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Why is it so hard to find a good and fair deal at the mechanic’s?

Greetings Baraza,

I am a regular reader of your column, and I find your articles very educative. Now, my problem: I find it very difficult to get an honest mechanic who isn’t out to ensure you make repeat visits to their garage. This is especially so for women. Continue reading Why is it so hard to find a good and fair deal at the mechanic’s?

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West Africans have outclassed us in the race for home-made cars

At the close of 2014, I took a brief look at the goings-on within the local automotive industry — and in Uganda — but, unknown to me, things were happening on a much grander scale in West Africa.

Ghana and Nigeria also have homegrown motoring scenes.

Unlike the Ugandans, they are not dealing in futuristic, technology-soaked, flamboyantly styled prototypes.

Unlike us, they are not trying to make an “African” car.  No,  they have an entire industry, a whole line of cars that run the gamut, from regular pint-sized saloons to full-on SUVs to ready-to-work commercial vehicles. Here is part of the lineup:

Kantanka

A Ghanaian apostle is behind this one. In addition, he has some aeronautic prototypes in the pipeline. Talk about ambition.

The Katanka line-up is publicised by two vehicles.  One is an SUV of indeterminate size. The photos on the Internet all lack reference points from which to deduce the actual size of the car.

Given the design characteristics, I’d say it lies somewhere between an X-Trail and a Landcruiser Prado, with the bias being more towards the Prado.

It has a whiff of the Prado J150 about its countenance, what with the toothy grin and slightly Mongoloid, slightly off-square headlamps.

But it also has the very square corners around the bonnet leading edge and fender tops which typify the Nissan X-Trail. From the A pillar rearwards, it starts to look a little like an Isuzu Wizard.

There are roof rails to complete the SUV-ness of it all.

It might sound like a mess, but it actually isn’t. The whole car somehow seems to gel together in an inoffensive, pseudo-Chinese, lightly “I’d-expect-this-from-TATA-on-a-good-day” manner.

There is no word on engines, suspension or transmissions, but expect something generic, possibly crate-borne from General Motors or Japan.

Spec levels are not indicated, but judging from the external cues — mirror-mounted repeater lamps, roof rails, alloy rims, fat tyres, colour-coded bumpers and mirrors, fog lamps, rubbing strips and side-steps — I’d say the specification inside must be generous too.

Oddly enough, I did not see sun-roofs in any of the photos, and yet as a trend, a large number of cars sold in West Africa come with sun-roofs. Maybe it is an optional extra.

There is also a double-cab pick-up, which is clearly an Isuzu DMAX. I mean it; it IS a DMAX without the “Isuzu” name on the grille; instead, it has the Kantanka logo: a circle circumscribing a filled-out 5-pointed star.

What did I say about copying the hell out of existing vehicles?

Innoson

You cannot leave Nigeria out of any action that goes down in West Africa, and they throw their hat in the ring with the Innoson. While Kantanka’s cars are expected to hit the streets sometime this month, Innoson already have units on sale, and they have the widest range of cars, and also the most Chinese-looking.

Their fanciest filly is an SUV which, oddly enough, only appeared in black in photos. Maybe there are other colours available.

It looks like what the Toyota Fortuner should look like. The overall appearance is even better resolved than the Kantanka, and one would be forgiven for assuming that it not locally made. I especially liked the rear; it wears that chunky and butch SUV uniform of roof spoiler, vertical tailgate, large lamps, fat bumpers complete with integrated reflectors and rear screen wiper with considerable aplomb.

But admittedly, it also comes off as being a bit too cliché. In a parking lot game of spot-that-rear, expect any of these answers: Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Fortuner, Chevrolet Trailblazer or some Ford something-or-other.

The interior smacks of General Motors too. Dual tone plastics, buttons festooned all over the centre console, a few million cubbyholes and a thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel, which I also swear, is straight off the new DMAX.

The Nigerian Road Safety Corps, among other clients, get a double-cab iteration of the Innoson, and well, it is a Grand Tiger (Chinese double-cab), like the ones our policemen use. The resemblance is uncanny.

Rounding up the line-up is the IVM Fox, the only car identified by name. It looks like yet another Chinese copy of a European econo-box from the late 90s or early 2000s, a Ford Fiesta/Citroen Saxo kind of thing; or maybe a KIA… nowadays Korean cars are barely distinguishable from their European rivals.

 

*             *             *             *

The future of the auto industry in West Africa looks promising, and for two very good reasons:

  1. West Africans are fiercely patriotic. They go everywhere in their national dress, come out in full force to cheer their national sports teams, and they strongly support their local producers.

It, therefore, follows that these cars will most likely move units. Innoson and Kantanka will shift metal in numbers that Mobius can only dream about, and they will be cheered on by opinion shapers in their communities.

That is not what one would expect around here. I don’t see an “opinion leader” selling his gold-plated Landcruiser VX in exchange for a gold-plated Mobius II.

  1. They have numbers on their side. They have the massive populations necessary for breaking even — if not making outright profit — sales levels, and they have giant economies to back it all up, with oil fields and sizeable export quotas as an added bonus. There is plenty of money in West Africa and they are not afraid to spend it. To make money, you must spend money. Expect to see massive investmentbeing channelled in Innoson’s and Kantanka’s directions.

A third, not so important reason:  West Africans will get one up on East Africa just to rub our noses in it. Anybody remember #KOT vs #NOT?

To the south

Tanzania has been at it too, although they decided to go the commercial way and not spend too much effort coming up with their own thing.

They have is a truck line called the Nyumbu.  Their Ministry of Defence and National Service apparently “developed” a truck (they clearly didn’t) and the result is an Ashok Leyland Stallion/G-90/U Truck/e-Comet (they all look the same), which in itself was a derivative from IVECO (Fiat) or British Leyland.

All they did was change the headlamps from single squares to double round, then change the name from “Ashok Leyland” to “Nyumbu”. Lower down the hierarchy is another Nyumbu.

It is hard to describe without sounding nasty, but if it were painted a dull green and sent back in time to the Soviet Union during the Second World War, it wouldn’t be out of place.

Their final entry in this list is a tractor, which is… very basic, and is also called a Nyumbu. Sadly, the website I visited did not distinguish these vehicles properly by model.

 

*             *             *             *

It is clear from the visions of West Africa — and Tanzania, we’ll give them that too for now —  that  setting a milestone, more so in the motoring industry, does not necessarily call for a dramatic paradigm shift in existing frameworks.

It might not even be necessary to set a milestone at all. Our  Mobius has been roundly outclassed from all directions, Mr Joel Jackson is not setting new production standards like Henry Ford did with the Model T, he is not introducing new technology like Elon Musk with his Tesla cars; and, admittedly, the Mobius II is not going to conquer any markets like the Toyota Hilux, unless, of course, we go the South East Asian way and make importation of motor vehicles prohibitively difficult, if not downright impossible.

But then again, neither is the apostle from Ghana or the brains behind Innoson.

Some of the techniques necessary to push sales might seem a little underhanded (plagiarism) and/or unfair (punitive import tariffs on foreign cars), but look where it got Hyundai and KIA – where they are right now, worrying Toyota and Peugeot.

Ford… again

Speaking of Henry Ford, he is the man who created FoMoCo, the Ford Motor Company, the same company that told us they would bring in the Mustang in the last quarter of 2014.

I’m yet to see a contemporary Mustang in the country. If they exist, I’d also like to take one on a road test, thank you.

Ford also wants us to be Focused. They are not accusing us of being scatter-brained, no. They want us to drive Ford Focuses, Foci, Foca, or whatever you call more thanone Ford Focus.  It is with this in mind that they chose to announce the presence of the new Ford Focus in their showrooms.

Anyway, the car in question is the new Ford Focus, and FoMoCo says a lot of things about it, most of which I choose to ignore until further notice. However, one or two things I pay attention to.

The Ford Focus has mostly been a driver’s car in spite of, or because of, it’s front-drive platform.

It is, or was, a fun handler: easy to chuck into a corner, fiddle around with throttle and steering to create various levels of understeer and bite, all the while staying safely out of the undergrowth.

The compact dimensions ensured its responsiveness and ease of handling, and a small, naturally aspirated engine created both  fuel economy and smile-worthy maintenance costs. No wonder it became a successful rally car.

The words I paid attention to in Ford’s press release were about it having a lower, wider stance than the outgoing car, which in turn had a lower, wider stance than the Mk I model before it.

How much lower and wider is the current Focus, which I have not driven, compared to the original model, which I have driven? And how much more fun is the new one than the one before it? The answer lies in a road test.

One question, though: We know there exists a vehicle such as a Ford Focus RS, where is it?

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The Forester’s bigger engine and weight make it more costly to run than the Allex

Hi,

I recently bought a second-hand 2006, turbo-charged, 1990cc Subaru Forester LL Bean edition and have noticed a significant change in my budget on fuel (I initially owned a Toyota Allex 2002 with a 1490cc engine).

I knew the larger engine size would consume a bit more but the disparity is sizeable.

Could it have anything to do with the symmetrical AWD feature in the car.

Noting that I drive mostly on rough roads, does engaging the ECO button have any impact on the vehicle’s stability and traction?

Did you expect the disparity not to be sizeable?

Besides the bigger engine, the Forester is a bigger car.

Couple this with the 4WD transmission (whether symmetrical or not doesn’t really make a difference here) and you have weight gains that will most definitely be reflected on your fuel consumption.

Then there is the aerodynamic profile too… I’ve written about this before, haven’t I?

Hi Baraza,

I buy the Wednesday paper just to read your articles on cars.

I want to point out to you that no matter how well you do, there will be people who always see the half-empty glass.

However, there are certain truths that we should accept, for instance, the fact that most Kenyans drive Toyota saloon cars.

We acknowledge that tastes differ, so what you do is tell readers the situation as it is on Kenyan roads.

I long to read nice terms you used some years back to describe cars.

For example, you described the bonnet of a Toyota NZE as looking as if it had been stung by a bee (I drive an NZE), said some car designers seemed to have worked under the influence of forbidden substances, or that the car would be thirsty and drill a hole in a man’s wallet.

What other expressions did you people enjoy? Any readers out there longing for such terms?

Let’s request Baraza to add more flavour….Mike

Roger that, sir. Beginning 2015 — if I am still here — it will be back to the original “nice terms” that I started off with.

You might have noticed a dearth of car reviews in recent days.

This is because of a certain scarcity of road tests that I can’t really explain.

I fear the era of the motoring journalist might be nearing its end, more so when one learns of new car launches from (other people’s) newspaper articles rather than the PR departments of respective brands.

Nowadays, business editors, lifestyle reporters and unknowledgeable bloggers (people who know diddly-squat about cars) get to sit at the automotive launch table while motoring hacks like yours truly are consigned to staring at pictures of the event on Instagram and asking, “When did that happen?”

The best we can hope for now is a memo from the PR ladies, quickly followed by a phone call confirming whether or not their press release will feature in one column or the other.

The answer is usually no. I find it hard to report on a car I have not driven.

These are subtle hints that we might have reached the end of our usefulness.

The end may be near, but it is not here yet. In the meantime, let us see what we can put together…

Dear Baraza,

I am a computer science lecturer at Chuka University.

I want to start by appreciating the good work you do educating our motorists.

Indeed, information is power and I believe your advice not only helps people make informed decisions regarding cars, but also save lives on our roads.

Keep up the fantastic work!

To my issues:

1. Car fuels: I have noted that whenever I refuel my car at some filling stations, mainly in the suburbs or some highways, its picking or accelerating pace slows down.

When I fuel at Total petrol stations, there is huge difference in performance.

I know you will advise me to be fuelling there but I would like to know the reason for the difference.

What is so special about Shell FuelSave petroleum, which they spend so much advertising, yet I have not noted any difference.

There is a brand of fuel from Shell known as V-Power, what on earth is that? It’s very expensive yet I did not notice any difference in my car. Or is it that my car has a problem?

2. There is a time you indicated that the performance of new Mercedes cars is coming down to about 12km per litre.

I would like to know which specific type and model and how much it costs.

3. Finally, thanks a lot for your article on Peugeot 504s and other ’70 cars and their ever ageing owners.

These guys, some of them professors, I am sorry to say, think that other cars are too useless to be on our roads. I hope they learn to grow with technology.

Another thing: the Nation should not hide your article inside the paper.

I always have to pull out and toss Living magazine aside in order to enjoy your articles without interruption.

Hello Charles,

I would have suggested to the bean counters at Nation Media to do away with Living magazine in your favour but the people who write, edit, print, publish, distribute and sell this Living magazine also have to make a living (see what I did there?).

The magazine also has fans just like Car Clinic does, and I am not going to enter into a contest to see who can spit the furthest, so just grin and bear it.

Anyway, 1. The slow picking/acceleration might be due to the fuel being adulterated and thus suffering erratic combustion properties, or the octane rating is too low so to prevent pinging/detonation, the ECU retards the ignition timing as far back as it possibly can, which in turn affects the revving characteristics and power outputs of the engine.

I have a colleague who has been quietly doing tests on various fuels from various forecourts and his results make for grim reading.

Some stations offer water adulterated with a hint of petrol in it (if you get my drift), others offer muddy sediment and well… our octane ratings are so low, even for the “high-octane fuels”, that what we call premium over here might as well be bathwater for those who know what proper high-octane fuel is.

I’ll see if I can steal those results and make them public.

That Shell FuelSave is like “V Power with added Aromat”, for lack of a better description.

I don’t know what exactly they put in it but Shell claims it improves fuel economy by optimising combustion and thus maximising on the energy transfers that define the four-stroke cycle.

Shell V Power is high-octane fuel (relatively, and I do mean relatively) with cleaning agents in it.

I haven’t tried the FuelSave (with a 1500cc car capable of returning 18km/l on regular driving, I am two steps away from having the consumption figures of an unused bicycle), but I have tried V Power several times and well… I didn’t notice any difference either.

I still use it, though; my engine purrs like new and who knows, it might be the cleansing powers of V Power behind it.

2. Pick any model of Mercedes and if properly driven, it will do 10-12 km/l… yes, even the AMGs. The latest CL65 AMG is a monster of a car, packing a 604hp 6.0 litre twin-turbo V12 engine, but Mercedes say it will do 12 km/l without resorting to desperate tactics.

I guess they mean when shuttling slowly (two miles an hour so everybody sees you) from the driveways of well-off people to the driveways of other well-off people.

Bring that AMG to the Kiamburing Time Trial and 12km/l will be something that you only read about in the brochures of plebeian vehicle models.

3. You are most welcome. When I err…. “slandered” the 504 (somewhat, I once had a Peugeot too), a reader was disappointed and asked me to try again, this time with a Volkswagen Type 2 bus and I was not kind to it either.

Now the VW Owners Club might have put out a contract on my head, if rumours are to be believed.

That aside, classic cars are an acquired taste and provide joy to some (mostly grease monkeys) while at the same time suffer derision from the PlayStation generation.

If I spot a well-kept Peugeot 404, I’d nod quietly to myself and be glad that there exists a motoring enthusiast out there with passion for the past.

Those who found more than one TV station on air at birth will look at it and ask why it is so slow, where the air-conditioning is and how come there is no letter at the end of the registration number.

Dear Baraza,

1.  Internal combustion engines give off lots of heat. Considerable effort and resources are actually spent cooling them.

Cooling systems take up space and make the cars heavier, etc. It seems to me there are lots of inefficiencies here.

It appears that it would make sense to somehow convert more of that heat energy to boost the propulsion of the vehicle instead of concentrating on just refining ways of losing the said heat to the environment.

To your knowledge and in your estimation, has there been exhaustive research in this area?

2.  The average car is equipped with a 12-volt battery and a generator (alternator).

Noting that for most cars I know, the alternator is always working, I expect that, as a result, it produces much more electricity than the car will ever require.

Does this not lend some credence to the concept of “hybrids’”, perhaps even the “loathsome” Prius?

Jeijii

1. Yes, the internal combustion engine is a paragon of inefficiency, barely cracking 40 per cent.

This is just about as far as it will go, for the engine itself.

Further losses occur in the transmission and drivetrain, which is why one type of hybrid involves the use of the engine as a generator rather than a source of tractive power.

There are fewer losses that way.

The heat dissipated from the engine is primarily a result of friction, and more often than not, this heat is radiated away from exposed parts, absorbed by convection where the cooling system can reach, and dissipated by conduction where heat shields are attached.

Your theorem sounds attractive: instead of wasting this heat, could it not be put to good use? Well, a) some of it does get put to good use, such as in declogging the catalytic convertor/diesel particulate filter (DPF) and in warming up the interior of the car b) there is one small problem, and that is how to trap this heat.

Of all energy forms, heat is the most dynamic and the most easily lost.

You will have to do a lot of capturing if you are to acquire any useable energy from heat, and while doing this capturing, some of it will be escaping.

Then where will you store this heat as you wait for it to accumulate to useful levels?

Lastly, heat being very dynamic, is more often than not the last form of energy before dissipation: it is easy to convert other energy forms into heat, but the reverse is not necessarily true without involving elaborate equipment.

Where will this equipment be stored?

Won’t you be making the car even heavier and more complicated?

Most of the research has been focused on minimising heat losses rather than trapping the heat itself.

Petrol inside your tank is chemical energy. When oxidised (combustion), it explodes, which means this chemical energy has now been transformed into various other energy forms: light energy (the flash of the explosion), sound energy (the “boom” of the explosion) and heat energy.

Light and sound are mostly wasted, though, through sound deadening and the use of non-reverberating materials, the sound waves can fail to be absorbed and become kinetic energy.

The heat energy is what is desired here; it causes a rapid expansion of air, and this rapid expansion results in motion of air particles: kinetic energy.

The kinetic energy of air molecules is then transferred by impact to the piston crown, and this energy forces the piston downwards and from here I think you know the rest… the end result is the engine rotates and eventually the vehicle moves.

The cooling system is designed to do away with heat from friction, and this heat can get to very high levels owing to piston speeds (in high performance engines like the E46 BMW M3’s, piston speeds can reach up to 87ft/s, which is quite high)

2. When you run out of fuel in your ordinary car, the car will not run on the battery, will it?

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Modern cars far outshine the classic Peugeot 404 or 504 you’re keen on

Hi Baraza,

I am torn between getting a classic Peugeot 404 and 504 station wagon for daily use.

I have driven modern cars, from SUVs to hatchbacks, but feel that the cars lack character.

When I was growing up, my father had a car that was treated like a family member; that does not happen nowadays. A car is just that — a car!

My research on the net has shown that there is not much difference between modern cars and the 404 and the 504 in regard to fuel consumption if the balancing/mixing is done correctly. Am I right?

Also advise on safety, speed, road handling, spare parts, comfort, etc. Which one would you advise me to get?

Ken

You are right, a sizeable percentage of modern cars lack character. Worse still, they are also quickly losing identity and all look the same.

About the “fuel balancing”, I would not go so far as to declare that there is no difference between 404/504 estates and modern cars.

To start with, what is this “fuel balancing” you refer to? Is it tweaking the carburettor to make the engine run a little bit lean?

If so, then you will also have to deal with loss in power, risk burnt valves and possibly misfiring, which could lead to other kinds of damage, up to and including, but not limited to, top-end (head) damage.

Is the “balancing” mixing petrol with other additives to increase economy?

If so, forget it, there is no such magic elixir that extracts extra mpgs and kpls from a litre of petrol out of the blue (this is a whole other discussion about octane ratings, so yes, such an elixir does exist but things are not exactly black and white here).

Unless you mean large-capacity, high-performance engines of today, then the answer is no, the 404/504s of yore (fitted with carburettors) will not return consumption figures as good as those of modern cars.

If anything, large-capacity, high-performance modern engines have very impressive economy figures when driven “normally”, two good examples being the 2014 Corvette C7 (6.0L V8 engine) and the Mercedes Benz CL65 AMG (6.0L twin-turbo V12 engine), both of which have manufacturer-claimed consumption figures of 30mpg (roughly 12-13 km/l), which is exactly what a Corolla Fielder will do and a 504 station wagon will not.

Most of the other aspects you enquire about are also poor by today’s standards.

Safety is terrible: there are no airbags, no ABS, no electronic driver aids.

The steel/chrome bumpers of both cars and the rounded headlamp fairings of the 404 ensure that the pedestrian had better stay away from the path of an approaching 404.

There are not any energy-absorbing crumple zones, no traction control, no stability control, and no seat belt pretensions… these cars are not safe, period.

Speed is nothing to write home about either: you might remember the days when we had Wepesi, Kukena, Crossroad Travellers and the like, but how long ago was that?

My 2006 Mazda Demio accelerates faster than those cars, and top speed… well, the 504s may have been able to clock 200 or more, but you would not want to do 200 km/h in a 504 with that motion-in-the-ocean suspension setting that was biased more for comfort than outright stability at high speed.

Speaking of suspension, let us deal with the last two traits: handling and comfort.

Handling may have been okay in the 504 saloon (with traces of understeer from the extremely soft suspension), but the lengthy 504 estate was weird when pushed hard.

I know; I tried. Turning hard, this is the order of events as they happen. First up is tremendous body roll. You would think that the car’s door handles will brush the tarmac at any moment.

If the shock absorbers are shot through, this might be as extreme as the tyre treads scraping away the lining of the wheel wells.

Next comes understeer. Feed in lock, feed in more lock, cross your forearms, and keep turning the wheel: all this leads to the car barrelling straight on, towards whatever obstacle might have necessitated the corner that is just about to be your undoing.

Braking only aggravates matters. You have to get your speed right if that understeer is not to end in a massive accident.

You are now midway into the corner and understeering. You will feel the vehicle bend in the middle as you turn, because 1. the 504 estate is very long and 2. structural rigidity is a well-known weak point of Peugeots in general, and 504s in particular.

The folding of the car about its midriff is worrisome; it is even more alarming than the understeer you are still fighting.

If you survive this, then now comes Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Now that you were forcing the frame to warp through hard cornering, at one point the frame will want to straighten itself out.

The timing of this counter-action is most unfortunate, because it occurs at the moment when the vehicle stance is nose-down, back up.

This means that most of the weight is over the front wheels, leaving the rear with little or no grip at all.

Given that you were cornering hard, the normal oversteer typical of long cars is to be expected, but this oversteer is further exacerbated by the elastic rebound of the frame and the complete loss of grip at the back.

You will spin, and spin badly. Counter-steering does not really help, because 1. the steering rack is highly geared, requiring numerous turns from lock to lock and 2. Power steering was not available on all 504 models.

The best thing to do here is wait for the car to stop by itself. If it all goes belly up, you will then have a chance to discover the answer to your last question: 404/504 spares are hard to come by nowadays.

Dear Baraza,

I own a 2003 1.8cc Toyota Allion. I have experienced a strange phenomenon, about three times now.

When I am driving, the engine shuts down, all the lights on the dashboard — including the hazard lights— come on.

However, after a short while it comes on again or starts when I ignite it. What could be the problem?

I service the car even before its due date and this began about a week ago. I have had the car for two years.

Kindly assist since this might happen when I am speeding and the results could be disastrous.

Sam

This sounds exactly like a problem with an anti-theft device: the engine cutout. The symptoms are typical of when the cutout kicks in when running the car after failing to disengage it first.

What I really cannot explain is why it took years for it to become effective.

My guess is that the battery in the plipper (the part of the car key that you press to unlock the car doors and/or deactivate the alarm, if so equipped) could be running low, and that the cutout is part of the security system.

So, pressing the button might unlock the doors but the battery, being weak, might also fail to disengage the engine cutout.

As you drive along with the cutout still active, it gives you a small grace period, a sort of countdown, for you to disengage the cutout before the system assumes you are a thief who does not know where the cutout is and will thus impede your progress before you go too far.

This is just a theory, but it is the one I believe strongly in.

Have an electrician look at the vehicle, with emphasis on the ignition system. Let him trace a cutout.

If none exists, then he can go searching for other problems (which more likely than not, will still be electrical).

Hi Baraza,

I am an avid reader of your column. I am a great fan of muscle cars.

Between the Mitsubishi Galant and the Subaru Impreza WRX sedan, which one is better in terms of performance?

Also, what is the difference between an SUV and an SAV?

Felix Kiprotich

Which Galant are you referring to? I can only assume that it is the VR4, because it is the most similar to the Impreza WRX.

The VR4 is faster. It has a 2.5 litre V6 engine, turbocharged and intercooled to 280hp, and this power is put down through a tiptronic-style semi-automatic gearbox.

The Impreza WRX is good for a “mere” 230hp (the latest model has to around 260-265, but there is no new Galant VR4, so we will compare age-mates here, old Galant vs old Impreza).

This makes the Galant superior. However, if you introduce the STi version of the Impreza WRX, the tables are turned and the STi dominates (it might have the same 280hp in one of its myriad iterations, but the packaging is smaller and lighter, offering better responses and performance).

An SUV is essentially what we used to call 4x4s: tall, high-riding, estate car look-alikes with some degree of off-road ability due to increased ground clearance, and maybe 4WD. Jeeps also fall under this category.

SAV is a class of vehicle that did not exist until BMW discovered that the automotive industry has some murky areas that could be taken advantage of, especially targeting the blissfully ignorant, who just so happened to have a lot of money.

Create an answer to a question nobody asked, imbue it with polarising and highly controversial looks, market it aggressively even before production starts, then sell it under a title that not even the most accomplished motoring journalist can explain convincingly: the Sports Activity Vehicle.

The premise looks good on paper. The top part is a sports car. The bottom part is (supposed to be) an off-roader. In the real world, this thing is a lumpen, high-priced trolley for ferrying privileged children from expansive homes to schools that other privileged children attend; an obese brat-mobile that does nothing convincingly, except seek attention.

It is neither a sports car nor an off-roader. Still, it sells so well that the original, the BMW X6, was later joined by 60 per cent of an X6, called an X4.

It sells so well that even that the most venerated of car makers, Mercedes Benz, has joined in the action with the recently announced GLA “sports activity vehicle”, a dead ringer for the BMW X6, save for the badge on the bonnet.

It makes a motoring writer want to pull his hair out, if he has any.