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

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

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.

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