Posted on 2 Comments

Does the high mileage on my aging Subaru Legacy signal its demise?

Hi Baraza,

I’m a 25-year-old racing enthusiast and I own an old Subaru Legacy. The mileage on the machine is 390,000kms; could this pose any reliability problems? How soon should I start preparing for the car’s demise?

Bindoz Continue reading Does the high mileage on my aging Subaru Legacy signal its demise?

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BEHIND THE WHEEL: If it is a Forester and has an STI logo on it, walk past the sluggish Legacy

Hi Baraza,

Kindly look into these two matters:

I have noticed quite a number of the dual-exhaust Legacies having their right exhaust broken/missing. Does this imply these models have an inherent body flaw or have the exhaust pieces become hot cakes like Toyota rear-view mirrors?

I currently own a Subaru Impreza and am looking to upgrade to a 2008 model of either a Forester or Legacy.

I am indifferent to turbo or non-turbo models. If price, running and maintenance costs are not a concern to you, which of these two models (turbo vs turbo and/or non-turbo vs non-turbo variants) would you advise me to go for, and why?

I do about 200km weekly and an additional 600km round trip every two months going upcountry.

 

Hi,

I have never really understood what is going on with these Legacy cars because I, too, have noticed the gaping hole in both estate and saloon versions. I don’t think it is the exhaust pipe that is missing, otherwise you’d notice the absence immediately through the sound coming from  the car.

These are my theories: 1. These vehicles might be fitted with single-exit exhaust pipes but the rear bumpers are swapped from vehicles that had dual-exit exhausts. 2. You might be right that the dual-exit exhaust pipes are highly desirable, so maybe the cars were factory-fitted with dual-exit exhausts (and the bumpers to accommodate them) but these pipes were later removed and replaced with single-exit units, leaving the gaping hole on the right. My money is on the second theory.

Forester vs Legacy: It is a smarter choice to go for the Forester due to increased versatility and practicality compared to the Leggy.

Since you don’t mind turbo engines, how about going the whole hog and bagging yourself an STi version? The car looks good, it will still clear small obstacles without scratching the undercarriage, and it will go like stink should a pressing need to go like stink arise.

You could also go for the more discreet Cross Sport turbo version, which, while not as quick as the STi, is still pretty fast. The naturally-aspirated versions are a bit humdrum, but they, too, will not lead to any major regrets. Take your pick; taste takes preference here rather than all-out mechanical advice.

The same cannot be said for the Legacy. It is a bit low, it is not the most comfortable car in its class and it might be the black sheep in Subaru’s performance stable. The naturally aspirated Legacy has felt underpowered for the last two generations, more so with the 2.0 litre engine.

The twin-turbo GT has a knack for knocking when pushed hard and/or suffering turbo failure when owned by people who shouldn’t really own turbocharged Subarus (turbo Subies are meant for one class of people only: performance enthusiasts who should probably know better).

The B-Sport  seems to make a case for itself — it’s not a bad car at all — but if there is a Forester STi on the menu, then please, for the love of this column, walk past the B-Sport.

 

Baraza,

I envy your knowledge of cars; your column is truly informative.

I have an obsession for vintage cars, particularly VW beetles. I plan to get one this year, and to use it as my everyday car. The problem is that I am afraid I might not get one that will not embarrass me by breaking down in the middle of a highway on a busy morning/evening. What would you advise me to look out for?

Which place would you recommend for well-maintained oldies?

Karim Suleiman

 

Beetles are not known for breaking down in the middle of highways. That said, once you buy one, it is not advisable to start driving it immediately; first have a complete systems check to ensure it actually works.

A good place to get well-maintained oldies would be the Internet. Nowadays there are plenty of forums and some of them specialise in particular brands.

Join one, wait patiently for something you like to pop up, then open a line of communication immediately.

 

 

Hi JM,

My comments below got published on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

I did not know that speed stickers were meant for the driver behind. Thank you for the information.

But I still do not understand why we have to have them only on commercial and public service vehicles;  I mean, private vehicles also have speed limits, and if they provide information to a clueless driver following you (foreigner or otherwise) as you said, then they should be on all vehicles.

As for the chevrons,  we should do away with them and instead have high visibility decals (reflective strips), not just at the rear, but also running along the length, height and width of trucks and matatus.

Pick-ups from the UK do not come with these nondescript sheets riveted to their tailgates. Since it snows there and visibility becomes worse than our worst here, how do they achieve visibility? Do we have to, in this time and age, rivet mabatis to our vehicles?

We are so stuck on colonial and pre-colonial vehicular systems that we have near-zero improvements on what we inherited from the British.

Still on this subject of commercial vehicles and PSVs, they are still subjected to annual inspection, ostensibly to ensure their roadworthiness. Yet some of the contraptions we see on our roads with inspection stickers belong to scrap yards. This is a testament to the failure of this exercise, which only serves as a means for the government to collect taxes.

The recent proposal to have all classes of vehicles inspected attracted lots of protests from motorists, but I think it is the way to go.

Let’s establish inspection centres akin to the MoT test in Britain to keep unroadworthy vehicles off our roads.

 

Hello,

Ideally, any country’s roads are supposed to be well built, well maintained and, most importantly, well marked. Besides, anyone intending to drive in a foreign country should have  rudimentary knowledge of its traffic laws.

The road markings and basic education mostly affect what Kenyans call “personal” cars, that is, non-commercial vehicles, the road markings in question being speed limits. More often than not, most roads will have the situational speed limit indicated on signposts by the road.

Road access laws governing tonnage, height, width and speed tend to target commercial vehicles in almost every country, which is why they have the stickers.  While driving, you might notice that the speed allowance on a particular stretch  is 120km/h, but this does not apply to lorries and buses; they are supposed to stick to 80.

Suggesting that we do away with chevrons and replace them with high visibility stickers is redundant: a chevron is supposed to be a high-visibility sticker. I think what you mean is that we need better quality chevrons, unlike what we see on some vehicles.

From your description, commercial vehicles would not have paint jobs; they would just be moving reflective signboards.

When it snows, drivers are required to switch their lights on. Visibility difficulties solved.

You are right, though: we are stuck in colonial times as far as traffic laws are concerned. The 50km/h town driving speed limit  came from the colonial era when cars had drum brakes all round and ABS was non-existent.

The same applies to the 110km/h highway speed limit. The laws might have an effect on speed-related accidents, but they have had no effect on road usage, which I think is our country’s primary problem as far as road carnage goes.

A popular Mombasa bus recently had its face torn off and the vehicle run off the road by a truck whose driver claimed he was asleep. Two other buses suffered a similar fate in the same 72-hour period, and this begged the question: what exactly is the role of the NTSA besides collecting revenue?

They will spend tremendous amounts of energy nabbing drivers doing 55km/h in a 50km  zone and imposing spot fines, but let incompetent — and ultimately lethal — truck drivers by without batting an eyelid.

They will clamp down on PSVs, create an uproar about night travel, seat-belt installation and speed-governor usage; they even go as far as raising hell about paint jobs which, in my opinion, have nothing to do with road accidents, but the real cause of road deaths rumble by unchecked.

How about clamping down on truck drivers with the same zeal and vigor they’ve been pointing their speed guns at the rest of us? We might have stopped killing ourselves due to their stringent laws, but now  truck drivers are killing us.

An MoT-style annual inspection would be a good idea, but how good? Do you still believe in this day and age that unroadworthy vehicles are the cause of accidents? Or will this be yet another avenue for  fleecing drivers?

I insist yet again: our biggest problem is driver indiscipline. A large number of vehicles involved in accidents are actually newish and in top shape… at least before they crashed. Having a vehicle inspected does not remove the lethal variable in the equation: a driver with issues.

Bullies, speed freaks, drunkards and show-offs abound on the roads, and these are far more dangerous than someone driving with a broken tail light.

 

Hi Baraza,

Many thanks for your highly informative column. I own an old model, locally assembled Toyota Corolla NZE, year 2006. Its performance is so good that I want to keep it instead of buying a new one. However, its engine rating is low (1299cc) and it uses manual transmission.

Its maximum speed is 220kph according to the speedometer, which makes me believe it is a high-performance car despite its low engine rating. Once in a while I travel from Mombasa to western Kenya but I have never used it . Kindly enlighten me on the difference between this 1299cc NZE and others that are 1500cc. Keep up the good work.

Mwongera Nick

 

The biggest difference is, of course,  in the engine size: one is 1300cc and the other is 1500cc.

Obviously, the car with the bigger engine is faster and more powerful; however, it might not necessarily be thirstier.

Apart from that, given the traditions of most manufacturers, the car with the bigger engine might more likely be better specced: it might have a better radio, more optional extras such as powered accessories, a better body kit or colour coding, and fancier rims/wheel caps in comparison to its lowlier version.

 

Hello Baraza,

My query concerns the legal requirements for operating a private nine-seater van. I have had several encounters with our esteemed law enforcers and the issues raised have been as varied as the number of encounters.

In some cases, the officer will check the “usual” items: insurance, licence, tyres, etc, as he would in the case of a private saloon vehicle.

However, there have been instances when I have been asked for inspection stickers, “commercial” vehicle insurance and even a speed governor.

I have enquired from senior traffic officers (when I end up at the station), but have not been given uniform answers. And queries to the NTSA through their website have not elicited any response.

Kindly enlighten me on whether the following are mandatory for a private, nine-seater van:

A speed governor

Vehicle inspection sticker

Insurance as a commercial vehicle.

Also, kindly advise if the above requirements would change if I modified it to a seven-seater, like many  SUVs, which do not have any special restrictions.

Please note that the van is a standard Toyota Hiace, customised to seat nine, including the driver.

Patrick.

 

Hello Patrick,

The proliferation of various sub-models, new body types and shapes and the sharing of platforms across model ranges has turned motor vehicle classification into a grey area.

That is why a 4WD double-cab is considered a pick-up (with all its attendant legal requirements such as chevrons), while that exact same vehicle with a canopy over the luggage bay is considered an SUV and is exempt from the commercial vehicle sticker regimen.

As for your vehicle, there is such a thing as guilt by association. That model is widely used as public transport, and/or as a delivery vehicle, so it is a commercial vehicle whether you like it or not. It, therefore, has to go for inspection and requires a commercial vehicle licence.

As for the speed governor, if that vehicle has a PSV sticker anywhere on its body, you need to have a limiter installed. This applies even to vans owned by tour companies and taxi services.

However, yours being a privately owned and operated vehicle, it is exempt from this regulation. Oh, and reducing the number of seats will not help. At all!

Posted on

Evos, STis, Q7s, and why a smaller engine is not always economical

Hi Baraza,

I have a number of questions, but before I begin you must agree that Subarus are miles ahead of Mitsubishis.

Look at this tyranny of machines: Subaru WRS STi may be outdone by the Evo, but the Forester will outdo the Outlander and the Airtrek. So, who is the winner in the ‘majority race’?

Now, to my questions:

 The other day I got a chance to be in a Volkswagen Golf GTI ABT. What fascinated me the most was the top speed, which, if my eyes did not deceive me, is a sweet 300km/h.  What does ABT mean, and what makes it better than a Volkwagen which has none?

 Between the BMW X6 and the Audi Q7, which is the best in terms of fuel consumption, stability at high speeds and resale value?

 When does a car consume more? When on high or low speeds? I asked someone who owns a Subaru Legacy B4 and he told me that at high speeds, he can make 10km/l but  in traffic jams, he can end up with a painful 7km/l.

 Finally, anybody who owns a Toyota Sienta as a family car must HATE his or her family. Sitting in the  far-rear seats feels like sitting in a pan.  No window, no nothing.

PS: I salute those guys who have dared bring the Rolls Royce and Lamborghini to Kenya. Kindly send me a contact if you know any of them ‘cos I really need a lift in one of those machines. I wonder why nobody has given us the Nissan GTR.

Phineus

 

Hello Sir,

If you want to discuss who wins the ‘majority race’ between Subaru and Mitsubishi, I’d like you to first point out a Subaru lorry, a Subaru bus, a Subaru van, a Subaru pick-up and a Subaru SUV. No, the Tribeca is not an SUV because it won’t go off-road, so try again.

Also, point out a Subaru television — yes, Mitsubishi builds electronics too, such as TVs on which you can watch Subarus losing to Mitsubishis.

Any pointers?

I didn’t think so.

The actual battle lies between the WRX STi and the Lancer Evolution. Leave the rest out of the argument for the time being. That said, I may bash on the little STi every now and then, but I believe I have mentioned here more than once that I might be a sucker for the Forester STi.

That may be the only Subaru I’d actively seek to buy: if I was to buy any other, it would be for lack of choice and/or desperation; which is the same thing really.

I know the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s speedometer has 300 scrawled on the exciting side of the scale, but it won’t do 300 — at least not without some major modifications to the engine.

This brings us neatly to the ABT you inquire about: ABT is not a spec level for the Golf; it is a tuning house that fettles German cars. What they do is take a boring briefcase, which is what most German saloon cars look like; then convert this briefcase into a fire-breathing chariot capable of moving at speeds normal people should not be moving at.

One of my neighbours has a Passat sedan with an ABT touch-up. It still looks like a briefcase, but one with bigger tyres and a Roman candle under the bonnet.

On the BMW X6 vs Audi Q7, both are rubbish. Depending on which engine you have opted for, both will guzzle. At least with the X6 you have the option of the X6 xDrive30d, which has a detuned 3.0 litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that can still move the car respectably fast if you so wish and return fair economy figures.

The Q7 comes with a large petrol engine that burns fuel at Arab-pleasing rates, or with a puny diesel engine that needs thrashing to eke out any semblance of motion out of it, so it will still send your money to the Middle East either way.

High speed stability is not bad in either car, but then these are big and heavy vehicles, maybe “high speeds” are not what you should be aiming for in them.

Also, at high speed the fuel evaporates in ways that make the stock price graphs in the Arabian financial index blink green and shoot skywards. Resale value? It will not be so great once the general public reads this.

A car consumes a lot of fuel at speeds below, say, 40-50km/h, consumes the least fuel at speeds between 80km/h and 120km/h, then the consumption goes up again from 120km/h onwards.

At 200km/h, it burns quite a lot of fuel. At 220km/h, it eats fuel in huge lumps. At 250km/h, the Arabs will send you t-shirts and Christmas cards.

There are a lot of caveats involved here though; the biggest ones surrounding engine size, transmission type and traffic conditions. Bigger engines are more economical at slightly higher speeds: for example, the Lamborghini you gush about later in your message is better off at 120 than it is at 80.

Smaller engines thrive at “non-motorised” pace: a 600cc Kei car is better at 70-80km/h than it would be at 120km/h.

Automatic transmissions may not allow short-shifting unless equipped with a manual override or has numerous ratios like the Range Rover’s 9-speed. So at low speed, it will likely be at a very low gear, possibly first or second, which is exactly when Shell and BP start awarding bonuses to employees. You may be better off maintaining 100km/h, give or take 15km/h.

Traffic conditions are fairly obvious: an open road is far better than a clogged one. Stop-start driving triples your fuel consumption as compared to steady-state driving.

These factors may apply in a variety of permutations, along with other variables such as vehicle weight, aerodynamic profile, right-foot flexibility, mechanical condition, and fuel quality, to prove one point I have been saying all along: fuel economy is not an exact science.

This is also why I nowadays refrain from quoting definite consumption figures for readers, because there is no telling what particular Arab-centric circumstances may be at play in a particular driving situation.

I have had people who revert like this: You said you did 25km/l in your stupid Mazda. Why can’t I achieve the same result? That is a difficult question to answer.

Interesting feedback on the Sienta. I will be careful not to get into the back seat of one. If Toyota reads this, then good for them. They will hopefully now install a window at the back of this car.

I may have the contact details of the chap in the green Lamborghini, but sadly for you I will not share them. That is proprietary information to begin with; and anyway, I want to get a lift from him too. The fewer of us lift-begging lowlifes there are banging at his door, the higher the chances of one of us actually getting to sit in that car.

In the course of looking for the man, do look around you in traffic. There are Nissan GTRs around; quite a number, in fact. I’d say there are more GTRs around than there are Lamborghinis. And yes, I have the contact details of some of the GTR owners; and no, I will not be sharing those either.

_______

Greetings Baraza,

I bought a 1993 Toyota Starlet EP82 from my employer after she endured all manner of abuse from five different drivers for seven years.

She has done Mombasa, Loitokitok, Nyahururu, Kakamega, Murang’a, Nyeri, Nakuru, and Kisumu countless times.

She was also once hit from behind by a Mercedes in control of a drunken guy, but the little lady flew and perched herself atop a fence, with her rear wheels stuck to the body.

Her engine still holds and is strong. With four full grown men cramped inside her as she purrs uphill, she overtakes boys like Fielders, Airwaves, and Pajeros like a joke. I bought her because of the price, the fuel consumption and her power.

Recently, however, she started smoking in the morning like crazy! Grey and heavy smoke. She does this in front of other ladies who park overnight next to her, like Vitzs, Honda Fits and Duets, and she is the least remorseful.

Our parking lot slants 40 degrees, and yesterday I let her rest with her nostrils facing downhill towards the fence. I think she wasn’t happy; to get out, you have to reverse, look for space to turn and head to the gate at the top of the hill.

She embarrassed me so badly with her smoking that I needed full lights to see. I could even hear the other ladies nearby (Vitzs, Fits and Duets) choking.

At speeds of 80kph on Thika Road, if I sneak a peak on the rear view mirror I can see her smoking behind my back.

One mechanic told me to do an engine overhaul, another one said I change piston rings, another that I should replace the entire engine, and yet another that my lady is drinking oil, even though I religiously service her on due dates.

Please help save this relationship because, since I don’t smoke myself, I can’t live with her like this, not matter how much I love her.

Finally, I recently drove an Allion, 1800cc, dual VVTi to Loitokitok and back to Nairobi. It was amazing because, on average, he did 23km/l. The Starlet returns 16km/l on the same journey with the same shopping and passengers, yet I thought a bigger engine consumes more. Some of us fear big engines (by big I mean anything beyond 1,490cc).

Godfrey

 

Godfrey, I also once had an EP82 that gave me trouble-free operation until some idiot tampered with the wiring harness linking to the ECU and from there it was one problem after the other: stalling, poor consumption, lack of power… all this against the backdrop of an intermittent now-on-now-off ‘Check Engine’ light.

It was eventually sorted though, and shortly afterwards, the car found a new owner.

I’d like you to fit four grown men in that Starlet then challenge me to a hill-climb drive-off we see if what you say is true. I’ll bring a Pajero, possibly one with a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine (I believe you listed a Pajero as one of your victims), and I’ll be alone in it.

Any readers out there who want to place bets on who reaches the mountain-top first are free to do so, but we split the winnings 50-50. Care to indulge?

Anyway, the smoke: the heavy grey vapours indicate either a blown head gasket (ruptured or cracked), which is letting water into the cylinder; water which is then burnt off as steam; or the vehicle may be burning ATF (automatic transmission fluid), if the vehicle is automatic.

Another cause could be oil and water mixing: either water is getting into the oil and the oil gets burnt, or oil leaks into the coolant, and the coolant in turn is leaking into the cylinders. Either way, that engine needs to be taken apart.

Now, that Allion. First off, it has VVT-i, which the Starlet lacks. That’s a plus.

Then there is the small matter of highway driving. You see, at highway speeds, bigger engines return better economy. It doesn’t apply across the board, I mean, a Bugatti Veyron is not the most economical car at highway speeds, but for motor vehicle engines between, say, 800cc and 2,000cc, at 120km/h the 2.0 litre will be most economical.

Why? Because it requires little effort to attain and maintain that speed. It will definitely have taller gearing, so 120km/h will correspond to roughly 3,000rpm in top gear.

Smaller cars will be revving higher and longer, therefore burning more fuel. The Allion is also more aerodynamic than the little hatch, it has a very pointy nose: so it encounters less resistance at those highway speeds. Less resistance means less engine effort to cut through the air.

Posted on

If you’re looking for a car simply to ferry your bikes, Avensis is fine

Hi Baraza,
Great work in your column. I am an avid cyclist and have been looking for a car that will help me get my bike(s) from point A to point B without having to completely dismantle them.

This would probably mean a roof-mounted bike carrier or an estate car with lots of boot space, with the rear seat up or folded.

I have been considering the Avensis estate but after your review of 30 July, I am growing cold feet. Given that I need the car mostly just to car pool with fellow cyclists while heading for rides, what would you advise?
IKG

How bad was the review of 30 July? I believe my opening statement was “Get the Avensis…”, though I admit I later changed my mind and told my inquisitor to just get a Mark X for reasons completely unrelated to ferrying bicycles.

All you want is to ferry bicycles, right? Looking good at the local eatery or making your neighbours envious is not the priority here, is it?

Nor are RWD dynamics, wheelspin capability, tiptronic-style controlled lock-up automatic transmissions, and V6 power, correct?

I believe I recommended the Mark X for the following reasons: fun to drive, it is bigger, faster, prettier, better specced, and more imposing.

None of these things matter when you are heading to a cycle track for some furious pedalling action, so I would say there is not any black mark against the Avensis here. Get the Avensis.

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Baraza,
I recently bought a Subaru Legacy 2007 wagon. It is a super lovely car, except for the few occasions when I have to use a rough road — which is not often — and experience ground clearance problems.

I have had lots of suggestions, including one that I should have bought an Outback (true, but not really useful advice at this point).

Anyway, between spacers (I have been told they affect stability and could create potential insurance issues), larger wheels (been told this spoils the AWD), and putting up with the occasional knock, what would be the best thing to do?
MN

This is a situation where the ball is more in your court than mine. Of those three options, choose the one that suits you best, though I would opt for spacers as the path that leads to fewest complications.

Provided the increase in loftiness does not border on the ridiculous, you should be safe both from the gremlins of instability and the scrutinising gaze of the insurance agent.

Larger wheels do not necessarily affect the AWD system, unless the wheels are all of different sizes, which, while absurd and unbelievable, some people do.

Those people had hell to pay when the AWD went bonkers on them at the very moment it should have come in handy (this was during the recce of last month’s Murang’a time trial event where one of the hopefuls spun out not once, but twice, during some cornering manoeuvres).

The larger wheels will, however, gear up your transmission, watering down the torque and dialling back the acceleration somewhat. To these options you could add this: avoid rough roads altogether.

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Hello Baraza,
Thanks for your article of 23 July regarding the Evo X and Subaru STI. You did justice by whipping the ignorance out of the Subie fanatics.

I do not know what gets into their heads when they are behind the wheel. Save for noisy exhausts, which Subie drivers mistake for power and speed, the less noisy Evo X beats them hands down, period.

I even gave one such Subie owner a run for his money with my lesser-known Lexus LS460 without turbo, which easily tops 200km/h in less than seven seconds.

Away from that, kindly review the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate and advise whether I can go for it or still go for the 2014 LS460-L.
Regards
JM

Your Lexus might be fast, but I think you are taking liberties with statistics. Zero to 200 km/h in seven seconds? That is Bugatti Veyron territory. Maybe you meant 0-100?

I cannot properly review the Hyundai Equus for two reasons, the obvious one being I have never driven one. The second reason is I do not think it is relevant to this market.

That said, the Lexus LS460-L is the better car overall, seeing how Lexus effectively invented this segment (a pocket-friendly alternative to the German threesome of the Mercedes S Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8).

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Hello Baraza,
God bless you for your informative, educative, and occasionally entertaining articles.

I drive a 2004 Toyota Surf with a 1KZ-TE engine. Due to its age and frequent failures of the turbo system, my mechanic has proposed removing the turbo system, essentially reducing it to a 1KZ-T engine.

Obviously, there will be loss of torque (343 to 295 Nm) and power (96 to 85 kW), but probably a gain in fuel consumption. My question is, what other effect will the removal of the turbo system have on the engine in terms of life, maintenance, etc.

Will the effort be worthwhile or should I continue struggling with a failure-prone turbo system?

Besides the obvious drop in torque and power figures, I do not think there will be any other drastic effect with the removal of the turbo.

The only other downside is directly associated with the reduced strength: the vehicle will be slow, very slow.

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Hello Mr Baraza,
I must start by appreciating the great job you are doing in your column. I read the column religiously and have found it quite helpful. I have two questions:

1. I recently imported a second-hand Toyota Premio 1500cc Petrol Autodrive, which I use to travel from Nairobi to Nyeri and back every week.

Somewhere on the speedometer there is an indication of what I believe is the distance covered per litre of fuel (km/ltr).

There are times when the figure is as high as 21km/l; the highest it has ever been is 21.6km/l. My question is, do these figures really indicate the consumption rate and if so, does it mean my Premio is that fuel-efficient?

2. I come from a remote part of Laikipia County where roads look like the surface of the moon and my Toyota Premio cannot manage such terrain.

I have been planning to get an affordable car which can comfortably manage the off-road terrain. The car I have in mind is the Daihatsu Terios (similar to the ones used by Kenya Power). My questions in this regard are:

1. Is it really a good off-road car?
2. Can one get one with a capacity of around 1500cc?
3. Is it a reliable car and are spares readily available?
Kindly advise me on anything else I need to know about it.
Kariuki S.W.

Greetings,
Yes, the Premio is that efficient. However, there is something you should be careful about: does that readout give the instantaneous economy figure or an average over a certain distance?

Do not be fooled into thinking that 21 km/l is the average consumption unless you have some special skill you use (which is both possible and probable).

In realistic driving conditions (factoring in town driving, acceleration from bumps, and the moonscape terrain close to your destination), anything between 11 km/l and 15 km/l on average is the norm for a Premio, but you could still achieve 21 km/l overall if you are something else.

So, yes, the Premio is that efficient (for a while, depending on what you are doing).

1. Yes.
2. Yes.
3. Yes.

The car is small and cramped inside, is a bit uncomfortable, especially on rough terrain where the ride is very bouncy and jars a little, does not corner properly due to its tall and narrow dimensions, and on the open road, it is badly affected by crosswinds, especially at speeds of 100km/h or more.

The gearing is short, so at those highway speeds, you could add noisiness (boom) from the engine to the battle with the wind on the list of crosses to bear.

The car is small inside because it is small outside, so this makes it nippy and easy to tool around town, squeezing into small spaces, and parking.

The small exterior measurements and well-nigh non-existent overhangs means it will tackle a surprising array of obstacles without grounding itself or even damaging the bodywork. Just steer clear of the versions with a body kit, though, because it completely undoes the benefits I just mentioned.

The short gearing allows it to ascend slopes of extreme severity without having to redline the engine, which is small and could potentially be a handful in the clag unless you mercilessly stomp the accelerator constantly.

This small engine, coupled with the small body, combine to create good fuel economy for what is essentially a pint-sized SUV. Just try not to go beyond 100km/h; you will not like it.

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Hi Barasa,
I am a 30-year-old newly married man with an expectant wife. I am looking for a family car that my wife and I would both be comfortable driving.

My options are the Mazda Demio, Mazda Verisa, Toyota Runx, Toyota Allex, and VW Golf. I have a budget of Sh500,000. Please also advise me whether to import or buy one locally.
Richard

Hi Richard,
Congratulations on your recent nuptials and all the best in married life.

I would normally have recommended a Demio, simply because I drive one, but the Verisa is a more practical car for a family man. The Demio is smaller and, therefore, less practical. So the Demio bows out of the list.

The Runx and the Allex are the same car, the difference is that one model comes with chrome side mirrors and door handles while the other comes with body-colour accoutrements.

That is it. This difference is so trivial that I am not even sure which car is lashed with chrome and which one is not, but the two are just the same car.

When these model was trending not too long ago, they cost quite a tidy sum for a vehicle so puny, so they might not represent the best value for money.

People paid a lot for them. Given Kenyans and their attitudes towards Toyota, depreciation (or the lack thereof) will not make things any better, so for Sh500,000 you will not get a vehicle in as good a condition as a Verisa costing Sh500,000.

The Golf will also not cost Sh500,000. A Golf going for that amount is more likely than not either really old (a mid-90s car) or knackered and in the throes of death. Putting it right is something you and the (new) missus might regret, as parts are costly and the labour prohibitive.

Dealer mark-ups are a manifestation of the personal greed that has afflicted modern society. Some cars are commanding as much as 80 per cent dealer mark-ups, depending on demand and vehicle model. This is the sole reason you should import the vehicle yourself instead of visiting a sales yard.

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Hi Baraza,
I will skip the compliments because I am sure many have already told you that you are doing a good job.

I plan to buy a Mazda Axela (Mazda 3). I have checked online reviews and they are encouraging. The driving experience is said to be excellent.

One thing that keeps popping up, though, is road noise. Mazdas are said to be noisy and even for the Axela, they had to firm up the suspension to reduce the noise.

I know you have driven the Demio and possibly other Mazdas on Kenyan roads. How is the noise? Is it tolerable? Please also comment on the Bose Audio system.

Hello,
Feel free to dish out the compliments; they will be accepted both graciously and gleefully.

This issue about road noise could be specific to some markets. Methinks the road noise people lament about could be tyre roar, which can be reduced by simply pumping up the tyres some more or changing brands.

The road noise could also be wind noise, especially around the A and B pillars, but this is more common in cars with steeply raked windscreens such as SUVs.

I drive a Mazda and nope, I do not experience any untoward noises (unless I am gunning for the red line, in which case the only noise is the induction rasp and sub-tenor howl from the engine bay).

I cannot picture exactly how firming up the suspension reduces road noise, but if they claim it helped, then bully for them. The Mazda 6 I tested two years ago did have a Bose sound system, and it was thumping.

It also had USB capability, Bluetooth, mp3, CD, and… well, it worked. I liked it.

I am not as good at reviewing car radios as I am at reviewing cars themselves, but the setup was easy to fathom, the sound was clean (and loud enough for my taste), and the diversity of playable media means you might have to go back 30 years in time and get an 8-track cartridge before you come across something it will not play.

Posted on

Which is the fairest from the list of Rav4, XTrail, X3, Forester, CRV?

Hello Baraza,
I have previously owned a Toyota AE100 and 110. I now believe it is time for upgrade.

I am looking for a used car that won’t cost more than Sh2m. Though I mostly drive in urban areas, I won’t mind a four-wheel drive (4WD).

I am looking for stability, safety, comfort and manageable fuel cost. Help me make a decision on the following 2007/8 vehicles:

1. Toyota RAV 4: People say this vehicle is not very stable, though spacious.

2. Subaru Forester: I hear it is stable, safe but poor in fuel economy and in design. It is also associated with spoilt kids who are rude on the road. I am a family man and a professional. I wouldn’t like such a label. 

3. Xtrail: My mechanic tells me it is not stable and has a lot of electrical problems. 
4. Honda CRV: I am told it’s very comfortable, spacious, stable, but very poor in fuel economy.

5. BMW X3 (Diesel): I have not heard much about this one.

I would appreciate your objective advice to a confused brother. I suspect you might have previously responded to this kind of questions, but I do not seem to locate any from my library. 
Jack

Hello, Jack
So, in this list of yours, you want to pick a car that comes closest to your demands, right? Let us see…

Toyota RAV4: It is a bit spacious, yes, but it is not necessarily unstable. Those who allege it is so are the type of people who don’t seem to value the brake pedal, so they tend not to use it.

As a result, they take corners at full blast and end up in trouble. While it is not exactly a Jaguar stability-wise, the RAV4 is not a drunk, three-legged giraffe trying to lean on one side either.

Subaru Forester: Yes, it is stable, and yes, it is safe (as safe goes), but the fuel economy will depend on the specific model you opt for. The STi version is not your friend in this respect. The naturally aspirated 2.0 will not pinch any more than its rivals.

The association with spoilt kids is not a far cry, but it is not the Forester’s fault. More often than not, it will be the STi version being driven by a spoilt kid, and not the regular non-noisy naturally-aspirated Cross Sport spec.

But then again, most of these spoilt kids find their way into the Impreza WRX. The Forester STi is for the performance enthusiast, who also wants a bit of common sense in his life. Spoilt kids don’t fall into this category.

X-Trail: The stability issues raised were most likely brought up by those who survived crashing their RAV4s and never learnt from my comment above. It is not as unstable as described.

I have driven an unstable car before (a Land Cruiser Prado J120 5-door) and the X-Trail did not feel like it. The wonky electrics are a thing, though, especially in the automatic transmissions. This was a common problem in the first-generation X-Trail. I don’t know (yet) if it carries over to the 2007/8 car.

Honda CRV: Believe the hype until you reach the part where it says, “poor fuel economy”. Ignore this bit completely.

BMW X3: The choice of the discerning badge whore. No redeeming factors, considering it offers nothing more than the others except a BMW badge, and it costs a lot more. Avoid it if you are not a badge whore.

Safety: The Toyota gets 8.7, the Nissan gets 8.6, the Honda gets 8.8, the Subaru gets 8.1 and the BMW gets 8.4. Please note, these figures are the average scores based on expert and user reviews.

The users awarded the Honda and Subaru very high marks (9.2 apiece), but the experts got those users’ heads out of the clouds with a more worldly reflection not based on ownership and/or affection. The love Subaru owners have for their cars borders on the unnatural.

Comfort: It varies a little. The X3 looks promising but it doesn’t really deliver. The Honda is smooth, but it is not particularly special, nor are the RAV4 and the X-Trail.

Get something with wood and leather interior with all the trimmings available from the options list if you really want to split them on comfort. The Honda may win this, courtesy of its smoothness.

Fuel costs: Of course the diesel X3 wins this, hands down. The rest just flounder around the 9 km/litre mark, give or take, the giving or taking being heavily dependent on environment and style and load during driving. With the exception of the diesel X3, steer clear of anything with a Turbo under the bonnet.

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Hello Baraza,
I salute you for the wonderful insights you offer. I own a Toyota Caldina 2.0L, the latest model, and a full-time 4WD.

When I accelerate, I find the car really heavy, like an old Range rover 4.6 trying to hit a speed of 100 within five seconds. I find it so much slower than the 1.8 Toyota Wish and 1.5 Allion.

I was recently amazed to see how difficult it was to catch up with and overtake a Toyota Belta and Premio, which have smaller engine capacities.

I also find that the rmp indicator goes up to five for the car to swiftly overtake cars with lower engine capacity. My questions, thus, are as follows:

1. Why is it that some smaller engines can pick up speed fast enough to match bigger engines without much struggle (Caldina versus Belta/1.5 Premio)?

2. What indicators are there to check in a car if I want to know how fast it can pick up speed, e.g time it takes to hit a speed of 100km/hour?

3. Which car brands are best in picking up speed fast without revving too much and without screaming/sounding too heavy? Are Toyota’s comparable with Hondas or Nissan or Subaru on this one?

4. Which one is best among Caldina, Nissan Tienna, Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord, and Mazda Premacy in terms of acceleration, comfort, ease of handling, consumption, durability, and reliability on rough grounds?
Samson

Yours is a strange email, I will admit. Anyway, let us clarify something here: Have you heard an old Range Rover 4.6 (I guess this must be the P38A) try to clock 100 km/hour from rest in five seconds?

Of course it won’t make it, but that is what we call a full-bore standing start. From a 4.6 litre Rover V8 engine, it is raucous with it. If your Caldina sounds even remotely like that, you need to discard it.

Also, when you say at 5,000 rmp is when the “go” really comes in, that is not strange at all. It is called top-end power. Wait until you get to about 6,000 rpm then the VVT-i starts working.

Now to your questions: Smaller engines would “pick” faster than larger ones simply because they are generally found in smaller, lighter cars. So, they have less of a load to pull around.

However, I strongly suspect your Caldina is not in good working order if a Belta gets the better of it.

The indicators to check in a car to get a rough idea of how quickly it will get to 100 km/h include forced induction (turbochargers and superchargers) and engine capacity (bigger engines make cars go faster).

However, these are only for rough guesstimates and speculative comparisons. They are not scientific. To get the exact idea of how long a car will take from 0 – 100 km/h, you need the car in question and a bystander with a stopwatch.
The cars that pull hardest with the least amount of noise are of course German, especially the high end models – Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, more so the luxury barges, the S Class, 7 Series and A8, fitted with V8, V12 or W12 (Audi) engines of roughly 5.0 – 6.0 litres.

They will pull like nobody’s business and you won’t even hear them do it. You could throw the Lexus LS460 in there too. It is a taciturn one, this one…

Clearly Toyotas, Nissans and Hondas do not play in this league. A Toyota Corolla will cost what, about Sh3 million or less, brand new. The new S Class Mercedes starts at Sh18 million, and prices go up from there. We are comparing apples to dry leaves here.

Your final question is the least sensible, to be honest. First, you need to specify which model you refer to. Cars like the Subaru Legacy start from the 160hp 1.8 litre naturally aspirated version to the 2.0 turbo STi with almost 300hp (almost twice the power of its stablemate).

Clearly, they won’t “pick” in the same manner. So the Legacy Turbo accelerates hardest, the Teana is most comfortable. Handling is a wrangle between the Honda Accord and the Legacy.

Consumption goes to the Accord (again) as does reliability with which it ties with the Caldina. Durability will depend on how many times you hold these “picking” competitions of yours.

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Greetings JM,

1. On June 16, there was a feature in the DN2, about a man who had driven all the way from Nairobi to Rio de Janeiro. I hope you read it. One word for the man: Respect. Two words for the Toyota Land Cruiser 1997 VX: Enough respect.

Toyota Land Cruisers just do not give up, do they? They are the real giants on the roads; 42,000kms is some serious mileage.Anyway, methinks a Land Rover Defender 110 TDI, the older version, would have done an equally fantastic job.

The new ones with JLR engines have too many electronic controls. I don’t think they were meant to handle seriously tough conditions, but I stand to be corrected.

Also, any Toyota Land Cruiser of the J70 series, preferably a 4.5 litre V8 turbo-diesel, would have been just fine. Could I be wrong? The real giants are really few, and at this juncture, I just ran out of them.

2. There is this 2005 Toyota Prado with a D-4D engine type on automatic transmission. It put us through some really hard time last year.

Apparently, it had a problem with the gearbox, which made its diaphragm (separates the engine from the gearbox) develop serious problems. Eventually, the diaphragm had to be replaced.

It was so hectic, bearing in mind that it was just three months after the vehicle had been purchased. Not even our good old friends at Toyota Kenya could come close to deciphering the problem, let alone find the solution.

Could it have been the gearbox oil level that had gone below minimum and causing all the problem, or was that a manufacturing defect? It was the first time I encountered sucha thing.

3. I wonder, how is the high-pressure direct injection, which I see in Peugeots, different from the VVT-i, EFi or the D-4?
RM

Hello,
1. No, I didn’t see that feature. Despite the fact that I write in DN2, I am not really a fan of newspapers. That was quite a feat the Land Cruiser-driving man achieved.

A small correction though: he didn’t drive “all the way”, did he? There are oceans (or at least one) between here and Rio.

About the Land Rover. The bad reputation surrounding their poor reliability did not start with the latest electronically empowered versions. The old cars are to blame, particularly the early diesel versions. They were terrible.

They did not accelerate at all, they sounded like three extra-hardened tortoise shells being shaken vigorously inside a metallic dustbin. Their cabins were structurally unsound to the point that they let the weather in.

If the said weather was inclement, they rusted rapidly and broke down even more rapidly. Their ruggedness was their one redeeming quality.

Doing 42,000km in one would be a condemnation, not an adventure; but this would of course mean you really complete the 42,000km in the first place.

The petrol engines were a much better option, and I guess these would be the more appropriate choice. Then again, you could always get a Land Cruiser and do the trip worry-free.

The new versions have a lot of electronics, but it’s not the electronics taking the abuse of harsh terrain, is it? It’s the tyres and suspension (and sometimes the bodywork too).

These electronics just make life more bearable in them. Trust me, the new Defenders are just as capable (if not more) than the “Landys” of yore.

2. Diaphragm? Are you talking about the clutch/torque converter by any chance? I cannot tell for sure what would have led to these problems.

3. This is, or rather, these are topics I have covered in detail before. Explaining them calls for a 3,000-word essay, defining and detailing why and how each is completely different from the others.

Posted on

Do Subarus really wear faster than Toyotas? I don’t think so

Hallo Baraza,

I want to purchase my first car and I’m in love with the Subaru Impreza (LA-GG3, 1500cc). Some of my friends are advising me to instead opt for a Toyota 100, 110, G-Touring or Allion, based on the following arguments;

1. The Subaru Impreza 1500cc consumes more fuel than a Toyota of the same engine capacity. The reason being that a Toyota Allion, for example, has a VVT-i engine while Subaru doesn’t. Is this true? If so, does Subaru have a similar offer to Toyota’s VVT-i engine technology?

2. Subaru spare parts are quite expensive compared to Toyota’s. How expensive are they on average? Ten per cent more, for instance? But again I hear Subaru parts wear out less often than Toyotas, thus the maintenance cost balances out. How true is this?

3. Subarus depreciate in value quite fast as compared to Toyotas, thus have a poor resale value. What is the average depreciation rate of a Subaru per year? What makes it lose value that fast compared to a Toyota?

Please advise as I intended to use my car mostly within Nairobi. Over to you.

Sande Stephen.

1. Let those friends of yours conduct a scientific test that specifically proves the Impreza will burn more fuel than a Corolla 100/G-Touring/Allion under the same conditions.

In the course of doing that, let them also say exactly how much more fuel is burnt, and let them also prove that the disparity (if any) in consumption cannot be compensated for by a simple adjustment in driving style and circumstances. While at it, ask them what AVCS means in reference to a Subaru engine, what its function is, what VVT-i means in reference to a Toyota engine and what its function is.

Make sure the answers to these last four questions are not similar in any way. If they are, then they owe you an apology for leading you down the garden path. Some friends, those are.

2. The same technique applies. I cannot quote the prices of these cars’ parts off-the-cuff, and my status as columnist has reached the point where any inquiries will be followed by cries of “Put me in the paper first, then I’ll get you a good deal!”

And anyway, my work is to review cars and offer advise where I can, not provide cataloging services for manufacturers and parts shops. So ask your friends to come up with two similar price lists: one for Toyota and one for Subaru, and compare the listings. And yes, Subaru cars are generally more robust than Toyotas, so they are less likely to break in similar conditions.

3. The question is: which Subaru? From (b) above the opposite would be true: since Subaru cars are less likely to go bang, then it follows they would hold their value longer. That is, unless we are talking turbocharged cars, in which case engine failures are not uncommon. Of particular notoriety is the twin-turbo Legacy GT.

Poor care and/or lack of sufficient knowledge on how to properly operate a turbo engine on the owner/driver’s part is the chief contributor to these failures.

Also, when one buys a turbocharged Subaru, one finds it extremely difficult to drive “sensibly” (for lack of a better word). Hard launches, manic acceleration and extreme cornering manoeuvres tend to be the order of the day, and these tend to wear the car out really fast. So maybe you are right: Subarus may depreciate faster than Toyotas, but this depends on the previous owner’s tendencies.

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Bwana Baraza,

1. I have had an ex-Japan Nissan X-Trail for the last three years. It must be about 11 years old now. As it grows older, something pleasantly surprising is happening; it is using less fuel per kilometre than it used to when it was ‘new’. In the past, I would fill the tank, drive to Naro Moru (about 190 kilometres, five of them off tarmac) and by the time I got back in Nairobi I would have just about a quarter tank to go. The empty tank light would come on at around the 470-kilometre mark.

Of late, I am coming back with slightly above half. I have hit the 560-kilometre mark with the fuel light still off. Might it be because these days I use only V-Power fuel for long journeys?

2. I want to purchase a used Isuzu D-Max or Hilux. Which would you advise me to go for, considering petrol or diesel as well as maintenance costs? It will be used for farming purposes in Naro Moru and regular trips to Nairobi. I hear (these may be rumours) that diesel engines demand prompt service, and that the service parts are more expensive compared to petrols.

I also hate the ‘morning sickness’ they exhibit when cranked in the wee hours. Given that Naro Moru is quite cold at night, the sluggishness might be regular. But I could be wrong.

B Chege.

1. Must be the V-Power. It has better quality additives and a high octane rating which not only cleans various engine parts, but also reduces the risk of knocking. Another cause of “improved” engine operation with time would be “bedding in”; where the various engine components tend to “settle” and assume tight-fitting mating surfaces.

I find this unlikely because the car has been in use for 11 years…  the engine must have bedded in by now, and anyway, with new technology, bedding is becoming less of a factor in engine performance. A third, and very unlikely cause, would be a malfunctioning fuel gauge.

2. You must be referring to the KB300 (that’s the name in South Africa, around here we just call it the DMAX 3.0). In maintenance terms, the petrol engine is cheaper overall, but diesel engines offer better performance — in terms of torque — and economy (both the Hilux and the DMAX have 2.5-litre and 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engines).

The “rumours” are true, diesel engines require careful service, especially now that these two are turbocharged. And they are more expensive — in case of repairs or replacement. That “morning sickness” you describe is because either the driver is not using the glow-plug (it warms the engine block prior to starting), or the glow plug itself is not working properly (or at all).

With these new diesel engines, the glow plug operation is automated, it is not necessary to operate it separately like earlier engines.

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Hi Baraza,

I would like to hear your opinion about the Toyota Mark II Blit; its power, comfort, stability, off-road capabilities, maintenance costs, fuel consumption and spare parts.

SM.

Mark II Blit, eh?

Power: Good, especially the one with the 2.5-litre turbocharged 1JZ-GTE engine.

Comfort: Good. Not excellent, and not shabby either. Just “good”.

Stability: Good also. A bit prone to oversteering, especially due to its propensity for spinning the inside wheel when a corner is taken hard under power.

Off-road: Don’t even go there.

Consumption: Depends. If you keep in mind that you are driving a large vehicle with a 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre 6-cylinder engine, then it is understandable that asking for 12-15kpl might be a bit ambitious. If you expect Premio or Corolla-like economy figures, you will be bitterly disappointed.

Spare Parts: What about the spares?

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Hi Baraza,

I want to buy a small family car and I’m thinking of the Suzuki Alto, 2007 model, 800cc with a manual gearbox and the Toyota Duet, 1,000cc with an automatic box. Both are going for Sh250,000. Advise me accordingly because I’m after :

1. Fuel efficiency

2. Reliability

3. Travelling up-country twice a year

4. Minimal maintenance cost.

God bless you.

David.

A small correction, Sir. These are NOT family cars, unless you are looking for a divorce and for your children to hate you. Or your family consists of three people only, but even then….

1. Fuel efficiency: The 800cc car wins in city driving, but by a small margin (by small I mean really small, given how tiny these cars are to begin with, and how minute their engines are). The 1.0 litre car will fare better on the highway.

2. Reliability: Could go either way. I’d vote for the Suzuki, because the Duet is a re-badged Daihatsu and may not have Toyota’s trademark reliability as part of its DNA.

3. For your own sake, you are better off in any other car except these two (and their ilk of similar size and engine capacity). But since you asked, the Duet is better, because of its “bigger” (more substantial) engine.

4. I seriously doubt if there are any actual differences in maintenance costs in cars this small.

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Hello Baraza,

I am in the process of importing a Mitsubishi Outlander. The car has a number of accessories, though I can only figure out two of them (the ABS and PS (which I presume is Power Steering). Kindly assist in interpreting the following: ABS, AC, AW, FOG, NV, PS, PW and WAB.

Samuel.

ABS: Anti-Blockier System, better known as Anti-Lock Brakes. It is a vehicle safety system that allows the maximum braking effort without locking the wheels and/or skidding. It applies the principles of cadence braking (on-and-off braking technique, such as you might see drivers of heavy commercial vehicles applying) and threshold braking (applying braking effort until the point just when the tyres begin to lock up).

AC: Air-Conditioning. Keeps you cool when the world outside your car is sweating.

AW: Given the make and type of car, I think AW in this case means All-Wheel Drive. Other possible meanings could be “Auxiliary Winding (voltage regulation)”, “Anti-Wear (hydraulic oil, additives)”, “Anchor Winch (for off road vehicles especially)”, or even “All Weather”

FOG: Fog lamps present. I think.

NV: No idea. I know NVH stands for Noise, Vibrations and Harshness. However, these are not car accessories but characteristics directly linked to a car’s construction

PS: Power steering. A more common acronym would be PAS: Power-Assisted Steering

PW: Power Windows. Electrically controlled.

WAB: No idea either. The best I can come up with is “Wheelchair Accessible Bus (?)”

**********

Hi Baraza,

I have a question about my recently imported 2006 ex-Japan VW Passat fitted with V5 engine:

1. The car has a 2324cc, five-cylinder petrol straight engine and is a station wagon. Is it common on our roads?

2. I do 40 kilometres daily to and from work and, gauging from the amount of fuel I use, I do about 7.8kpl and spend Sh3,000 from Monday to Friday (on Sh117/litre). I am a very careful driver, is this fuel consumption normal?

3. At some point the Check Engine light came on and upon taking it for diagnostics, the errors were cleared and the light went off. The mechanic said it was due to a previous engine service interval. After two weeks, the same light came on again, this time the mechanic blamed it on Unleaded Super petrol and recommended I use V-Power. Do I really need to be using the more expensive V-Power?

4. The engine used to whine a bit, especially in the morning and evening. The same mechanic told me the power steering pump was damaged and needed replacement. He, however, refilled the power steering fluid and the whining sound is now gone. Do I still need to replace the pump?. A second-hand unit will cost me around Sh23,000 while a new one is going for Sh52,000.

5. Is this car a good buy, considering the expenses? I imported it in April this year and it has clocked 81,000 kilometres on the odometre.

I will appreciate you feedback.

Mwangi.

1. I agree with you: I don’t think this car is very common. I think I have seen no more than three B6 Passat estate cars here in Nairobi. Then the V5 engine is also not a popular import option, and it was not sold by CMC.

2. How bad is the traffic on your road? The figure seems realistic to me, especially given the car has a 2.3 litre engine… with five cylinders (sporty).

3. What error codes did you get when the diagnosis was done? And if the octane rating of the fuel you were using was not ideal, then V-Power should have cured it. One other thing. Some petrol stations would “claim” to be selling Unleaded Premium but instead they peddle some swill that would only be fit for motorbikes and chain saws.

If you understand octane ratings, check out the results of the test done on some “super” petrol that was anonymously acquired from a local fuel forecourt (the company’s identity has been retained until further investigations). Tell me what that octane rating is worth. Clearly not Premium as recommended by manufacturers.

There are reports of other dealers selling water and subsequently ruining people’s engines in the process. You may be a victim of this. More to come soon.

4. If the power steering pump was actually damaged, then yes, you need to replace it. If it was not damaged — the whining was just a result of the whirring of a hydraulic fluid pump spooling with no hydraulic fluid to pump — then a replacement is not necessary… especially given the figures you are quoting.

5. I would say the car is not a bad one. Volkswagen make good cars, the B6 is a looker, wonderful to drive (I am sure that 2.3 litre V5 engine is a hoot) and the estate version must surely be more versatile than the sedan. the trick is to find someone (a garage) who will maintain it well for you.

Posted on

The good, the bad and the ugly of Subaru Outback

Hi Baraza,

Many thanks for your ever incisive feature on motoring — one main reason I look forward to getting Wednesday’s paper.

I am contemplating buying a Subaru Outback and have a million questions for you. Please bear with me:

1. What is the difference between Subaru Outback 2.5i 4wd and 3.0R? I also came across a “bigger” Outback (pardon my crude description) version (is it AWD) compared to what I think are the “imported” version?

2. How does it compare with Subaru Legacy?

3. Do we have manual Outbacks in Kenya? I am into manuals but a quick search reveals that they are not so common.

4. What are their price ranges?

5. Would you recommend this Outback model? I drive about 20km to 40km daily to and from work with an occasional drive to my village in Kisii (the road is not bad save for a few kilometres of an all-weather road, which is accessible using any vehicle, anyway).

6. How would you rate their consumption?

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Kind regards,

KM

Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. After all, it is my job to try and find the answers.

1. The most obvious difference is in engine size and configuration. The 2.5i has a 4-cylinder SOHC (Single Overhead Cam) engine developing 175hp. The 3.0R has a 243hp, DOHC (Dual Overhead Cam) 6-cylinder engine. Other differences come with spec levels: things like availability of leather, choice of colours, in-car entertainment, number of sunroofs, and such. The 3.0R is superior in this respect.

The specs I have given are for the BP-type (2003-2009) model, and with good reason. When you say you have encountered a “bigger” Outback, I strongly suspect what you saw was the current post-2009 car.

And you are right; that thing is HUGE. I have placed one next to a Subaru Tribeca and it is actually larger than the Tribeca, which in hierarchy terms sits at the apex of the Subaru model range pyramid. And yes, it has AWD, just like all the other Outbacks, the “imported” ones included.

2. It is actually based on the Legacy. Early in its life it was actually called the Subaru Legacy Outback, and that is because essentially it is a Legacy on stilts with the added bonus of a bigger engine. So it will go further off-road (ability is still a bit limited, though) and pull a bigger load than a regular Legacy.

3. I have also not seen an Outback with a manual gearbox, but they are there. The current “huge” model can be had with a six-speed manual (Subaru Kenya should help you out on this) while the outgoing “smaller” BP-type vehicle had an option of a five-speed manual.

4. The big one should cost about Sh6 million or thereabouts, while a 2005/2006 BP-body Outback hovers around the Sh1.6 and Sh1.7 million mark, with an observed low of Sh1.5 million and a rather stratospheric Sh1.95 million for a 2005 vehicle from Garden Motors.

5. Why not? If you can handle the higher fuel consumption compared to a standard Legacy, I do not see why not, but I usually tell my readers to buy vehicles that they actually need rather than want. The Outback is a lifestyle vehicle used by trendy young groups or families with a full weekend timetable, mostly where the roads are not all-tarmac. And it serves the purpose. Do not buy one if you do not plan to leave the city in it.

6. Speaking of consumption, it is a bit high if you are used to cars with engines smaller than 2000cc, but given what it is, it is forgivable. The big 3.6 is the thirstiest, averaging 7km/l with mixed use, so expect 8km/l-9km/l for the 3.0 and maybe as high as 11km/l for the 2.5.

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The Benz Wagen will go where no Audi Q7 would dare

Hello Baraza,

I drive a Mercedes Benz G Wagen while my husband drives an Audi Q7. We will be in Iten for six weeks, during which I will have to drive 12 kilometres off road every morning down and up the Kerio Valley as I trail him on his running track.

I would like your opinion on which of the two cars to use. I understand that the G Wagen is quite hardcore, but his coach says the Q7 is built on the same platform as his VW Touareg, which also works quite well off road. Could I use the Q7 and save my G Wagen the torture?

Ruthel Owano

Before I answer your question, there are two things I must make clear:

1. How sorry I am for responding to your mail as late as this, but my schedule has been unpredictable for the most part over the past two weeks.

2. How jealous I am of the choices you have to make (some of us have to decide on a bus that is slower but Sh10 cheaper or a faster but more expensive one).

Anyway, addressing your question, how bad is the track that your hubby runs on? My guess is, it is pretty tractable at best and very narrow at worst. This favours the G Wagen. If it is a lunar landscape that your man runs through, again the G Wagen is better suited for it because, compared to a Touareg and/or Q7, the G Wagen’s abilities are superior.

The mister’s coach may drive a Touareg, but let him know his Touareg will never beat a G Wagen when the going gets military.

Also, he was right; the Q7 does share a platform with the Touareg (and the Porsche Cayenne also), but while the Porsche and VW are compact and comparatively light (the key word here is comparatively), the Q7 is a lumbering whale, large on sheer pork and length of wheel base (these two are enemies of motor vehicle dynamics) but short of pulling power (the 3.0 diesel is the sensible car to buy, but the power it develops struggles with all that body weight.

Petrol versions are extremely thirsty, so just look away). However, the Q7 is more comfortable than the Mercedes.

Torture, you say? Thrash the Gelandewagen, and spare the Audi.

Dear Baraza

I have a Range Rover Sporthouse that has a problem with height adjustment. It has fallen on one side and even when I manage to raise it, it does not stay on the same level with the rest of the car. What do you think the problem could be?

Maggie

Your suspension has collapsed, or is leaking. Either way, replace it. It will cost you a tidy sum, but hey, this was to be expected; it is a Range Rover, after all, a luxury SUV. Huge bills come with the territory.

And, just a word: please use the correct names when referring to a vehicle. What is a “Range Rover Sporthouse?” I think you mean “Sport HSE”.

Dear Baraza,
I am a retired MD of a major franchise holder in Kenya. I know a bit about vehicles but I am fascinated by your knowledge of older vehicles, such as the ones I drove in the 1960s.

I have retired to a hi-altitude area with rough roads that require 4WDs and for the past 15 years have had diesels — Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota Surf, Nissan Patrol, and Toyota Rav 4. All have done well until overhauls were necessary, after which all have been big trouble.

My question is: Can one buy a new or used vehicle with an air-cooled engine today? The old VW Beetle with 15-inch wheels and rear engine layout was excellent and lasted years. It also negotiated tracks in the wilderness where no other vehicle had ever been at the time.

Peter Barnesi.

You could buy a used vehicle with an air-cooled engine, but not a new one. And you cannot import one either (thanks to an eight-year rule by the government).

The last cars to run air-cooled engines were the VW Type 1 (after a very long production run that lasted up to 2003) and the Porsche 911 (1993 model, went out of production in 1998). Anything else that ran or still runs an air-cooled engine after that is not worth buying, unless it is a motorcycle.

It is still unclear why nobody continues with air-cooled engines, but my guess would be that it is because engines are increasing in complexity, with accessories taking up space that would otherwise be used for channelling air around the cooling fins.

Also, with a water-cooled engine, thermoregulation is easier through the system of thermostats and water pumps. With air-cooled engines, the rate of air flow is more or less the same regardless of engine temperature (even with the use of thermostat-controlled fans, water cooling allows a much larger range of temperatures to be achieved compared to an air-cooled engine).

Dear Baraza,

Thank you for the good work; your articles are very informative. I have a Subaru Legacy B4 twin-turbo which, according to everybody, has a slow knock (there is a knocking sound on the lower right side of the engine) and it also keeps flashing the Check Engine light).

I have been informed that the only remedy is replacing the entire engine. Is there an alternative — for instance, replacing the crankshaft and the arms or whatever component that needs to be replaced to remedy the situation?

The wisdom out there is that it is not sustainable and cost-effective  to fix a Subaru engine. How true is this?

Robert.

Twin-turbo Legacy cars are building quite a reputation for having unreliable engines. A lot of enthusiasts are opting for engine swaps with single-turbo motors (but a Subaru nut being a Subaru nut, they will never backslide into a naturally aspirated situation).

Now, here is the deal: the engine can be repaired, depending on how bad the knock is. However, this does not give you immunity from a repeat occurrence.

You may have to follow in the footsteps of twin-turbo Subaru Legacy owners and change the engine. A common installation into second-mill Legacy cars is usually the engine from the Impreza WRX STi.

Thanks for all the help you give. I want to buy my first car but I am not sure which one to go for. Please advise based on the following.

1. I am in business, so I need a car that can carry a bit of luggage.

2. Fuel economy, availability of spares, resale value, and not very expensive because my budget is tight.

3. I also need a car I can use for other activities apart from business.

Damaris.

Well, in tune with the sheer vagueness of your question, my answers may not be to your liking, but hey, I am just answering the question as I see it. Let the suggestions in brackets guide you as to how more detailed answers can be arrived at:

1. A business vehicle that can carry a bit of luggage is usually a pick-up… or a van. (Please specify size and weight of said luggage. A bit of luggage could be a few travelling bags, or a few bags of cement, or a few electricity poles… it really depends on perspective).

2. For fuel economy, make that a diesel-powered pick-up, preferably without a turbocharger, although it will be slow, unrefined, and noisy as a result. For availability of spares, go Japanese.

3. If you want a good resale value, you can rarely go wrong with a Hilux, but then again, you say “not very expensive”. A Hilux is costly in comparison to rivals. (You could also get an economical petrol-powered pick-up, but this would have a 1300cc or 1500cc engine, hence a small payload, and this brings us back to one above: What luggage? A small pick-up can only carry so many bags of cement).

3. A car for other activities other than business? A double-cab pickup… it is versatile — being an SUV, an estate car, and a pick-up all-in-one (I am not sure I want to know these “other activities” but I stand by my answer here. Double-cabs really ARE versatile, as are vans. And estate cars. But mostly double-cabs).

Hi,

Thank you for your informative article. I am planning to buy my first car and my mind is stuck on a Toyota Mark X. I would, therefore, like to know more about this car in terms of fuel economy, off-road and on-road performance, spare parts availability, resale value, build quality, and the market price for a new Mark X and a second-hand one.

Nelly B.

Allow me to tell you that your expectations and your dream car may not agree on very many fronts. Here is why:

Fuel economy: Nobody asks this question, ever, unless they are afraid of pumpside bills. The Mark X is a good generator of those. Town-bound manoeuvres will see economy (ironical term, this) figures of less than seven kilometres per litre (kpl).

If you drive like other women I have seen in Mark Xs, expect 5kpl per litre, or even less. Highway driving will yield 12kpl at best (this is with a lot of effort. Nine or 10kpl should be the norm). These figures apply to the more common 250G vehicle with a 2.5 litre 6-cylinder engine.

There is one with a 3.0 litre engine and a supercharger that develops 316 hp that should be a real beauty… own one and you will always walk away whenever discussions about fuel economy come up. Either walk away or chip in using colourful PG-13 language.

Off-road performance: As a woman, I would like for you to explain to me one thing about the Mark X’s appearance that says “off-road” on any level. Name just one thing.

On-road performance: It is actually quite good when on tarmac. It is quick (and thirsty: the quicker you go the thirstier it gets), it handles well, it is sort of comfortable… I say sort of because it looks like some sort of aggressive Lexus that was relegated into a Toyota, but the ride, while good, does not quite amount to a Lexus. Also, it is a bit understeery owing to the soft suspension, but when you turn the VDC off, it will drift, as I was informed by one of my well-meaning readers. It will drift everywhere in this rainy season. Do not turn the VDC off.

Spare parts availability: There is such a place as Japan, where you can order your spares from if the shops here do not have them. Also Dubai, according to yet another of my well-meaning readers, where a set of injectors costs Sh60,000 (Sh10,000 per injector, and there are six of them). I do not know if this includes shipping. To avoid finding out, only buy fuel from reputable sources and run on Shell’s V-Power at least once a month. Among other things (maintenance-wise).

Resale value: Interesting question this, as I was having a discussion with a colleague over the weekend about how much a second-hand (Kenyan) Mark X would cost. He reckons one can get one for less than a million. I seriously doubt it unless the car, one, has very many kilometress on it or, two, is broken. But then again, Kenya has a fickle second-hand car market. Ask anyone who imported a Mitsubishi Galant about nine or 10 years ago how much they eventually sold it for. Ignore the insults that will be offered in response to that question.

Build quality: Very good. But not excellent. German cars have excellent build quality. The Mark X achieves, let us say, 85 per cent of that build quality.

Market price: Interesting results I got here. Autobazaar.co.ke tells me I can get a 2006, 250G for Sh1.3 million (Mombasa), Sh1.38 million (Mombasa also) or Sh1.65 million (Nairobi). Then, on the same page is a person selling a 2007 model model for Sh3.4 million (Nairobbery, in no uncertain terms), though to be fair to the seller, this one is a 3.0-litre, and I am guessing supercharged. I strongly suspect potato vines may grow inside the engine bay of that car before he gets someone who would rather walk away from a Mercedes E Class (2006) in favour of a Toyota for the same money.

A 2006 Toyota Mark X from Japan will cost just about $5,600 (Sh478,800) before you start paying for shipping and insurance. Then your car gets to the port and KRA doubles that figure with some change on top for good measure.

A brand new Mark X from Japan costs somewhere between $36,000 (Sh3.07 million) for a 2.5-litre and $50,000 (Sh4.3 million) for a 3.5-litre. The KRA thing and the shipping costs apply here also.

Baraza,

You keep saying if one cannot find spare parts locally, one should just Google them, but how safe is online payment? How easy is it to bring the parts over, and are courier costs not prohibitive? Once I needed a book from the US and courier cost was so high it could have bought me many more books.

Philip.

Now that is the downside of buying cars that were not meant for us. I doubt if even spares are the scary part; imagine a DIY motor vehicle import only to discover that you are dealing with fraudsters.

It is the life we chose, and those are some of the consequences. An alternative to the Googling would be for the reader to ask one of the shops that sells spares to do the importation for him/her, but picture my position: once I say that, the next request from the curious reader would be: “Point me towards such a shop.”

This will be followed by many shopkeepers falling over themselves trying to get me to endorse them on my page, and when I do, invariably one of them is going to run off with the reader’s money, overcharge the poor fellow, or sell him substandard products.

Outcome? An angry reader filing a police case about how I set them up with gangsters and/or con men, and three years of hard work goes down the drain just like that.

This is the exact same reason I rarely endorse any particular non-franchised garage over another. The one or two I may have mentioned have proprietors who are personally known to me, or are the only specialists in a particular field, so even if the reader was to do his own research he would still end up at the same place.

So, as far as I am concerned, I stand by my word: if the motor vehicle spares cannot be found in any shop, the Internet will be of more help, not me.

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The Toyota Avensis is just a Premio in high heels

Hi Baraza,

I plan to import my first ever-car in the course of this year. My preference is a 1.8-litre Toyota Premio or Avensis, both VVT-i saloons. These two cars seem to cost almost the same and I like their shape.

I have heard people say the Avensis’ engine is troublesome and not easy to fix locally. Is it true that the D4 engine is a pain in the neck?
The reason I need a car is that I am venturing into consultancy, which will involve a lot of travel around town and beyond.

I also need something that will take me to my rural village in western Kenya. Which car would you advise me to go for, considering performance, efficiency, and general cost of maintenance?

Leon Lussac.

These two cars are so similar I would say close your eyes, throw a stone, and the vehicle that gets hit is the one to buy. However, Toyota Kenya does have a bit of experience with the Avensis, given that they sold them brand-new once. Also, Toyota Kenya says they can fix D4 engines, so both the Avensis and the Premio D4 can be maintained there.

I would speak against the Avensis for one reason. The speedometer will most likely be in mph, seeing that the car is most likely ex-UK (where they are built), and I dislike those crowded speedometers with huge, widely spaced numbers that go up to 110 (the crowding comes from the smaller circle that is the speedometer in km/h).

For the Premio, if you get one with the telematics screen, the writing will be in Japanese and, sooner rather than later, you will write back to me asking if I know how to — or anybody who — translate(s) them into English, and I will have to tell you no.

Throw a stone. Or buy the Avensis…

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Hi,

I recently ordered a fifth-generation Toyata Hiace from Japan, a 2006 model of the following specifications: Chassis #KDH200-0037737. Engine capacity: 2,500cc. Transmission: Automatic. Fuel: Diesel. Mileage: 198,000 kilometres.

I would like to know whether there is something in particular I need to be cautious about to ensure longevity. I intend to use it as a matatu.

Regards,

Alex

The initial (and subsequently repealed) ban on 14-seater matatus came just when these vehicles had started getting into the market, so not very many found their way into public service. The few that did seem to be operating quite well. Most became ambulances and/or private business transport.

The only thing I would advise (so far) to be careful about is the turbo. The old Shark was not turbocharged, so not many “veteran” drivers may know that turbocharged engines require slightly different (and more careful) handling compared to naturally-aspirated engines.

Let your driver (if it will not be an owner-driver situation) know that he should give the engine about 2-3 minutes of warm-up after cranking before he loads it up, or rather takes off in typical matatu style. Whenever he stops, he should also give the engine (the turbo, actually) a cool-down period of 2-5 minutes depending on how hard he has been driving. That way the turbo will last longer.

Use proper oil and make sure the cooling system is up to par at all times. Turbo engines generate tremendous amounts of heat.

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Hi Baraza,

Hope you are keeping well. I wish to get your input on the Golf (2.0GT). I had plans to import a second-hand one from Japan or Europe. But a friend, who drives one, has pointed out that his car has a gearbox problem; the transmission makes a loud cranking noise when shifting from second to third.

My mechanic has also advised me against buying the Golf, citing transmission issues. How come those who inspect these cars prior to importation fail to pick out this defect?

I like this car, but after my friend was slapped with a Sh350,000 repair bill for this Golf, I am a bit discouraged. Could you kindly share with me — and other Golf enthusiasts — any information you may have regarding this car? Is it reliable, for instance? Or does it require particular care?

Thanks,

James.

Usually, the pre-export inspection does not include a road test, and it is hard, nay, impossible to tell that an auto-box makes a noise when shifting from second to third without the vehicle actually moving. If the car passes the physical test, then too bad for the subsequent buyer.

Also, most of these new-fangled vehicles are chock-full of electronics and are built with millions of different parts. This makes them delicate.

This is my thinking: The vehicle is not brand-new, right? It may have seen several (four to seven) years of service in its country of origin. The service may have been hard, or even abusive, though not enough to show at a quick glance.

Maybe these Golfs have, as one of their idiosyncrasies, a gearbox whose seals wear out after a certain mileage or period. So the previous owner gives up the car, but at a point where he cannot tell that it is on the verge of going on the fritz.

The vehicle spends three months on the high seas, during which time there might be a leakage of ATF. The vehicle gets here with a slightly lower ATF level than it left the country of origin with.

A quick drive may not reveal a problem. But after a 487-kilometre drive, usually on the northern end of the rev counter (everybody driving an import from Mombasa always seems to be impatient), what would have been a minor hiccup grows bigger. More ATF leaks. Heat warps components.

The pressure wears the seals out some more. But the car still arrives in Nairobi, again slightly worse off than it left the coast.

As you can see, this is a downward spiral that begins at the point where people buy cars that they cannot see.

I would also like to get feedback from other Golf users out there. I have a friend who also imported a Golf that developed gearbox issues not very far from Nairobi on his way from Mombasa, so the car completed the trip on the back of a truck. He, however, is the exception. His car was doing fine until he hit a rock while trying to dive out of the way of a wayward juggernaut.

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Hello,

I am curious about these fuel-saving things that you pour into your fuel tank. Do you think that they, in anyway, transform the normal Unleaded to something like Shell’s V-Power? Could you kindly do me a favour and dig into what they are all about?

They are readily available at various motor boutiques in the country.

And, by the way, thank you for your educative pieces.

They are called octane boosters and they do transform normal fuel into something like V-Power in that they increase the octane rating of the fuel, making it suitable for engines with high compression ratios or running high-boost forced induction.

Otherwise, these engines would knock, or go into “safe mode”, where the timing is retarded and peak power is cut so that your former road rocket gives the performance of a donkey on its death bed.

However, the fuel, as you said, turns into “something like V-Power”, it does not become V-Power, which has so many other additives over and above the octane, and these additives act as cleaning agents, which octane boosters do not have.

Octane boosters boost the octane level of your fuel, they do not boost performance. So if your car can run properly on normal Unleaded, octane boosters are unnecessary.

Most of the cars I know using octane boosters are heavily modified; using high compression ratios, high-lift/aggressive cams, and very high boost pressures in their turbos.

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Hello Baraza,

I follow your column religiously. (Just to ask, is your real name Kimani? Are you a former lawyer? Did you once teach business law in USIU? Do you have a Twitter account so I can follow you?)

Now, to my questions: I have a first-generation Subaru Legacy. Nice car, but, lately, because of age, I guess, the engine has started developing misses, which have, in turn, affected fuel efficiency. Is it the plugs or should I overhaul the engine altogether?

I am a bit old-school in my car choice, so kindly excuse me. But, believe me, the animal does wonders on the road. That is why changing to a newer model is a no-no for me, at least for now. I want to maintain this car for practical and aesthetic reasons. It stands out. I love it. Please do a feature on the RS Turbo soon, even though I know you prefer the trendy, later model.

I love your articles to bits! Keep writing.

So, are you Kimani?

Tollander Wabwire,

BD Officer.

No, my real name is not Kimani, and no, I am not a former lawyer. Also, no, I have never taught business law at USIU. Yes, I have a Twitter handle, @BarazaJM, which you can follow.

Now, to your old animal: Replacing an engine because of a miss is akin to divorcing your wife of many years because she forgot to prepare you dinner one night. There must be a good reason for that, just the same way engine misses have causes, all of which are treatable.

When a car engine develops a miss, these are the most probable causes:

1. Ignition system fault so that there is no spark in one or more cylinders. It is your theory that the plugs could be dead, but then again the plugs could be fine. Instead, the current could be lacking in the high-tension leads.

2. A cylinder has lost compression (compression leakage) which some people call blow-by. This is caused either by a leaking head gasket or worn out piston rings, and can be established by doing a simple compression test on all cylinders, then identifying the cause of leakage on the offending cylinder.

3. Dirty or clogged injectors/carburettor jets, which starve the engine of fuel. Easily curable by running injector cleaner through the fuel system. If this does not help, then the injectors may need repair/replacement

4. Dirty/clogged filters: check both the fuel filter and air cleaner for dirt/blockages.Getting a manual Legacy RS to drive is not easy. Those that have them will not willingly sell, nor will they willingly allow a person to drive their car unless they know that person very well (for example, where he lives or where his wife gets her hair done).

But as soon as I get the opportunity to give one a spin, the RS will get its 15 minutes on my page. And, no, I would actually pick a manual Gen-I BC RS over a BL5 any day.

So, I am NOT Kimani!

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Dear Baraza,

My Suzuki Aerio with DOHC-M15A engine, 1500cc, runs very well when cold, but on heating up, it starts to “jerk”, backfire, and eventually stalls. When that happens, I wait for 10 minutes before cranking it up again, after which it will run for about 10 kilometres before stalling again. And on and on and on. The engine coolant level is okay and the fan operates at 97 degrees Celcius.

I have had a computerised diagnosis test done on the car in motion and it did not return any errors. CMC refused to look into the problem since my car is a direct import, but I guess it is because they have not dealt with the make before.

This is despite the fact that there are many Suzuki vehicles with M15A engines, like Suzuki Jimny. What could be the problem? Do you have a solution?

Regards,

Kimari.

Your problem sounds like a clogged injector complication. And the symptoms are typical of misfiring (without the loud exhaust reports). If it is not a clogged injector, then maybe your spark plugs are on their deathbed and do not work properly when they get hot.

It was very “uncool” of CMC to dismiss you like that, but many have complained about them along the same lines of them not touching anything;

a) They did not sell or,

b) Someone else has had an attempt at maintaining.

I do not know how true this is, but it still is not a good thing for a garage to discriminate against potential clients.

Posted on

A beginner’s guide to importing a car… minus the headache

Hi Baraza,

I’m one of the regular readers of your column and I must say that I appreciate your work very much. I’m planning to import a Toyota Corolla on my own, but my friends who have done it before are not willing to help me.

Please advise me on genuine dealer websites that I can trust in order to carry out this exercise without losing money, and kindly detail the general procedure of importing a car. I feel this is a dangerous venture because I have never done it before.

Thanks in advance.

I am not sure about the selling/clearance companies, though SBT Japan seems to make quite an impression on a lot of people. Anyway, I gave it a try for your sake and this is what happened:

1 Since I wanted to look for a car, I first created a user profile (they want names, numbers, e-mail addresses and the like).

I wanted a Lancer Evolution IX. So under the vehicle makes I chose Mitsubishi, under model I chose ‘Lancer’ (there was no option like Lancer Evolution. Only Wagons, and Cedias and Cedia Wagons…). Pah! I didn’t want any of those.

2 Two minutes later, a phone call, from a +815 number. SBT called me up from Japan to personally inform me that they had no Lancer Evos at the moment.

“What about a WRX STi?”

“Nope, these have all been bought out. In the sports car category I have some Toyota Celicas, but let us do this. I will send you an updated inventory of what we have. Look through it and tell us what you like…”

3. Well, the stock list came, and I looked through it. Not very interesting. No Evos, no STis, just a few regular GD and GG chassis Imprezas…

I ended up choosing a 2006 B4 Subaru Legacy BL5 with an automatic transmission (ARGH!! The only manual transmission cars were a few lorries and one Corolla NZE 121). Black in colour, 2000cc, 95,000 km $5,300 (Sh464,015) FOB, $800(Sh70,040) Freight, and $200 (Sh17,510) for Inspection. A total of $6,300 (Sh551,565). I also took note of the Stock ID Number.

4 Having my stock number ready, I went back to the website, typed in the Stock ID Number in the relevant text box and voila! My Legacy was there! There was a negotiating option which I didn’t explore, because, you see, I was NOT going to actually BUY the car. This was research for a reader.

The negotiating page included a breakdown of the $6,650 (Sh573,452) it would take to release the vehicle from Japan, and a choice of shipment (RoRo, whatever that is, a 20-feet container or a 40-feet container). The $6,650 (Sh573,452) came from the $6,300 (Sh551,565) total cost plus $300 (Sh26,265) Vanning fee and $50 (Sh4,377) insurance. I clicked on “Buy Now”.

5 You have to select a consignee, give his address, then place your order. I chose Kenfreight as my consignee, but they had quite a number of requirements.

You need the Import Declaration Form (IDF), Certificate of Conformity, Master Bill of Lading (MBL), Packing List, Commercial Invoice, Exemption Letter where applicable, then they started going on about Customs Clearance Procedure and a lot of other technical importation-finance-accounting-speak, and to be honest I quickly lost interest. After all, I was not actually buying the car.

You need an IDF from KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority), which you will have to fill out in order to get a consignee. The consignee is the clearing and forwarding company at the port of entry for your imported vehicle. The best way of getting the exact procedure is to ask a friend. I have asked a friend and he is yet to get back to me.

After giving the consignee, click on the button that says “Place Order”, then I guess from there it is a case of ‘yer pays yer monies and yer waits fer yer steed at th’ neares’ port, mate’.

7 Anyway, we cannot forget Caesar. The taxman. The government will charge you to introduce your imported good onto our sovereign soil. This is where a website like autobazaar.co.ke comes in handy. There is an option where you can calculate exactly how it will cost you to get your car ashore and ready for a KBU plate. On the home page of autobazaar.co.ke, there is such a tab as “Buyer Tools”. Click on it and select “Calculate Import taxes on used cars”.

That will bring you to a page where you can quickly estimate how much it will cost to import your car according to the prevailing KRA rates. My 2006 black 2.0 litre B4 Subaru Legacy BL5 automatic had, as cost of vehicle, Sh497,250 (at Sh85 per dollar exchange rate, the $5,850 — all costs minus freight) and KRA taxes amounting to Sh671,354, bringing the total cost to Sh1,168,604.

On the same page you could get a consignee by filling out the form on the right hand side of the page, after which they’d contact you with their clearing and forwarding process quote. Interestingly enough, from the AutoBazaar website you can also get loan quotes and insurance without having to leave the website. They seem to have everything, short of the vehicle itself…

As of the time I wrote this, none of the clearing companies had gotten back to me. Also, I did not have the Sh1.2 million I would need to get the black 2006 B4 Subaru Legacy BL5 2000cc automatic gear box, four doors and 4WD ontomy driveway.

A more comprehensive answer coming soon….

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Dear Baraza,

The information you provide on this column is invaluable, and you deserve all the compliments. I am keen on acquiring a non-turbo, manual-gearbox, locally assembled Toyota Prado that is affordable to both buy and run.

My search has yielded two machines; an L3 and an LJ95, one of which I am considering purchasing. Both of the machines were manufactured in 1999, and while they are in very good condition, are powerful and have smooth engines and superb bodies, they have clocked very high mileages — 245,000km each.

Both machines were previously owned by UN agencies, probably explaining the long distances covered. Before making up my mind, I’d like your advice regarding these vehicles on:

a) Availability and affordability of spare parts, including a complete suspension system for both.

b) If the machines are in perfect working condition — no pungent exhaust smoke — does the high mileage matter?

c) Their overall performance.

Your advice would be deeply appreciated.

a) Availability of parts: This should not worry you. At all. Affordability is entirely up to you, but if you are running a Prado, then you should afford to keep it running.

b) Does mileage matter? Yes, it does… a bit. For the sake of service intervals, and also to give you an idea of when a complete engine overhaul or rebuild is due. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear before taking action. Most engines are rebuilt at around 300,000km to 500,000km, depending on where and how they are used.

c) Overall performance? Well… they are very good off-road, not so bad on-road, poor in corners. Is that it?

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Hi Baraza,

I am a constant reader of your column, and thanks for the good work. I am planning to buy a Nissan Sunny B12, 1300cc, for use on tarmac roads, save for the occasional drive on all-weather tracks. Now;

a) What is the market value of this car if in good condition?

b) Are the spares parts of this car readily available? And are they expensive?

c) Can this car cover 500km without demanding a rest?

d) What is the maximum speed this car can achieve without compromising stability?

e) What is its standard fuel economy?

Thanks,

F Kirochi.

a) A car of this age will go for any price, literally, irrespective of mechanical condition. A well maintained car from this era could command as much as Sh300,000, but try selling someone a B12 at that price and watch them laugh in your face.

Then watch them make a counter offer of Sh100,000; not a penny more. It really depends on buyer-seller relationship, but on average, a good car should go for about Sh250,000.

b) Spares are available, I am not sure about the “readily” part. They are cheap though. Very cheap.

c) Depends. If it is in a mechanically sound condition, I don’t see why not. But first make sure you have enough fuel.

d) Maximum speed should be 120KPH. Anything beyond that and you are gambling with physics.

e) Expect about 14KPL on the open road for a carburettor engine, and about 16KPL to 18KPL for an EFI. Town use depends on traffic density.

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Hi Baraza,

We always appreciate your articles and the professional advice you offer to car owners, and even those who wish to own one.

Please advice me on the best buy between a Toyota Premio and the Allion in terms of performance, cost of spare parts, longevity, maintenance (frequency of breakdowns), off-road capability, ease of handling. Also, which one would you recommend for a car hire business, and please compare the NZE for the same role.

Anthony.

These two cars are the same. Believe me. The differences are very small, with the Allion seeming to age just a little bit faster than the Premio.

And I ask again: why do you people buy an Allion to take it off-road? What is wrong with you? Do you just willfully ignore what I say, or do you derive some pleasure from using the wrong tool in a task?

The Premio seems a bit more popular in the car hire business, although it costs a bit more on the dealer forecourts. On that front, the Allion might be the better choice.