Contenders in a popular segment
In our second instalment on the 2015 South African Car of the Year finalists, Lerato Matebese looks at two family sedans and a crossover
IN OUR first instalment of the 2015 South African Car of the Year finalists review we cast our attention on the stylish Audi A3 sedan, the performance-oriented BMW M4 and the quirky Citroen C4 Picasso. This week we take a look at the Honda Accord, MercedesBenz C-Class and the Nissan Qashqai. These all play in fairly popular segments of the market, so their relevance in SA’s vehicle market is important and they all face some tough competition.
Looking at the latest Honda Accord, it is safe to say that inspiration never ranked highly in the design brief. Sure, the styling is anything but offensive but it does lack the flair of some of its rivals such as the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata.
This mainly stems from the fact that the current Accord model is the one available in the US, and the styling shows influences from the previous generation Hyundai Genesis, which was popular Stateside.
It is nonetheless a spacious, well equipped vehicle that panders to those individuals who rank value, reliability and specification over brand perception.
The chosen finalists is the flagship 3.5l V6 Exclusive, which pushes out 207kW and 339kW through a six-speed automatic transmission. It is well equipped with electrically operated and heated leather front seats, and pretty much everything is included except for a navigation system. However, at the price of R576,300 it means that it also challenges the Germanic trio of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Merc C-Class, which are likely to pose a serious problem for its position in the competition.
In my book, the 2.4l variant at R471,300 would have made a more convincing attempt at the title. Nonetheless, we will put the V6 model through its paces to see how it stacks up.
The Mercedes C-Class remains a popular offering in the company’s portfolio, so it will be interesting to see whether it has what it takes to depose the BMW 3 Series as the benchmark in the segment. Like most of its German compatriots, many of the models require various options to bring them up to decent levels of specification. Even so, the new C-Class has an air of maturity about it compared to the previous model, thanks to design cues borrowed from the S-Class. Refinement levels are good and the engine — in this instance the 2.0l turbo with 135kW and 300Nm — offers adequate power and good economy for those shopping in this space. The question, though, is whether it has done enough to move the goalposts away from its rivals. I think it has its work cut out for it to convince the jury, so it will be interesting to see how it fares in contrast to its segment rivals.
Nissan’s latest Qashqai has moved up in the refinement stakes and looks great compared to its Korean competitors. Specification levels are high and the diesel engines are particularly good with excellent power and thrifty drinking habits, but the 1.2l turbo petrol model that is the finalist in the competition is likely to be the popular market choice. While the previous generation model literally pioneered the modern crossover segment, the Koreans seem to have taken over the market in recent years, so the new Qashqai does not quite have the edge that its for- Left: Honda has been surprisingly conservative with the styling of its new Accord. Far left: The Mercedes C-Class has to prove that it is better than its BMW and Audi rivals. Below: Will the Nissan Qashqai be the benchmark in the crossover segment again? bear had. It will be of interest to see whether its has what it takes to see off the opposition. Pricing is in the ballpark of its competitors at R311,600, so it does have value for money in its arsenal.
As the segment continues to grow in contrast to the C-segment hatch and sedan markets, which seem to be shrinking, players in the small crossover segment will have to offer the most complete package at the price to fight off the competition. That aside, the Qashqai is a compelling package, but it will be interesting to see whether it has done enough to take over the baton from its predecessor.
As we continue with our review of the Car of the Year finalists in the next instalment, it must be mentioned that there are some great cars in this year’s event, and it will take some rigorous testing on our part to see whether the engineers and design teams have done enough to be bestowed with this prestigious accolade. Next week we take a look at the Porsche Macan S diesel, the Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique 4WD and the Subaru WRX Premium.