During 2017 I’ve had the privilege of driving 52 new vehicles, many of which I reviewed for CyberStoep. This is the best and worst of them…
The one you should NEVER buy
Renault Kwid (5/10)
I had initially thought highly of Renault for introducing a chunky little budget car for the masses, and thought that it would show Datsun a thing or two in terms of making such a car bearable… But the Renault Kwid Dynamique was more awful and disappointing that I could’ve imagined.
There are far better vehicles to buy for the money and I’d have to really dislike a person to recommend the Kwid to them … yet at least 500 units leave Renault showrooms each month.
The biggest departure from its predecessor
Kia Sportage (8/10)
I have never taken a liking to the Kia Sportage. When the new model landed late in 2016 I thought it would be more of the same. Given Kia’s rapid ascension of the motoring world, I should’ve known better…
Sophisticated, endearing and completely different to its predecessors and Hyundai Tucson cousin, I loved every minute with new Sportage.
The one I wasn’t expecting to like as much as I did
Honda Civic Sport (7,5/10)
Not since the mid-90s has the Honda Civic offered anything one would liken to excitement. And when I first saw the new Honda Civic Sport in the metal, I wasn’t quite sure of it.
But a week with the car changed that opinion. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the CVT transmission (as a rule, CVTs are terrible). Because of its striking design, decent driving experience, comfort and space, high levels of quality (mostly) and strong features list, I kinda fell for it…
Toyota C-HR (7,5/10)
A throwback to the original, three-door Toyota RAV4 launched in 1994, the Toyota C-HR 1.2 Plus has an aura of being effortlessly cool and young at heart.
The one that deserves to sell more
Mitsubishi Triton 4×4 auto (7,5/10)
The double-cab bakkie market has changed dramatically in the last decade, and it has taken Mitsubishi SA a while to join the party with the new Triton.
The wait, though, was worth it. The Triton has moved more upmarket, offers exceptional levels of ride refinement and comfort, and has a lovely drivetrain, especially with the five-speed autobox.
It’s one of the best bakkies you can buy today.
The Baleno is a car any fan of the Suzuki brand will love. Affordable, easy to drive, spacious (very spacious), and nicely styled; it boasts all the hallmarks that define Suzuki’s cars.
The best value
Renault Sandero Stepway (7/10)
The Renault Sandero Stepway Dynamique is the top-spec model in the Sandero range that received a midlife facelift in the first half of the year. While the refresh was mild, the Stepway Dynamique impressed with its willing three-cylinder, turbocharged engine; good occupant comfort; and appealing array of standard convenience and safety features.
“A lot of value for the budget-conscious buyer” is how I summed it up.
Suzuki Ignis (8/10)
In evaluating the Suzuki Ignis GLX, I said that it “is a youthful, energetic compact car that adds a load of refreshing attitude and individuality to both the Suzuki model lineup and the segment in which it competes. It’s a compact car that delivers big!”
The one to reignite a brand
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Stilo (8/10)
There has been much written about the Alfa Romeo Giulia. But all you need to know is that if you are in the market for a BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Audi A4, you have to add the Giulia to your test-drive list.
Just do it.
Peugeot 3008 GT-Line
The 3008 represents a new level for Peugeot. It is easily the best model in the brand’s current lineup and one that can compete on all levels with the best mid-sized SUVs today.
The one that got the most looks
Abarth 124 Spider (7/10)
The Abarth 124 Spider is really expensive for what it is, has a tight interior, sounds rather boring and gave me sunburn… Yet it also put an almost constant grin on my face. It was so much fun to drive and I actually lost count of the number of stares, twisted necks and pointed fingers sent my way while I drove around Joburg in it.
I wouldn’t buy it, but I did love driving it.
The one that made me fall in love with the drop-top
Mini Cooper S Convertible (7/10)
It’s by no means practical and perhaps a bit expensive. It’s also kinda girly… But the Mini Cooper S Convertible I drove was full of fun; providing wind-in-the-hair motoring with typical Mini charm.
And I didn’t care who saw me driving around with the top down – and loving it!
The surprise of the year
Haval H2 (7,5/10)
Past experience with Chinese vehicles led me to expect more of the same when I drove the Haval H2 1.5T Luxury. Boy, was I wrong! It’s a high-quality, decent-to-drive SUV that offers genuine value for money and moves the goalposts for Chinese vehicles practically to another field.
I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend it.
The one that made me despise the demise of the manual
Mini Clubman JCW (7,5/10)
The John Cooper Works (JCW) Mini Clubman it’s best described as a civilised hooligan that’s doing well to hang on to its youth – keeping the driver entertained and feeling “mature” at the same time.
It can be inappropriately noisy, is mighty quick and rather fun to drive. Only one thing was missing from the test car – a good old-fashioned clutch and gear lever. Thankfully, you can still have those, though most probably won’t…
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 Veloce (6/10)
I love Alfa Romeos, but the Giulietta – despite still being gorgeous – has long shown its age. Driving the latest Veloce version with the god-awful TCT dual-clutch gearbox made me lament the car … and that really makes me sad.
My car of the year
BMW 540i (8,5/10)
“Is this the best BMW ever made?” was my big question when reviewing the 540i M-Sport in September. Despite the R1,2 million price tag I do believe it might be … of course, considering a company like BMW, that might be a bit of a fleeting accolade.
“The 540i offers an enviable balance of luxury, sportiness, prestige, subtlety and presence. The best car BMW’s ever made? Overall, I’d say it’s near as dammit…” is how I concluded the review. I still can’t get over how great a package it is.
Volvo S90 (8/10)
Much like the Alfa Romeo Giulia, if you are in the market for a BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Audi A6, you need to take the Volvo S90 for a test drive. I loved the design, attention to detail, overall driving experience and the fact that all of this is done so differently – but at just as high a standard – to the Germans.