Which of the two is the better car; the Subaru Impreza or VW Golf?

Hi Baraza,

I have just completed Form Four and my parents want to buy me a car. I love fast cars so I am torn between a Subaru Impreza and a VW Golf Gti. Let’s start with the VW Golf:

1. Which VW Golf is better in terms of petrol and diesel? I recently discovered that its it’s odometer goes all the way till 310Kph. Is this speed attainable? So far I’ve been able to clock 260Kph with a Mercedes.

2. Are there manual options?

3. Does this car have a turbo version and would you recommend it?

Now to the Subaru:

1. Manual or automatic?

2. Turbo or Non-turbo?

3. Between the Impreza and Forrestor, which one is the best because I am thinking of a turbo, manual Impreza

4. Are there performance garages where I can be able to scale up its performance?

And between the two cars, what is the cost of maintenance excluding fuel consumption because I know with the descriptions given, I am looking at a thirsty type.


1. The petrol-powered Golf is better. Actually the diesel Golf is better, what with the great torque, wonderful economy and turbo power, but not here in our part of the world.

Around here you want a petrol version; because the diesel version is sensitive to fuel quality, it has shorter service intervals, it may be more expensive and you really need to watch out for the turbo.

The speedometer (not odometer) may stretch all the way to 310km/h but the car will not reach that speed for three reasons: a) not enough power to counter the aerodynamic drag.

Second, the gearing may fall short of 310km/h at the red line in top gear, in which case there are no more revs nor any more gears available to reach the magical number and third, German cars are electronically limited to 260km/h for those that are capable of attaining and/or exceeding that speed.

You may still reach 310km/h, though, but that will involve very many modifications, which will cost a lot. I’d like to know where exactly you want to clock 310 in a Golf because you will need a very long run up. I may also need to come with an ambulance because those Golf tyres will not last too long at that speed; and when they disintegrate at a quarter the speed of sound, someone will have to scrape your remains off the landscape.

Yes there are manual options of the VW Golf. Look harder and as for a turbo version, depends on whatwant to use your car for. If all you want is to chase Golfs, you may be better off in the Impreza. If you want versatility and practicality then forget the Impreza.

Yes there are performance garages that can scale up performance of your Subaru.

Maintenance will not be cheap for any of the cars (because you are dealing with turbocharged cars), but the Golf may be particularly gut-wrenching when the gearbox packs up.


Hi Baraza, Kudos for the good work.

I am usually quite talkative so bear with me…1. Regarding the Subaru losing to the Mitsubishi every time they race, don’t you think we, Subaru lovers should just place the blame on the drivers?

2. Is the “nasty” looking Honda Crossroad an SUV? I have a friend who drives it and she bought it simply because it is a Honda. In fact, she realised that the car had two exhaust pipes two weeks after purchasing it.

3. I had a chance to have a talk with a fellow Subaru lover and he said that he usually did hit 220km/h mark in his machine. He bought the car with the maximum speed being 180km/h but changed the speedometer. Is this possible?

4. About the Volkswagen Golf GTi hitting the 300km/h mark, which you said was impossible, I am yet to get a ride from a friend who has done 280km/h (the maximum speed) in your much loved Mitsubishi and even showed me pictures of the speedometer. He assured me that we would do the final mark in the Golf; all we have to do is convince the only guy we know with a VW Golf Gti to give us it for the test.

5. Onto the Nissan, Do you think getting the GTR at something let’s say like Sh7.8 million is a fair deal? Which is the standard price for the road monster?
6. Someone sent me an email, requesting to know the BEST “personal” car to use, regardless of consumption, availability of spare parts and all that, and he reminded me that he has no family so the sitting capacity does not matter.

I told him that he was lucky because he had such a wide range to choose from all the way from Lamborghini to Ferrari. I got a very weird reply. Who is to blame, me or him? And what would you have answered?

Phineas Mario Jr.


This week’s issue seems to be a Subaru vs Golf affair, not entirely dissimilar to the previous Great Run. On to your questions:

1. You can blame the drivers all you want, but do not seek refuge anywhere near me when they inevitably put a price on your head like they did mine. You are dealing with a sensitive and highly opinionated clique here and choice of words is of paramount consideration in the interests of self-preservation.

That being said: yes, we could blame the drivers, but that won’t stop us from blaming the cars too. Charismatic rumble notwithstanding, Subarus are nothing short of understeering messes when your path gets spaghetti-like, and you will either have to slow down and shamefully get taken by a Mitsubishi, OR you could nail your right toe to the floorboard and end up in a field (if you are lucky) or up a tree (if you are not).

Time and again I have insisted mechanical diffs are no match for electronic units, but the fan club thinks not. They say “real” drivers do not need computer gimmickry to tame the beast. Those real drivers are now on the blacklists of several insurance companies in the country.

Also, their “beasts” are either written off or waiting to be written off. Interestingly enough, the purveyor of 6-star boxers has had to accept facts and the newest offering packs electronic differentials, just like the car that has consistently humiliated them. I do not know what the fan club has to say to this.

2. Social media is the bane of this writer. The Honda CRV is not an SUV; it is what we call a CUV (crossover utility vehicle). Some people on social media had the nerve to “correct” me and insist that CUVs are just small SUVs (question: THEN WHY ON EARTH ARE THEY CALLED “CUVs” AND NOT “SMALL SUVs”?).

Now, about your friend: she is right, Hondas are sublime. Very good cars, they are. However, her shopping habits cause me to worry: who on earth buys a car without first looking at it, apart from rock stars and oligarchs who buy stuff like Bentleys and Ferraris?

I’d like to sell her a car too, one that I found on the internet…. Two weeks after purchase is when she may notice the tyres are bald, the rims bent, the suspension needs replacement, and the engine block has a hole in it (this may be manifested by a hard start, a lack of power, overheating, substandard ride quality, shoddy handling, lack of grip and poor fuel economy; in which case I will be expecting an email from her).

She is not alone. At the risk of drawing the ire of feminists out there, can I just point out that perhaps women out there should pay more attention to this column? I not too long ago pointed out the pitfalls of advertising a car as “lady-owned”; and said that may not necessarily mean a good thing.

Last week I received news that is equal parts troubling and hilarious. Have you ever seen those jokes on the internet where a woman interprets the Check Engine Light quite literally and actually CHECKS if the engine is still there?

Well, there was one real-life example, right here in Nairobi, who was told that the fuel warning light means one is running out of juice. She took it to mean that as soon as the light blinks on, the engine blinks off, so to speak.

So one day the light comes on and the woman in question immediately pulls over to the side and engages the services of a motorcycle taxi-man to quickly nip down to the fuel station and come back with a jerrycan of fuel to top up the starving vehicle.

Listen here, That light is a WARNING; it is not an indication of impending doom. When the light comes on, it means you still have some fuel left and you had better start thinking of topping up. It does NOT mean all the fuel is gone. You most likely have enough to get you to a petrol station (range varies from car to car.

Some will do 50km, I have once done 89km and still the car did not cut out).

Please. Learn your car. If not, read Car Clinic, you might learn something. Some situations are just embarrassing.

3. Changing the speedometer is possible (remove a couple of screws, disengage some wiring harnesses, remove speedometer and reverse that process with a new speedometer). That won’t make the car go beyond 180, though. For the electronic speed governor, you need a computer to hack into the ECU and disengage the limiter.

4. Good luck finding a willing supplier of a Volkswagen Golf for your 300km/h test. If any Golf owners are reading this, you have been warned.

5. It depends on the mileage and condition of the GTR in question. The prices (for a used R35) vary between Sh5 million for a relatively high-mileage 2008 car to maybe Sh11 million for a 750hp tuner special (the famous Lamborghini-killing Litchfield LM750, which has since found a new owner anyway)

6. I would have said the exact same thing and I once did anyway. A young woman asked me the exact same ambiguous question some years back and I recommended a Ferrari F430 since it fit the bill quite perfectly.

Her reaction to my answer… well, let’s just say if she was single she would rather have spent the night in a sewer reciting children’s poetry for the entertainment of rats rather than go on a date with me; that is how disenchanted with my wisecrack she was… The upside was, the vague questions ended and inquisitors were careful to be more particular in their questions forthwith.


Dear Baraza,

I am from Kinangop and I have owned a Suzuki Escudo for over a year now. I like its performance and the fact that it is very efficient in terms of fuel consumption. I would like to modify my vehicle to look like the one in the photo I have sent you.

Where and how can I have this done? Are there problems associated with these modifications? 

I would also like to change its colour, is this illegal? Jack.

1. By “where you need to change” I’m guessing you mean at what garage you need the work done. Any old garage will do, provided they are competent in vehicle modification. Joining up with a clique of off-road enthusiasts such as Bundu Rovers should provide more answers than I have readily available.

2. You need to change a lot of things. I’m guessing your Suzuki is dead stock, so from the photo you sent, you will need to change the front bumper, the suspension and the wheels. Then you need to add some other things: grille-mounted spot lamps, bug deflector for the bonnet, snorkel, roof rack, roof-mounted spot-lamps and what looks like a 5-inch lift kit.

3. Yes, there are problems associated with these modifications. They are very expensive. The car also drives differently and might take some getting used to. Installation of bigger tyres has an effect of gearing up the transmission, so first gear is now more like third. Good luck with your acceleration…

It is not illegal to change the colour of your car in Kenya, but you have to notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles that you have done so for him/her to reflect that change in the vehicle logbook. Failure to do so may amount to some form of fraud or deception on your part.



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