Here’s the good news
When you find a ride that brings luxury car features to the everyday man, it’s quite a eureka moment. Justus Visagie drove two such beauties
Opel Astra Price: From R254 000 to R407 000
It might not have the aspirational image of a Benz or BMW, but this new Opel Astra has qualities that take it up a notch, democratising expensive car features like matrix LED headlights, something first seen on the Audi A8.
“Consisting of 16 LED segments (eight on each side of the car), the LED matrix system automatically and constantly adapts the length and distribution of the light beam to every traffic situation,” explains Lunga Ntsendwana at Opel SA.
“Basically, the system is always on high beam, but because it works in conjunction with a front camera, which detects the presence of other vehicles and then switches off the individual LED segments, other road users are never dazzled,” Ntsendwana explains.
Other intelligent safety systems abound, especially in the flagship 1.6T Sport Plus manual (R407 000). These include Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert and Low-Speed Collision Mitigation Braking. Yes, it can brake itself.
Fortunately, some of the star qualities of the new Astra are found across the range, like the significant weight reduction over its predecessor, its impressive ability to stick to the road on sharp corners and its generous rear legroom. For now the engine options are the brilliant 1.0 litre, a new 1.4 and a new 1.6. All three are fuelled by petrol and turbocharging. The 1.4 is also available with an auto gearbox.
Just two things dull the car’s lustre for me: a soft vibration I heard around the luggage area while driving and the car’s styling, which lacks the adventure of something like the Opel Adam. Renault Duster 4x4 Price: R290 900 slower traffic.
But it doesn’t end there. As the name implies, this top-of-the-range Duster has a convenient dial behind the gear lever. During normal driving, you would leave it in 2WD and the engine would drive the front wheels only. If rain pours down or there are patches of ice on the road, you would turn it one click to auto 4WD and it would push power to all four wheels if it detected wheel slippage.
And if the spirit of adventure possesses you, and you want to go and mess around on difficult dirt roads in Lesotho, you turn that dial another notch to permanently drive all four wheels.
All these features are included in the retail price, except leather upholstery, an option for R10 000. Given everything you would get in a Duster, it’s little wonder Renault SA has sold 10 000 of these rockhoppers (4x2 and 4x4) since the launch in September 2013.
DEMOCRATIC CHOICE The updated Opel Astra brings luxe to the people
ROCK-HOPPER Even on the dirt roads of Lesotho the Renault Duster is a great ride