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The Vitz is most ideal for the smart penny-pincher

Hi Baraza,

I am looking for an affordable, fuel-efficient car that will not give me too much trouble. I have narrowed my choice down to the new model Toyota Vitz going for Sh650,000, Nissan Tiida wagon at Sh710,000, and Subaru Impreza at Sh800,000. I want to use the car to drive to and from work and maybe travel upcountry once a year. I have an 11-month-old baby boy and thus having a big car seat is important. I am also considering the resell value as I would like to get a bigger car in two years’ time. This will be my first car and I would really appreciate if you would help me out with your objective advice.

Brenda.

I can see the answers to your question right within the question itself. You want an affordable car, right? By “affordable” you mean with the smallest asking price, right? How much did you say the Vitz was again? You want a fuel-efficient car, right? By fuel-efficient you mean the one that burns the least amount of fuel per kilometre driven, right? Bigger engines and heavier cars tend to burn more fuel than smaller, lighter ones with tiny engines. The Vitz can be with engines ranging from 1.0 litre to 1.5 litre, which cannot be said of the other two. Also, it is tiny and light. How much did you say the Vitz was again?

You want a car that will not give you too much trouble, right? By that you mean infrequent breakdowns and ease of repair, right? Tiny engines and small cars are simpler or less complex than larger engines and/or bigger vehicles because there is less that can go wrong, and if it does, it can be quite easily fixed. Also, by sheer reputation, Toyotas are known the world over for their reliability. Of these cars, which one would you say is the smallest? The simplest? Which one is the Toyota? How much did you say the Vitz was again?

Car seats nowadays are manufactured with ISO-fix compatibility, which means that the same child seat that can be fixed in a Range Rover can also be installed in a Vitz (I am guessing the five-door will be a surer bet than the three-door, if only for ease of access). If it will not go in, you can get rid of the visual addenda on the child seat and the resultant skeleton will fit in nicely. The Vitz does have a boot, as do the other two, so you can throw the visual add-ons in there until you get to wherever you are going.

Resell value? This is a cheap, fuel-efficient, and highly reliable Toyota car in Kenya. What do you mean, “resell value”?

Dear Baraza,

I have a question about fuel consumption. Why is it that when you fill the tank, the gauge does not seem to move? It is as though the engine was combusting vapour (as suggested by my father). We drove from Nairobi to Arusha and the gauge barely moved.

Jessie.

I will let you in on a little secret. Those fuel gauges are doctored. Yes, in almost every car they build, manufacturers interfere with those gauges to wage psychological warfare on unknowing drivers.

The first quarter (between FULL and 3/4 tank) barely moves after filling up. This leaves the driver impressed with the “economy” of the car, ending up expressing sentiments like yours. The fastest moving level is between 3/4 full and 1/2 a tank. More often than not, this occurs after many kilometres of driving (having started from full), by which time the driver will be thinking of the overall distance covered instead of how the two quarters of the tank have different depletion rates.

This swift descent of the needle slows down somewhat once the gauge drops below half. It is not as fast as the 3/4 – 1/2 transition, but then again it is not as slow as the FULL-3/4 segment. This is usually the most accurate reflection of the rate of consumption. Once the needle drops below quarter tank, it slows down yet again. You may have noticed how “far” one can drive on a quarter tank of fuel.

There is more to this.

This irregular reflection of a car’s consumption is after years of study of people’s driving habits. Most people drive around in the two slowest moving segments of the fuel gauge: Either properly full or near empty. This leads them into overestimating the efficiency of the engine (but not to the point where they miscalculate the fuel consumption subconsciously). The 3/4-1/2 segment of the tank is almost ALWAYS reached from a full tank level; rarely will you find someone filling his tank to “just above half”.

They either fill it all the way up or put in just enough to get them to point B, which in most cases is barely a quarter tank. Seeing how this 3/4-1/2 level is reached after a long time with the needle barely moving, the driver is falsely confident and feels complacent, and is more likely to overlook the increased rate of gauge descent.

To safeguard against lawsuit-loving, mileage-calculating “geniuses” armed with protractors, rulers, cameras, maps, and GPS devices, the fuel gauge is also cleverly designed. Those FULL, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 and EMPTY levels of the fuel gauge are not equidistant. I am yet to come across a car where all four points are marked at exact separation from each other. With that, what looks like 3/4, or 1/4, is not really 3/4 or 1/4.

The F mark is not exactly on the scale, nor is the E mark, which is why on some cars, you can drive to “below E”. No amount of geometry will lead you to calculate exactly how many litres of fuel you have in the tank just from looking at the fuel gauge.
Now you know. Fill up the car, drive until the fuel gauge points to E, at which point you fill up again. Life is easier that way.

Dear Baraza,

I would like to know if I can import a car which was manufactured in the year 2000 in Japan. What do the Kenya Revenue Authority regulations say about that?

Bett Bernard.

The KRA regulations say no. Thou shalt not import a car manufactured more than eight years before the date of importation. So now you are looking at a September 2005 vehicle as the “oldest” car possible to import. If it takes a few months to get here, then you have to factor in those months, plus an error in case pirates raid the ship and demand ransom, or the ship runs out of fuel… or just general contingencies. So you are looking at 2006 as the furthest year of manufacture (YOM) for an import, just to be safe.
Hi Baraza,

I am looking for an SUV that has an engine capacity of about 1,500cc and whose price does not exceed Sh1 million. It should be of the year 2004 and above. I am torn between the Toyota Rush and Daihatsu Terios. Please compare them in terms of: Fuel economy, durability, spare parts availability, purchase price, ‘comfortability’, off-road performance, and engine power.

David.

Fuel economy: It is the same for both cars

Durability: There is no difference.

Spare parts availability: The cars use the same parts. So, no winner here.

Purchase price: The difference is barely worth noting.

Comfortability: There is no such word as “comfortability”. What you mean is comfort. And it is the same for both cars
Off-road performance: No discernible disparity between the two.

Power: Exactly the same

PS: You may have noticed none of those comparisons was very helpful. This is because the Toyota Rush and the Daihatsu Terios is THE EXACT SAME CAR with different names because of market demand.

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2013 Range Rover: The bar has been raised… yet again

Hallo Baraza,
Thank you for your very resourceful articles that sometimes remind me of a Sunday Nation humour writer by the name Mwalimu Andrew!

I have a 2009 left-hand drive Toyota Landcruiser Hardtop that we bought brand new and had it shipped from Toyota Motors Europe in Gibralta, South of Spain. It has so far done approximately 10,000 kilometres.

We currently wish to dispose it but do not seem to know how much would be a good price, considering we spent about $65,000USD (about Sh5.4 million) to but and transport it all the way to Nairobi.

I have even contacted the local Toyota dealers who quote Sh7 million for a new one, but they don’t seem to know what is the best price or market for this vehicle. Kindly assist.

Regards,

Kelvin

The fact that the driver sits where the passenger is usually found will complicate matters for you. As a car, it may well be still valuable, but not in Kenya. It will be a long search before you find someone who will buy a left-hand drive car for use in a right-hand drive country at its actual value.

AA (Automobile Association) would be a good place to start to get the real value of the car. From there, you may have to look outside the borders for a quick sale. Try Southern Sudan, they have LHDs there. Or Somalia (problem is there is a war going on there).

Hi Baraza JM

First, thanks for a job well done. You have made Wednesday’s Daily Nation a must-read. I would like you to do a comprehensive comparison between two cars: Toyota Corona (1600cc, 1800cc and 2000cc) and Toyota Carina (1800cc and 1500cc).

Please consider durability, fuel consumption and spare parts availability. These two cars are old models; what some people would call “out of fashion”. Which one would you advise a first-timer to go for? And, finally, why are there no more productions of the Toyota Carina?

Regards,

Maina ML

Maybe you should have specified the model years for these cars. But, anyway, except for fuel consumption, everything else is the same for all model permutations that you have given there. The 1.5s are the most economical; the 2.0 litre the most thirsty. The 1.8 has always been the best compromise.

Out of personal experience, I would go for the Carina (Ti), in 1.8 guise. Sure, you will look like you are driving one of Nairobi’s 10 million taxi-cabs, but the balance between performance and economy in the 1.8 is exceptional.
The Carina is not made any more because now we have the Allion.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks a lot for the wonderful, highly informative articles. I own a 1995 Toyota Corolla 100 that I love to bits. I got it as a third owner, so the first thing I did was change the suspension and now it runs like new.

My mechanic recently discovered a leak in the steering system requiring I top up the ATF every three to four weeks. He advises an overhaul of the whole steering system, arms and all, but I think this is a little exaggeration. Is there a way I can have the leak fixed without necessarily changing the arms since it steers just fine?

Second, I love speeding and have installed a second set of brake discs on the rear set of wheels. Does this in anyway interfere with the performance of the car? I kind of enjoy wheezing through traffic knowing I can halt at will!

Thank you.

Eric Ochomo

Where is the leak? If it is in a little pipe from the reservoir for the PAS, you don’t need an overhaul. If it is in the steering box, you still don’t need an overhaul. In fact, you might not need an overhaul at all, just find the leak and plug it.

I’d like to see what your car looks like with two sets of brake kits at the back, instead of one. And, if you want to stop really well, brake bias should be set towards the front. Having stronger brakes at the back is inviting oversteer, instability and possibly fishtailing if your car does not have EBD (which it doesn’t).

When slowing down, the weight of the car is thrown forwards, which is why the front brakes need more stopping power than the rear ones.

Hello
I bought a Toyota Fortuner from Toyota Nairobi in March this year and use it mostly within town, thus I do not use 4X4 add-on. I am getting a fuel mileage of nine kilometres per litre average, yet it is a manual diesel.

It is big and smart but has no extra-ordinary comfort (climbing up to the seat isn’t very easy). I paid Sh5 million for the car, so tell me, did I make the right decision?

Dipak

Dipak, do you FEEL you made the right decision? Is there a nagging feeling of regret or some underlying suspicion that you threw good money away? If yes, then no: that was not the right decision. If no, then yes: you made the right decision.

Over and above the consumer advice and motor-journalist reviews given on cars, there is also a secret desire that shapes our decisions, and this desire is not always rational.

I’m dreaming of getting an Allion, changing the gearbox into a manual and supercharging the thing, but I know it will cost me money, the car’s reliability will go to the dogs and I will use the (very expensive) supercharger’s abilities less than five per cent of the time. I am also dreaming of getting a Defender 110, with a V8 engine.

Both options do not make any sense at all, but I doubt I will regret my decision if I decide to take that path. So, again I ask: how do YOU feel about your car?

How are you Mr Baraza?I want to thank you for your quick response to my e-mail, which was on the user’s manual of a Toyota Harrier and the use of various function keys on the console. You hinted that if you had the details of the vehicle you could try and obtain a manual for me.

As you may have guessed, I have not managed to get it, so I have been relying on the information you gave me and it has been very useful. However, I have a few questions: 

i) The opposite side of the POWER key is written SNOW. When is it appropriate to use this facility?

ii) Can the SNOW key be used together with the gear shift at position ‘L’?

iii) The details of the vehicle are: Harrier, manufactured in the year 2000, 3000cc, 24-valve four wheel drive. If it’s not too much to ask, how about trying to obtain the manual for me?

iv) Some mechanics claim they can do ‘manual diagnosis’ on vehicles. Is this possible? How is it done?

We all appreciate what you have been doing for the Kenyan motorist. Thank you very much.

Peter.

Nairobi.

Nice to hear from you again Peter. Here goes:

i) Since we don’t have snow here, I’m guessing it is usable in very slippery (but NOT deep) mud. But it is not really necessary, one can still manoeuvre without using it.

ii) That would be unnecessary. The PWR and SNOW settings are for the ECT gearbox (different settings). L locks the gearbox in 1st, so there will be no need to adjust the settings of the gearbox shift patterns and lock-up control.
iii) Let me see what I can do…. But I’m not promising anything.

iv) Manual diagnosis can be done, but only on mechanical bits. It is quite easy: it is done by eye (look for broken, loose, frayed, worn out, cracked, misplaced misaligned, discoloured, leaking or burnt components).

It is also done by a simple, short road test (be keen on ride quality, steering behaviour, shakes, rattles, wandering, sagging, bouncing, diving, squatting, braking behaviour etc).

Also, signs of leakage, smoke or funny smells or noises… all these constitute a manual diagnosis. However, “manual” diagnosis cannot be done on things like electronic equipment or sensors. Let your mechanic know you are aware of that.

Hello Baraza,Thank you for the good job. I’m a newly qualified driver who knows nothing about cars. However, I’m planning to buy my first car by December, hence I need your advice.

Please compare for me these three cars in terms of availability of spare parts, durability, stability on the road in case I need to drive from Nairobi to Narok over the weekend, and, above all, fuel consumption.

The cars are Subaru Impreza 1500cc, Mazda Demio and Honda Fit. Please consider the fact that I like the Subaru a lot. Thank you.

Annah.

If you like Subaru a lot, then I will ignore the rest of your question and ask you to buy a Subaru. Why buy something else and then spend your driving days imagining what owning the car you desired would have been like?

There is nothing you will regret about it that you cannot also regret in the other cars. If anything, it outshines the other two in numbers of mechanics and garages doing them: Honda and Mazda are only making inroads on the import market as of the recent past, but the Impreza has been imported in sizable shiploads since the days of the GC chassis.

Baraza

Why are AMG versions of Mercedes Benzes not readily available in Kenya, or are the local Benz buyers unaware of them? Maybe you should explain what the AMG spec really is.

Spider Waigwa

I can’t help but notice you signed your name as “Spider”.

Anyway, AMG Mercs are not readily available for several reasons, first being a lot of people are unaware of what an AMG Benz is (capable of). Then there is the cost, both of purchase and running (fuel and service/maintenance). Maybe one day I will explain what an AMG Benz is: it should be easy since almost all of them use the same engine (and what an engine!)

Local mechs may not be able to deal with these units, except for St Austin’s Garage, which is a subsidiary of DT Dobie. I have spotted quite a number of AMGs there (including SLs and S Classes)

Hello Baraza,

Thanks for your very well researched articles. I have a Toyota Corolla G-Touring that has no other issues except when engaged on Gear 4, when the lever jumps to neutral even at highway speeds. Mechs tell me I need to change the gearbox. Is there a cheaper option?

David

I had an EP82 Starlet with that same problem. I later sold it (with that same problem). Anyway, don’t panic, I’m not asking you to sell your car. You don’t even need a new gearbox.

The cause of the problem is either internal or external. Internal causes could be worn bearings (very common). External causes are linkage issues (easy to diagnose), or a problem with the gearbox mountings (not that easy).

Irrespective of which of these causes is the source of your fourth gear woes, as you can see, it will not take a new gearbox to sort it out.

Hello Mr Baraza,

I’m an avid reader of your very helpful articles and have utmost respect for your knowledge of cars (and trucks). With the current weather conditions, I have noted an increase of accidents in which the vehicles lose traction on very wet tarmac and start drifting.

I was a victim of such an incident recently, and would like you to advise us on the steps to take should one lose control of the car. I hear in manual cars, one gears down to reduce the car’s speed before applying the brakes.

But what about the automatics? Lastly, where can one get their upholstery done should their car take a swim? Looking forward to your response. Nduati.

The safest way to drive in the wet is to lower your speed and increase the distance between your car and the one ahead of you. You don’t have to gear down; however, if you want to gear down, brake first then gear down, don’t gear down then brake.

When you shift down without braking, that is when you will drift due to the extra burst of torque brought about by the lower gear. This is actually one of the drifting techniques used by professional drivers: gear down at speed, then counter steer the car once it starts sliding (and it WILL slide). Nowadays many car wash outfits offer cleaning of both interiors and exteriors. Any big outfit will do the job well.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for the worthy counsel, though I must say you are often somewhat hard on most of us as we continue exhibiting inherent peculiarity in petro-misery.

Now, I haven’t seen much in this column regarding the Toyota Rush. Would you say the 2007 model stands any chance against the Forester (say) 2006 model in terms of stability, performance, handling, looks, fuel economy (pardon me!) and variations in terms of accessories?

Austin

Aah, the return of the Toyota Rush to this inbox. As to whether or not it can stack up against a Forester, here are the answers:

Stability: No

Performance: No

Handling: No

Looks: I guess by this you mean appearance. Well, that is relative, but for me…. No.

Fuel economy: Actually, yes, and it can go one better, by quite a margin. 1300cc vs 2000cc is no contest (pardon me!)

Variations in terms of accessories: No.