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Buy Evoque if you want luxury, and Evo if you want to corner like a rat

Hi,

I drive a Mercedes E240 year 2003 model. Now I want to upgrade to a bigger car. I am thinking of an Audi Q7/Lexus RX/Evoque. I want comfort, luxury, looks, and speed in that order.

I do not expect to go offroad; it just needs to handle potholes and diversions (during road constructions). I live in Kericho and travel to Nairobi and Kisumu twice a month.

Which one would you prefer, and why?

Shah

Hi,

I would buy a Land Rover Discovery with that kind of money and your priorities, but since the Discovery is not on your list, let us just pretend you did not ask me what I would prefer.

Speed: This depends on which engine you have in your car, but I will not even go into details here because:

1. All these cars will top 200 km/h, which I strongly advise against anyway (what for?) and

2. The biggest differences come in acceleration, but again, how many people do you see taking part in a drag race with an Evoque or a Q7 or an RX Lexus? There are SUVs built for that kind of thing (SRT Jeeps, AMG ML Mercs, Porsche Cayenne Turbos, BMW X5M and such).

What is more important is in-gear acceleration, or in pedestrian parlance, overtaking power. The Evoque takes the cake here: With the new nine-speed gearbox (yes, nine) and those clever-clever trick turbos used in both the petrol and diesel versions (plus the Evoque’s lower GVW overall), the Range Rover will go “like a starved rat”, to quote someone.

Luxury goes to the Range Rover. Does it now? The four pillars of luxury are space, light, silence, and comfort. The baby Rangie is quiet (if you drive soberly) and well-lit, especially if you open up the roof: The extended sun-roof opens all the way back, a feat none of these other cars can claim.

Comfort is a 70-30 split affair: The magneto-rheological suspension is optimised more towards handling and response rather than wafting, which is best left to the daddy: The Vogue (also not on your list), but then again, that active suspension does make for a good ride when the going is soft.

Space is where we might have an argument. The Evoque is certainly superior to the Lexus when inside (the spaciousness, whether real or perceived, is certainly not the same), but what of the Q7? It is a bigger car, but do the exterior dimensions reflect on the inside too?

No. The inside of the Q7 may not exactly be a portable toilet — it is actually quite roomy — but some of those interior colours work against that effect. A Q7 with a dark interior feels a bit like being inside a hole, and anybody who has been in a hole will tell you that the roominess of the hole is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Well-built and elegant interior it is, though, one of the best in the world outside of a Bentley. So the Q7 drops back in light and perception of space… and comfort: The ride is a bit hard. Silence also suffers a little (the competition here is very stiff, in the form of a Range Rover and a Lexus, hence the harsh judgement). The Lexus… well, the Lexus is certainly quiet and comfortable, but it is not very roomy, nor is it exceptionally well-lit.

A good car, it is also slain by the same sword that fells the Q7: The third option is just too good. Oh, well….

Looks: This is highly subjective. I have always detested the Q7’s marine appearance (I once called it “The Prince of Whales”), and the Lexus looks really boring and just a little bit aloof, the kind of thing you would expect from someone in IT who earned billions for making an app before they turned 22.

They have not had enough time to fully develop tastes and preferences and priorities and have life experiences like sleeping in jail (or with a streetwalker) but because they are a genius, they come up with something that works really well but lacks sex appeal, passion, and character. It is just there, functional and neat. Exactly like his billion-dollar app. The Evoque, in my eyes, reeks of Victoria Beckham, which in turn brings to mind Victoria’s Secret and I think I need to stop now…. Where is that Discovery?

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

Dear Baraza,

I hope you have been well. I am torn between the following vehicles and I just cannot make up my mind on which to go for. Please advise on which is the better option between the Mitsubishi Evo 10 and the Subaru N14 WRX STi hatchback in terms of performance (both in six-speed manual transmission).

I have owned Subarus and can confirm that getting parts in not a problem. How about the Evo? Will parts be readily available? Also, what reliability issues should I expect from these cars? Finally, which will cope better with enhancements to boost the horses?

Thanks and regards.

Hello Sir,

Thank you for opening Pandora’s Box yet again. The last time I wrote extensively about the two cars — which people mistook for a consumer report based on a comparison even after I had specifically introduced my writing as not consumer advice, I mean, one car was from 1996, the other from 2004 — I almost got murdered by loyalists of The Blue Oval. I guess it is time I sought protection again… or maybe not.

This time I will answer your queries randomly (on purpose). Evo parts may or may not be readily available. This is mostly determined by what exact parts you want and what your idea of “readily available” is: Over-the-counter? A day’s delay? A month’s delay? Or can they be acquired at all? For a performance car (such as the Evo), a little wait for model-specific parts is not unusual.

Modification/tuning/enhancement of horsepower is a common practice in the world dominated by these two cars, but some characters in Japan, whom I follow with keen interest, claim that these two particular vehicles are not easy to tune.

They seem complicated, and they are, but that has not stopped people from tuning them anyway. The response to increased performance will depend on how the enhancement itself is done, but the fact that the Evo — and not the Subaru — is available with 440hp straight from the factory speaks a lot about the drivetrain and chassis’ receptiveness to extra horsepower. It seems to be better adapted to these power upgrades, or so Mitsubishi Motors would want us to believe.

Then again, those same Japanese that I follow pitted a tuned N14 (or N16, whatever) against a tuned R35 Nissan GTR in one of their hardcore showdowns, and not an Evo… this also tells a lot, seeing how an Evo X had dropped out of contention earlier, tournament-style. For now, I will call a draw and say they are both tunable with exceptional results, but only if done properly.

Discussion of reliability is where I will probably get myself killed. I am not saying that Subies are unreliable (twin turbo Subaru engines are unreliable, but the N14 does not have this).

However, from local observation, STis suffer more turbo and engine failures compared to Evos. And they crash more often — a lot, actually. This could boil down to the driver: Maybe Evo owners are more fastidious in car maintenance and are generally better drivers, or maybe, just maybe, Evos are better cars overall, I cannot say for sure (I need to stay alive long enough to provide next week’s Car Clinic, you know), but statistics say this is so.

And now to the can of worms: Performance. There are few rival cars as evenly matched as these two models. Their engines are of the same capacity, they develop similar power and torque (a kilowatt here and Newton-meter there do not make much difference), both use 4WD powertrains and when raced flat out, they will generally invade each other’s privacy in a battle for supremacy… until you get to a corner.

In stock form, the Evo will gracefully make short work of the turn and keep charging until the driver takes his foot off the accelerator. The Subaru will head for the nearest thicket, or tree, or ditch, or whatever obstacle will inflict the most pain and/or embarrassment on the hapless and helpless driver as the vehicle ignores all instructions to change direction and washes its nose wide in a humiliating, tyre-wasting phenomenon called understeer.

This is where the Blue Oval loyalists come out with their pitchforks and torches, so I have to run now. Goodbye!

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

Hello JM,I was pleasantly surprised to read my question to you about the Discovery 2.

Ever since, I have been looking at the Outback, Box Prado, and Toyota Surf (year 2002, 3000TD). I steered clear of the Outback after I found out it does not have protection on its underbelly. Good car all round, though, although on the online forums, there were many complaints. The Box Prado did not have airbags and ABS.

The Surf… many thumbs up online, so I have been taking a second look at it. What is your take on it? I am looking for a comfortable, powerful all-terrain car.

Robert Kyalo.

Hello Kyalo,

Glad I was of help. That is what I go for in this column. Now, the Surf fits the bill of “comfortable, powerful, all-terrain car”.

It is comfortable, at least a lot more comfortable than some SUVs on offer (Land Rover Defender, Toyota Fortuner, to name a few…). It actually feels a bit similar to the Prado, with less body roll on corners and oceanic wallow on undulating surfaces.

It is powerful… in a way, and if the power is not to your liking, it is nothing that a tweak to the turbo (for diesel engines), an addition of an intercooler, or an engine swap will not fix.

And it is all-terrain. It has the full off-road tackling gear: Good ground clearance, 4WD transfer box, low-range gearbox, and locking diffs. It also has airbags and ABS.

The Outback lacks clearance, low range and diff locks (alleviated by use of AWD rather than conventional 4WD), and the Box Prado, which I like very much (70 Series), has no ABS and airbags, as you say (are you very sure about this?) So, Surf it is. Problem solved, if you ask me.

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

Baraza,

With all due respect, you have all your facts wrong on the Toyota Prius. I have, for the third time, read your views on the Hybrid and decided that enough is enough.

You are either misadvised or too ignorant. I have been a driver for the past 26 years and, as you can imagine, have driven quite a number of vehicles, from the Mitsubishi Rosa that was popular on the Eastleigh Route, through to half-gear vehicles, trucks, pick-ups, station wagons, and saloons.

Now, let us get back to the Prius. We Prius lovers feel insulted by your continuous criticism. I have driven a Prius since 2008, when I imported the first-generation NHW11 and I have no regrets whatsoever. I am now driving a 2005 NHW20 and still have the older one.

My sister drives a 2004 NHW20 and I have two friends who drive the same. None has had any problem with the vehicles and their contacts are available, should you wish to clarify anything.

I have yet to drive a used import vehicle of the same capacity that picks and is as fuel-efficient as my Prius and I can challenge you to a drive down to Mombasa (never been more serious) if only to have you set the record straight on the Prius Hybrid (I am willing to fuel both vehicles).

I hope you will be bold enough to publish this and accept my challenge down to the coast. If you will not, please give Prius lovers a break!

Francis

Hello Sir,

I will start off by saying I will give Prius lovers a break, simply because this has been going on for far too long and needs to come to an end.

I also need to clarify a few things, the first being my criticism of the Prius. I have not declared it a mechanical fiend, nor have I called it problematic.

My biggest gripe with this car is that it is over-glorified. It does not live up to its name. Do not believe the hype. You and your friends might drive Prii — I finally confirmed it: Toyota says it is “Prii” and not “Pria” or “Priuses”— with the best of intentions: Saving the planet for capitalists who do not care and who compensate for your good deeds by driving Lamborghinis and pointless SUVs, but that Prius you are so proud of does not save the planet. This much I have repeated several times.

The second problem comes with Prius owners: Self-righteousness. Holier-than-thou.

The salt of the earth, while the rest of us petrolheads are the bane of human existence who should be banished to a world where we will be forced to ride bicycles for the rest of our lives as penitence for taking too much pleasure in big-bore throttle bodies and Stage 2 Supercharger kits.

Owning a Prius was fast-approaching religious fanaticism, the kind of zealotic snobbishness that eventually leads to fundamentalism: “I am right and you are wrong and if you don’t agree with me I have some sticks of dynamite under my shirt that will convince you otherwise”.

Prii are good, but so are other cars. Also, Prii, like other cars, are fallible. The kind of pomp and circumstance that accompanied the vehicle’s entry into this world did nothing but set it up for backlash from the likes of yours truly. If you claim to be a horse, someone will pull down your trousers to confirm it.

The Prius is no horse.

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Mitsubishi FH easily beats Isuzu FRR and UD truck

Dear Baraza,

Thank you for the good work you are doing. Every Wednesday I am very eager to learn new things about the motoring industry.

Now, I am looking forward to buying a medium-size lorry that I can use to transport cement from Athi River to Meru comfortably, doing approximately 10 trips a week. I would like your advice on the choice between a Mistubishi FH, Isuzu FRR, and Nissan Diesel UD (MK 210) on durability, economy, reliability, and maintenance.

Regards,

Gitabu Munene

Hello,

Durability: The FH is the best one here, no doubt about it. Comparatively, the UD is the worst; it does not last very long under hard use, much like the FRR.

Economy: Again the FH wins. It has a 6557cc engine developing some 160-odd horsepower, while the FRR has a giant 8200cc block good for 187hp and the MKB210 makes do with 6997cc and 180hp. The smallest engine putting out the least power; this has to be economical by default, doesn’t it?

However, the Mitsubishi, again, is the oldest one here, dating back to 1996, with the Isuzu and UD making an appearance around the turn of the century or shortly thereafter, so economy will largely boil down to driver skill and tendencies more than outright engine capacity.

Just so you know, the Nissan Diesel (they dropped this name by the way. Nowadays they are simply known as UD Trucks. Even the buses…) has been derided several times for its unimpressive fuel economy and is, thus, considered unprofitable for conversion into a low-capacity passenger bus, the luxury type.

Reliability: Take a guess. Yes, you are right; Mitsubishi’s FH215 truck comes through again. Given that it is the most durable, it is also the most reliable. It is also more basic/less complicated than the other two, meaning there are fewer things that can go wrong with it. The UD suffers more incidents of convalescence compared to the Isuzu.

Maintenance: Ahem… FH. This is determined by the country-wide dealer network that Crater Automobiles sports. CMC outlets are fewer and further between in comparison, which also applies to GM. Also, it is fairly obvious: If durability is excellent and reliability is top-notch, there is no way maintenance is going to be painful, is there?

Greetings,

I would like thank you for your valuable insights into automobile maintenance. As a regular reader of Car Clinic, I must commend you for the time you spend reviewing readers’ concerns, and more importantly, offering the best professional advice.

Your advice has been useful to me and given me new perspectives in vehicle maintenance.

How I wish you would connect me to your network so that I can follow up these features via email or your Facebook page; newspapers are perishable, but the information stands the test of time.

Benson Esuza

Hi Benson,

Thank you for the good word. I try: Not only does it help Kenyans out there (I hope!) but I enjoy the work too, and I take pride in it.

My email and other useable contacts are available on Facebook. Just search for J M Baraza, and you will see a strange name appear. That strange name is my pseudonym on the social network.

I have mentioned before that I am working on a book. This will, hopefully, be done by April. And the good news, if you could call it that, is that there will be two books, not one.

The first will be a bit technical, with useful information for the reader and an in-depth analysis of motoring life and the industry in the country as observed through the years both as the force behind this column, and as a driver/owner of an automobile.

The second will be a bit more personal and will deal with controversy. My apparent dislike for the Prius will feature prominently, as will the imaginary “war” people think I wage against Subaru vehicles and/or their owners. My adventures around the world as a motoring correspondent will be there too, and just for the sake of keeping things interesting, I will also feature the worst article I have ever written for this paper. It should prove to be quite a read.

Hi JM,

Thanks for the information you share in this column. Please compare the BMW 630i Coupé and the Mercedes CLS 350, and then the BMW 730D and the Mercedes S320 in terms of performance, comfort, reliability, durability, and recommendation.

Kindly share any information that can help me make a decision on which car to buy. Assume year 2007 across the board.

Kirera Evans.

Hi Kirera,

That is quite a line-up you have listed. Performance is not very different across the board: None of those vehicles will move any faster than 250 km/h due to factory-fitted speed governors (German regulations). However, the differences arise in acceleration.

Comfort: It is excellent in the 730 and the S320, more so the S Class. It is middling (relatively, it is very good though not as good as) with the CLS and comparatively harsh in the 630 coupé, but again the key word here is “comparatively”. Nobody who owns and drives a 630 will lament about its ride quality.

Durability: Will depend on what you do with the car, but these are all high-end luxury vehicles; they tend not to wither away quickly.
Recommendation?

Depends on what you want from the car. For a sporty, enjoyable driving experience, the 630i will suffice, closely followed by the CLS. The CLS and the two bigger saloons offer more practicality, with the 730 and S320 being most practical.

The 730D will appeal if you also have economy in mind while the S Class dominates with gravitas and sheer presence. The coupés will do you good if you like to stand out and draw attention to yourself.

My personal preference is the CLS: You get the coupé good looks (the CLS is marketed as a “four-door coupé”, which I consider an oxymoron), structural rigidity, and low roof with the seating capacity and practicality of a pukka four-door saloon.

For the 350 V6, economy is not bad either, though the 730D dominates in this area.

Hi Baraza,

Congratulations for the good work you are doing.

I am a hustler who rears chickens for commercial purposes and intend to start a taxi business. I sell eggs in crates as well as scratch cards using a motorbike. But I am finding this hectic, so I want to advance to a small car.

The Jeep Wrangler is the type of a car I am looking for, if I am not wrong. Of course I do not know much about it, that is, its consumption efficiency, availability of spares, whether it can travel on rough roads, especially during the rainy season, and its price, both brand-new and second-hand.

At this point I am not really interested in comfort, but rather, fuel consumption. When I am not selling eggs and scratch cards, I would like to use it as a taxi. Please advise me accordingly. Also, compare this car with a Suzuki Maruti with regard to the above-mentioned aspects.
Bosire Ndege

Hi Bosire,

You are one strange hustler… or your hustler ambitions, at least, are unusual. Before I help you out, I do have a few questions of my own:

1. Where exactly do you intend to conduct this taxi business of yours?

2. You do know what a Jeep Wrangler is, don’t you?

You are not wrong. A Jeep Wrangler is a type of car, but it is not exactly what we would call “small”. It is an off-road vehicle, not unlike the infamous police Mahindras of yore. In fact, those Mahindra Jeeps were direct knock-offs of the original Willys Jeep, of which the Wrangler is a direct descendant.

Thankfully, you do not care about comfort levels because the Jeep you ask about is awful, really awful. It manages to take a stony, jarring ride and then imbues it with wallowy, wobbling, swaying, staggering, and bouncing characteristics.

If you have never been car-sick, this will be the car that initiates you into the experience. The interior is worse than Spartan, it is below basic, and it has no doors, so the outside weather gets in and out at will.

Now that you mention the Maruti, I daresay they share the same qualities, the difference being that the Maruti’s interior is even worse than the Jeep’s, but at least that one has doors, so the climate stays out. So how do the two face off in the traits you are interested in?

1.“Consumption efficiency” (next time just say fuel consumption or fuel efficiency): It is very poor in the Jeep. It has a huge 4.0 V6 engine as the poverty-spec power supply. That engine is archaic and it is mated to a 4-speed manual-plus-overdrive/three-speed automatic with short gears and an even shorter final drive.

This makes the vehicle very, very thirsty, 5km/l or less will be your lot. Hedonists opted for the 4.2, which is even thirstier without being much faster or more powerful than the 4.0.

Apparently, there was also a 2.5 litre engine, but I think this must have only been available in Iran, where this vehicle was assembled unchanged six years after it was updated elsewhere in the world. I am not sure.

The Maruti, in comparison, uses a puny little carb-fed 1.3 litre engine that is very good for “consumption efficiency”, though not as good as other 1.3s because a) the Maruti is a jeep (small “j” for jeep, take note) and b) carburettor. The Maruti is also feather-light. So, while the Jeep will struggle to reach 6 km/l, the Suzuki will happily do twice that.

2. Availability of spares: Difficult for the Jeep unless you have a good Internet connection, an understanding of eBay, and a PayPal account. This is because the Internet is where most of your shopping will be done; not many Jeep Wranglers found their way here, more so because they were almost exclusively LHD for a very long time (RHDs were introduced in the UK around 1998). DT Dobie now sells a modern version, which I am told is good, but I suspect is not actually that good.

Meanwhile, the Maruti has spares everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. There is not a village that lacks at least one Suzuki or its various derivatives. Its rugged simplicity makes it very difficult to break down, and very easy to fix if it ever does, and would you believe it, the things are still on sale! I think it is the cheapest SUV in the market right now.

The last time I checked, a brand-new, zero-mileage unit was going for a million flat. And it is the same car they were selling back in 1988…

3. Travelling rough roads, especially in the rainy season: Both will do the job perfectly (a bit of green-lane skill is necessary, though). Both will make you hate yourself for doing it because both are nasty and punishing to the human body.

The Jeep is slightly worse, because you will get rained on in your discomfort. Remember, it has no doors; there are some that claim to have “doors”. Those are not doors, in my opinion.

4. Pricing: I really do not know the Wrangler’s pricing. As I mentioned earlier, a brand-new Maruti costs around a million. A used one could be bought for next to nothing.

I will conclude with a repeat of my first question: Where exactly do you intend to operate this taxi business? The choice between the vehicles you have given are rather extreme:

These are hardcore off-road machines inappropriate for carrying eggs and/or paying passengers, unless the eggs and passengers live in a remote area, like, say, the top of a tall, rocky mountain…or in the middle of a deep swamp.

Hi,

During a heavy downpour, I got to my car and found a small puddle on the footwell on the driver’s side.

Should I be worried or is it just condensation? The car has had no structural damage and the seals seem to be okay and I see no signs of water leak marks.

AA

Hi,

Condensation will never lead to a puddle, if it is actually a puddle that you saw. Is there a puddle in the passenger footwell as well? I daresay there is definitely a leak somewhere, and a more thorough inspection will lead you to the source thereof.

Focus mostly on the bulkhead, especially the ports through which the various linkages — accelerator, brake and clutch — go through. The door seals could also be the culprit, but this should be apparent as you are driving, unless you normally park in a puddle before leaving your car.

Posted on

If you want a fast car, get yourself a Mercedes C180

Dear Baraza,

Over the years, I have gained a growing interest in German technology and become a fan of their machines. I am torn between buying an Audi A4, a Golf GTI and a Mercedes C180. The never-ending questions arise: fuel consumption, spares and servicing. Which is the best buy between these three options?

I also noticed that the C180 has a “plain” and a “Kompressor” version. What is the difference and does it matter if I want to buy the car? Albert Mwangi

A: The aspects you ask about are broadly similar across the range. Germans are notorious for designing cars shaped like briefcases that are exact copies of each other, irrespective of the logo on the bonnet/grille. Since you mention a Golf GTI and a C180 Mercedes, I am guessing by default the Audi should have an engine size of 2000cc or less, right? Turbo or naturally aspirated? I’ll go with turbo, since the GTI is turbocharged and the Kompressor is supercharged.

This brings us neatly to your second question without answering the first: the difference between the “plain” C180 and the Kompressor version is that the Kompressor is supercharged, while the plain one is, well, plain. No forced induction whatsoever.

This difference matters if you like to get where you are going really quickly and are ready to sacrifice a bit of fuel economy in the process. It also matters if you like overly complicated engines with many extra parts, which increase the likelihood of something very expensive going wrong. I like Kompressors. They are fast and offer seamless power from damn near idle, while turbo cars suffer from lag in most cases. Lag and heat problems.

So, to your original question: the consumption is good (a bit high in the GTI compared with the others), the parts are expensive, and so is servicing, but with proper maintenance, spares and servicing shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

n other words, all three are good buys. The question is whether you want a slightly unsubtle boy racer hatchback (Golf), an anonymous understeering briefcase (A4) or every overpaid Kenyan yuppie’s first automotive acquisition (C180K).

Dear Baraza,

Your column is one of the things that make the paper worth the coins and the time. Keep up the good work.

I drive a Toyota Raum 2006 model (NCZ20), 1490cc. The car is spacious, comfortable and handles very well – much better than other small cars I have driven. However, its fuel consumption of 10km/l seems out of line with my expectation of 15km/l. I have worked it out several times by filling the tank, setting the trip computer, filling the tank again when near-empty then dividing the kilometres by the litres. I consider myself a gentle driver, though I mostly drive in city traffic, and the car is always serviced at Oilibya before exhausting the service interval. Given this information, is the consumption normal or am I expecting too much of the vvti? Muthaura

A: Even though you drive in city traffic, that traffic must be spectacularly awful to push a Raum’s fuel consumption up to 10 km/l. Clearly, something is up.

My main suspicion is that the air cleaner element needs dusting or replacement. It could be clogged, thus suffocating the car and forcing it to burn more fuel in an effort to keep up appearances, appearances being the typical behaviour of a 1.5 litre four. The ECU wouldn’t be caught dead churning out the power of an 1100, now, would it?

Are there any warning lights blinking or glaring within the instrument cluster, especially the “check engine light”; is it on? How often do you use the AC? How much deadweight are you lugging around in your car? Are your tyres filled with air to the correct pressure? All these affect the fuel economy of your car; some in little ways, others majorly.

Hi Baraza,

I recently replaced the brake pads on my Nissan B15 and ever since, they have been screeching when I slow down or stop. My mechanic said it was because the disks were dirty so I had them cleaned but the noise persists. What is the problem? They also vibrate whenever I slow down.

Please help. Dave

A: The brake discs could be warped or the pads were not properly installed. Or maybe it is the pads that are dirty, not the discs.

Dear Baraza,

I have for a long time wanted to get myself a good 4×4 that will handle well and yet still be affordable to maintain. A vehicle that is comfortable but has luggage space. Affordable being that the parts are readily available and the prices reasonable, not prices that would make an ordinary citizen think of taking a soft loan to repair or fix. I admire the Porsche Cayenne, VW Toureg, Audi Q7, Mercedes GL, Jeep, Ford, Land Rover Discovery, basically most of the 4x4s.Please advise me on a good option.Victor

Hi,

None of the cars you list here falls in the affordable segment, going by your definition of affordable.

At least they are all comfortable for the most part, and will tread off the beaten path, though with varying degrees of success. They also offer luggage space, though the Touareg and the Cayenne might not be as good as the GL and Discovery in that respect. You need to specify which Jeep and which Ford you are referring to here.

I have always insisted there is little wrong with a Landcruiser Prado. It is more “affordable” than the vehicles you have listed.

Hello Baraza,

You write well. Very well. You know that. But compliments never hurt.

I am looking for a car that is a cross between a horse and a camel. It needs to have power measured in race horses with the looks to boot, desert camel hardiness enough to carry teens, bags, market shopping and planting maize for grandma.

It also needs to be a 7-seater and high enough not to scrape the large mini hills we call bumps. The price must also not be thoroughbred. What do you suggest? Judy

Hi Judy,

Your email makes for wonderful reading but not much sense. It is very vague and uses terms not commonly found in motoring. Besides, you need to narrow down my search parameters to a few models that you have your eye on. You DO have a few preferences, don’t you?

What you describe is a Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen (G Class, or G Wagon), especially the G500, or one of the AMG-fettled versions. It has “racehorse” power, it looks very fetching, especially with a subtle body kit and black rims, and it is very hardy (it gets military applications with just a few modifications). If it carries several army men and their weapons, teens, bags, groceries and grandma’s corn will not faze it. It is a 7-seater and bumps mean nothing to it.

Unfortunately, the price is thoroughbred. In fact, it costs as much as several thoroughbreds in AMG guise.

Kindly specify how much power you need, what constitutes a good-looking car to you and how far your budget can stretch. A J70 Prado could also fit this description if an engine swap is made, as could a Landcruiser VX, Land Rover Discovery and many others. Get two or three cars you have your eye on and let me help you choose one from there.

Hi Baraza,

You are doing a fabulous job, keep it up!

I am in the process of buying a Toyota Sienta to use as a taxi. I would really appreciate a review of this car and its off-road capabilities. Mwele

I have not driven this car far enough for me to do a comprehensive review but one thing I know is that it is not meant for any off-road adventures. However, it would be good as a taxi: it is economical, reliable, and roomy; and the sliding doors make it ideal for inner city use where outwardly swinging doors make exiting into the street a risk. It is also cheap to buy and repair.

Hi Baraza,

I occasionally read your articles. In one of the 2012articles, you viewed the Scannia monster machines (the P380 and the R440). You mentioned semi-manual transmission ,where cars have both manual and automatic transmissions. Could you please go into details about these cars. I am eager to hear from you. Boniface

Explaining the full workings of a semi-automatic transmission would take up quite a lot of space. Also, it is something I have done before and I’m not quite in the mood of repeating myself, though I sometimes do.

However, all is not lost. I am working on a book, a sort of almanac: a compilation of some select articles I have done over the years, the explanations behind those articles (and some Car Clinic Q& A classics), along with indexed addenda to clarify some things I might have skimped on with details. I will let the world know when this book is available and how to get a copy. You can be sure my demystification of transmission types will form part of the line-up.

Baraza, I am a fan of your Wednesday column and appreciate your efforts to educate us about cars. I have gained a lot, and thanks for that.
Now to business: I want to buy a vehicle and it is left-hand drive. I would like to change it to right-hand drive. Please tell me the dangers involved in changing, if it’s possible, and whether it will have any problems once it is changed? Kane Quntai

A: There are two problems to be faced in this endeavour of yours, the first being how to import the vehicle in the first place. The government will not allow you to bring in a car where the driver sits in the passenger’s seat, unless it is an emergency vehicle. Are you by any chance importing an ambulance or a fire engine?

That means to import the car, you have to switch the control panel to the correct side of the car BEFORE you import it, and therein lies the second problem: it is expensive and extremely difficult to do so, and for some cars, the shape of the firewall (the bulkhead between the engine and the passenger compartment) is heavily dependent on, and greatly limits the positioning of, the steering system, clutch and brake assemblies/linkages. Why not just buy a right-hand drive version of the same car, if available?

Dear Baraza,

Thanks very much for the helpful tips you give us every Wednesday.

Now, a close relative of mine has a Premio Model UA ZZT 240 that developed some engine problem that he is not very sure about but suspects that somebody malicious tampered with the engine even though the car is moving. Mechanics have tried to repair it, to no avail. I’d like to take it from him and replace the whole engine since he has two other cars and is disposing of the Premio “as is”. My problem is that my mechanic told me to ensure I buy an engine complete with gear box (automatic). The mechanic says this will guarantee a good future for the car in terms of maintenance.

Considering cost, I wanted to replace the engine only since the current gear box is okay. Please advise. Philip

A: If the current transmission is okay, just replace the engine; you don’t have to buy a new gearbox. This may sound callous, but from your friend’s perspective, it makes business sense: he is disposing of the vehicle, right? That means the car’s future is not really his concern. It will be out of his hands, won’t it? Selling the car is supposed to recoup some losses, isn’t it? If the gearbox fails later on, let that be someone else’s headache. And if he buys a new gearbox, what does he do with the old one? Selling a second-hand automatic gearbox is not easy, especially given that it is a Toyota one, and Toyotas are notorious for their unfailing reliability. Nobody knocks on my door asking for a Premio gearbox (and that is saying something, considering this is Car Clinic). What are the odds that someone will knock on HIS door?

Hello Baraza,

I want to buy a Hyundai Sonata. Kindly inform me about its pros and cons. Is it better than the Toyota Premio? Let me know the engine capacity, cost of spare parts and their availability in Kenya.Wainaina

Hi,

I was meant to test drive the Hyundai Sonata sometime back but I couldn’t because the sellers did not have a demo unit and putting test mileage on a customer car is not only unbecoming, but also hurts the asking price, thus lowers profits and, therefore, makes shareholders uncomfortable. A butterfly flapping its wings in Indonesia means no road test for me, if you get my drift.

I know it is one hell of a good car, better than the Premio, seeing how it is in the Camry’s firing line while the Premio sits one rank lower. Engine capacities vary between 1800 and 2500cc, and spare parts are available at the Hyundai base on Mombasa Road, though I have no idea how much they cost.

Hi there, You know how we, Toyota Country, take it when there’s even a hint of new upstarts getting undeserved credit when put up against the establishment! To even start suggesting that the subject Mitsu has the drop on the establishment is emasculation personified. Auto-sacrilege. Song of the damned. We won’t start debating reliability and retained value at later resale or how much punishment the car will take before flunking out (durability), although we should. Not to mention the number of years the car will last, looking nice and straight with equal care and use.Let it go. Live and let die! Sincerely seething, Kariuki

A: Interesting. Very interesting. You will notice that durability and resale value were NOT some of the criteria the inquisitor desired knowledge of, and so like a wise student who passed his exams at school (or most of them anyway… or some of them), I will not answer a question I wasn’t asked.
However, in terms of reliability (shock!), fuel economy and safety ratings, the Mitsu — as you call it — not only had the drop on the establishment, it was a Quick-Draw McGraw type of standoff and the Toyota found itself lying on the ground with its kneecaps blown off before it even came near its holster.

Next time they will think twice before releasing a half-baked car, though I am using the term half-baked here rather loosely. Rivals are awake and coming, and soon songs of damnation and cries of sacrilege will fill these pages.