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It’s a tight contest between the Hilux, Navara and L200

Hello Baraza,
What are the in-trend features in the new Toyota Hilux D4D, the Nissan Hardbody, the Nissan Navara, and the Mitsubishi L200? Which of these, in your opinion, is likely to out-sell the other, based on consumer satisfaction, pricing and durability?

That is one elaborate question you have there. The Hilux D4D started off well in terms of sales because of the sheer power of its brand reputation, but buyers soon caught on the fact that the Hilux was not what it used to be.

The 2.5 litre is underpowered, making the 3.0 litre a more sensible buy, but then again the 3.0 is much thirstier, and the car costs a lot when new.

The Hardbody (YN25) has been largely ignored, I do not know why. The vehicle is a strong workhorse and will commonly be found around construction sites and road works in use by engineers. In other markets, the Hardbody was called Navara.

The Navara we know is increasing in popularity, and with good reason. It is quite comfortable for a utility vehicle, spacious, and luxurious inside if you spec it up properly. It will outrun the rest of the pack on any road and is now quite cheap, fresh from the UK (about Sh2.5 million to Sh3 million).

It also looks really good (a quite handsome fella, this). These pros have convinced buyers to overlook its two biggest cons: the car does not stop very well and hard use will age it faster than a cup of fresh milk in warm weather. Also, ECUs may or may not get emotional once a month (wink wink…). It also works well off-road, if you avoid the optional side-steps.

The Mitsubishi L200 is a paragon of controversy. It was styled after the Hilux, but whereas the Hilux’s swoopy lines make it quite a looker, the L200 “splits opinions”.

That is diplo-speak, for not many people like its styling and the few who do cannot explain convincingly just what exactly they like about it. It is a strong vehicle, though. Pity they had to pair the torquey engine with a gearbox whose ratios are a bit mismatched and the interior is a bit bland.

In the path set by the previous model L200 Warrior, the L200 Sportivo is best used as a hardcore off-road vehicle. None of the others can match its skill and grunt in the clag.

That is why you will not see many around: how often do we need to sacrifice comfort and “swag” for the sake of military-grade diff-locks and a billion Nm of torque in our daily driving?

Hello Baraza,

I’m torn between a non-turbo Subaru Forester and a Nissan X-Trail. I prefer a good off-road vehicle since I drive upcountry regularly. However, my mechanic says that X-Trail is plagued with problems — hence dies faster — and recommends a Forester. Please advise me on the following:

1. Which is the classiest of these two?2. Compare their fuel economy and maintenance.

3. Of the three X-Trail engines (T30 diesel, T30 petrol, T31 petrol), which would you recommend?

4. Give me any other information on these two as the word out is there is that buying an X-Trail might push one into the poverty line if it decides to misbehave.

Fred.

1. Class boils down to personal taste. Some would prefer an X-Trail because it sits taller, I would prefer a Forester. STi. SG9 model spec. With a stonking huge turbo…. But this is not your area of interest, so let me stop there.

2. The fuel economy will depend on your driving style, the environment and vehicle load, though after answering close to 7,000 e-mails over the past two years, I would say the Forester returns a slightly poorer mileage. But not by much.

3. Depends. What do you want it for? For economy and torque, get the diesel. For smoothness and Forester-chasing pace, get the petrol.

Hi Baraza,

I drive a 2001 Subaru Impreza GG2. At 128,000km mileage, my timing belt broke and, as a result, ruined six valves in the engine. I replaced the timing system components (the timing belt, bearings, and tensioner) and replaced the six valves.

I was doing 60KPH when the belt broke. Now I always hear a small ticking (like a clock) noise from the engine when accelerating. The ticking increases in pace and loudness the more I accelerate. What could this be?

Please advise people to change timing system components according to manufacturers’ recommendations regardless of how good the condition of those components looks like to the naked eye.

Secondly, the car always drags to the left when my hands are not on the steering wheel. It works well after wheel alignment, but the problem returns after two days max. How can this be fixed? Alignment does not seem to solve it.

Does the ticking noise come from the top of the engine? I agree with your surmise: the timing kit was not re-installed properly and the valves could be bouncing in their seats, the lifters are malfunctioning, or the belt tensioner is loose. One more theory could be a badly fitted exhaust gasket.

If wheel alignment is not solving your car’s wayward steering, then the cause could be something else, something as unusual as different size tyres left and right of the vehicle or unequal tyre pressure on the two sides.

However, you allege that after alignment, things work fine briefly before the pull to the left is experienced again, so you could be the victim of binding brakes.

After the brakes, check for toe-in and toe-out on the offending side, and suspension integrity: ride height should be equal both sides of the car WITH THE DRIVER IN IT, and camber should not be too negative.

Dear Baraza,

I am a proud owner of a 124-chassis, 102-engine Mercedes 200, manufactured in 1989. Since you started this column, you have dwelt on Toyotas and done little on the Mercedes side of things, especially on the older models.

My research on the Net shows that the car was the best researched and ever designed Benz, but mine seems to have developed a fuel and oil consumption problem.

I am its second owner and acquired it in 2009 at 77,000 kilometres on the odometer. It has now done 140,000 kilometres. I have done four trips to Mombasa at between 140KPH and 150KPH comfortably, and many others to Garissa.

I am not bragging about it, but the fuel efficiency on these runs has been 12 kilometres per litre at constant speed.

Over the past two years, I have noticed that the car smokes from the dashboard and consumes a lot of oil. I usually do 5,000 kilometres before the next service, and personally supervise the mechanic, who is from a reputable Kenyan car dealer.

The car is currently doing eight kilometres per litre and sometimes I have to top up the oil three times before the next service. That regular top-up may consume up to 15 litres cumulatively.

The differential is making some noise at 80KPH and above and the suspension is wearing down at an alarming level. I have to buy at least two suspension brackets for either the left or right sides in a month because the car has developed the habit of breaking them regularly.

The car’s body is as good as new, the interior better than a five-year-old ex-Dubai import. I love it, and although selling it is not an option, it is becoming hard to maintain. What is your take on this? Or are there charity companies that sponsor the rebuilding of these cars?

N.E.K.I.

Forget about charity for now and start saving. The smoke from the dashboard sounds like a short-circuit in the dashboard electronics, where a wire is burning its insulation or singeing a nearby equally flammable component.

Another theory is overheating, although I would not expect this from any Benz, let alone the mighty 124. The engine might be due for an overhaul (common symptom is increased oil and fuel consumption). Has the car lost power also?

If and when you buy new suspension parts, it is advisable to replace the entire setup — from mount to shock to spring (especially the mount).

This is because sometimes the new (springs, especially) units have a bedding-in period; that is, they start off rock-hard before settling into their particular characteristic after a certain mileage.

During this time, if your mounts are brittle with age, they are susceptible to breakage because the new spring does not store enough energy (very low spring rate), so impacts from the road surface are channelled directly to the mounts and brackets.

Hi Baraza,

I am planning to buy my first car and I am torn between my college-day dream car, the Subaru Legacy B4 RSK 2000 Edition, and the Toyota Mark II Grande (35th Anniversary Edition).

With me being a typical Kenyan buyer, kindly advise on the following parameters: performance, speed, fuel consumption, durability, and spare parts availability. Solomon.

Performance and speed: The RSK is better than the Grande. Fuel consumption: You are looking in the wrong car segment. Try two rungs lower in the hierarchy because both these cars will not see 10kpl without involving a lot of maths in your driving technique.

Durability: Maybe the Grande. The RSK is built for hard driving, so the cost of brakes and clutch kits will be included in your budget more often than not.

Spare parts availability: I wish people would stop asking about spares. If they cannot be found along Kirinyaga Road or in Industrial Area, they can be found on the Internet. And they might be cheaper on the Net because that price does not include dealer mark-ups (Kenyans can be shockingly greedy sometimes).

Hi Baraza,
I am planning to buy my first car and my budget is Sh450,000. I have the option of going for a Toyota 110 and a 2005 Mitsubishi Cedia. The Cedia is relatively new, but I am being discouraged that its gearbox breaks down easily and that the car does not have consistency in fuel consumption.

The Toyota, on the other hand, looks a bit bland in its interior and I am more inclined towards the Cedia, which looks better and more lady-like. Please advise.

You really have to decide what matters more to you: do you want to look lady-like and pretty but run the risk of a broken gearbox, or do you want a boringly reliable car with a boringly grey or beige interior and run the risk of being stopped at every road-block simply because all traffic policemen assume that all 110s are taxis (and unlicensed, at that)?

If you can handle a manual transmission (stick shift), you could get a Cedia manual. The gearbox will be cheaper to replace (if it ever breaks), and you will still look ladylike. You will also achieve good economy if you know how to use a manual gearbox properly.

Hi Baraza,

I have just imported a 2005 Nissan X-Trail. Although everything else is fairly simple to figure out, I have failed to work out how the reverse camera works.

I am told that it should show up automatically when the car is put in reverse gear, but this does not work. I have searched the Internet for a solution in vain. Any helpful suggestion? Could this also be the reason the boot lights are not lighting up when the door is lifted? (I admit I have not checked the bulbs yet).

Are you sure you do not have a broken connection somewhere between the front of the car and the boot-lid? Think about it: what are the odds that the reversing camera (which is mounted on the boot-lid) and the boot lights (which are inside the boot) both do not work?

There might be a loose connection in the wiring harness that powers the rear end of the car. Drive the X-Trail to an electrician and see what s/he comes up with.

Hi Mr Baraza,

Thanks for your informative articles. I have a Noah Liteace SR40, 1990cc, 2001 petrol model. Now, on the gear handle:

1. When do you put the ‘O/D’ switch on and off, and how does it affect fuel consumption in either case?

2. What’s the standard fuel consumption for such a car in km/l.

Ibrahim.

1. Keep the O/D on. Only turn it off when towing another vehicle or when taking off on a steep hill and the vehicle is fully loaded. When ON, economy is good, when off, the economy is affected negatively.

2. The manufacturer alleges up to 15kpl, but I would say 11-12 is more realistic.

Hi Baraza,

I love your work and always look forward to reading something new every Wednesday. Today (September 18, 2012), one of your readers, Sarah, caught my attention.

She upgraded from a Vitz to a Belta and is confused with the new gear arrangement. The Belta’s gear selector arrangement is labelled P-R-D-B-S, and the meaning of B and S and how they function is as stated below:

B (Brake): This is a mode selectable on Beltas and some Toyota models in non-hybrid cars. It allows the engine to do compression braking, also known as engine braking, typically down a steep hill.

Instead of engaging the brakes, the engine in a non-hybrid car switches to a lower gear and slows down the spinning tyres, hence holding the car back instead of the brakes slowing it down.

S (Sport): Commonly referred to as sport mode, it operates in an identical manner as D mode, except that the up-shifts change much higher up the engine’s rev range.

This has the effect of maximising all the available engine output and, therefore, enhances the performance of the vehicle, particularly during acceleration. Predictably, it has a detrimental effect on fuel economy.

I hope this will sort out Sarah’s confusion, otherwise thanks for your good work. Keep it up. Fred.

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An electric vehicle in Kenya? Not a good idea

Hi Baraza,
1. Do electric vehicles stand a chance in Kenya?
2. Is it possible to convert a car to use electricity? If so, what are the pros and cons of implementing such an idea in Kenya?
Nick

1. At the moment, not a chance in hell.

2. Yes, but the costs and labour involved are prohibitive, especially given that the end product will not be worth the sweat or the money.

Pros: Your running costs will go down tremendously. Electricity is cheaper than petrol per kilometre driven.

Cons: Travel any distance greater than 50 km and you will be very, very late for whatever you were going for.

Also, self-servicing when things go on the fritz, and of course acquiring the vehicle in the first place (whether bought or assembled in your backyard), calls for a massive financial outlay. Not worth it at all.

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Baraza,

I drive a pre-owned FWD automatic transmission Subaru Impreza GC1, 1998 model with an EJ15 engine. The car has 140,000km on the odometer and I service it regularly. It serves me diligently.

I have been driving it for the past one year. I have taken it for OBD diagnosis and no faults were found, apart from a problem with the ABS and the thermosensor, which I sorted out.

I also feel that the thirst that is associated with Subarus does not apply to this one; I am able to do 10 km/litre, except when I floor the accelerator. Here is what I would like to know:

1. In your opinion and knowledge, how much mileage should one clock on a car before declaring that it has served its purpose?

2. Would you recommend to anyone driving such a car to do an engine swap with a bigger engine like an EJ20, tune the car, sell it, or do a trade-in? Is it sensible to change the engine or is it better to just buy another car altogether?

3. For the past one week, my car occasionally sputters in the morning when starting, especially during cold weather. But if I start it with the gas pedal partially depressed, it starts just fine, though I notice that the fuel consumption is not good. What could be the problem? The problem is much worse when I put it in reverse gear. But once the engine warms up, all this disappears. On the highway it does just fine.

4. Is it true that all EJ engines, both the naturally aspirated and turbocharged, including WRX EJ engine variants, can fit in a stock GC1 1998 Impreza? If so, what other modification should I do if I instal such an engine?

5. Can someone fit a used engine from a manual transmission model into an automatic transmission model, or one has to change the tranny completely? And how realistic is it to change from FWD to AWD on such a car?

Robert

1. It depends on the state of the car. Some world record holders have done more than two million kilometres in their cars. The general rule of thumb is roughly 500,000km for passenger cars before an engine swap or grounding of the car.

2. Do an engine swap if repairs on the current unit prove to be too expensive to justify. Tune the car if you want to liven things up (or even resort to settings close to new) without having to buy another car. Sell it if you are sick of it.

Trade it in if the finances for a replacement vehicle lie just outside your reach. Changing the engine or buying another car: that is up to you, to be honest, but here is a guideline. Replacement engines are a lot cheaper than replacement vehicles, but if the swap is done poorly, you will regret it.

3. The issue could be a clogged fuel filter, requiring a wider opening of the throttle plate to create negative pressure high enough to suck fuel through the filter.

Another problem could be the idle air control valve (IAC), which allows air to come into the engine whenever you do not have your foot on the throttle.

It automatically varies idle speed by load, temperature, etc. If it fails, you will not have sufficient air flow into the engine to make it run when the throttle is closed.

That is why the car runs normally when it goes down the road. Some people talk of cleaning the IAC but replacement is usually the best option.

4. Yes. The GC chassis can accommodate any of those engines. Most of those engines are similar anyway, the difference being the presence of turbos/intercoolers and capacity.

However, the peripherals may necessitate some modifying, especially of the front air dams, to accommodate intakes/front-mount intercoolers.

5. Changing from auto to manual tranny is a common practice in the car world, and is quite easily done. However, changing from 2WD to 4WD is a lot more complex and may not be worth it. Changing from 4WD to 2WD is easy: you just disconnect the offending drive shaft.

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Hi JM,

What is your take on 2005 Nissan Tiida Latio in terms of performance, availability of spare parts, and fuel consumption? How does it compare with the 2005 Toyota Corolla (NZE)? In your opinion which is a better buy?

Henry

Performance is poor but economy is good and spares are available at DT Dobie. The NZE may be a better car, especially on the performance front, but the Tiida is prettier.

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Hi Baraza,

I own a BMW E34 (520i), with a 2000cc, six-cylinder M20 engine. Now, can a 6-cylinder engine be 2000cc? If it is true, how is the consumption compared to a four-cylinder 2000cc engine and a 2500cc, 6-cylinder one?

Otieno

Yes, a 2000cc engine can have six cylinders. Yours does, doesn’t it? Alfa Romeo race cars of yore had 12-cylinder engines of only 1500cc. Consumption may be slightly higher than a 4-cylinder of similar capacity, but this is tied to so many factors that the question cannot be answered in black and white. It will be less thirsty than a 2500cc six-cylinder, though.

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JM,

I have a 1997 Nissan B14 that I took for an overhaul. Afterwards, it did only 100km before it heated up badly. It has now stalled. What could be the problem here and what should I do?

The problem is exactly as you have described it: the car over-heated. What to do: Since the heat problem came about after the overhaul, the prime suspect is the cylinder head gasket.

Either the product itself was low quality or the work done was low quality, but in each case, the gasket may be leaking.

Other things to do: Check the obvious. Was there enough water in the radiator? Is the radiator leaking? The overflow pipe/jar? Are the fans working? What about the water pump?

Is the radiator clean (outside)? What of internal blockages?

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Hello JM,

I own a Nissan Hardbody double-cab. Whenever I make a sharp turn, there is a sharp creaking noise from the front right tyre area. I have no idea about what could be causing this problem. Any ideas?
Fide

The fan belt is either old and worn out or is sitting badly within the pulley of the power steering pump. A quick cure of the symptom is to splash some brake fluid on it, but check the two above parameters for a longer lasting solution.

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Hi Baraza,

1. I have a differential problem with my 2004 Nissan Navara 2.5D double-cab, turbocharged, D22 chassis, diesel. In December last year, it started producing a funny noise and my mechanic suggested replacing the bearings.

The whole job ended up being messy due to the inexperience of the mechanic and resulted in differential lock, damaging the crown wheel and the pinion.

I looked for another mechanic who initially suggested repairing the differential, but even after replacing the pinion and the crown wheel, the noise still remained.

Later, he suggested replacement of the entire differential assembly, including the casing and the axle. We did this but since it was not the right fit, the vehicle lost power.

I therefore had to go back to my repaired differential. I now rarely use the vehicle.

(a) Can you advise on a mechanic who can be of assistance?

(b) Where can one obtain such a differential, locally or elsewhere?

(c) Do you think the continued use of the vehicle in its current state could create other complications?

2. I also have an auto 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia with a 4G15 engine, 1460cc, CS2A model. Sometime back, I noticed that the car had a problem with gaining speed and its fuel consumption had gone up significantly.

My mechanic checked the plugs and the fuel filter but these were okay. I then carried out a computer diagnosis that pointed to a faulty exhaust system. The mechanic recommended replacement of the catalytic converter and the car improved, slightly. What could be the problem?

The advice I have received, so far, including replacement of the gear system, is just scary.
JMM

1. Why did you not go to the franchise holder, DT Dobie? And did you just put any diff or did you buy a Navara diff? You have to be careful about specifying the vehicle make and model (and YOM) when buying spares.

What we know as the Hardbody NP300 double-cab is actually called Navara in other markets, but it is mechanically different from the current Navara car. So, here are your answers:

(a) DT Dobie. They sell Navara vehicles under franchise, so they must be able to service/repair it and provide spares.

(b) DT Dobie. For the same reasons as above.

(c) Yes. The entire 4WD transmission may be ruined, more so given that the Navara is a delicate vehicle and uses electronic 4WD engagement.
2. The diagnosis said the exhaust system is faulty and changing the converter improved things slightly, so that is where the problem is: the exhaust system. After changing the converter, have a look at the lambda sensors also. And check for a leak too.

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Hello Baraza,
I recently bought a 2005 VW Jetta 1.6-litre engine. The check engine light is always coming on and when I raise this with my mechanic, the answer I get is that I over-rev the engine.

Is this true? Also, whenever I park the car on a gentle slope, I get the check oil light even though I changed the oil a couple of weeks ago. Is this a common feature with VWs?
Mshengah

Do a diagnosis. That is the only way you will know what that check engine light is all about. Your mechanic is very dodgy, judging by his response; over-revving will not necessarily cause the light to come on.

Parking the car on a slope means that the oil level in the sump goes up on one side and down on the other. The oil level sensor is on one side, so that change of level causes a false reading:
either too much or too little, depending on which side the sensor is mounted.

Park your car on level ground, wait for the engine to cool, and use the dipstick to establish whether or not, in fact, your oil level is outside the accepted range. I do not think it is a common feature with all VWs.

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Baraza,

I will skip the details about how much of an old school enthusiast I am but and ask: What are the odds of being able to put a new engine into an old car? For instance, I would like to fit a 1977 Toyota Celica with a Subaru WRX or Impreza engine. What should I consider when taking such a step? Will it be as efficient as it should be, and what are the constraints?

Do not be afraid of trying that out; it is actually a common method of tuning cars. Just make sure the engine fits, and if it does not, you can always make modifications to the mounts and firewall (front bulkhead). Also, remember to strengthen the mounts and front cross-member.

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Hi Baraza,
1. Does engine capacity significantly influence the car’s road speed? Case in point: A Toyota Prado with a 3.4-litre V6 petrol engine doing 100 km/h versus a Mercedes Benz E240 with a V6 petrol engine and around 200hp also doing 100 km/h, all other factors held constant.

My understanding of physics is that speed is not relative but absolute, meaning 100km/h is the same in all cars irrespective of the engine capacity and all other relevant factors, such as forced induction or lack of, and transmission mode. However, I feel like I have this entirely wrong. What is your opinion?

2. In terms of safety, what is the effect of installing big wheels and wider tyres (ridiculously wide) on an SUV, bearing in mind that they are not low profile tyres?

3. Sometime ago you wrote an in-depth article about tropicalisation of cars. Would you mind doing a quick overview of the important points for those of us with a short-term memory?

Bryan

1. Engine capacity does affect road speed, but not in the way you describe here. Case in point: I was in South Africa last month to drive a variety of cars from General Motors. One of them was the Chevrolet Spark, which had a tiny 1.2-litre engine. Despite my best efforts, I only managed 175 km/h in it. It could not be pushed any further.

Enter the dragon, the Chevrolet Lumina SS, sporting a 6.0-litre V8 engine from the Corvette supercar. Five minutes after I took the wheel, I had hit a heady 240 km/h without even trying, which the little Spark could not do if its life depended on it.

However, power output aside (that SS was something else I tell you), when the convoy was cruising along at 120 km/h, ALL cars were doing 120 km/h and ALL speedometers showed 120 km/h. 120 is 120, whether you do it in a small aircraft or in a motorised wheelbarrow.

2. I am guessing that you mean the huge rubber lumps that are bigger than asteroids used by hardcore off-road enthusiasts, right? They make the car wobbly and are totally useless on smooth roads. Do not use them if you do not need their abilities. They are meant for wading through swamps.

3. Here are the pointers:

  • Modify the engine (compression ratios especially) for the sake of our low octane fuel.
  • Increase the capacity of the cooling system (bigger ducts, pipes, radiators, high capacity water pumps)
  • Toughen up the suspension.
  • In some cases, another coat of paint (or UV resistant lacquer) may also come in handy.
Posted on

Fuel tablets do not improve consumption

Hi,

I had a 1982 Toyota DX-KE70 model that had a 1300cc carburettor for five years. The car was lovely, extremely hardy and very reliable.

It used to do 10kpl but I used to buy fuel tablets, which I would put in the fuel tank — one tablet for every 30 litres or as recommended — and that would improve fuel consumption to 13 kpl.

I sold the car eight months ago and replaced it with a 1995 1500cc Toyota AE100 LX model with an EFI engine that does 15.4 kpl.

I decided to try the fuel tablets on it but there is no significant change; the best it can do with or without the tablets is 16 kpl at an average speed of 100 km/h, which I do on the Nairobi-Embu highway.

I thought that with the tablets and the EFI engine, I would get better results, like 18 kpl. Why is this not the case? Please advise.

Phil

Fuel tablets belong in the same category as snake oil and Father Christmas; they are best left as bedtime stories. They NEVER work, much in the same way that Santa Claus will never show up at anyone’s house at Christmas time.

If you achieved a lower consumption with your E70, then the tablets had a psychological effect on you and turned you into a gentler driver, hence the improved economy. In simple terms, you have been buying a placebo.

Hey,

I have a Forester and I’m now thinking of buying a Wingroad for the sole reason that the price is fair and the interior does not look too bad.

Kindly tell me what I will be getting myself into with this car and if you think I should put out this fire. Thank you.

Flo

From a “personal friend” point of view, I’d ask you to “put out this fire”. But if you owed me money, I’d say ditch the Forester, get a Wingroad and pay me sooner than immediately.

As it is, it is entirely up to you. I don’t entirely agree with your judgment of the Wingroad’s interior, but this is an apple juice-lemon juice sort of thing, so I will not dictate matters of taste.

Beware of the car’s flimsiness and watch out for various electronics, especially the dashboard lights. They may light up like a Christmas tree once in a while.

Stick to proper roads if a suspension overhaul is not on your budget in the near future. Fuel is not a problem, nor is the asking price.

Hello,

I will be a first car owner very soon and need your advice. I am thinking of getting one of these Japanese “econoboxes”; FunCargo, Passo, Vitz or a Mitsubishi Pajero Mini. If you were in my situation, what would you go for?

Sandra

If I was in that position I would go for a Vitz, but not for the reasons you might think. It turns out that when a Vitz is supercharged, it becomes a pint-sized Bugatti Veyron for those living close to the poverty line.

What do you expect from these cars? Forget any sort of performance (you could supercharge a Vitz though) and forget space. If it is economy you are after, any of these cars will do, but the Pajero Mini is not a very smart choice.

It is a very smart choice, however, if light off-roading forms part of your weekend activities.

Hi Baraza,

I have a Mercedes A160, a 2000 model, which is a beautiful little car. But a year ago I blew up the sump pan after hitting a stone while driving on a rough road.

This damaged the gear box and it cost me almost another car to fix.

During my time at the garage, I learnt that these cars are poorly designed and heard that almost all of them experience a gearbox failure in their lifetime. Others say that the Mitsubishi Cedia also suffers from the same illness.

In summary, these small cars tend to have a problem with the gearbox design.

I’m now scared of these small cars and have lost faith in them. What do you have to say about them?

Small cars are awful, and you get what you pay for. You see, small cars exist so that the not-so-well-to-do can also experience the world of motoring, but these cars are half-baked lest the not-so-well-to-do forget their station in life and think they are now haves and have-mores.

Truth is, for small cars to be as cheap as they usually are, R&D costs have to be minimised, and cheap, fragile materials used to build them. Learn to accept this.

Hi Baraza,

I have a Nissan B15 and it recently developed a fuel pump problem. I changed the pump but the new one is now producing some funny noise when I start the car or when moving.

The mechanic tells me that new pumps behave that way and that the noise will go away in time. What do you think? The car is also consuming more fuel than before.

Your mechanic seems to think every component of a car needs a bedding-in period to work properly, but this is not always the case.

What is the noise like? It may be that you are running on low fuel and the pump is sucking a mixture of fuel and air (and sometimes just the scent of fuel) hence making a buzzing noise.

Or maybe you have sludge in your tank and it is getting into your pump, in which case the new pump will go the way of the old one. Check these two theories out, if it is none of the above, get back to me.

Hello Baraza,

Do you have any experience with the Citroen C3 Super Mini, specifically the 1.4-litre petrol model in the Kenyan market?

I understand that, in accordance with its manufacturer’s (PSA Group) policy, the C3’s chassis was used for the Peugeot 1007 and 207, and that many of its components are the same as those of the 206. Is this true? You have written of your experience with Peugeot models, so I am hoping you can advise me on this.

Also, I would like to hear your thoughts on why the Citroen WRC team tends to excel consistently with their range of Citroen racing cars. I thought that, on this basis alone, people would be buying this make, but you can hardly sport a modern-day Citroen on our roads.

Mwaura

I have not had much experience with Citroens, new or old, nor have I had much experience with the new crop of Peugeots. The newest I’ve tried is the 307, I think, which is currently obsolete anyway.

It is true that some Citroen cars share platforms and components with Peugeot products. Whether or not the franchise will take this into consideration is a matter of conjecture.

Citroen’s WRC success comes from a variety of factors, some of which include a strong team and the withdrawal of past supremos like Subaru and Mitsubishi. Also, the Citroen WRC is not on sale as is, while back in the day, the Impreza WRC, Lancer Evo, and even Group B monstrosities like Lancia’s Delta HF and Stratos could be bought in a spec very close to that of the competition car.

Kenya’s taste in cars is an odd one. Citroen cars in Europe enjoy a huge market, especially with the successful DS3 (a new car), but here in Kenya, if the car is not Japanese, then it had better be cheap to buy, cheap to run and its spares readily available for plucking from the nearest tree.

Hi Baraza,

Why do you say the B14 belongs to the gutter when I was thinking of getting one? Second, what would you say of the Mazda Familia in terms of fuel consumption and spare parts availability.

Lastly, what would be a good car in the rural area where I work and operate a chemist? And would you recommend a second-hand auto or manual?

Eliud

Drive the B14’s main competitor, the Corolla 110, and you will see where Nissan went wrong. Check power, suspension and build quality especially. The Mazda Familia is an OK car on both fronts.

What exactly will this rural-based car you seek do? And how is the infrastructure in that rural zone? These two questions will decide the type of car to buy. Auto or manual is entirely up to you. Which one do you prefer?

Hello,

My friend bought some Tata 407 trucks in a public auction by a parastatal and wants to sell one of these to me. Please advice on cost, maintenance and fuel consumption. Do you think it would be a wise investment?

Given what it is, it cannot cost much. Given that it is sold locally, maintenance should not be too difficult. And given that it is diesel-powered, fuel consumption should not be too high.

Whether or not it is a wise investment, hmmm… I find it crude and badly built at best, with poorly contained NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and unresolved design. So many of these that I see on the road smoke harder than wet firewood. You decide.

Hey Baraza,

I own a 1977 Range Rover Classic three-door model with an original 3528cc petrol engine. My mechanic proposes that we fit it with a TD27 power plant for better fuel economy.

He further proposes that we retain its original four-speed gearbox. Please advise on the merits and demerits of this move.

Macharia

Die-hard Land Rover lovers like me will deride you for installing the engine of a Japanese commercial vehicle into something as regal as a Range Rover Classic.
More importantly, how does your mechanic know that the engine will fit? The 3.5 was a V8, the TD27 is an in-line four. And then the gear ratios may not be appropriate.

Baraza,

I want to buy my first car, which must be either a Toyota NZE or a Premio, and there are some issues I would like you to advise me on.

1. Is it true that a 1800cc Premio has a fuel consumption similar to that of a 1500cc NZE?

2. What is the meaning of the alphabet letters at the end of the model name, like Premio G, and Corolla X?

3. How can a 1200cc Datsun have a speedometer reading a top speed of 200 km/h and a 3000cc Prado have one ending at 180km/h?

4. If an 1800cc Premio and a 3000cc Prado are driven on a straight 20-kilometre stretch, both at a speed of 120km/h, which car will reach the end before the other?

1. Depends on very many things. How and where are they driven? How loaded are they? Their aerodynamic profiles? The 1800 might be more economical at highway speeds but thirstier in town, though by a very small difference, if everything else is kept constant.

2. It is what we call spec levels, or trim levels: cloth vs leather seats, wood vs aluminium trim and such. These letters differentiate the various spec levels.

3. It is mostly because at the factory, the 1200 was given a 200 km/h speedo while the Prado was given one maxed at 180 km/h. Actually, the Prado is most likely ex-Japan while the 1200 isn’t. In Japan, there was a gentleman’s agreement that all cars made in Japan will have a power cap at 280 hp and will be limited to 180 km/h. Finally, a 1200cc at 200 km/h is drivable. A Prado at 200 km/h (if it can even get there) is a handful.
4. This is not a very well thought out question. Read it again. Which one do you think will get to the other end first?

Dear Baraza,

What is the fuel consumption of a 1000cc Toyota Platz? Can this car be driven for over 500 km? Does it have a problem in climbing a road that is steep?

If I take a Platz on an economy run on the highway, I can clock 22kpl. I have managed that in an EP 82 Starlet. I have a friend, though, who I am sure will do no better than 8kpl.

The difference between us is body mass (I am a bean pole) and driving style (when the mood takes me I can be ridiculously snail-like in pace). Go figure.

About the driving distance, yes it can. Surely, there would be no Platzes (Platices?) on our roads if they could only drive 500km or less (other cars get to hundreds of thousands of kilometres before dying).

If you are asking whether it can do 500km in one shot, then the answer is maybe. I wouldn’t risk it though, one or two stops in between are advisable.

How steep is the road? If the slope has an aspect ratio of 1:1, or what we call a 50 per cent incline (forgive the jargon, this simply means the slope is at 45 degrees off the horizontal), then no. But a Land Cruiser can. Much gentler slopes can be tackled in a Platz, though.

Baraza,

We all know that Kenyan number plates are some of the ugliest in the East African region. As a result, many owners, especially of high-end cars, are getting customised plastic plates with all types of artistic fonts and customisation.

What is the rule on such plates? Are they illegal and can one be arrested for having them? Does KRA issue customised number plates, and how does this work?

Moses

As far as I recall, custom plates were and are still illegal. This includes funny fonts and personalised plates, like BARAZA 1. One can be arrested for having them.

Thing is, these are mostly found on high-end cars, and there is no telling who is being transported inside that car. I doubt if there is a traffic police officer willing to risk his employment just because he pulled over the “clandestine arrangement” of a high-ranking individual for having illegal plates.
JM,

I came across an article about the CVT transmission (specifically in Honda cars) and was amazed that they perform way better than all others in terms of fuel economy and power output.

Yet we Kenyans remain stuck with the Toyota mentality. Now I think I know why you were quite positive about Honda cars, though a select few. Maybe you could tell folks around here to look at that brand.

Yes, it’s true, CVTs are close to sorcery in operation and efficiency. Don’t be so quick to deride Toyotas though, they do have CVTs also (Allion, Wish…), but not all. Some are just regular automatics.

And no, that is not why I rave about Hondas. I like Hondas chiefly because of the high-revving, dual-natured VTEC engines (where available) and the trick helical differentials that make the front-wheel-drive variants such sweet cars to drive and corner with.

Posted on

On the STi, Evo and ‘Godzilla’ battle, the jury is still out

Hi Baraza,
I have been arguing with my friends over which would be the winner in a battle involving the Subaru ST-i, the Mistubishi Evo VIII and ‘Godzilla’ (the Nissan GT-R R34).

I believe in the Evo due to its superior handling capabilities while the others go with the ST-i due to its superior acceleration.

Now, I’m not that well versed with the GTR, but from what I’ve read in this column, it seems that Nissan is a miracle of Asian engineering. So would you kindly set the record straight; when Jeremy Clarkson featured the cars, there was no straightforward answer.

And, on another note, was the M-class series of Mercedes a failure?

There has been no clear winner between the Evo and the ST-i. Personally, I swing the Evo way. The two cars are fundamentally the same, but there are differences.

The Impreza, through its numerous iterations, used mechanical differentials whereas the Evo applied a variety of electronic gizmos (AWC, AYC, etc) to switch torque back, forth, left and right.

The result is that the ST-i was harder to turn and had a tendency to understeer. and unprofessional suspension tuning usually made the understeer worse.

The Evo, on the other hand, handled sharply, turned better and carried more speed into and through corners, besides having a slightly higher corner exit velocity. It lost out (ever so slightly) to the ST-i in straight line speed.

ST-i pundits will yak about the near-perfect balance (owing to the boxer engine forming a straight line with the transmission and final drives through the centre of the car), against the Evo’s transversely laid in-line engine. Ignore them.

The R34 allegedly made 280 hp in factory spec, but since it developed more torque and carried that torque to higher revs than the R33, car reviewers suspected that the output was more like 320 hp, which was in direct contravention of a now-defunct gentleman’s agreement in Japan that all Japanese domestic market manufacturers will not build cars with a power output greater than 280hp.

I wonder why none of those reviewers never put Godzilla on a dyno to find out.

The GT-R’s magic comes from the ATTESA 4WD system that makes it turn at unbelievable speed. The vehicle enjoyed spectacular success in many racing series, particularly the JGTC, prompting race organisers to repeatedly make rules disfavouring the R34, if only to create a bit of competition and variety on the podium.

Its biggest disadvantage is weight, tipping the scales at close to 1,800 kg against the 1.5 tons of the two four-door saloons.

About the M-Class, the first generation was not exactly a sales failure, but it was a low point in Daimler’s history. They learnt never to design and build a car in America again, because it would come out American, which has never been a good thing.

Hi,

I’m really interested in cars and currently drive a Nissan B15 to school. I would like to know why you, in a way, hate on it because so far its okay for me.

It is not so much hate as disregard. Reliability issues, especially concerning suspension components and the fact that it ages disgracefully, has put the car off in my books. But take good care of it and it should return the love. Treat it the way some Nyeri women treat their hubbies and it will be just as unkind to you.

JM,

I have noticed that almost all Japanese cars, even fairly new ones, are permanently topped with engine coolant — you pop into a petrol station (especially ladies) and the attendants quickly notice how low your coolant is and offer it for a fee. But is engine coolant a necessity?

A normal operating engine with a working cooling system is designed to automatically keep your engine cool at all times. If your engine is overheating, you don’t need the cooling stuff, you need to have your engine checked. Correct me if I am wrong.

Yes, you are partly wrong. Sometimes coolant leaks and needs topping up. Remember heat capacities in physics? A greater mass of liquid will absorb more heat (that is, require more energy to warm up) than a smaller mass? The more coolant you have, the longer the engine will stay without getting unduly warm.

The reddish (coloured) coolant is actually anti-freeze, stuff we do not really need here, unless you live in Nyahururu where it sometimes “snows”. Anti-freeze is made to have an extremely low melting point so that it will take temperatures far below zero to freeze over.

Coolant is water based, and, again, from physics, we know about the anomalous expansion of water, where between 0 and -4 degrees, ice actually expands rather than contracts with a drop in temperature, and this expansion can do a great deal of damage to the cooling system and engine block.

Anti-freeze added once in a while (after several top ups of water, how many is not important) is a good idea even here around the equator because it also contains cleaning and anti-corrosion agents, which will keep your cooling ducts/pipes and radiator clear of build-up and rust. Okay now?

Baraza,

You have mentioned on about two occasions the engine of a Honda car — can’t remember the specific make — and you heaped a lot of praise on it, especially in comparison to the Nissan X-trail and that class of engines. Please enlighten me on this.

Secondly, my understanding of turbo engines was about more power and same fuel consumption as a non-turbo car, but from your articles I gather that this is not the case and that turbo engines are “fragile”. True?

Actually, what I like about Honda engines is the V-TEC boffinry (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control).

It gives the engine a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality: below 5,000 rpm, it is docile, quiet and “teetotal”, get beyond 5,000 rpm and it turns into a wild, manic, racer-like dipsomaniac and will keep revving all the way to 9,000 rpm for most Type R cars and 10,000 rpm for the Honda S2000 sports car. Heady stuff, this.

I also mentioned the two-stage CVCC cylinder heads pioneered by Soichiro’s engineers way back in 1975. These revolutionised emissions control and fuel economy so that Honda did not have to fit power-sapping catalytic converters to its cars (the tiny cartoon-like Civic at the time).

These heads were tried even in the huge, thirsty American V8 engines and the results were spectacular.

Lambda sensor technology has since rendered the CVCC heads unnecessary.

Turbo engines will burn a little more fuel because a lot more air is going into the engine, and to avoid burning a leaner mixture than 14.7-to-1, a bit more fuel has to be fed in.

But the power jump is astonishing and worth the effort, especially compared to tuning an NA engine to produce the same power without forced induction. The result is actually improved consumption, for the output.

These engines are not exactly fragile, but they don’t take abuse very well. Damaging the turbo (very easy with a little carelessness) is an expensive mistake. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions keenly and you will be fine.

Hi Baraza,
I would like to know what ‘cruise control’ is all about. Is it good to have a car with this feature?

Christopher

Cruise control is an electronic feature that allows a car to maintain a steady speed without the driver using the accelerator or the brake. If you want to cruise at 100 km/h, accelerate to 100, set the cruise control and let go of the throttle.

You can either disengage it manually, deactivate it by braking or accelerating, or adjust it upwards or downwards using buttons around the driver (mostly on the steering wheel). This is how it worked in the Jaguar XJ saloon I drove last year.

The problem is that the car will try to do 100 km/h EVERYWHERE, including uphill, so fuel consumption might not be to your liking. There are chances that it may also have a soporific effect on the driver, leading to reduced alertness and consequently, sleep-swerve-hoot-screech-crash-bang-wallop-blood-tears-hospital bills-funeral expenses.

Hi,

I would like some general advice regarding the small Maruti Omni. I want a small car to use in my small business and also as a family car, occasionally travelling upcountry without struggling with matatus. I don’t mind the image associated with the car.

Mulwa

So far, you seem to have it down pat, apart from two things:

1. Use as a family car: I’m sure you love your family, but toting them from A to B in a Maruti is a sure-fire way of ensuring you will not get any gifts from them come Father’s Day.

2. How occasionally is “occasionally”? Your upcountry base had better be no further than Machakos because, again, this is not a vehicle to spend too much time in. Ukambani in general is hot, and the lack of interior space or an air-con will be a heavy cross to bear in this pre-April rains heat. Especially with your family on board.

Hi JM,

Kindly offer me your advice on these two cars: a black Subaru Impreza (hatchback) and a silver Subaru Impreza (sedan), which one is a better buy when considering efficiency, spare parts and so on?

Both cars have 1.5-litre engines but the hatchback is a 2005 car while the sedan is a 2006 car. The last car I had was a Mitsubishi Cedia, which was just hell.

The gearbox collapsed after just two months and getting a replacement was like going to the moon!

Allan

I would go for the sedan, repaint it blue, add a stonking huge rear spoiler, body kit and gold rims and fit a noisy exhaust; then I would drive like I was about to die and only three-figure speeds could save my life. ST-i owners/drivers, do you read me?

The car to go for is entirely up to you, Allan. Do you want a sedan or a hatchback? A hatchback may offer more practicality in carrying luggage, but the sedan looks better. Mechanically, the two are the same.

Hi Baraza,

I’m a businessman based in Nairobi. I also double up as a farmer, so I’m a complete “off-roadholic”.

I am looking to buy a double cabin 4WD pick-up truck that will comfortably do my kids’ school runs, carry bags of fertiliser to my farm every now and then and on school holidays, comfortably handle the terrain in Maasai Mara during the long rains… if you get my drift.

I’m torn between the Toyota Hilux, the Nissan Navara, the Isuzu D-MAX and the Ford Ranger. Please rate these cars for me in terms of consumption, build quality, durability, off-road handling, and cost and availability of spare parts.

Kevin

If you followed my articles last year, you may have noticed that, were it not for the outright weirdness of the act, I would buy a Navara as a Valentine’s gift. Luckily or unluckily, I don’t own a Navara. Yet.

Consumption: That same Navara is a bit worrisome; I suspect it either runs a higher boost pressure in the turbo or it has a small tank, either way, when pitted against a Ford Ranger, it emptied its tank quite fast.

I have driven the latest Hilux, two weeks ago in fact, but I did not get to empty its tank, nor did I empty the Ranger’s tank last year, so it is hard to say which of the two will give you a better range. Absolute consumption depends on the degree of madness within your right foot.

Build quality: The Navara. Its build quality is an exercise of near-Germanic obsession in terms of panel gap consistencies, solid feel and material science. Better than the other three.

Durability: I’d have to say it is a close call between Toyota and Ford, with my observations leaning towards the Ranger. Strange, yes, but the Ford seems like it is built out of rock — I have yet to see a weather-beaten example.

On the other hand, the Hilux pick-ups in use by large corporations and municipal councils don’t look too good after some time. The Navara also faces some complaints by users, some of whom complain that somebody somewhere cannot do a proper diagnosis. I don’t know how true this is.

Off-road handling: They should all do well, because more often than not, if the going gets military, the weakest link is usually found behind the wheel.

Cost: The Hilux is dearest and the D-MAX is cheapest. With the Ford, it depends on which spec you go for, but it varies within these two extremes. The Navara is second to Hilux in expensiveness.

Spares: These cars are all franchised, so DT Dobie for the Navara, GM for the D-MAX, Toyota Kenya for the Hilux and CMC for the Ranger. Costs of spares will depend on what these people tell you.

JM,

I would like to bring you back to your article in which you said that the Toyota Verossa is an ugly car. In my opinion, I think the principle applicable here is the same one used when judging the beauty of woman — beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

I agree with you that the car is ugly, but of late, it has been growing beautiful by the day, like a woman you might not find so beautiful on the first day but as you get to know her better, you start to notice her beauty.

To support my point, I will remind you of the Mercedes W210. When the car was first introduced to the market, there was an uproar from die-hard Mercedes fans (including me) who found the round lights peculiar.

However, with time, the car has grown on us and become more and more beautiful, I am sure you agree with that.

A woman will add weight if too thin, shed weight if too weighty, she will lose her pre-pubescent clumsiness as she matures, and life experiences will instill confidence in her and her eyes will acquire a worldliness that we find attractive whenever we gaze into them.

A car, on the other hand, embarks on a relentless downward free-fall the moment it leaves the showroom, shedding 30 per cent of its value at the door. It can only lose shape from that point onwards. Starting off ugly does not do it any favours; it won’t “mature”, or lose baby fat, or tone its muscles with a session at the gym.

This explains why the Verossa had the shortest life span of all Toyota cars ever, except, maybe, their Formula 1 car.

Posted on

If you worry about costs, do not buy an ‘extrovert’ car

Hi Baraza,

I want to upgrade my current vehicle to either a Toyota Mark X, 2499cc or Volkswagen Passat CC, 1799cc. Both being second-hand, auto and petrol engine. Kindly advise me on the pros and cons of running these two vehicles in the Kenyan environment.

Bethi

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The pros and cons of running these two cars in the Kenyan environment, you ask? Prepare for a surprise:

The Mark X will get you respect and looks of envy as you ride by, but the down side is that it is now becoming a bit cliché.

The Passat CC is used widely by high-ranking civil servants (and maybe spooks, given that the registration plates I have observed on some of these vehicles do not tally with the age of the car, and some are fake), so substitute the “respect” aspect of the Mark X with “subtle awe and/or slight trepidation” for the CC.

Both ride comfortably, but the Mark X, if you buy the more common 2.5 or the bigger 3.0, will outrun the CC on an open space.

Driven carefully, both will take a while before showing symptoms of reaching “that time of the month” (nudge nudge).

And since you are choosing between two decidedly showy vehicles, I will say nothing on fuel consumption, buying price or cost of maintenance.

If these worry you, then buy a cheaper, smaller, less extrovert car.

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Hi,

I am planning to buy an Escalade. Please give me advice on its fuel consumption and cost of maintenance. Also, let me know if it’s a good car and if it will be able to cope with Kenyan roads.

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Buy an Escalade and take it where? Apparently, there is an embargo on the importation of LHD vehicles, which is why you don’t see me driving a Veyron. Or a Zonda. So where will you take it to once you buy it yet it is LHD only?

Nobody buys an Escalade with fuel consumption in mind, because 4kpl is as good as you will ever get from it.

It might cope well on Kenyan roads, somewhat, but it is a bad car: the handling is poor, build quality is crap, the interior is made from cheap plastics, it is impossible to park and I can bet my salary it will not fit in some city alleyways. And that fuel consumption….

My advice? Go ahead and buy it. At least you will give the rest of us sensible Kenyans some entertainment as you try to live with it!

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Hi JM,

A friend of mine working for a multinational tea exporter in the scenic county of Kericho has asked my opinion on the 2004 Audi A4. Honestly, apart from knowing the manufacturer is German and a subsidiary of Volkswagen, I didn’t offer much. But I knew where to turn to: this column. Please enlighten him and I on the following matters:

1. Availability of appointed dealerships for the car in Kenya.

2. Does it come with a fuel saving piece technology like Toyota’s VVT-i?

3. Can you trust an advertisement for a freshly imported 2004 unit with a price tag of Sh1.45 million? I smelled a rat when I saw that ad.

4. The torque and power specs in simple language. I saw something like 166 foot pounds of torque @ 4700 rpm and 161 brake horsepower @ 5700 rpm. I cursed out aloud.

5. Is it naturally- or turbo-aerated, and which other car is in its class ?

Njeru

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Njeru, I know not of any official franchise or authorised dealership, but there is a small outfit housed in the same compound along Mombasa Road as Subaru Kenya that fiddles with the Four-Ringed German cars.

I’m sure they can handle an A4 without much stress. VVT-i is just variable valve timing, and is the norm with almost every new car since the year 2000 or thereabouts.

If Audi dabbles in turbocharging, I’m sure variable valve timing is on the menu too, it is just that they don’t have a catchy acronym for their version.

A 2004 A4 at 1.5M? That doesn’t sound too far-fetched. That particular dealer could be given the benefit of doubt.

The units used to express torque and power may be imperial or metric. You want metric but the ones you quote are imperial.

Use these conversions: 2.2 lb (pounds) per kilo or 0.45 kilos per pound, 9.8 Newtons per kilo, 3.3 feet per metre or 0.3 metres per foot, and 0.75 kW per horsepower or 1.3 hp per kW. Then calculate your figures.

Lastly, the Audi A4 is available both in turbo and NA forms. Its rivals are the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C Class, Volvo S40, Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 407, Alfa Romeo 159, and a lot more.

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Hi Baraza

I love German cars, particularly VWs, and a friend of mine wants to sell me a local 1996 Polo Classic 1400cc hatchback because he wants to go for a Tiguan.

It is in very good condition, having done 136,000km under one lady owner. On matters maintenance, a VW expert mechanic recommended it after inspection and a road test.

He dismissed the notion that spares are expensive, saying that a replaced part could last three to four times compared to the likes of Toyotas. The car still has its original shocks, CV joints, etc, and the engine has never been opened.

However, I was really discouraged when you dismissed the Polo as tiny and costly in your column.

For your information, I did a survey at several shops that deal in spares for European cars and the difference in prices is not as high as is believed.

I have always wondered why most of your articles are on Japanese vehicles, it clearly portrays your bias towards vehicles from the East.

What car, then, would you advise me to go for instead of the Polo? I want a car that is swift, stable on the road at speeds of around 160KPH, and fuel-efficient (the Polo does 18.9 kpl).

Karagi

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The Polo is tiny and costly, and the spares cost a little bit more than those of Toyotas. And you agree that the payoff is a better built and reliable vehicle overall.

I do not have a bias towards “the East” as you so graciously put it. If you followed my work last year, I let slip once or twice that I had a Peugeot 405.

France is not “East”, it is not even within Eastern Europe. I drive what I get my hands on, so if nobody will let me compare the new Passat against an E Class, that is not my fault. Japanese cars are more readily available for test drives, generally.

If you want the Polo, go ahead and buy it. There’s nothing to stop you. The reason I was hard on it was that the question involved money issues, and Toyotas were mentioned in the equation; I had to tell it like it is.

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Hallo Baraza,

Your discussion on SUV’s that can cost less than an million shillings was hilarious. Tell me, how does a Land Rover Freelander compare to a Suzuki Grand Vitara? What is your take on the two?

Muthoni

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The Landy is more comfy and luxurious than the Suzuki, but the Suzuki is hardier, and fast catching up in terms of spec and equipment. It is also less likely to break and will cost less to fix than the LR.

The Freelander is better to drive, and just a touch quicker for the V6; the diesels are economical but lethargic and might struggle with the weight. The Suzuki looks good, with its faux-RAV4 appearance.

This applies to the MK I Freelander; I have not tried the Freelander 2 yet.

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Hi Baraza

I’m engaged in diverse farming activities in Rift Valley and cannot do without a sturdy 4WD. I wish to replace my aging Hilux with a new 4WD pickup.

The Hilux has a front solid beam axle which, though bumpy due to the leaf springs, is very reliable if driven over terrain that would easily cause havoc to the rubber boots and drive shafts.

My problem is that most 4WD pickups currently in the market are of the wishbone suspension type with exposed driveshafts for the 4WD functions.

Kindly explain to me the virtues of the latter over the former (solid beam). Why are they widely used today yet “serious” 4WDs like the Land Cruiser, the Land Rover and even the Patrol have stuck to the solid beam?

If it were you, which one would you go for, a Land Cruiser, a Ford Ranger or Hilux?

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Independent front and rear suspension was once avoided because of how delicate they were, and because of wheel articulation.

Nowadays, advances in material science and suspension technology have made cars with independent suspensions just as skilled off-road as their live axle counterparts, if not better.

Independent suspension allows for better obstacle clearance compared to the beam axle cars. New cars with old suspensions are made so to keep costs down.

On which one I’d go for, the Ford Ranger comes first, the 3.0 TDCi double-cab in particular. Then maybe the Land Cruiser if my farm is REALLY inaccessible.

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JM,

I wanted a car badly, a pick-up for that matter, but had very little cash, so I settled for a 1993 Peugeot 504. From the first owner, a company, I was the fourth owner. Bodywise it was okay but the engine was in need.

So far, taking care of the engine has used up about 50K and I am now proud of its performance, at least for the last three weeks, though I’m still afraid of unwanted eventualities. Would you advise me to sell it or keep it and hope it will serve me more?

Muoki

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Given the cash flow issues, maintain the old donkey for a while. They were bought in plenty when new, so there still exist mechanics who understand them intimately and rusty examples can be cannibalised when parts are needed.

After saving up, you can then upgrade.

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Hi Baraza,

I am a car enthusiast currently driving a 2004 Toyota Caldina. I would like to have your take on the Land Rover Freelander.

In terms of consumption, maintenance and how it compares with other cars in its class. I’m particularly interested in the 2.5-litre version.

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Consumption, I repeat for the umpteenth time, will depend on how you drive, but with the Freelander you will have to be extra careful.

It is a heavy car and the 2.5-litre engine will become a drunkard if you start racing fellow drunkards. Don’t expect much better than 11 kpl or so.

Maintenance: It is the younger brother of the Discovery and not too far removed from the Range Rover, so break one and you will weep.

But if you can afford a Freelander, you should afford to stay on top of sundry replacements and routine maintenance.

In this class, I prefer the X-Trail. BMWs are expensive for no good reason that I can see, as is the RAV4, which is better than the Nissan on the road, but not as good off it, though the Land Rover beats them all, save the BMW in terms of comfort and luxury. Ish.

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Baraza,

I own a Daewoo GTI (KAE) and it has never given me any major problems. However, in one of your columns, you called Daewoo obscure.

I am now concerned; can a Daewoo engine be replaced with one from a different make, such as Toyota or Nissan? Do we have dealers who stock Daewoo spare parts?

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I am not too sure about spares and dealers (the model, after all, is obscure), but you can heave a sigh of relief as concerns replacement engines. Early Daewoos (Nexus, Cielo, and what not) were just rebadged ex-GM models (Vauxhall Cavalier, Opel this and that), so any old GM engine will go in.

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Hi,

I have a 2003 Mitsubishi Cedia saloon that I acquired in 2009. However, towards the end of 2010, it developed problems with the gearbox only to realise that my mechanic had topped up the ATF with SPII instead of the SPIII that is recommended.

This damaged the gear box and I had to replace the same after a number of attempted repairs.

After replacing it mid 2011, it has since been damaging a certain plate between the gearbox and the engine. I have replaced that plate five times now.

My mechanic informed me that this is a problem with these type of vehicle and told me to change the gear selector to solve the problem permanently.

Is there a relationship between the selector and this plate, and what would you advise me to do other than change my mechanic, which I have already done after being in denial for long.

I haven’t replaced the selector yet and the plate is damaged again for the seventh time now thrice in a span of two weeks.

Mwaniki

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Is the car automatic or manual? I’m guessing automatic, now that you mention ATF, but then again you talk of plates and selectors, so it could be manual.

If the problem is associated with the selector, then the source is the linkage, not the selector itself, and yes, there should not be any connection between the clutch plates and the selector.

The problem, I suspect, is in the seating of the plate; it might be slightly skewed or of the wrong size.

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Hi JM,

Does turbocharging increase fuel economy in any way? I understand that forced induction, turbocharging included, increases the volume of air in the combustion chambers, thereby allowing more fuel to be burnt resulting in more power from the engine.

But I fail to understand how this may alter fuel economy positively as I have heard from some circles.

Isaac

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You have a lot more power from a similar capacity engine at similar revs, even if the turbo unit will burn a bit more fuel. What’s not to see?

The horsepower gains from a turbo are a lot more than from tuning an NA engine to within an inch of its life.

If you were to get 291hp from a 2.0 litre NA engine, it will sure burn a hell lot more fuel than the new Lancer Evo X does with its turbo and intercooler because, first, you will need bigger fuel pumps and injectors to deliver more fuel into the cylinders, and then couple this with a very high compression ratio so that you get bigger torque.

Then, the NA engine will have to carry that torque to higher revs so that it can deliver the maximum power. More revs mean more fuel getting combusted. Follow?

The turbo engine, on the other hand, can have a lower compression ratio and you won’t need to rev it madly to get proper power.

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Hi Baraza,

As far as engine configuration is concerned, one thing is still unclear to me.

When I was doing basic mechanics of machines, I was taught about the different diesel engines; naturally aspirated and turbocharged.

Looking at the principal of a turbocharger (recycling exhaust unburnt fuel into the inlet manifold, thereby reducing waste and emissions and giving extra power due to the high temperatures of the inflow gases), I still do not understand why typical turbocharged models consume more than the non-turbo models.

I have driven Hilux pickups for over five years, D-Max occasionally and now a naturally aspirated JMC Isuzu pickup, and you won’t believe the difference.

On average, the Hilux D4D 3.0-litre non-turbo gives 10 kpl; the Hilux D4D 2.5-litre turbocharged gives 12 kpl; the D-Max 3-litre turbocharged gives 11 kpl; and the JMC 2.8-litre non-turbo gives 14.6 kpl.

Though the consumption is a function of many factors including the weight on the accelerator, terrain and traffic, the equation still does not add up.

Kindly enlighten me on the difference between the common rail and the direct injection and how this influences fuel consumption.

Lastly, referring to your column on January 11, I always advise people to go for new Asian pickups, which come with full warranties and have a guarantee on performance instead of going for a 5–7-year-old used top range model that goes for the same price yet you aren’t sure of its maintenance and whether the engine is inches away from failure.

————————

The secret lies in knowing the history of the engine, quality and reliability in terms of spares and technical back up. Most Asian models are clones of the originals hence the reason for non-durability and dissimilar performance.

First off, the operation you describe there is called EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) and is not turbocharging.

Turbocharging involves using the momentum of escaping exhaust gases to drive an impeller or turbine that, in turn, forces air into the engine under pressure (thus a bigger mass of oxygen gets into the engine).

While it is true that turbo cars burn more fuel than NA counterparts, you are forgetting the gains in torque and horsepower that come along with it.

The differences between common-rail and direct injection call for a full article (too long and technical to put here), but the fuel economy of each type depends heavily on execution, though it has long been believed that common rail delivery is the better option when going for fuel economy.

And finally, as things stand, it will be a cold night in hell before I recommend an Asian counterfeit over the original.

Posted on

Turbo operation depends on engine speed, not road speed

Hi Baraza,
I have learnt a lot about cars through your column, thanks. I own a Lancer Cedia wagon 2001 model that has a GDI and turbo 1830cc engine. I like it because its pretty powerful compared to my bro’s “flimsy” Toyota Fielder.

Now, If I may ask:

1. I was told that the turbo will kick in only beyond 80km/h, and only if I use a particular type of fuel, is this true?

2. The car has a small delay between the time the accelerator pedal is pressed and when the car actually responds (about half a second), what could be causing this?

3. I use 5W oil for the engine as I was instructed that its the best for this car, is this okay?

4. There was a motorist in one of your columns who claimed that his Subaru Forester (2000cc) can do Nairobi to Thika and back on Sh1000 worth of fuel; I do not think my car is consuming a lot of fuel but I also know it cannot do a thousand bob for that distance, yet its lighter and has a smaller engine. How can I verify that its consumption is okay? A diagnostic was last done in August and it came out clean; the consumption hasn’t changed since then.
1. No and no. The turbo operation is dependent on engine speed, not road speed, so watch the rpm instead of the km/h. For proper boost achievement, keep it boiling at 3500rpm plus, but get ready to pay through the nose for fuel. Speaking of which, provided you have put petrol in the car and the engine is running, the turbo will work. Let no one lie to you that one particular brand of fuel will activate the turbo while another won’t.

2. The delay could be caused by turbo lag or a faulty throttle sensor. My money’s on the lag.

3. The 5W sounds a bit inappropriate and just a touch worrisome. We do not need a winter-use oil in these climes, and the low viscosity index means that the oil changes viscosity rapidly with heat; and if there is one thing in plenty from a turbo engine, it’s heat. But if the 5W is for kinematic viscosity, then that is what you need, to allow the oil to seep into the turbo workings properly. If I were you I’d try maybe a 10W, or 15W.

4. I have said repeatedly that driving style is the biggest contributing factor to fuel economy, though, at Sh 120 a litre and given the kind of traffic conditions that prevail on Thika Road, our Forester couple may or may not have been making their trips at 3am when everybody else is asleep. So if the diagnosis says your car is okay, and your car looks, sounds and feels okay, then it is okay.

*****************

Hi Baraza,

I have an automatic 2009 X-Trail which I bought two years ago. Could you please tell me its advantages and disadvantages? Also, please tell me how much horsepower it has… and if its ugly or not.

You do not know if your car is ugly or not? Have you seen the car in question or is this hypothetical? Anyway, I like the X-Trail’s external looks, it is very handsome.

In fact, I think it is one of the best looking cross-over utilities (eat that BMW X3, you ugly thing!). I don’t care much for the interior though.

Here are the power figures:

2.0 Petrol: 103kw/134hp @6000rpm, torque – 192Nm @4000rpm

2.0 Diesel: 110kw/143hp @4000rpm, torque – 320Nm @2000rpm

2.2 Diesel: 84kw/112hp @4000rpm, torque – 270Nm @2000rpm

2.5 Petrol: 132kw/176hp @6000rpm, torque – 245Nm @4000rpm

These figures apply to all 2004/2005 cars, except the 2.0 Diesel, whose figures also apply to the 2010 model.

******************

Hi Baraza,
I have a Subaru Legacy GT Twin Turbo and have three queries:

1. Is there any specific engine oil type for this model (I prefer synthetic oil)? What about spark plugs?

2. I went for greasing and was told Legacies cannot be greased unless the wheel mechanism is removed. Now is there a grease type that can last around six months for this type of car?

3. If the spark plugs are overused, is fuel consumption going to be on the higher end? What are the signs of over-used spark plugs?

1. Synthetic oils are recommended for turbocharged engines, so you are bang on the money on that issue.

2. Does the car need greasing? If yes, then go ahead and grease it. Forget about wheel mechanisms and time lines.

3. Fuel consumption will definitely go up. Signs of dying spark plugs include misfiring, a notable drop in power and the smell of unburnt or poorly combusted petrol coming from the exhaust.

*****************

Hi JM,

I want to buy a small car which is not thirsty (1000cc to 1300cc) but with good space and good performance. I had the following cars in mind: FunCargo, Platz, Vitz, Duet (all Toyotas) and Mazda Demio. Which one of these might be the best, something I can own for over five years?

Mulwa

Go for the Demio. It is the roomiest, followed by the Platz (boot space) and/or FunCargo (headroom, rear legroom). Forget the Vitz.

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Hi Baraza,
I am an automotive technologist and would like to help you out on the question by Juma (DN2, December 14, 2011) on the red button on auto gear levers. It’s actually used when trying to shift to neutral in case you would like to push or tow the vehicle if you do not have the key. Normally, you cannot shift if the ignition is not turned on and the brake pedal depressed. The little red button helps you avoid all this.
Cheruiyot

Okay, thanks for the heads up, Cheruiyot!

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Hi,
I am a great fun of your column. Now, I have an interest in the BMW 116i, kindly advise me on its mechanical reliability of suitability in this region. According to some online reviews I have read, the fuel efficiency of the car is quite okay at 4.8l/100km.

Isaac

At 4.8l/100km, that must have been the 120d. Why do you want a 1-Series? The only reason anyone would buy a 1-Series is for performance ONLY, because it is unnecessarily expensive, its rear-drive chassis means rear seat space and boot capacity are a joke, and it is not exactly a looker. If I was to buy a 1-Series, I would go the whole hog and get me a 130i.

Mechanical reliability? Well, it is a BMW, so it will not fail easily, but when it does, expect the usual tear-jerking repair bills. Pertinence to the region? As a developing country, our choice of cars is quickly turning to personal preference rather than mechanical capability as was the case previously.

***********************

Hi Baraza,
I have a 2002 Mitsubishi Cedia wagon, 1800cc, 4WD tiptronic. My nightmare started when it stalled and the gear indicator on the dashboard started blinking N even after shifting to D or R. I hopped from one mechanic to the next and all of them told me to buy a new gearbox. One even told me to write off the car. Finally I got one who fixed it by replacing a chain in the gearbox and a sensor.

One month ago it started making some really loud noise from the left side and stalled 10 metres from where it started making that noise. The mechanic did a diagnosis and found it was the 4WD gearbox that had broken down; the main gearbox was okay.

I had to replace the whole gearbox plus the pressure sensor (and it wasn’t cheap at 110k). It took a while to find it because, apparently, Cedias are not that many on our roads and they haven’t been in accidents enough to get parts from their write-offs, so spares are rare and expensive.

After changing the gearbox, there was some other noise; this time, the flywheel had cracked. I changed that. Now, when starting the car there is a noise that sounds like stuff banging against each other in the chassis. This goes on for a while then goes silent when the engine warms up.

When the gear lever is on N it’s silent, but on R or D its there even when I engage manual. The car also vibrates when at idle on D but not on N.

My mechanic tells me he has changed the engine mounts, so I’m at a point where I am thinking writing it off would have been a better solution. I need your insight here. Saidia!

Caroline.

Unfortunately, not even I would have had the foresight to tell you to get the entire transmission system overhauled — starting from the clutch to the primary gearbox, transfer case and shafts — had you come to me with the problem earlier.

The damage the transmission suffered earlier could have warped some of your drive shafts, hence the noises and subsequent failures.

Either that or, after the 4WD system, chain, sensor and flywheel, your clutch is now taking cue and packing up too.

Writing off the car sounds extreme but, with six-figure repair bills, I can see where you are coming from. It might be the wisest move at this point.

You could scrap the car. Sell it in bits. To avoid getting short-changed, go to the shop, ask how much a part costs (as if you want to buy) and then offer to sell them the parts at that quoted price or slightly lower. See what they tell you…. It might help you recoup some of your losses.

***********************

Hi Baraza,

Please enlighten me on the following:

1. Is there any performance change when wheel sizes are altered?

2. What is the allowable extent of adjusting wheel sizes (plus one or plus two inches of what the manufacturer gave)?

3. Is it true that the main effect of changing the wheel diameter on a car is the need to change the gears, which change the ratio of engine speed to wheel rotation speed?

4. Is it true that larger wheels rotate more slowly for a given car speed?

5. Is there any (even the remotest) possibility of compromising stability and therefore safety of the vehicle by replacing smaller manufacturer-spec wheels with larger ones?

May 2012 be yet another good year for all motoring enthusiasts through your column.

1. Yes, such a change will definitely affect the car’s performance.

2. It is wise to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, but the available space within your wheel archs will guide you too.

3. Not the “need”, but bigger wheels do have an effect of gearing up the transmission at tyre level. The bigger the wheels, the more noticeable the effect.

4. Yes, they have a lower angular velocity. Speed= Distance/Time, so for bigger speed, you have bigger distance (circumference of the tyre) and constant time.

5. It’s a definite yes, not “a chance”, outsize tyres will definitely corrupt the manufacturer’s settings.

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Hi Jim,
What is your opinion on the Mercedes ML class? The used models are mainly available in the ML 280 and ML 320 diesel versions, what’s your take on them? The few reviews I have read have ranked the M5, Q7 and Range Rovers higher. Although I like the classy looks, Range Rovers are rather ubiquitous locally. I shall be much obliged to hear your views.
Eric

Not a good car. Heavy, ugly, the diesel versions were not Daimler’s finest moment and the car was built in America for Americans, so built quality is dodgy and panel gap consistencies are measured to the nearest foot. The AMG version is an overweight, over-thirsty pointless exercise. The M5 is a saloon car and does not belong to this group.

The Q7 is not that good either; it has a woeful turning circle, is extremely heavy and, as such, the engines are overworked and fuel consumption suffers. But it has the best interior in the world.

Oh, and my name is not Jim.

***********************

Dear Baraza,

I own a Toyota K70 saloon car. The vehicle was manufactured in 1980, but registered in 1983. I have christened her ‘Historic’ because there are very few of them remaining on the road. The vehicle is very intact.

Having had two previous owners, it has done only 110,000 kilometres and still wears authentic Firestone tires of old. Since it was manufactured, according to my mechanic, the clutch had not been charged and this was done only this year when some young adults I was teaching how to drive a manual burned the clutch (whatever this means!).

The engine still bears the manufacturer’s nuts and bolts as it has never been opened (I have only changed the fuel pump after some malfunction). Though it has a carburettor system, it does about 12 km per litre (is this good? Can it do better?) and have travelled immensely with it going to far off places like Eldoret. Spares, though Taiwanese, are available both in Kirinyaga Road, Industrial Area or even Kariobangi.

I normally find your answers quite straightforward and realistic, so I pose this question: Do you have something good (or bad) to say about this small vehicle? Something that can justify my holding onto this old relic that went out of production many years back? Please let me know, in your own honest way, the good, the bad and the ugly of this vehicle.

Lawrence

Congratulations on two fronts: One, now I can relax knowing I am not the only one out there still flogging carburettors, and two, honestly, congrats on a car well kept. But I think you may have to change the tyres sooner rather than later.

For any car, 12 kpl is quite good, let alone one with a carburettor. And the K70 can do better, but you’d rather not because this means resorting to some funny techniques, not all of them sensible or legal.

By all means, keep your car. I don’t see why you would want to sell it, given how you have gushed about it and extolled its virtues. It is something special given that it has survived to its current age and in its current condition, and it is a show of just how well you can maintain your car.

Again, congratulations!

Posted on

In motoring, many Kenyans want a kind of come-we-stay

Hi JM,
I have owned a 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia wagon 1800cc GDI for more than three years with no problem other than the usual wear and tear, brakes, shocks, etc.

And so I fail to understand the Kenyan phobia for any car with an engine other than a VVT-i or stone-aged engines, minus some rare options like the smaller but stronger, faster and quieter engines.

I use recommended platinum sparks, Shell V-power or equivalent, and full synthetic oil to keep the car in optimum performance — these might be pricey for some, but I considered them while purchasing the car.

Most of the time, the petrol mileage pays for most of the maintenance cost, especially if you drive as much as I do; I bought the car with the mileage at about 110,000 km and it’s now at over 400,000 km.

I wonder why Kenyans always go with advise from Toyota crazed people, some of whom have never owned a car or who want a car that they can neglect.

People rarely ask what your needs are and what you can invest to maintain and repair the car.

My dad gave me six months tops on the car yet his 2004 Nissan AD VAN has cost him more in repairs and petrol than my Cedia, which offers me better options, safety, comfort and power.

My advice: There are better cars out there, just make sure you know what you are getting into, that is, the advantages and disadvantages.

Also, having a mechanic who knows the car’s ins and outs on speed dial helps. So, am I crazy like all the people (and the Government) who have cars with GDI, FSI and turbo engines or what?

————–

Nice one. There are several problems with Kenyans as far as motoring is concerned. That is why 110 per cent of the mail I receive concerns either “how thirsty is it?” or “are the spares expensive?”

We want the motoring equivalent of a come-we-stay marriage, getting the milk without buying the cow, colloquially speaking. That is why I once told my readers not to rush into car ownership if they are not ready for the commitment involved.

But what can I do? I cannot tell a person, “You are not mentally ready to buy a car yet, so don’t”; I will wait for them to buy the car, mess it up and then contact me for help. The variety of vehicles in South Africa is staggering and yes, there are Toyotas too, but they, surprisingly, are not the majority.

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Hi Baraza,

I religiously look forward to the Wednesday paper just to have a go at your column. Now, I have two questions:

1. I drive a Nissan Bluebird U11 1985 model, 1800cc carburettor engine. It does 7–8 km/l in town and 10–12 km/l on the highway. I am planning to purchase a new ex-Japan EFI engine for the car because I fear the carburettor is not 100 per cent reliable. I am torn between a Wingroad and a Nissan B15 1500cc engine. Most of my friends prefer the B15 engine while I feel the Wingroad one is more faithful. Kindly advise on which one would be best for stress free driving on such an old car.

2. This is a bit personal and I’m sure I will get it rough from you. What car do you drive because I got shocked to learn that you drive a Toyota Platz — in a previous article you really dissed the vehicle.

Akala

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First off, I don’t like either of the two Nissans, and sadly for you, both are prone to glitches.

From the mail I receive from readers, the B15 has suspension made out of used matchsticks while the Wingroad suffers electrical gremlins.

From what I see on the road, the Wingroad ages gracelessly while the B15 clings on tenaciously for a slightly longer time before succumbing to old age. So maybe you should go for the B15.

Now, about your second question: What I drive is not very important at the moment, but it sure as hell is not the unsightly Platz! Where did you get that information from? If a friend told you they know me and that I drive a Platz, lose the friend.

Hi Baraza,

Kindly offer your thoughts on the Audi A4. How does it compare with BMW 318i and Mercedes C-class?

Looks: Near tie between C-Class Mercedes (pretty) and Audi A4 (understated and classy).

Performance: The BMW 3-Series both handles and performs better than the other two.

They have recently started offering 4WD (x-Drive) versions, so Audi no longer has the advantage of traction.

The A4 can be a bit lethargic with the smaller non-turbo power units.

The C-Class is a pleasure to drive, such is the smoothness, and the supercharged Kompressors are plenty quick.

Handling wise, the BMW is best and the A4 worst, courtesy of its understeering tendencies.

Cost: When you buy a Merc, you will know, mostly from the moths that will fly out of your wallet and the echoes coming from the emptiness that is your bank account. BMW follows not too far behind, but is a bit more affordable.

A4 is the cheapest, generally. Where you buy and what spec you choose can easily swing the order one way or another.

These are premium cars, so you will fork out for spares. Good thing is it will not happen often.

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Hi Baraza,

I own a Toyota Wish with a 2000cc VVT-i engine. The vehicle has no overdrive button but there’s an ‘S’ button, which I presume stands for “sport”.

On engaging it, the vehicle becomes lighter and speed shifts with a lot of ease.

What I need to know is, how is the fuel consumption when I engage this gear, is it high or low?

Is it economical/safe for the engine if engaged at low speeds? There’s also another button labelled ‘Snow’ but I have never known what it is for. Kindly help.

Abdulrehman

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When you engage this “S gear”, does the car leave a trail of your belongings on the road behind you? Or maybe a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of cogs, nuts, bolts, trunnions and wing-nuts? The car does not become lighter, it “feels” lighter, because the transmission is in a ‘Sport’ setting and so the vehicle’s performance is optimised, or “sporty”. The lightness may also come from the suspension stiffening, but I doubt this is the case for the Wish; such technology is found in costlier fare.

The consumption will definitely go up, but not enough to bankrupt you in one trip. It will also not damage the engine, or gearbox, at all; engines are built to withstand a wide range of performance parameters.

The ‘Snow’ setting acts as a sort of traction control for the gearbox, slowing down changes and sticking to higher gears at lower revs to minimise torque-induced wheelspin and skids.

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Hi Baraza,

Once, I went upcountry with a Toyota Prado and had no problem climbing the long hills.

But on another day, when I used a Land Rover Discovery Tdi, I realised its performance was weak compared to the Prado’s. Is it that the car had a problem or does it mean Prados are more powerful than Land Rovers?

Please compare the two. Also, I’m puzzled by words like supersaloon, special edition, splendid, and so on, that are used on Toyotas and Nissans. Do these cars have anything special?

Kahara

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Which Discovery did you use? And which Prado? The earlier Discovery cars were a bit agricultural, crap to be honest, especially because of the ageing 2.5, 4-cylinder diesel engine they used.

The new ones, on the other hand, are Range Rovers for those who cannot afford real Range Rovers. I will compare the two — similar vintage and matching specs — in a future road test, just give me time to set this up.

Those labels ‘SuperSaloon’, ‘Executive’ and so on are actually names for trim levels and specifications.

Instead of saying “this car has a 2.5 litre V6 engine, automatic transmission, sunroof, air-con, climate control, leather interior, alloy rims, six-CD changer, etc”, just call it SuperSaloon.

For the same model of car, the “Executive” could be the same as SuperSaloon but with no leather interior and no sunroof.

A lower spec model (let’s call it Deluxe) deletes climate control but maintains air-con and swaps the six-CD changer for, say, radio/tape/CD.

Follow?

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Dear Baraza,

I am planning to buy my next car, either a Subaru Forester or a Toyota Kluger.

But the one I have currently is a Fielder, which is good when it comes to fuel consumption, spare parts and resale value.

I want you to advise me on the car (Forester or Kluger) that is fuel efficient, has reasonably priced spares and a good resale value.

————–

Just drive decently and both will not hurt where consumption is concerned.

Spares should not have too big a disparity between them, though I suspect the Kluger’s might command a slight (very slight) premium over the Forester’s. Asking around will clear this up.

Resale? It is hard to tell. Klugers have not been around long enough for statistical data on second- or third-owner territory to be gathered. And there has been a now-diminishing phobia of Subaru cars, so for now, steer clear of the Turbo.

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Hi,
I am importing a Subaru Outback and I want to use it for my upcountry excursions, which include a very slippery road to my upcountry home.

How good is it in wet, slippery, hilly roads? Can you suggest some modifications or areas to watch on this ex-Japan model?

————–

Smart choice. It has 4WD, so it should tackle the slippery stuff quite convincingly.

But no serious off-roading (fording rivers that have burst their banks or trying to drive up a sheer cliff), leave that to the Land Cruisers).

It can survive without any major modifications, but heavy duty suspension would not be money wasted when installed.

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Hi,
I intend to buy a second-hand car whose engine capacity is 1000cc or below.

I particularly have the Toyota Platz, Toyota Starlet or Toyota Alto LX in mind. Please advise me in terms of maintenance and performance.

————–

Once you go below 1,000cc, cars stop being cars, they become a means of transport.

As such, there is precious little to separate them, unless you go for mentalist hardware like the turbocharged Daihatsu Miras and “twin-charged” Fiat 500s. Otherwise, they are all the same.

I have had quite some experience with a Starlet EP82, which at 1300cc, could still run with the best of them (19.76 litres of fuel yielded 407 km, empty to empty. Try and beat that, even in a Vitz).

The three cars you mention should be about the same in performance and maintenance, so if you are hard pressed to choose, close your eyes, throw a stone in the air and see where it lands.

That will be the car to buy. Or just go for the Alto — it is newer than the Starlet (so obviously better engineered) and much, much prettier than the goggle-eyed “Platzypus”

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Hello Baraza,

I bought a five-speed 1996 Hyundai Accent car from a friend. The vehicle is quite okay, but I need your advice on the following:

1. Where do I get spare parts, such as door locks, water pumps and radiators, among others, at a fair price?

2. Is it possible to get a good place to refurbish its interior, especially the seats, floor covers, inside door covers etc?

3. What are the merits and demerits of this vehicle since I hardly hear people talk about it?

Yatich

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The reason nobody talks about the Hyundai Accent is because it is Korean, and 1996 is a clean decade and a half ago. Anybody born at that time would be in high school second or going to third form now.

Later iterations of this car have not been good either (there is a 3-cylinder diesel that takes 20 secs to hit 100 km/h from rest). So it is in this vein that I will answer your questions:

1. Fellow Hyundai enthusiasts will help with this, but until then, the usual trawl through Kirinyaga Road and Industrial Area will give you an idea on the rarity of spares.

2. Interior reworking can be done at any good body shop.

3. Merits: None that I know of. Cheap, maybe. Demerits: Not a feat of engineering, flimsy, performs poorly and not that pretty. And there’s also bad interior design and poor use of materials.

Posted on

I insist, the Verossa looks horrible

Hi Baraza,
I have owned a Toyota Verossa for the past two years and I am aware that you included it in your list of most ugly cars, and that one of your readers requested guidance on whether to go for a Verossa or a Premio (DN2 Dec, 7).

Surely, looks should not be the only yardstick when judging a car’s performance. My opinion of the Verossa is that it handles well, is spacious, and spare parts are easily available, same as with Mark II.

Being a V6, it is a good alternative in handling, comfort, power, cost of running, and spare parts availability when compared to either a BMW or a Mercedes Benz.

In as much as I enjoy your column, which is quite educative, please be objective on all fronts, not just on the looks of a car.

Keep up the good work!

Jack.

Jack, tell me why I would walk past a Mark II, a Mark X, and a Crown (all Toyotas), a Diamante (Mitsubishi) ,and a Skyline (Nissan) just so I can place my hard-earned money into another man’s hands and relieve him of a Verossa.

All these cars cost more or less the same, and in the case of the Toyotas, they share plenty of parts, seeing as how they are almost all the same thing underneath — the Mark X is a spiritual successor of the Mark II.

When I spend my money, it has to be worth it. Why buy a car that you cannot gaze at for longer than five minutes before nausea makes its presence felt?

I am sorry, Sir, but in car reviews, looks do play a part. They are not the biggest thing, but in some cases they are the deciding factor for two or more very similar cars. Verossa, Mark II, Crown? I would go for the Crown any time.

Objectivity comes into question under brand loyalties (a colleague would die for a Mercedes and thinks all other cars are crap) rather than looks.

Some cars are downright beautiful (Mark X), some split opinions (BMW X6), while we can all quietly agree that some (Verossa, Will) are the reason women leave their husbands, children play truant, and dogs bite the hands that feed them. Yes, they are that ugly.

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Dear Baraza,

I am keen to delimit my Forester Turbo S/TB (please do not lecture me on the dangers or law issues). It currently does slightly above 180 kph.

I have done my research and asked around and have been presented with three options: buy a gadget called a speed limit defencer that is connected to the ECU (it supposedly overrides the limiter) but I will not know how fast I am going as the speedo will just keep rotating, “fool” a sensor at the back of the speedometer (the downside being that the check engine light will probably appear and again I will not know how fast I am moving, and, last, buy a speed dial that reads more than 180, probably from the UK. I am for the first or last option.

My question is, will installing a dial that reads more than 180 actually work? I have always thought it is a bit more complicated than that. I thought the speed limit is programmed in the ECU, hence the need to remap.

Hilary.

The third option will not work, for the reasons you suspect. Combine either option one or two with three to know what your exact speed is when past 180.

But the ECU could be reprogrammed or even replaced instead of employing “fools” and “defencers” to circumvent the electronic nanny.

There is a company called Ganatra that deals in ECUs, among other things, like combining a Platz, a Landcruiser VX, and a supercharger into a 450hp Mendelian road-going progeny that inherits all its parents’ phenotypes.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Mercedes Benz-124 series 200E. What is the difference with the E200? I have heard talk that the latter is superior.

Nick.

There is no clearer way of putting this, so let me speak Japanese. In Japan, cars like the Mazda RX-7 and Nissan 240 SX have “Kouki” models and “Zenki” models.

Zenki models are the ones that were produced in the early lifetime of that particular model of car, while Kouki versions came after recalls, modifications, face-lifts, and adjustments, though still on the same model.

So, while the 124 200E and the 124 E200 might be the same car, the 200E is a “Zenki” (early) model while the E200 is a better developed, better specified, and better engineered “Kouki” (late) model. I hope this clears the air, Jap or no Jap.

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Dear Baraza,

First, I would like to know how one can fix the flashing on/off light of an automatic RAV4. It started this problem after changing the engine.

Two, immediately after engaging gear D or R, the vehicle jerks. What could be the problem?

Gikaru.

What light is that? Is it overdrive? That sounds like an electronic problem. The jerking is because the clutch does not fully disengage when the transmission is shifted from neutral into gear, so there is something called shift shock. I have seen it in a B15 before, what was supposedly a “new” car.

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Hi Baraza,

Thank you for the good job you have been doing. My auto Nissan Wingroad, a 1497cc 2002 model, has started consuming every coin I make on fuel.

For 13 litres of fuel, it covers a distance of 98 km instead of between 170 km and 182 km, the way it used to.

Friends who own a similar ride have given me various reasons, including the sensor and braking.

Kindly let me know what exactly is the problem, where it can be diagnosed, and how to fix it, once and for all. The engine runs smoothly, picks fast, and does not misfire.

Seven kilometres per litre on a Wingroad? Clearly, something is wrong. Diagnosis can be done at any garage with an OBD II device. Get it done and get back to me with an error code.

As for brakes and fuel consumption, unless the brakes are binding, I do not see what the efficiency/mechanical state of one has to do with the magnitude of the other.

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Hello Baraza,

I am trying to decide which is the best car to buy, so could you please compare the Audi A3, Ford Focus, Mazda Premacy, and Volkswagen Golf (GTI grade) — all with a 1.8cc or 2.0cc engine — in terms of fuel consumption, maintenance, long mileage coverage, and some added comfort.

I am not planning to go for a new car, but I prefer post-2001 models. Any other recommendation would be highly appreciated.

Charles.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the Mazda Premacy is a van, is it not? The rest are hatchbacks. Ignoring the Mazda temporarily, the fuel consumption should be highest in the Ford and lowest in the Audi, with the Golf languishing in between, but for non-GTi. The GTi is thirstier than the Ford.

Maintenance is the same for the Audi and the Golf because they share a platform, but availability of spares for the Audi may be subject to a lot of factors.

When it comes to long mileage, Golf goes first, then Ford, then Audi. This split is — despite the shared platform between the Audi and the VW — because of the Audi’s high waistline and thick C pillars: view is obscured and the interior is dark and cramped. Comfort? Audi, Golf, Ford.

The car I have been talking about here is the MK 5 Golf. The MK 4 was pathetic and a sham, an embarrassment to the GTi badge.

It was abnormally heavy, ponderously slow (slower than a Rover automatic and Skoda Octavia Diesel, of all things!) did not handle too well and the interior was not the best.

The Mazda, on this scale of things, lies next to Ford in almost all aspects: they too, share a platform and engines.

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Hey,

I am researching cars with a turbo engine to know the advantages and disadvantages. Kindly assist.

Advantages: Insane power, volumetric efficiency, fuel consumption is low comparatively (likened to a car of similar power and capacity but naturally aspirated).

Disadvantages: Delicate (needs tender care, especially turbo-diesel), a swine to fix once the turbo goes phut, generally costlier than naturally aspirated equivalents, cooling problems, sensitive to oil type and temperature fluctuations, and lag (the delay between throttle action and corresponding turbo activity), if anti-lag is fitted, engine damage is common and fuel consumption is no longer a strong point.

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Hi,
I have a 2003 Wingroad. Every time I hit a small stone, it feels like a thud on the steering. I have at the front new Monroe shocks and the original springs at the back. I drove a Fielder for some time and hitting the same stone in it would give a springy feel. Why the difference?

The difference lies in the steering system and the front suspension/chassis setup. The NZE 120 model (Fielder is the estate version of this car) was built with driver orientation in mind, so the steering feel, performance and handling, among other things, feel quite good, especially compared to Wingroad.

The Wingroad comes off as a loveless white good strictly for generating profit and serving the most basic of motoring needs.

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Hi Baraza,

I am a frequent reader of your motoring column, keep up the good work. I am planning to buy a saloon car early next year.

I am, however, torn between three choices, which somehow look similar but are of different makes and models.

My major concerns are on cost price, fuel consumption, availability of spares, and durability. My options are a Toyota Mark II Grande, 2000cc, VVT-i, second-hand direct import from Japan or Singapore, a Nissan Teana 230JM, 2300cc, CVT, second-hand direct import from Japan or Singapore, and Mercedes Benz E200 Kompressor, 1796cc, used in Kenya, probably a 2002 model.

Kindly advise on the difference between VVT-i and CVT engines in terms of fuel consumption and, based on the above concerns, which of the three vehicles is best.

David.

David, go for the Benz. The others are basic clones of each other and are not entirely dissimilar. The added advantage of a locally sold Benz is that it would be tropicalised and maintained under warranty, so more likely than not you will end up with a car with FSH (full service history) and the ability to run in our conditions.

CVT (the valve control system, not the transmission type) and VVT-i do the same thing (varying the valve timing and controlling valve lift in real time) but in different ways.

There is neither the space nor time for me to get into the actual differences here, maybe in a future article, but rest assured the effects are the same: better performance, better economy, and reduced emissions.

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Hi Baraza,

I have been considering swapping my Caldina, which I have used for five years, with a bigger car for a big family. I wonder if there are Prados of that range and if not, what the best alternatives for a civil servant would be.

Yes, there are Prados of that range. There are also 4Runners (also called Surf), Nissan Terranos, Mitsubishi Pajeros, and maybe an old school Land Rover Discovery (could be costly, though).

“The best alternatives for a civil servant”? Are you planning on keeping your car a secret? Try a Land Rover Defender. Seating for 10, go-anywhere ability — and climate control by God Himself courtesy of the huge panel gaps and absence of A/C in some models.

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Dear Baraza,

I am planning to buy a BMW 318i or 320i, 2005 model saloon sedan. The main reason is security — I notice the car is not popular with carjackers or robbers.

However, I am not sure about the performance of this car, especially its fuel consumption, and parts availability in Kenya. I will appreciate your advice on this. Also, do we have alternatives in the market for this car?

Jared.

The performance of this car is exactly what you would expect from a BMW: class-leading, quick, and it handles like magic. The fuel consumption is better than these Toyotas that everyone is trying to get into: the degree of German technology under the bonnet means that 16 kpl is possible, even realistic, from a two-litre engine (or up-rated 1.8, which is what the 320 is), provided you do not try and reach 200 km/h. Drive sensibly.

Parts are available; we do have Bavaria Motors, BMW specialists, you know. But BMW is a premium brand and so parts cost in keeping with the image and quality of the car, so you will pay through the nose. But treat the car well and drive maturely and you will not have to wear your wallet thin running it.

Alternatives are the Mercedes C-Class (not only available, but also common) and the Audi A4 (less common). A recent entry into the class is the VW Passat (bland MK1 version and the MK 2 makes you look like a government official/NSIS spy), while a cheaper option is the Peugeot 406 (yes, I actually did it. I recommended a Peugeot)!

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Hi,

I am in a dilemma here; I have a passion for Impezas, specifically the 1490cc ones, but almost all my friends say Subarus are thirsty, their resale value drops pretty fast, and their spares are expensive.

When I compare the cost of acquiring the Impreza with that of the NZE/Fielder, the latter is far much expensive whether already used on Kenyan roads or not.

Kindly advise me on whether to take the Impreza, considering that I have no information on its fuel efficiency when in the heavy traffic common on our city roads.

Charles.

What is stopping you from buying the Impreza? If it is not a turbo, then there is nothing to worry you about fuel consumption. Spares are there; how else would you explain the growing number of Subarus on the roads? And you yourself admit that the Fielder is costlier to “acquire”.

I see you yearn for the little Scooby, go for it. But take good care of it and try not to race fellow drivers if you want your fuel economy to stay within affordable margins.

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Hi,
Kindly tell me the difference between turbo-charged and turbo-unchanged. Also, what does naturally-aspirated mean?

Most tuning outfits specialise typically in Japanese cars (STi Subaru, Lancer Evo, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, Nissan GT-R etc), a good number of which are turbo-charged.

Sometimes, in the quest for bigger horsepower, the factory turbo is either replaced for a bigger unit or another one is added to create a twin turbo setup if the original was single.

Also, the stock turbo can have devices added/modified/replaced such as the anti-lag, wastegate, blow-off valve and actuators.

Naturally, an engine built to develop 280hp will not last very long if forced to output 500-plus hp, and the kind of people who do this kind of thing do not go easy on their cars.

As a result, the resale value of tuned cars is next to nothing. If you own one of the cars I mentioned, or other performance vehicles (especially from Japan) and you intend to resell it, you might have to say “turbo-unchanged” to mean that the car still runs on a factory turbo.

This means that any outstanding warranties will still be valid, the vehicle’s manual can be followed if the turbo needs repair, the performance and fuel consumption will not be too far from the manufacturer’s claims, etc…. In other words, the car will not have any surprises under the bonnet.

Turbo-charging is the act of forcing air under great pressure into an engine (any engine) to increase the power output.

The fan (impeller) that forces this air into the engine is driven via a shaft connected to another fan (turbine), and this turbine is driven by the force exerted by exhaust gases leaving the engine. This is as opposed to supercharging, whereby the impeller is driven by the engine itself rather than by an exhaust turbine.

Naturally-aspirated means “neither turbo-charged nor super-charged”, i.e air goes into the engine under atmospheric pressure only; no extra force is exerted.

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Hi,

My Mitsubishi Cedia is back on the road after your advice, thanks a lot. I recently bought a Toyota Prado TX but it did not come with a manual. Kindly expound on the following available gadgets, their use, and at what times or situations they are to be used.

1 Button marked PWR.

2. 2ND.

3. Red button.

All these buttons are next to the main gear lever with all the other functions well indicated, that is, P, R, N, D, 2, L.

The vehicle is auto but with a manual 4WD gear lever and I wish to ask, why is the vehicle very poor in handling slippery terrain?

It skids too easily. And what is this overdrive thing and when is it supposed to be used? When it indicates “Overdrive Off” on the dashboard, what does this mean?

Juma.

Where were you when I was discussing overdrive and how to drive an automatic? Anyway, mine is not to chide, but to inform and educate, so here goes:

1. The PWR (Power) button is a function of what Toyota calls ECT or ECT-i (Electronically Controlled Transmission). When that button is pressed, the settings for the gearbox change, shifts happen faster, downshifts happen earlier, and upshifts later (much higher in the rev range) to maximise the car’s performance.

2. 2ND locks the transmission and limits the gearbox from going beyond second gear.

3. I have never found out what the red button is for, but I suspect it is a shift lock. I have pressed it surreptitiously (out of owners’ view) in the numerous automatic cars so equipped but nothing happened, as far as I could tell. Further research is on-going.

4. Overdrive allows the engine to spin at fewer rpms for a given road speed at a particular gear. The effect is to save fuel and reduce strain on the engine and transmission. If it says Overdrive OFF on the dash, then the unit has been disengaged and you should turn it on again. The circumstances that warrant its disengagement may be outside your skill range, judging from your email.

Finally, when your Prado skids, is it in 2WD or 4WD? Allow me to digress a little. The advent of ABS led to more carelessness among drivers and as such braking-related accidents went up statistically.

It is in this vein that I should ask you not to fall into the same trap: your car having 4WD does not mean that after engaging the transfer case (4L or 4H) you are now a driving god and can go anywhere.

If anything, off-roading is one of the most difficult driving tactics ever and requires plenty of skill. You will still skid, spin, or wedge yourself into the countryside if you do not know how to use the hardware available to you.

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Hi Baraza,

Thanks for your informative articles. My question is, what are the advantages of a Toyota Corolla NZE, G-Grade, for example?

Ben.

Advantages: It is cheap, common, easy to maintain, easy on the fuel, and has an eager autobox.

Disadvantages: It is VERY common, the eager autobox is actually overeager and hunts too much, I do not like the looks too much (my opinion), and the car is treacherous if you are not paying attention.

Posted on

Avoid running on ‘E’ all the time, just fill up

Hi Baraza,

I have a well-maintained Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia, 1500cc, 2003 model. I often drive it when the low-fuel light is on and the car covers many kilometres before refuelling.

What are the implications of driving a car when this light is on for a long period? Another issue is that, whenever, I top up with fuel worth about Sh500, the light goes on immediately, even before I am out of the petrol station. Why? How effective is this vehicle in terms of fuel consumption?

I would also like you to generally comment about Mitsubishi Lancers as I have found this car to be much nicer compared to the Subaru Legacy I had before.

Frederick.

How many kilometres does your Lancer cover from the moment the light comes on?

If it is more than 100, then you might have a special car in your care: either the fuel consumption is extraordinary or the electricals are playing with your mind.

The biggest implication for running a car with the fuel light constantly on is that you might run out of fuel far from a filling station and you would go to a lot of trouble getting it running again.

Most cars indicate ‘empty’ or have the light shining when there is about five to 10 litres of fuel remaining.

So, if your tank was very nearly empty (say, had less than 100ml of petrol left) and you put in Sh500 worth of fuel (given that petrol is going for about Sh120 a litre, that is about four litres of fuel ), then what you have in your tank is still below the empty mark. Fill your tank if you can.

The Cedia is very economical, even in the 1.5 litre form, especially if the car has a GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection, similar to D4 in Toyota) engine, but to harness the maximum effect from GDI, maintain steady throttle openings (a light constant pressure on the accelerator) as the GDI system reverts to the normal stoichiometric charge ratio whenever the throttle opening is adjusted.

Let me get my hands on a Cedia and I will definitely give you something worth reading.

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Hi Baraza,

Let us separate two warring factions here: the D4 engine haters (a larger group) and those who praise it.

First things first; is the D4 engine different from a VVT-i one? Or, if I may shoot more straight, can D4 technology be used in a VVT-i engine?

I have heard things that make touching the engine sinful — it is significantly thirstier than the others and requires you to talk to the HR department for a loan to repair it once it goes nuts.

Please clarify whether all these things are true.

Finally, please confirm whether the new car models, specifically the Toyota Premio and the RAV4, can come with the D4 engine.

And is it possible for the D4 label not to appear on the engine cover?

Nyaga.

The D4 technology was supposed to be the motoring industry’s second-coming, but Toyota rushed it and. because of that, it does have a few weaknesses. It is my understanding that they are back to the drawing board over this.

D4 and VVT-i are two different technologies: one concerns fuel delivery (D4, Direct Injection 4-stroke cycle) while the other concerns valve timing (VVT-i, variable valve timing with intelligence). It is, therefore, possible to have both on the same engine.

Why would a D4 engine be thirstier than others?

The technology is supposed to improve fuel consumption, not make it worse. I have driven some cars (Toyota Vista the most) with D4 and if carefully driven, the 1.8 litre would return astonishing mileage.

Toyota Premios and RAV4s do come with D4 engines for some trim levels.

Most D4-equipped cars have the logo plastered on the engine cover. I have not seen one that did not, but this is not to say that it is impossible. I just have not seen one yet.

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Hi Baraza,

I always look forward to reading your articles even though I do not have a car yet. However, I’m planning to buy one in January and I needed you advice.

There is this car I see, Toyota Lexus/Altezza salon. I have not seen many on our roads, though, but I admire its aesthetics and I’m planning to acquire one.

Please advise me on its performance, engine size, handling, fuel consumption, speed, and spare parts availability. Your advice will be much appreciated.

First off, there is no such thing as a Toyota Lexus. Those are two different brands under the same umbrella. You either have a Toyota or you have a Lexus.

The car you are referring to is the Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS 200. Although you claim not to have seen many on our roads, believe me they are there, and in increasing numbers.

Answering your queries in order of presentation: damn-near excellent (in the 3 Series league, possibly faster); it is a 2.0 litre (the IS 250 that is strictly USDM is a 2.5); the handling is sublime, courtesy of the rear drive chassis; fuel consumption is passable under normal driving conditions, but it gets a bit thirsty when pushed; it is fast with good acceleration (clocks 100 km/h in less than 9 seconds); I am not too sure about spares but take heart in the fact that, with increasing numbers, their availability will improve.

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Hi Baraza,

I am interested in purchasing a Mitsubishi Pajero. I have already identified one, a 1998 Inter-cooler Turbo which looks fairly good and is going for Sh700,000. What do you think, is the price fair? How come a Toyota Landcruiser of the same age goes for almost double this price?

For a Pajero of this age and make, what mechanical problems are likely to plague it? Are spare parts available and is it a guzzler?

Robert

The biggest issue would be poor diesel combustion accompanied by a lack of power, so check for a smoky exhaust.

A good service/overhaul should put it back in order. Also, take it to a specialist to have the turbo looked at since most people do not know how to maintain turbodiesel cars.

It is not what you would call a guzzler, given its size and class. The price seems a bit optimistic but a thorough check should reveal whether or not you are going to pay more when fixing it.

Toyota SUVs are generally expensive to begin with, and their reputation for hardiness and reliability means they will not lose value fast.

I know of Landcruisers from the late 1990s that still have an asking price well north of Sh2.5 million.

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Dear Baraza,

I have two issues I need your wise counsel on:

1. We own a Toyota Noah 2000 model, 2184 cc, diesel. The car’s timing belt broke about four weeks ago. We got a mechanic to fix it and that is when the woes started. At first, he could not get the part and had to have it imported. Later the sleeves and pistons had to be replaced. The car is now working but it is smoking like a jiko, has a hard start, and shakes when idling. What could the mechanic have done wrong and how can we correct this? Is it worth it to continue fixing this engine or should we jut buy a new one? The mechanic reckons that the smoking will go away after three days.

2. If options run out for us, we are thinking of getting a new car but would like your advice on imports from Britain as compared to Japan. What would you recommend for a family of four? We would like a small 4×4 that can go to shags and also do local running in town. I had thought of a Land Rover Freelander but have no idea how the car performs. Your advice will be highly appreciated.

The smoking means a lot of things could be wrong. The valve seals, the piston rings, or even the entire cylinder head could be leaking. The hard start could be caused by faulty electricals or poor fuel delivery, and the shaking during idle means that one or more of your spark plugs could be giving up. That also ties in with the hard start.

It might be easier to just get a new engine, especially nowadays when a new one costs as little as Sh30,000 (expect to pay up to Sh70,000 for your Noah engine, but it will be a good investment in the long run). And next time, go to a proper garage that has a reputation to stake if they ruin your car.

The Freelander is good, but get a late model first-generation car, preferably diesel. The very first Freelander cars off the assembly line had a litany of problems that you do not want to deal with, believe me.

Or you could try the Nissan X-Trail, also in diesel, although even the petrol is not so bad. Avoid automatic for the X-Trail if you can. RAV4s are expensive and a touch thirstier than the X-Trail, while the iO is delicate and wobbly on the highway.

I have not visited the import scene that much to make a declaration which is better between Britain and Japan, but, as a personal preference, I would go Jap.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Toyota Premio D4 manufactured in 2000. The body of the car and the mechanicals are as good as new.

However, while idling, the rev sometimes just shoots up even to 2000 without any obvious cause, hence seriously increasing fuel consumption. The interesting thing is that on some days it returns to normal by itself.

My mechanic appears lost on this. I have replaced the whole throttle body, including the sensors, but there is still no change. One mechanic thought there is a damaged pipe that sucks in air but he cannot say which one. I have tried a number of reputable garages but none can tell where the problem lies, but they insist there is a sensor somewhere with a problem.

Kindly let me know if there is a mechanic who can sort it out even if privately. I know D4 engines have issues but I believe there must be a way out.

Remove the IAC (idle air control) valve and clean it then put it back. Disconnect the battery for about five minutes to try and flush the ECU memory (if possible), but first try and use a scan tool (OBD II device).

Other causes can include: vacuum leaks, a build-up of contaminates obstructing movement of the IAC valve, a sticking or binding EGR valve or throttle linkage, an improperly adjusted or a sticking throttle position sensor, AC leakage from the alternator into the electrical system, fuel injector leakage, the evaporative control system, positive crankcase ventilation system, air leaks into the intake system, exhaust system leaks or a restriction, a contaminated oxygen sensor or an erratic sensor signal, and other related sensors.

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Hi Baraza

I would like to invest in the matatu business here in Kenya but I do not know which bus to choose. I want a 51-seater, either Isuzu FRR, Nissan MKB 210, or Mitsubishi. I am looking at durability, fuel economy, and ease of maintenance.

I have heard from a number of people that Isuzu is durable and easy to maintain while the Nissan is not that durable.

I also do not understand why the Isuzu FRR has a bigger engine (8200cc) than the Nissan MK210 (6900cc), yet the two vehicles yield the same horse power.

Does the Isuzu consume more fuel due to the bigger engine? Also, why is FH the most popular and fastest selling truck in Kenya?

Mwangi.

The MKB 210 is turbocharged and intercooled, that is why it yields almost the same power as the FRR (180 hp vs 187). The FH is popular due to its power (more than both MKB and FRR, at about 215 hp) and durability (the vehicle is quite hardy).

I am not sure about their fuel consumption yet, I will check with some industry players and get back to you.

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Hi,

I have a few questions concerning my Lexus RX330.

First, how can I change the language settings on the DVD screen, and where is the control DVD located?

The other problem is that when I attain speeds of between 60 to 80 kph, it vibrates, but when I stop accelerating it stops. I have tried all manner of wheel balancing and alignment but in vain.

Lastly, is there a DVD with Kenyan maps and can it work in my car? I hear something about PAL and NTSC, but I’m not familiar with these. Please help.

A tuning outfit called Auto Art says they can do Japanese-English translations for those telematics systems. Find them and ask. I do not know where the control DVD is located (or what it is, for that matter).

The vibrating could be caused by worn out engine or transmission mounts. Lexus were known to have installed active engine mounts on some cars (these mounts vibrate at the same frequency but half a wavelength out of sync with the engine vibration itself to cancel out the engine vibrations, which is why Lexus cars are so smooth).

I do not know who has the DVD with Kenyan maps, but I have seen cars with Nairobi sat-nav, and CMC boast that their Discovery 4 has a Kenyan road map sat-nav that includes game parks.

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Dear Baraza,

I live in the UK and read your article touching on V-Power fuel and I just wanted to make a comment.

I use a B6 VW Passat diesel and was recently introduced to V-Power diesel by Shell.

This is what I noticed: V-Power diesel is made from a different base stock. Instead of being refined from crude, a percentage will consist of liquified gas and is meant to be a “purer” fuel with cleaner burning. Whether it is worth the price premium is a point for endless discussion.

For what it is worth, I have tried every type of diesel fuel here (BP Ultimate Diesel, Total Excelium) plus a range of additives, and none has made any measurable, repeatable difference in performance or economy. All diesel fuel on sale from reputable UK forecourts meets or exceeds the EN590 standard that car manufacturers specify.

Musau.

Thank you Musau. When V-Power was first introduced back here in the motherland, Shell were careful to point out that it will not turn your Corolla estate into a Ferrari (in spite of using images of Ferrari cars to popularise the fuel).

It is more of a cleaning agent than a high-power output fuel. With the increased octane rating, it can be used in performance cars with high compression engines.

It will not, repeat NOT, increase the performance of your car or the fuel economy, but it will clean the engine of deposits in and around the combustion chamber.

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Hi Baraza,

I have a Subaru Forester 2003 Turbo. The turbo makes a whining sound at 5,000rpm while the boost has a slight delay. The sound can be heard from the cockpit. I have checked all the hoses. Is the turbo going? I am using V-Power and fully synthetic oil (Quartz 9000).

The car could be suffering from boost leak, which means that somewhere in the turbo or intake, there is an area where the air (boost) is escaping.

Typically, a boost leak is caused by a loose or bad seal or cracked housing. When there is a boost leak, the turbo will be able to generate boost, but it may not be able to hold it at a constant level, and pressure will drop off proportionally to the size of the leak.

The funny whining noise is a cyclic noise caused by unstable compressor operating conditions known as compressor surge.

This aerodynamic instability is the most noticeable during a rapid lift of the throttle following operation at full boost, which it may have in your case since you talk of running at 5,000rpm.

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Hi,

I have this car that I call an animal because I was driving on a highway and did not realise that I was doing 160km/h. It is an 1800cc Fielder S. Kindly advise on the most fuel-economic speed on highways.

I also wish to know whether switching the lever to neutral and back in attempt to save fuel, in an auto, can cause damage to the gearbox. Thanks.

The most economical speed depends mostly on engine capacity, but it lies between 90 km/h for small-engine cars and about 125–130 km/h for cars with large engines (3.5 litre plus). Shave off about 20 km/h each for diesel powered cars. You, however, need to have your windows shut and keep a steady throttle foot.

I had done an article on driving in neutral and declared it redundant in the face of current technology.

You are better off leaving the car in gear and getting off the throttle completely when going downhill.

Driving in neutral does not damage the gearbox but there is a big risk of you getting the shift wrong, like if you accidentally bump the lever up into R instead of down into D.

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Hi JM,

Your recent comments on the value of spacers needs a reply. The level of ground clearance of a vehicle when loaded is a vital and too-often-ignored factor when making a purchase. Many imported vehicles have soft suspensions and, even with small loads, cannot negotiate the ill-designed speed bumps without making contact.

While spacers may reduce the visual appearance of your favourite vehicle, it may be better for you to get something more practical for everyday use.

During the days of the 305, 404, and 504, the Peugeot factory spent a day every three or four months making these models for the African market with over 100 modifications, which included stiffer springs and increased ground clearance, and the 305 I owned never grounded when loaded.

The rules on importation of cars should be changed to include an established minimum ground clearance when loaded with the recommended load.

Muckle.

Thank you so much, Muckle. I did discuss tropicalisation and the import market in my first two articles of 2011, but, as has become the norm, accusations of being on the payroll of some local franchise flew left and right. It is difficult to help people when they do not want to be helped.

That was the beauty of the Peugeot cars of yore: they were built to a standard and the local driving conditions were taken into consideration.

If it was up to me, I would turn the import market into a forbidding venture for all but the most determined. It is time to get people back into proper cars and have them stop complaining about ruined suspensions, incompatible fuel systems, and other such problems.

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Dear Sir/Madam,

Recently, I came across an article on toxic cars from Japan. It seems that following the last nuclear disaster in Japan, unscrupulous used-car dealers and exporters are playing around with re-registration papers and processes in order to sell and export cars that are unsuitable for use, cars condemned by the Japanese government as having too high a radiation reading, hence unfit for use.

I do believe our “tough” business men and women will find a way of exporting these condemned units to unsuspecting consumers in Kenya and wherever RHD cars are used. If I recall correctly, after the Chernobyl nuclear fall-out, some pints of condemned milk did find their way into the local market.

Daniel.

Dear Sir/Madam? Seriously? I do not want to sound like a pompous, narcissistic, self-centred person here, but did you not see that the picture in the paper was that of a man?

That aside, you seem to be on to something here. If our government was serious, they would acquire a set of Geiger-Muller tubes and deploy them at the port to intercept any radioactive material that would otherwise be passed to the mwananchi.

Posted on

Car clinic: expert answers to your motoring woes

I’m in the process of acquiring a used car. I have realised that I can get a nice Mitsubishi, Mazda or Subaru for about Sh400,000, but the same quality of Toyota costs almost Sh600,000.

However, I’ve been advised that these cheaper cars have serious problems when it comes to spare parts, and that they consume a lot of fuel even when their engines have low ratings.

I have had two Toyotas in the past and though their spare parts are easily available and cheap, one often runs the risk of buying fakes, which raises the cost of maintaining the car.

I have especially fallen for the Mitsubishi, either Lancer, Cedia or Galant. I will use the car to go to work daily, a round trip of about 32 km on a rough road. What’s the truth about the availability and cost of their spares as well as fuel consumption?

Njeru.

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Hello Njeru,

I keep saying over and over that though some cars consume more fuel than others generally, the biggest deciding factor is one’s own driving style. The spares cannot stay rare forever, especially given the abundance of Cedia/Lancer cars on the road.

As for fakes, I cannot risk giving you a definite answer right now without proper research; I might be forced to eat my words tomorrow.

I am yet to see a small Japanese car grounded on account of spares. The problem is usually money (or the lack thereof) on the owner’s part.

The spares themselves may cost more than equivalent Toyota parts, but if you take good care of your car, what you will need to replace are universal sundries like brakes, tyres, wipers and other small things, which means it will cost no more to maintain a Lancer/Cedia than it would a Toyota.

And, no, these cars are not thirsty, at all. In fact you could drive them as carelessly as you wanted and you still would not feel the pinch felt by someone running a petrol engine SUV.

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Dear Mr Baraza,

I have a Toyota Vista saloon with a 1800cc VVT-i engine whose steering wheel shakes when speeding at 140km/h. What could be causing this?

I’m selling this car and going for a bigger one. My options are Mercedes Benz 2010 E300CDi, 2004 S320CDi or 2004 BMW 520i.

My main concern is fuel consumption and maintenance costs. I’m told that diesel engines, especially for the S320CDi model, may not be compatible with our kind of diesel and such cars are made for European countries, yet I see them on our roads.

Kindly advise.

David Malonza

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Hello Malonza,

The steering shaking at 140 km/h could be due to bad alignment or unbalanced wheels, especially at the front.

I did not experience that kind of thing with the Vista I wrote about (and that was one Vista I drove quite extensively).

Just wondering: did you mean the E300 CGI by any chance, because I doubt there is a 2010 300 CDI. I know of an E320 CDI.

One is petrol-powered (the former-CGI), the other one (the latter) diesel. If you can afford a 2010 E-Class Benz, why would you want to plump for a 2004 5-Series, instead of a 2009 or 2010?

Anyway, that is not for me to judge. What I would advise you is this: step carefully around Mercedes cars, especially those with diesel power.

And BMW cars have far superior dynamic abilities. For sheer pose-worthiness, go for the S320 (if you can avoid the diesel, even better).

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Hello Baraza,

As a WRX owner, it was of interest to find out that you would prefer the Evo to the WRX, even with the Evo’s limitations. Is it that the WRX has more serious limitations than the Evo?

Muriithi

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Hello Muriithi,

Fear not, one man’s meat and all that. Actually the Impreza STi has consistently beaten the Evolution in terms of torque and outright performance (especially in-gear acceleration), but I would still go for the Evo because all those computers (AYC, ACD, AWC and so on) make the car handle sharply and zero-counter driving is easy (four wheel drifting).

But with the two latest models (Evo X vs 2010 Impreza), I think the Evo finally outdoes the Soob in everything. When I finally lay my hands on these two I will definitely let you people know what’s up.

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Dear Baraza,

I am about to buy a car and a German make is my preference for reasons of stability, power and durability. My first option (within my range of budget) is a VW Golf 2005 model.

My brothers, however, insist that a BMW 318i or a Merc C-200 Kompressor are a better bet since they will cost me about the same to purchase and a VW will be more expensive in the long run in terms of parts, maintenance and consumption.

Apparently, VW parts are mostly only available at CMC. Kindly help me unravel these issues.

Grace.

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What your friends tell you about the spares and CMC might be true but the rest is horse manure. Consumption will depend on how and where you drive, as will maintenance.

Parts will vary, but a little bird once told me that the exhaust system of a 3-Series goes for about Sh300,000, that is Kenya shillings and not Zimbabwean dollars (but I don’t know how true this is). Try and top that with a Golf.

Maybe your brothers just want a prestigious brand of car in the family. An ex-Singapore Benz will cause you nothing but grief, and the 3 has minimal ground clearance.

It is up to you to make the call but the choice in this instance is between the 3 (class leader, outstanding dynamics, excellent performance and BMW reliability) and the VW (another class leader, in the hatchback world, good dynamics and more practical than the other two).

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Hi Baraza,

I’m interested in buying the older model Pajero (the one just before the new one currently in the market).

Would you recommend it? If so, diesel or petrol? How is its consumption? Manual or auto? What other issues do I need to know about?

Henry.

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Hello,

Diesel/Petrol: Depends on where you intend to use it and how deep your pockets are. For exclusive on-road use, the petrol is better, but if you have the finance to keep it running.

If you will venture off-road, the torque offered by the 3.2 diesel is awesome and better than most rivals. Consumption: Stratospheric for the 3.5 litre petrol, and I wonder why they still do not offer a V8.

The diesel is okay, but it is still outclassed by the BMW X5, ML 270 CDI and Landcruiser Prado. Manual/Auto: Depends on how deft you are with your left foot, but I’d choose the manual.

Better performance (marginally), better economy (marginally) and the freedom to choose your own gears.

Any other issues? Yes. The car is outdated by now. And if you intend to go off-road, the body kit will be an inhibiting factor, as will the long rear overhang and long wheelbase.

But it is quite comfortable and very capable on-road. A good used buy.

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Hi Baraza,

I recently bought a Nissan X-Trail, 2007 2.2 Turbo Diesel. The car runs smoothly but it emits a lot of black smoke from the exhaust when trying to pick speed on the highway and has no power when climbing hills.

I tried getting advice from DT Dobie to no avail (this a local vehicle bought from them by the previous owner).

I hear it’s a common problem with the 2.2 Turbo Diesel X-Trails. Please advise on what you think could be the problem.

Really Frustrated X-Trail Owner

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Sorry, Mr Frustrated,

The problem could lie in the quality of diesel being fed to the engine: if it has been corrupted in any way (typically by adding a dash of paraffin), black smoke will be the order of the day for not just the X-trail, but generally any diesel engine.

I’m yet to establish if this problem is endemic to X-Trails, especially the Mark II versions.