to say about the three models except that the Sylphy is the Bluebird, so asking about them both is no different from asking for either a potato or a spud. Same damn thing.


Hi Baraza,

Many thanks for being there for us.

One of my collegues recently came up with the idea that it not good to fill your petrol tank. His explanation  was that when you fill the tank to the brim, the fuel that has already passed through the meter gauge will flow back to the tank of a petrol

vendor, and thus you end up paying for fuel that is not actually in your car.

Another question: do the tyres of a car have expiry dates set by manufacturers?

Kindly enlighten me on these two issues.



Your colleague either needs help, or is deliberately misleading you. That is not how fuel dispensers work. These are the same people who believe charge is sucked out of your phone battery if you keep it connected to a wall socket during a power blackout.

Such drivel.

This is how the dispenser works: when you ask the attendant to fill up your tank, he will let the pump run until fuel reaches the maximum in the tank, after which the dispenser automatically stops delivering fuel.

The nozzle has a cutoff that is activated once the tip is immersed in fuel, which is synonymous with a full tank. In case you had asked for a specific amount of fuel (“Weka elfu tatu!”) and incidentally this amount exceeds the available space in the tank, same

thing happens: once the tank is full, the delivery is cut off. That is why you sometimes see the attendant pull the nozzle out partly (to remove the tip from the fuel and allow a little bit more to dribble out), more so if the figure on the readout is near a nice,

round number.

Tyres do not have a solid expiry date. What happens is they are more often than not changed long before the rubber gets degraded.

The irony is the rubber “rots” faster of you don’t drive the car, so to make the tyre rubber last longer, you need to drive your car more. Oddly, the rubber will last longer this way, but the tyre itself will not.

NB: The shelf life of a tyre is around 4-6 years, depending on the manufacturer, but tyres rarely last this long when in use. This is as opposed to the “life left” in a tyre, which is determined by the physical condition and tread depth. Usually, there is a date of

manufacture on the sidewall in the form of a code called a DOT number. You might see something like “2814”, which means that the tyre was manufactured in the 28th week of the year 2014.


Hello Baraza,

Thanks for the great insights you provide.

I would greatly appreciate some insight into  a problem with my car, a Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia GDI, CVT.  For a month now, when I reach an incline, as long as it’s not a flat surface — regardless of the degree of steepness — and slow down or stop due to

traffic or speed bumps,  the car loses power completely and stalls, so I have to floor the accelerator and wait until it picks momentum (it is frustrating), which only happens when I get to a flat surface.

To avoid the stalling, I have to build lots of momentum while in motion whenever I am faced with any form of ascent. I took the car to a mechanic and he said it needed a throttle body cleaning, which we did, but there was no change.

He then suggested a replacement of the inbuilt, high-pressure fuel pump which I did, again to no avail. Then he claimed a diagnostic scan was needed to identify the problem but after the scanning, there were no error codes.

Finally, he suggested that it could be a problem with the CVT auto transmission oil; he said that if I changed it, all my problems would end.

We changed the oil but there was still no difference; the car continued  behaving the same way and the stalling became progressively worse. When he suggested that we needed to change  the gear box, I almost reached out for the wheel spanner to knock him and get him back to his senses.

My patience  with his trial-and-error approach had run out so I looked for a different mechanic. The second mechanic has suggested a change of the mass air flow sensor, which he confidently says is the root cause of the stalling problem, so I am waiting for the replacement to be sent, which is taking forever.

In the meantime, could you please offer me some guidance since I am about to give up on the car.  When driving around, I always have to try and avoid any raised ground (even curb stones when parking), which is impossible. 

Muasa Dan


So sad, but did you check your plugs? This is symptomatic of old/ageing plugs or loose/frayed high-tension leads. Whenever a petrol engine is not running properly, check the three things a petrol engine needs first before you start replacing parts:

  1. Air: Is there a blockage? Maybe a clogged air filter?
  2. Fuel: Is the fuel pump working? Is there a blockage in the fuel lines or the fuel filter? Are you using the correct fuel? What about the fuel pressure regulator (typical of EFI engines)? Are the injectors working?
  3. Spark: Check the plugs and their leads. Look for short circuits or arcs. Check the distributor if so equipped.

From there you can now start fiddling with the sensors, but more often than not, sensor problems are accompanied by dashboard warning lights. Now, one thing: despite popular belief, I am not actually a mechanic.

The advice I give is a guideline and not an actual step-by-step instruction manual for repairs

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