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?
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?
I am an avid reader of your column, thanks to which I have learnt a lot about cars.
In 2013 I bought an ex-Japan Peugeot 206 SW. My husband didn’t understand why and how I settled for the car, but I was in love, period.
However, after a year, it started overheating, forcing me to stop abruptly on two or three occasions.
I went to Marshalls and was advised to replace the ECU after spending a few thousands on unnecessary spares. I thought it would be prudent to seek a second or third opinion before spending Sh100,000 on the ECU.
Luck was on my side as I was referred to a mechanic with years of experience with Peugeots. He replaced the ECU with a second-hand one, which served me very well until sometime in January, when my door locks decided to open only when they were “in the mood”.
Miraculously, they started working well again, jamming only occasionally. One day recently, the engine overheated but the problem hasn’t recurred.
My husband thinks I should sell the car although he definitely enjoys the way it picks up speed when he occasionally wants to frustrate the V8 crowd.
I love my Peugeot, although this problem is worrying me. My questions are:
3.Your opinion on Peugeots.
Esther, welcome to the world of Peugeot ownership, a world I left near tears.
The tears were occasioned as much by the financial and logistical pain caused by the car’s wilful and unpredictable tendencies as it was by the need to part ways with something so beautiful, and to which I had given so much of myself.
I once did an entire article about Peugeot ownership and I likened it to dabbling in a relationship with someone you met at the bar. It is a leap of faith.
I also sketched out the peculiarities Peugeots seem to have, and listed some of my own experiences. Your description fits that bill to a T. I smiled when you mentioned the door locks as I remembered how the car locked me out courtesy of a wayward central locking system that I never eventually put right.
Now, I would like to challenge you and invite bets from spectators. You bring the 206 SW and I will bring a V8. Let hubby drive the Pug, I will take the helm of the V8 then we will see who gets humiliated.
Anyway, to your questions:
A quick solution would be to connect the fans directly to the electrical power, bypassing the thermostat, but that might not be necessary. Speaking of thermostats, is yours okay?
Finally, make sure you do not have a leaking or blown head gasket.
Baraza, thanks to you, I now know some things about my car better than some mechanics. Keep up the good work.
Now to my questions:
1) My car, an automatic Toyota DX, jerks whenever I engage the reverse gear; and
2) It vibrates, though not very much, especially when I drive in traffic jams (I usually engage “N” at such times… and the engine runs so smoothly that it’s hard to tell whether it is still on).
My mechanic recommended that I replace the engine mountings, which I did, but the vibration persisted. When I went back to him, he said that the mountings would take some time to “adapt”.
Hilarious! The mountings must be human for them to adapt to their new surroundings. Try checking the transmission mountings, they might be the culprits here. Also, check the level of ATF and the driveline (CV) joints.
Baraza, please indulge us, drivers of second-hand, imported Japanese cars. Review commonly driven cars and give us a break from the Prados, Lexuses and Benzes. Give us something we can identify with.
Evans, I’ve done that more times than I care to count. Five years in the business means we are looking at close to 260 weeks of this column, give or take 20.
Two hundred and forty weeks’ worth of Behind The Wheel/Car Clinic (assuming we are at 20 less than exactly five years) are more than enough to have covered even the most rudimentary of motor vehicles (the Mobius, or maybe the OX) as well as the most complicated (the latest Mercedes S Class).
In between, we have covered countless Toyotas, Subarus, Nissans; we have also had Range Rovers, Jaguars, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, among others, and I might even have talked about the Bugatti Veyron once or twice.
In fact, I have reviewed a go-kart at the low end of the size scale, and a Scania truck on the higher end. In between have been saloon cars, estates, pick-ups and SUVs. Invariably, most of the content has centered on used cars bought by the middle class, the sort of car you claim to “identify with”.
Take a good look at the rest of the content in this week’s write-up. While I have mentioned in the same section the very cars that seem to rub you up the wrong way (Prado, Benz), the subject matter has been on commonly driven, second-hand, imported Japanese cars.
If you do not like the Prados, I’m sure you will be especially miffed come end of April when I go to Mauritius to test-drive the latest product from Land Rover: the all-new Discovery Sport.
I will compensate for it immediately after by reviewing a Nissan Note… or perhaps I should review my own Mazda Demio; after all, it is a commonly driven second-hand, imported Japanese car.
Baraza, I want to buy my first car and my biggest challenge is which to choose between a Toyota NZE and the New Nissan Bluebird. How do fuel consumption, maintenance and depreciation of the two cars of 1500cc engine capacity compare?
Nick, I will ignore your question and answer one of my own. This is mainly because the comparison you ask for is neither here nor there, and the results can swing one way or the other, depending on the operator’s idiosyncrasies.
Get the Bluebird and ditch the NZE. I’m guessing it is the so-called Sylphy, and it is one of the best kept secrets in the used-car market (well, not anymore).
Here is why you should get the Nissan rather than the Toyota (over and above fuel economy, maintenance and depreciation):
The Nissan is prettier. It just is. The rear may be a bit bulbous and could be more of an acquired taste but the rest of the car has a whiff of executive about it.
The size too: it could be considered Premio-grade, rather than NZE-class. This classification extends to creature comforts as well: spec levels, roominess, ride quality….
The rear legroom is especially fantastic; believe it or not, there is more space around the back seats of a Sylphy than there is at the back of the newest Mercedes Benz E Class model. I have sat in both (and driven one) and can say that with some authority.
This brings us to pricing. The Sylphy is cheap, or rather, it is cheaper than an NZE, which is ironical given that it is far better than an NZE.
I know of a friend who got a used one from Japan and after paying all sundry charges and taxes, he had plenty of change left over from the million he had budgeted. Get a similar Corolla from Japan — or worse still, locally — and you will not be counting many leftover shekels in your hand.
And now the big question: why? Blame your fellow Kenyans. They are split into two factions: the first comprises worshippers of Toyota, who believe the corporate giant is the only purveyor of value-for-money automobiles and any other car manufacturer is a charlatan out to swindle unsuspecting buyers of their hard-earned money by selling sub-Toyota grade automobiles at super-Toyota level prices.
It is a very large group and consists mostly of cab drivers, owners of 14-seater matatus, about 85 per cent of the people who buy used Toyotas and my friend from a tea plantation who once said a Hilux can keep up with an Evo. I still soil my pants with laughter every time I remember that conversation.
The second faction is the exact opposite of the first one. It is a smaller clique that believes Toyotas are hugely overrated, and that Toyota are dishonest money-grabbers, not Nissan or Honda or Mitsubishi or the little-known Mitsuoka (the ninth largest car manufacturer in Japan).
They think anyone who buys a Toyota just because it is a Toyota is an idiot who deserves to be relieved of his money, as is the case when they buy a Toyota anyway.
They believe better deals can be had in other brands. Some members of this faction then buy European cars, which they immediately regret when an invoice quoting parts pricing is thrown their way; or buy Chinese, which they also immediately regret when they discover that they have bought a disposable car that will never see the used-car market because of its ephemeral life expectancy.
Their purchase decisions are usually mostly based on leaps of faith rather than cold, clinical analysis.
Well, Toyota-haters, rejoice, for your time is nigh. While both trains of thought are right in their own way, one is more right than the other. Ignore the fundamentalist train of thought employed by both crowds and sift through the extremism to see their points.
Toyotas are the bees’ knees in value-for-money terms, but this only applies if they are bought new. Get into the pre-owned sector and reputation starts to make itself felt. This might explain why Corolla 100s are still commanding prices painfully close to Sh400,000 despite their age.
It also explains why Premios and Allions cost almost twice as much as they really should on the used-car market. Reputation.
With reputation comes demand, and with demand comes price mark-ups to take advantage of the market dynamic. The sucker is the end user who pays these prices to someone who drives an ex-UK Range Rover Sport, and that someone the owner of the used car lot from which the Premio is sold.
The above might justify the Toyota-hating, but then again, this clique’s George W Bush style of reasoning is flawed. There is a good deal to be had out there on a Toyota, but only if you search hard enough.
Just because used Toyotas are overpriced does not make them rubbish; in most cases, they really are superior to the competition.
A good example is the Nissan Bluebird you enquire about. Its rival is the Premio, not the Corolla, but the Premio costs almost half as much again over the Sylphy for the simple reason that the Premio will sell faster.
The Sylphy is lowly priced to get rid of it and avoid its spending too much time in the dealer lot. This does not change the fact that the Premio is superior to the Sylphy.
Long story short: when in doubt, go for a Toyota. If you have time on your hands and a clever friend, shop around for an alternative.
This Toyota/not-a-Toyota quandary is not cast in stone, nor is it exactly black and white. While your dilemma might favour the Nissan, other decisions are no-brainers whose answer is definitely Toyota. Hilux double-cab vs Navara? Go Toyota. Landcruiser vs Patrol? Landcruiser any time. Fielder vs. Wingroad? Take a guess…
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
I want to know more about the Nissan GTR 2012 model. I don’t know the right questions to ask but I’d just like to know whether it is suitable for everyday use?
Is it efficient in terms of performance — power, speed and handling?
I have seen it on racetracks as well as locally on the streets. I would really appreciate some detailed information about it.
My name is not Jim; never was and has never been.
About that GTR: I once believed it to be Jack versus Porsche’s fee-fie-fo-fum, beanstalk-climbing 911 Turbo troll giant but lately the odds have started stacking up against it.
If BBC ‘Top Gear’’s recent showings are anything to go by, its earth-shattering performance doesn’t look so earth-shattering anymore.
That said, you will still be hard pressed to find a car that turns as hard as an Nissan R35.
The 2012 car is good for around 542bhp, which is the kind of power you will likely never fully explore.
Couple this to a clever trick-trick 4WD drive-train, a twin-clutch gearbox and huge nitrogen-filled tyres and the end result is… epic.
This is a car that will show just how physically unfit you really are without having to run a mile.
I experienced its violent character at a military airbase in California on the west coast of the United States of Americaland.
It is a violent track car that may break your neck if you fail to sit properly while in it, but that is when ‘Race’ mode is engaged.
Disengage the psychopath setting and it turns into an amiable daily driver that even geriatrics can take for a quick nip down to the mall and back.
Disclaimer: said geriatric is advised not to go beyond 20 per cent throttle opening on such a shopping trip, because even with Race mode off, stomping the hot pedal will still release the demons of performance hell and the car will shoot forward, possibly at a faster speed than a senile mind can wrap itself around.
Expect 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds. Two. Point. Eight. By the time you read this sentence, the GTR will have launched itself from rest and gone beyond 120km/h. Say hello to Godzilla.
For you to ask whether it is efficient in power, speed, handling and general performance is akin to you asking whether this column is written in English. The answer is “what do you think?” Those four parameters are EXACTLY why the GTR exists, and down the River Styx with humdrum plebeian concerns like economy and maintenance. Those are for losers in 900cc, three-cylinder hatchbacks. This is a twin-turbo, twin-clutch 3.8 litre V6 ground-hugging missile. Only those with substantial testicular fortitude need apply.
Detailed information about this car can be found on almost every motoring website on the internet and some non-motoring ones too. This, however, I will tell you for free: the GTR drives like nothing I have driven before, or since. It may be an adherent to the turbo 4WD formula of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions and Subaru Impreza STis, but while the GTR’s forebears battled these two small saloons, the Nissan R35 grew out of it and went hunting Porsches and Lamborghinis. It is now an accomplished assassin. This is the John Wick of Japanese sports cars.
It has an interior that belies its badge. Nissans typically boast of naff, monochromatic — usually 50 Shades of Grey, beige or black — interiors festooned with ugly buttons, scratchy plastics, exposed seams, panel gap inconsistency and grainy surfaces with just a touch of faux-aluminium, but one can tell the GTR was made by people who took their time with it.
The leather is exquisitely stitched (and is real), the buttons are thoughtfully laid out, the thick-rimmed steering is good to the grip — which, in inexperienced hands, is less a tool for controlling the vehicle than a lifeline for hanging on to as the car threatens to toss you through the windows in hard corners.
Just to be sure of its everyday usability, there is even a woofer/sub-woofer embedded somewhere inside the back seat. And it has an automatic transmission. The car is quite a dandy daily driver.
Until someone drops the gauntlet and challenges you to a showdown.
You had best be awake when you mash the firewall. The transformation from “automatic Datsun coupé” to “Porsche-Slaying Maniac” is instantaneous. The downshifts become harder.
The upshifts become brutal. The acceleration is relentless. The braking is merciless. Cornering in this car actually hurts, it DOES hurt; more so if you had a heavy lunch involving numerous tacos and several cans of chilled soft drink in the baking California heat like yours truly.
While the car goes like it was launched by a giant rubber band and stops like it has hit a tree, it is through the turns that its ability beggars belief.
SHARP AND RESPONSIVE
One can actually feel how heavy this car is (it weighs in at around 1800kg, which is quite lardy), but then again one can also feel the electronic witchcraft and fastidiously built hardware working in tandem to overthrow the reign of heft; and one can feel these electronics and hardware winning the minor skirmish taking place underneath your seat.
The wide nitrogen-filled rubbers and mind-boggling 4WD boffinry really do transfigure what is essentially (weight-wise) an expectant rhino into a heavily caffeinated flea.
The GTR changes direction with the alacrity of a jumped-up insect- for lack of a better analogy- that is how sharp and responsive it is. It is, however, not twitchy with it; it carries this turning capability with grace and aplomb. It is a meister among minstrels.
Go into a moderate sweeping left at 140km/h, which is just about the point where an STi would typically start disobeying instructions, and the car turns with no drama.
It even feels underused. Go in at 160, right about where an Evo would be at its limit and same thing happens.
Try 180. Still works. Try 200… Then realise that you may need fighter pilot training to fully harness this car’s potential, because while Godzilla will handle the speed with which you are straightening corners, your brain may not. The car goes faster than you can think, quite literally.
We did hot laps on a track laid out on a military airbase at a place called El Toro. Once you learn the track layout and know what the car can do, you then revert to your primeval petrolhead mindset, get the red mist over your eyes and start stringing corners together like the expert you clearly aren’t. The experience is sublime.
Foot down. Exit the pit area and barrel down the short opening straight. Feel the surge of acceleration. Do NOT look at the speedometer; which should read 210km/h or thereabouts by the time you reach the first right which is a short distance away.
No need to brake, in fact you only need to lift ever so slightly to trim down your pace somewhat.
The corner leads into a short series of switchbacks. Still no brakes. Chuck the car apex-to-apex, throwing it left and right with something that may be mistaken as willful abandon. Feel the massive weight try to pull the car out of line.
Feel the tyres holding the car in place. Feel the 4WD system reeling the car back in. Also feel the numerous tacos and gallons of Pepsi slosh around uncomfortably in the pit of your stomach; and your brain bouncing off the sides of your skull. Feel your eyeballs slowly losing shape due to the unbelievable grip.
Feel your arms ache. Feel your neck strain. Feel your palms sweat. Try not to vomit. Exit the switchbacks faster than you thought possible in a car, front tyres screaming, steering on half-lock to the right. Let the steering wheel self-center in a controlled slip through your fingers as the car straightens itself out.
As the steering wheel steadily centers itself, simultaneously feed the power in, in such a way that by the time the car is pointing dead straight, you are at wide open throttle. All this is happening so fast your conscious mind can barely keep up and is not even present. In primeval petrol-head mode, you are not quite yourself; you are the Stig’s favorite Facebook follower.
Thunder down the main straight like a fighter aircraft on takeoff. “Lord have mercy, this car is bloody FAST!” you think, in something closely resembling pure panic. Hit 255km/h. See the huge BRAKE sign at the side of the track indicating the upcoming chicanes. Stand on the brakes.
UP FOR SECONDS
Hold your breath tightly because now it feels like your brains will pour copiously through your nostrils and splash all over the dashboard like projectile vomiting; that is how HARD a GTR sheds speed on the stoppers.
Realise you may have braked a bit too hard and washed off more speed than you needed to — after all, this is a GTR — so lift off the anchors and get back on the power. Maintain this power through the tight chicanes, throttling on and off as the track demands.
This is nothing to a GTR; it eats away at the apexes and leaves them wondering what just clipped them. The chicanes lead back into the pit area. Roll to a halt. Remove helmet. Wipe the thin film of sweat now coating your forehead— a byproduct of the combination of frazzling heat and nervous excitement. The hot lap is over and you did not put a foot wrong. Feel proud of yourself. Grin stupidly at your hostess, who you now think of as a goddess at whose feet you will worship henceforth since she let you drive a GTR in anger.
“That was some driving,” she says. “How was it?” she asks with a patronising smile.
“CAN I DO IT AGAIN?”
I have a Honda CRV which comes with tyres with the following specs 235/60 R18. I want to buy new tyres from a particular brand but the only specs they have are 235/65 R18 (bigger profile tyres). Will this affect the performance of the car in any way?
Yes, but the effect will be so minimal you will not notice it. I believe the word we scientists use to describe such an effect is “negligible”
I have been advised by at least three mechanics that coasting damages engine components, especially the clutch due to what they called “shock” when engaging ‘D’ from ‘N’ especially on high speed, downhill…..what’s your take?
This only applies to manual transmissions if declutching is not done properly.
With automatic transmissions, the engagement of the clutch mechanism is computerised, as is the gear selection; so the “shock” of re-engagement is not any harder or any softer than it is during normal upshifts and downshifts.
However, there is the risk of engaging ‘two’ or even ‘one’ instead of D, in which case… well, shock on you and your gearbox/clutch.
Thanks for your informative articles. Kindly contrast and compare Honda Airwave and any Toyota such as the Toyota Wish. I have seen many Kenyans buy Hondas.
I wanted to buy an Airwave but out of the people I talked to, including mechanics, about one out of ten encouraged me. One of my friends who owned one a 1500cc mentioned that it even consumes less than a normal Toyota with the same 1500cc.
Majority cited issues of availability of spare parts and resale value. I looked more spacious than a Toyota Wish considering that you can fold the back seats. The price difference between the two then was around Sh200,000.What is your take on Hondas? Is it that the Toyota did a lot in marketing?
Hondas are an open secret in the motoring world. If you want the best of Japan while avoiding the too-obvious Toyota, get a Honda.
If anything, this is the one car that is more reliable than a Toyota, too bad the Civic did not and does not sell like the Corolla; and Honda doesn’t build a pickup.
They do build and sell dozens of millions of motorcycles, though, and no, that is not hyperbole, they DO build motorbikes in the eight figures.
Spare parts are not and should never be a problem. How many Airwaves have you seen around? How do THOSE owners maintain their vehicles? Feel free to join them.
Resale value may be disheartening at the moment owing to the “should-I-shouldn’t-I?” uncertainty and indecisive mindset that you and many others seem to have; so hopefully this will clear things up: Yes, you should. I plan to, too, one day…. VTEC coming soon to a column near you.
Residual values are something else; related to resale value but not dependent on it.
Actually, the converse is true: resale value is dependent on residual value. Residual value is how well the car holds up over several years of usage and ownership, but this is not per car, it is per model of car.
Here are examples: cars with good residual values are best exemplified by the Toyota Landcruiser and the Toyota Hilux. They simply never depreciate.
This does not mean that you cannot find a grounded or worthless Hilux, you can and will, though this will be an isolated case; but as a model, it maintains its physical (not sentimental) value over time.
Cars with bad residual values? They’re almost exclusively European and almost exclusively French. Peugeot tops the list closely followed by its fellow Frog-mobiles: Renault and Citroen. Alfa Romeo also joins the list of Euro-letdowns, but this brand of car is usually rescued from ignominy by its sentimental value. Its residual value is below zero.
Toyota may have done a lot of marketing, but the biggest contributing factor to their success was they let their products speak for themselves. The two aforementioned vehicles, the Hilux and the Landcruiser, have done more to market Toyota as a brand than a billion-dollar advertising budget ever could.
Honda’s engines may also speak for themselves, but this is only in closed circles: Ask anyone to explain what VTEC means (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) or how it works (a camshaft with two cam profiles or two different camshafts; one of which is oriented for economy and the other for performance, and the switchover occurs at around 6,000rpm) and they’ll stare at you like you were a creature from Star Wars.
Yet VTEC engines are the one type of engine to have never suffered a single failure in their entire history, not one, and this is in spite of them being in production since 1988 and now numbering in the tens of millions.
How about the fact that Honda designed a cylinder head (CVCC heads) for use in its American version of the Civic hatchback, a design so delightfully simple and so fiendishly clever that the fuel economy figures achieved from a carburetor-fed engine from the 1970s are still unbeaten even by today’s cleverest EFI systems?
This geeky techno-frippery may be what scared people off Honda. Everybody is cagey about innovation, especially the really technical ones.
Try selling an all-in-one app to a major corporation and see them approach it like a cat approaching a bath.
Then again, maybe the movies, newsreels of war theatres, bush ambulances, adventuring tourists, lifestyling twentysomethings, successful businessmen and happy farmers almost always feature a Toyota Landcruiser or a Toyota HIlux and we are thus indoctrinated from childhood to believe that Toyota is the beginning and the end of everything; anything outside of that is nothing but a brief and temporary sojourn into the unknown.
Does engaging ‘N’ (neutral gear) when going downhill save on fuel, mine is a Toyota DX with a 4E engine, what’s the average fuel consumption in terms of l/km.
Yes, coasting downhill saves fuel… somewhat. It is not the best fuel-saving driving technique, though. A Toyota DX will return anything from 10km/l to 20km.k, depending on who is driving and how it is being driven, but the mean (average) and mode (commonest) rate of consumption is around 13km/l.
I am an ardent reader of your motoring column every Wednesday. Keep up the good work.
A friend of mine is looking for a mid-size 4×4 vehicle, probably a SUV. The car will be used by his wife in rural areas on weather roads. The wife is a teacher and every morning crosses a seasonal river when going to school.
He is weighing on four Models: Nissan X-trail, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano and Subaru Tribeca. All 2008 models.
A quick check on Youtube shows a lot similarities on handling of off-road conditions for the four vehicles. This leaves us more confused.
Given the kind of terrain the vehicle will be used on, which one is better putting into considerations other factors such as:
(ii) Repair costs;
(iii) Fuel Consumption;
(iv) Stability control; and;
I will do something unusual this time round and ignore the actual question you are asking, and go ahead and answer your inquiry according to what stands out with these vehicles. You can make your judgment call from my seemingly impertinent (or are they?) responses.
To start with, yes, YouTube is mostly right; these cars are basically facsimiles of each other. This is the primary reason why I will ignore the (i) to (v) queries up there, except for (iii).
Let us focus on the elephant in the room and think about that seasonal river you are talking about…. I have sampled the first generations of all the cars listed (and the second generation X- Trail too), and the most fitting for wading through a water carpet thicker than ankle-deep would be the X-Trail.
Forget the others, their ground clearances are too low and/or their wheelbases too long and/or their overhangs too intrusive for them to make a case for themselves as anything other than high-priced shopping baskets for the housewives with slightly larger disposable incomes. This is especially noteworthy of the Tribeca.
Speaking of the Subaru: it has the biggest engine here, a 3.6 litre flat six (forget the original Tribeca B9 with its weedy little 3.0 litre), so it is also the thirstiest: 5km/l on a normal day, stretching to 7km/l when the going is good.
The drop in fuel prices may have brought smiles in many a Tribeca-borne household. I liked its automatic gearbox the best too, but the swoopy, futuristic, beige interior of the test car I drove is the kind that attracts fingerprints like a mirror in the hands of a toddler.
The Tribeca is also the lowest riding, whether for real or apparently is hard to tell; but the long wheelbase doesn’t help -making it the most inappropriate for off-tarmac jaunts.
It is the only car in this list that seats seven, though (the rest seat five), so you could always look for paying passengers to offset the fuel bills…
The Mazda CX7 is a rocket ship. It is hard to tell exactly what the car was meant for, because what starts life as a cramped cross-over utility — in essence what looks like a Mazda 6 with a hatch and a lift-kit- is then saddled with a limp-wristed engine that has no torque. To ensure that this lack of torque is not noticed by drivers, the engine has a little extra something bolted to it: a stinking turbocharger.
The result is this Mazda goes like a getaway vehicle in a PG13 TV program.
If you want to humiliate the Tribeca-driving housewives on tarmac, then this is your weapon of choice. Sadly for it, speed is about all that it’s good for: with turbo comes compromised reliability (the front-mount intercooler is an especially sensitive sticking point) and woeful fuel bills. 245 horsepower ain’t a joke.
The CX7, however, comes a close second to the X-Trail in off-road acts.
Next up is the Murano. This is a car I lambasted not too long ago (to my own detriment: I have been unable to live down the dressing down I received from pundits who won’t calm down).
The first-generation model still looks funny to me; what with that fat rump at the back and the leering rictus up front. While the Mazda goes like a sports car, the best the Murano can do is claim to have an engine from a sports car: the veritable VQ35 unit from the Z33 Nissan 350Z, the famous Fairlady. The Murano is not that fast though. It also takes some getting used to: not everything is where you’d expect it to be.
Try filling up at a fuel forecourt for the first time in one and prepare for some red-faced scrabbling around in the driver’s foot-well looking for the release catch for the fuel filler cap. Here is a hint: stop looking, it doesn’t exist.
Another problem with the Nissan is one could easily end up with the more plebeian 2.5 litre 4-cylinder as opposed to the 3.5 V6, and you’d never know the difference… that is, until you try to overtake a Mazda CX7 and wonder why a 1200cc capacity advantage and two extra cylinders are not helping. Not a bad car for roughing it, but then again not quite at the CX7’s level.
Lastly, the X-Trail. This is the one you should get. It may not necessarily be the most durable (Murano), nor the most comfortable (Tribeca), nor the most stable (CX7) but it should be the cheapest to buy, fuel and maintain. It is definitely the most appropriate car for the terrain. It also has the most boring interior of the four cars. Invest in a good sound system to take your mind off the naff ambience.
I have been thinking of two cars, Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrids. Tell me, what are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a hybrid car? Which one should I buy?
Advantages of a hybrid car: they put you in a good mood because you think you are saving the world. Disadvantages of a hybrid car: you are not actually saving the world.
Trade-off: the lower fuel bills will be a joy until you discover how much of a swine a hybrid car really is to fix. Ask your mechanic if he knows what Miller cycle is as opposed to Otto cycle.
If he cannot answer this, he cannot fix your Prius; even if he is also an electrician by night, he still can’t fix your Prius.
Between eating bitter fruit at 10am and eating bitter fruit at 3pm, which is better? Neither, at the end of it you still eat bitter fruit.
Get a Prius, there are quite a few around, maybe there exists an owner’s club for these things by now (a good source for unreliable and unverifiable information) and/or a graveyard of dead Prii/Pria/Prix/Priuses (a good source of parts).
This is a clarification and a disclaimer. I do not know any female bloggers, much less any who have underlying and/or unresolved issues with drivers of blue Subarus.
I did not train, nor did I request any Internet superhero to pick fights with yuppie-grade Six-Star specialists.
I did not ask for any help in disparaging the Boxer Boys. My relation with Subaru (drivers) transcends colour and creed: an Impreza doesn’t have to be blue to get beaten by a Lancer Evolution.
My on-off disagreement with the Subaru fan club is not a judgmental and jaundiced look at their lifestyles, or their romantic capabilities, life choices or financial health; it is a simple debate that is quite easily solved through an orgy of octane overdose, twin turbos, advanced timing, burning rubber, wild understeer, missed gearshifts, shattered valves and bent con-rods. In other words, this is banter between petrolheads, not social commentary.
It is high time prejudiced “keyboard activists” left Subaru drivers alone.
Only I am allowed to poke fun at them. I don’t write about age-disparate, inappropriate, financially-fuelled social pairings involving sugar-parents (daddies or mommies) in my weekly column, seeing how little I know about them.
It is only fair NOT to include motor vehicles in a questionable write-up involving the devious machinations of scheming trollops; obnoxious opportunists seeking pots of gold where they aren’t supposed to, more so if the author of the said piece thinks a Range Rover Sport is the beginning and the end all things motoring.
Leave the Subaru-bashing to me. I got this.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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?
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?
You are doing a great job to demystify cars for us, lay people. I’m in a bit of a quandary; I have been driving a superb, go-anywhere-anytime Toyota Prado with an indestructible 1KZ power plant.
In the seven years I have driven “the beast”, it has never let me down! Unfortunately, with 250,000km on the clock, the beast is showing signs of old age and I feel it’s time for an upgrade.
I’m torn between upgrading within the Prado family to a 2007 to 2009 model with the D4D power plant, getting a Land Rover Discovery 3, or a 2009 to 2010 Mitsubishi Pajero.
I’m a simple guy, and here’s what I’m looking for in a car:
I’ve heard diverse things said about the three cars I’m considering, ranging from “unreliable” regarding the D4D, “cancerous” regarding the Disco, to “lazy” regarding the Mitsu! I’d really appreciate your wise counsel as I fumble through this decision-making maze.
PS: I’m not ashamed to say that I’ll miss the beast. Sob, sob!
Hello Bwana Macharia,
This might sound like marketing parlance, but it isn’t. Now, if something ain’t broken, don’t fix it. The 1KZ-equipped (I presume J90) Prado is unstoppable, I know, and so is the J120.
The car ticks all the above boxes convincingly, whereas numbers 3 and 4 might prove to be problematic for the other two in one way or another.
Over and above that, as a follower of this column, you must by now know that the Discovery 3 is like a holiday romance: achingly beautiful, impeccable first impression, does everything right and causes a stirring in the soul — the kind of stirring not entirely dissimilar to raw desire.
But, like a holiday romance, it only works in the interim; get into a long-term relationship and the dark side of the moon unveils itself and that achingly beautiful shell becomes nothing but a fancy frock for a fickle filly, the character does not match the looks, or the implications thereof.
They are horrendously expensive to maintain and, in the long run, they might end up causing more pain than satisfying a seven-year itch… just like a holiday romance. Careful who you hook up with this Christmas, bro!
Where the Discovery is unreliable, the Pajero is weak; and not just under the bonnet. The frame, too, is not exactly what you’d call Hercules-class.
Structural rigidity is below par to the point where extended off-road use twists the chassis. A close friend who works in a government ministry says he has been through two or three of these cars and all suffered the same problem: the shell cracked and started splitting along the B-pillar.
My childhood dream was to drive a Land Rover in the muddy, red soil of Murang’a, thanks to the inspiration I got from seeing our local priest roaring through the village in one. As altar boys, we enjoyed the ride, especially during the rainy season.
What is your take on buying a Land Rover Defender for town driving and travel to the rural areas, as well as the occasional adventure? And which alternative is comparable to the Defender?
Don’t buy a Defender for town driving. The ride is extremely hard and punishing to the human frame, which might explain why the policemen you encounter at night are always in a bad mood.
The seats, too, are hard. You might need it for adventure, though, such as the upcoming Great Run 6, because the Defender is damn near unbeatable when it comes to extreme off-road driving.
The Defender’s direct rival is the 70 Series Toyota Landcruiser. Both are available in the exact same permutations: 3-door estate, 5-door estate, single-cab pick-up, double cab pick-up and the extended-chassis tourist vans. Both are very uncomfortable, which might explain why those policemen are still in a bad mood even after switching from Land Rovers to Landcruisers.
However, the 70 Series is a little less jarring than the Defender. Both share the same iconic, never-gets-old, designed-using-a-ruler-only breeze-block, aerodynamically unsound square shape, and both have elementary interiors and rudimentary drivetrains.
The Land Rover carries the advantage slightly, in that the latest version contains contemporary electro-trickery such as ABS, EBD, traction control and such. The Toyota is still the same car that was on sale 20 years ago. The Defender is also available with a wider range of engines, starting with an ultra-modern, super-smooth and economical 2.2 litre turbodiesel all the way to a huge, stonking 4.4 litre petrol V8. The Toyota, for this market, can only be had with straight-6 engines: a 4.2 litre diesel (no turbo) or a 4.5 litre petrol.
One other option is the Russian UAZ jeep, but no, you wouldn’t want that. It is crude to the point of being absurd: interior lighting is by the kind of onion bulb people had in their houses back when the 70 Series was new (30 years ago). It is an unfathomably hostile environment to sit in for longer than two minutes and the massive panel gaps mean one can almost enter the vehicle without opening the doors. It is that bad. I don’t know if they are still on sale locally.
In one of you previous articles you mentioned why it would not be advisable to buy a VW Touareg diesel since Kenyan fuel has its challenges.
I am a Kenyan living in the UK and in a year or two I will ship a car home. Does this diesel challenge apply to all VW models like the Tiguan, Passat, and Jetta?
I am asking this because of the European love for diesel cars. You will notice most of the larger VWs are currently diesel and the proportion using petrol is relatively small. Does this mean I change the brand, or is the diesel problem unique to the Touareg? I await your feedback with bated breath.
Play it safe and stick to petrol engines whenever you come around.
Thanks for your great work. You won’t believe how many Wednesday Daily Nations I have bought since I “discovered” you. Here are my questions:
Suppose I want to get an automatic Subaru Forester, years 2000 to 2002:
Great stuff you do, and quite informative. I’m about to purchase an executive saloon car and I am debating between a 2005, 2,400cc Mercedes Benz W211, and a 2005, 2,500cc BMW E39. Which would you go for, objectively, were you the one buying?
Is it true the BMW has more issues than the Benzo and costs an arm and a leg to sort out? What are the drawbacks of a panoromic roof? Please touch on electronic issues, handling, safety, performance and, mostly, reliability.
Hello “JM Bob”
Of the two, I’d go for the E39. It is quite a looker; I think it is one of the most handsome of all BMW cars to date. It handles superbly, far better than the Merc, and of course there is the matter of having 100 extra cc.
It is not cast in stone that the BMW has more issues than the Benz; get a well-maintained example and regrets will be few and far between. Of course, it will cost an arm and a leg to sort out “more issues” (where they exist); after all, this is a premium German marque and the car in question is not only one of their best sellers, but also the most scrutinised.
It has to be built with the best engineering and materials in mind. Putting this engineering and the materials right when it all goes south will cost you, naturally.
I doubt if a panoramic roof has any drawbacks apart from inflating the asking price as a selectable option.
Electronic issues: a few isolated cases with interior lighting is about as far as these go with the BMW. The Merc’s electronic issues are a bit more extensive, stretching to ignition, central locking/plipper, electric windows and the starter.
Handling: both will handle nicely, but the BMW is just that much sharper, responds better and will get slidey around the rear on demand. It also gives better driver feel and feedback compared to the Mercedes.
Performance: With its superior handling, better response, lighter body and 100 extra cc, the BMW, of course, rules.
Reliability: I think I answered that earlier.
I read your article on a revitalising gel and could not help wondering how you bring Jesus into this. Anyway, I am eagerly waiting for the outcome of your research. Now, I have a car that I mostly drive around the city on weekends.
During the week, I park it in the sun. So my question is, can this practice have a negative effect, given that I consider it a way of preserving the car and prolonging its life. It’s a 98 Impreza hatchback.
The story on the revitalising gel was an analogy and had nothing to do with religion or faith. It was used to stress a point. No offence was intended and I hope none was taken. Speaking of research, I have dipped my foot into the water and acquired the XADO paste… comes in a small tube with, of all things, a SYRINGE! It makes me look like some mad scientist about to inject something organic in a movie. Anyway, once it goes into my gearbox, there will be reports at 500km and 1,000km.
There is nothing really wrong with parking your car through the week then driving it on weekends, a lot of people do that (including yours truly).
However, parking it under direct sunlight could raise some issues: there is the risk of the paint fading, especially if the lacquer is thin or scraped off (that is why it is always a good idea to polish/wax your car every now and then); some components might deteriorate, depending on their quality: glass gets stained, dashboards cracking under the extreme heat, rubber seals peeling or crumbling away, etc.
These problems were more pronounced in older cars, but modern cars are a lot more tolerant. Park in the shade, or get a car cover if you can.
I have been wondering why you answer questions only from people who drive big and expensive cars? This is the third mail I am sending, although I can already tell you won’t respond – if at all you care to read it.
Now to my question: Which small SUV would you go for between a Toyota Cami and Suzuki Jimny, both year 2006, 1.3litre, in terms of off-road ability in muddy conditions, engineering, and availability of spare parts. I want one for commuting to work and visiting the farm in a remote shags on weekends.
Yes, I only answer questions from people who drive big and expensive cars, cars like the Nissan Note, Mazda Demio and Subaru Impreza. They don’t come any bigger or more expensive than these.
Perhaps I should start charging a consultation fee; that way, maybe the owners of these big cars will stop sending emails and allow drivers of smaller cars to have their 15 minutes.
Secondly, there is a backlog in my inbox: I have hundreds of unanswered emails, and yours was one of them – until now.
So, to your question: I wouldn’t buy either of the two since they are both horrible to drive. I’d rather buy a first-generation 5-door Suzuki Vitara, which costs less but gets you more of a car and is cheaply available with an optional V6 engine.
The Cami and Jimny are tiny, bouncy little things that are badly afflicted by crosswinds on the highway, will not seat enough human beings for you to have a memorable road trip, and will shatter your pelvis on a rough road. However, they are also very capable when the ground underfoot gets industrial.
Off-road: Their non-existent overhangs, narrow bodies and relatively high ground clearance make them handy tools for penetrating the impenetrable, and unless you fall inside a peat bog or drive off a cliff, you are unlikely to ever get stuck in one.
The muddy conditions you inquire about may prove to be their undoing, though: their tiny, underpowered engines don’t generate enough power to force your way through the clag, which is why Landcruisers are recommended for such. You need plenty of power when going through mud, otherwise you run the risk of wedging yourself into the landscape.
With power, you also need bigger wheels. The Jimny and Cami both run on dinner plates that will cut through the mud and beach your vehicle faster than you can say “I knew 1.3 litres was not enough engine…” The Jimnys sold by CMC had slightly wider wheels, though, which would improve matters. Here’s why:
When forging a path through the quagmire, you need a modicum of buoyancy to prevent getting stuck. The bigger tyres offer a bit of floatation, and the speed complements it.
Of course, it is not recommended that you try and do 100 kph in a swamp, but it is imperative that you keep moving and not stop at all, and sometimes to keep moving, you need plenty of revs and a bit of wheelspin.
With no power at your disposal, compounded by smaller wheels, you will start to sink in the mud and if you try to generate a bit of wheelspin, you burn your clutch and/or stall the vehicle.
The Jimny has a slight advantage over the Cami in that, as a 3-door, it has a shorter wheelbase, and the lack of a body-kit even as an option gives it superior approach and departure angles, and much better ground clearance.
Engineering: These are cheap, narrow, 1.3 litre, 4-cylinder Kei cars. The engineering in them is rudimentary at best, and their only bragging points would be over things we take for granted in other cars such as AC, power steering, power windows and variable valve timing.
Forget about hill descent control, torque vectoring, terrain response systems or submersion sensor technology; for those, you need to multiply your budget by 30 and start looking at Range Rovers, the kind of cars driven by people whose emails I respond to (you opened a can of worms here, my friend).
Availability of spare parts: small, Japanese cars are the topic at hand. What was your question again?
Thanks to you, we petrolheads now look forward to Wednesdays as if it is Friday. Your writing prowess and knowledge about cars is simply outstanding. Keep up the good work. Anyway, to my queries.
1) Why don’t the turbo-charged Subies and Evos come with turbo timers from the factory? And they don’t come with damp valves either: does it mean they are not necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I know what they are used for but it bothers me that the manufacturers of these speed machines don’t fit these gadgets as standard.
2) This is a proposal: I think it’s high time rally organisers used the Jamuhuri Park circuit, where two cars race side by side on gravel, as a spectator stage. They did so last time and it was really exciting.
I am disappointed that this year they have skipped it for the boring Migaa circuit. To the rally organisers: let’s build more circuits like that in our bid to lure the WRC. I doubt it’s costly, plus they can always charge entry fees to recover the costs.
Last but not least, what’s the shape of an Evo’s tail lights? Because we sub drivers can’t recall….
1. These turbo cars don’t come with timers because in stock form, they do not really need them. Once the owners/drivers start tuning/modifying/upgrading them by installing bigger turbos, increasing boost pressures and using manual boost controllers, the need for timers arises.
The turbos spool faster, generate more heat, and the bigger units require more oil for lubrication, which is where the need for timers comes in. The timers assist in heat dumping and spool-down manoeuvres to prevent damage and oil coking. The stock turbos are usually designed during R&D to compensate for this sudden cool-down, according to their capacity.
A small correction though: the factory cars DO come with dump valves, it’s just that these BOVs are not as loud as the aftermarket devices. Some people install new dump valves simply for the noise they make, a noise I will admit is highly addictive. Even I will buy a new BOV just for the “pssshh!!” throttle-off hiss.
2. Well, nowadays we have something called Club TT Motorsports, and though unintended, it sometimes steps in where rally fears to tread. Club TT Motorsports is the committee behind the famous time trials, four of which have been held so far. Three of the four races were the Kiamburing TT hill-climbs, and one was the Murang’a TT.
I will pass your recommendation on to the organising committee and see if Jamhuri Park can be put to good use. Wheel-to-wheel racing is the most dangerous aspect of motorsport, especially where amateurs are concerned, but then again, its entertainment quotient is infinitely greater than the standard time trial format.
If we can get two cars to run side by side (Evo vs STi, anyone?) but demarcate the two lanes into separate pathways, we will be sure to have a show we will not forget soon. What was that you said about Evo tail-lights?
Dear Mr Baraza,
Thank you for sharing your column. The information is very helpful and insightful. Keep up and do not be discouraged by the few negative comments.
I recently bought a 1800cc Premio but need to improve the clearance. I have put strong coil springs and there is some improvement, but when fully loaded, it’s still low on high bumps.
1. Is it true that bigger tyres will increase fuel consumption? I am using 185/70/14. I wanted to use 195/70/15. Will they affect stability?
2. Since I imported it, whenever I drive beyond 100 kph, if I brake, the steering wheel shakes. I have checked the brakes, had the wheels aligned and balanced but no change.
3. The back seat has only two safety belts, with an arm rest in between that can be folded back to accommodate three passengers.
The import inspection sheet indicated that it can accommodate five passengers, so I am assuming there should have been a safety belt for the middle passenger at the back.
1. Not really. Okay, it will, but the difference will be barely discernible and anyway, the instantaneous consumption varies quite a bit. Overall, you will not notice anything.
2. Check your brakes again. Your problem sounds like warped brake discs. You might need new ones.
3. I’d assume so too, so either a) we are both wrong, or b) there WAS a seat belt but for one reason or another it was removed.
When I reviewed a Premio a long time ago, I sat in the back seat to check out the legroom (which was good) but didn’t check for a centre belt, so I cannot tell if this is an isolated case or if it is the norm with Premios.
It is at times like this that reader feedback comes in handy; maybe other Premio owners out there can tell us if their cars are also blighted by fewer seatbelts than there are seats, or if this problem is yours alone.
I like your expert advice on the advantages or otherwise of various car makes/models and solutions you suggest for car problems.
I am an admirer of SUVs currently driving a Subaru Forrester. I would like to upgrade, maybe to a BMW X5 or X6.
Which one do you consider a better deal in terms of performance, fuel economy, and local support, bearing in mind that it would most likely be a second-hand import?
Also, should I buy one that uses petrol or diesel, given that there are issues with the quality of locally available diesel.
I can’t help but notice you share a name with a TV comedian, the famous “Churchill”. You are not he, are you?
The two cars are largely similar and share engines, so performance, economy and local support are no different irrespective of which X-car you go for.
Local support is the bone of contention here: a visit to Bavaria Motors assured me that they do not discriminate against imports; they will support ANY BMW you throw at them. The reports on the ground are a little different but not too worrisome. Some claim they have not got a stellar reception at Bavaria.
Petrol vs diesel: BMWs have not had as many complications with diesel engines as their German rivals, Mercedes and Volkswagen. I think it is a calculable risk, and the calculations say you can take a gamble.
However, the petrol engines are a lot more powerful and much more fun to drive but you need a sizeable fuel budget if you plan to take advantage of the hiatus in the 50km/h town-bound speed limit.
I am contemplating importing a Honda Fit 1500 cc , but the mileage (all in Japan) seems high at 98,000 km. What would you advise?
I would advise that you not pay too much money for it; 98,000km is a lot for a small ex-Japan car. Alternatively, expand your search and hope to find one with lower mileage (it will cost a little bit more, though).
I read your article on revitalisants in Car Clinic with lots of interest.
This Russian revitalisant was introduced to me by a doctor friend who had earlier used it in the UK.I added the gel to my engine oil in September this year and the engine of my Mitsubishi Warrior double- cab has improved in sound quality. It used to be rough, like a truck, but I can now say there is definitely an improvement.
I have also noticed an improvement in fuel economy. The car now does 7 kpl from a low 5.5 kpl, which is poor for a diesel vehicle.
I am ready to take the plunge with you on the gearbox. Let’s compare notes sometime in November.
Interesting feedback. I did review a Mitsubishi L200 Warrior double-cab pick-up some two years ago and two of the many shortcomings on that particular vehicle involved the gruffness of the engine and the poor fuel economy. Maybe that vehicle needed some “revitalising”.
November is here, I will soon get my bottle of magic Russian juice, then we will see what is what. This Russian elixir is called XADO (pronounced “ha-do”) and has apparently been around for some time. Strange how I had not heard of it till recently.