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Why the Mazda Verisa is a good buy…and speed like you have never known it

VIVIAN VERISA: Baraza, I have heard your call for someone to offer you a 2008 Mazda Demio to test-drive and review…. sort of. I don’t have a Demio, but I do have a 2008 Mazda Verisa.

She is a sweet, sweet ride — although I might not be the best judge as the car I had before then was a 1998 Toyota Premio. Back to the Verisa; there is scant information out there, both locally and elsewhere.

During the purchase process I felt like I was literally re-inventing the wheel trying to get even a drop of information on the car. Anyway, I’d be honoured if you could use my Vivian to preach the Mazda gospel to one and all.

I am always looking for more information on the Verisa, anything and everything. Let me know if you’d be interested in test-driving the Mazda Verisa at any time. If you have already done a review on it, please send a link to shame-faced me. Thanks, EK


EK, of course I’m interested in test-driving a Mazda Verisa. I have driven one before, and apart from the driving experience — which I rather liked — I didn’t have much to report.

This may or may not be because I was not doing a full-on road test at the time. If feedback is anything to go by, the Verisa should be a happy purchase: the accolades are flowing and the reports are glowing from various satisfied owners.

A pre-test review may reveal that the Verisa is one up on the Demio — I will grudgingly admit — particularly on practicality (the Verisa is bigger in and out without being any slower or any thirstier) and that annoying “off-road” use that people are always asking about (it also has better ground clearance). Off-road use does not mean Rhino Charge shenanigans.

It basically means straying off-tarmac onto estate roads that would otherwise scrape the bellies and/or body kits of low slung cars, such as an unmolested factory Demio. The Verisa should suffer no such problems.

Vivian, eh? Vivian Verisa. Sounds like the name of a socialite. Please get back to me on the need to give one’s car a name; I have never understood the concept behind it.

The furthest I have gone on this end is to brand mine a “Mazdalago LP111-2”, a play on Lamborghini’s Murcielago LP640-4, but calling it Eric? Or Erica? It doesn’t click at all.


UNDER PRESSURE: Baraza, I have just read about the last Great Run and I can assure you that I will be in the next one. Kindly place an advert for the same early enough, and enlighten me on the following issues: i)

My Toyota Premio wheels are okay and drive well when I put pressure at 30psi each, yet a boda boda motorcycle, which has smaller wheels, takes 70psi into each wheel.

A tractor, which has far much bigger wheels than any car on earth, lets 30psi as well. Which science or magic or Illuminati is this? ii) What unit is used to measure the pressure? I’m sure it’s not kilos.

  1. ii) I got into a 2006 Toyota Camry and when the driver put on the AC, the vehicle started vibrating a lot. What could be the cause? Is it a common problem with Camries?
  2. iv) Between a Camry with a 2400cc engine and a Mark X with a 2500cc engine, which one is more powerful, and which one is more thirsty? How much would each of the above do on the road in terms of kilometres per litre? Wainaina


Wainaina: i) There isn’t any magic or Illuminati in it, it is just science. I love it whenever such questions come up, because now we can tell who paid attention in class and who didn’t. Ever heard students complain about learning obscure topics in even more obscure subjects and wondering aloud where they will ever apply that knowledge? Well, the chickens have come home to roost.

Anyway, the Illuminati: Pressure is force per unit area. A small force applied over a small area is basically the same as a large force applied over a large area, provided the relative sizes are constant for the two parameters.

An example is the pressure exerted by a force of 5 Newtons applied over 1 square meter is the same as the resultant pressure by a force of 10 Newtons applied over 2 square meters: simple arithmetic, 5 divide by one is the same as 10 divide by 2. Fairly obvious. This force, in Newtons, in most cases is exerted by a mass (called weight outside of a physics lab), and the mass (weight) in most cases is expressed in kilograms.

What common thing in this column has kilograms? Yes, you are right, motor vehicles. Motor vehicles have kilograms, and these kilograms exert a force on the tyres. These tyres have a contact patch (the surface area touching the ground). See where this is going?

The motorbike has a rather small weight, but it has puny, skinny little rubbers, so that weight/mass/force exerted on a very tiny area ends up exerting a lot of pressure.

The pressure in the tyre has to counteract the pressure resulting from the weight of the bike, so it has to be high or else the tyre will compress and become near flat.

Same thing with a car: a lot heavier than a motorbike but it has much bigger tyres, and what’s more, there are FOUR of them, so we have a force/mass/weight being applied over a relatively larger area and the resulting pressure is comparably lower (again simple arithmetic: a bigger denominator and/or a smaller numerator means a smaller fraction). Extrapolate this argument to understand why tractors too put 30… speaking of which:

  1. There are various units of pressure… seriously, where were you when the rest were in science class? Was it an optional subject? If yes, the prevailing Minister of Education at the time should be serving time for doing the country a great disservice…. and so should your science teachers in case you actually attended science class.

The units of pressure are Newtons/meter2, kilos/metre2, psi (pounds per square inch), atmospheres, bars, or Pascals. I’m not going to explain any further.

  1. That doesn’t sound like a common Camry problem. It seems like when the AC compressor was (retro)fitted, possibly after a refill, the installation was a half-ass job and now something somewhere is not sitting true within its channels. Check all belts and pulleys.
  2. As retribution for your ridiculous question in No. 2 above I will not answer this. Use the Internet to find out the power figures of the Camry 2.4 and Mark X 2.5. “Seek and ye shall find”, thus spake The Lord. Indulge The Lord and seek. As for economy figures: I have said time and again they vary greatly.

There doesn’t exist a definite consumption figure for a given motor vehicle, but there are averages (which you can find in the research above too). All I will state is the obvious: the Mark X is more powerful and burns more fuel on average compared to the Camry.


ROAD HOGS: Baraza, I read with interest — and dismay — the letter from James Wachira in the Car Clinic of June 3, 2015, where he talked about racing on the Nairobi-Nakuru road with fellow drivers.

As a regular user of the Road, I can assure him that the drivers of the other vehicles he mentioned did not see any reason to engage him in his antics as it would simply have been an exercise in vanity.

Let me explain: The vehicle density on this road simply does not afford one with any safe opportunity to engage in such.

To achieve the kind of speeds Wachira mentioned means accelerating to very high revs, especially when overtaking, and then swerving back to your lane after a very short distance, and then stomping (quite literally) on the brakes. Quite simply, it is suicidal to race on this road.

Had he taken some time to stop at the bus stop at Westlands in Nairobi, he would have noticed that a matatu he overtook at Naivasha driving at a sedate 80KPH wouldn’t have been no more than 10 minutes behind him. He would then have realised that it was pointless to subject the poor Honda Fit to such horrendous treatment.

Please advise him to keep to the speed limit next time round; it is so much safer not only to himself but to other road users as well. Boniface


Thank you Boniface. I made that same observation a while back and described it as a Chinese fire drill (definition: a lot of expended effort achieving nothing; in his case a lot of expended fuel not going much faster than other traffic on average).

Yes, he will overtake others, but more likely than not he will be held up behind slower traffic as the vehicles he has just overtaken catch up. Then what?

That being said, overtaking is an art form. If the Nairobi-Nakuru drive was a canvas on an easel, our Fit (and seemingly unfit) driver would be a burly man throwing buckets of paint against the easel to see what sticks and generally conjuring something incorrigible and senseless (there is no sense is burning excess fuel to go no faster than other drivers, is there?).

Then there are those — mostly truck and SUV drivers — who, while overtaking, would force other traffic off the road. These are throwing paint on the easel and sometimes missing it entirely and getting the wall instead.

The consequences are ugly and expensive to put right again: you can equate cleaning the walls to cleaning the blood off the tarmac once the undesirable happens, a la KCD 060Q/KBS 282A or whatever that red Range Rover Sport was registered as.

Then there are the real artists. Cold calculation, presence of mind and a mastery of their tools lead them to display a beautifully executed masterpiece that leaves observers in awe of their talent.

Once you understand how to avoid braking and how to maintain a certain average speed while observant of vehicles around you, one can time their overtaking maneuvers to coincide with moments of blank opposite lanes.

In some cases, holding back a little helps, so that one powers up from afar in such a way as to easily skip over entire queues of vehicles in one fell swoop.

It does not apply to traffic jams; that is then called “overlapping” and will garner a hefty fine from the authorities if they catch you at it.

It’s not all black and white though. Like all skills, it takes a lot of practice, exposure, presence of mind and great understanding of what one is doing to hone it. If unsure, best to stick to the Fit method: power, brake, power, brake, power…. fuel gauge at E. Drat!


SPEED FREAKS: Baraza, I recently overheard some rallying enthusiasts discussing the latest rally cars that can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/hr in about two seconds flat.

From what I gathered from them, these cars are equally fast in braking. As a motor sports pundit and freak, I would like to know:

  1. i) Which are these cars with such capabilities? Are they available in Kenya?
  2. ii) Will their turbochargers have picked up in under two seconds so as to achieve such a feat?

iii) Can the human body withstand the G-Force associated with such acceleration and deceleration? Henry G


Henry: i) The ones I am sure of are rally cross cars. These are mostly tiny little hatchbacks (Fords, Renaults, SEATs), stripped out, 2.0-litre, highly boosted machinery capable of 700bhp, hence the insane acceleration.

Back when I was still getting the necessary nutrients to emerge as a motoring columnist, I recall reading about a superstar in the French Rally Cross, a Citroën Xantia that had about 750hp on tap and could do the 0-100 dash (more like flash) in 1.8 seconds.

Yes, one point eight, not eighteen. In a Citroën. It had a turbo the size of a municipal dustbin and a six-speed dog-type sequential gearbox that the driver would bang from first to fourth in a flurry of snap shifts within a space of around 150 metres, by which time he would be well past the 130km/h mark: acceleration like you wouldn’t believe.

I’m yet to see one in Kenya.

  1. ii) Yes, their turbos would be on song. To start with, their engines gain and lose revs with such incredible alacrity that you can barely see the needle on the tach. Then there is the use of antilag, as the exhaust is popping like small arms fire at the start line, that means the turbo is already boosting, and boosting hard.

Once the driver sidesteps the clutch, all 700bhp is dumped through the four wheels and the car is launched like a projectile…. and 0-100 happens faster than you can exclaim “Son of a b…!!!” in your native tongue.

iii) The human body can withstand a lot more than that. Allow me to introduce one John Paul Stapp, a WWII scientist and genetic combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a Stinger heat-seeker.

The man was a flight surgeon during the Second World War, and while the general consensus at the time was that the human body could not withstand forces greater than 18g, he hit 35g simply because he was a badass and because he could (the acceleration/deceleration in that Xantia tops out at about 3-4g). He tied four rocket engines together — generating about 6,000lb of thrust — which propelled him to the pants-wetting side of 1,000km/h: faster than a bullet.

In 1954, he braked from 200km/h to 0 in 1.4 seconds, an insane feat that rewarded him with two black eyes: the result of his own eyeballs punching his face from inside his skull.

The impact blinded him for two days; he fractured his arm and wrist, lost six fillings and got a hernia. So what did he do? He built a bigger rocket. Steel cojones, titanium huevos: like I said, the guy was like the bastard child of The Terminator and an anti-aircraft missile. Chuck Norris has nothing on him.

**Note: the “rocket” in question was basically an armchair strapped to a bobsled onto which the four (later six) rocket engines were attached.

Posted on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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