Ur­ban war­riors


Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Cotents -

What is an ur­ban car? Driven: Volvo S90 D5 awd How to Blue­tooth an old car Launches: Hyundai Tuc­son and Elantra Sport + Toy­ota Yaris Pulse

My SUV may be overkill for my 11-kilo­me­tre com­mute, but noth­ing beats it for turn­ing a muddy field into a by­pass, for sneer­ing at storm-flooded roads or for swal­low­ing what seems like an en­tire gar­den to take to the tip. It’s thirsty, though, and ex­pen­sive. My wife’s hatch­back is amaz­ingly eco­nom­i­cal, but af­ter a decade on her 32-k rush-hour trek, her left leg is de­mand­ing an au­to­matic shift, or else. Which is the bet­ter city car? Clearly, nei­ther. As the world’s pop­u­la­tion in­ex­orably drifts to the cities, as au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles de­velop along with con­nected cars and al­ter­na­tive forms of propul­sion, the face of mo­bil­ity will in­evitably change. But getting from A to B when we need to re­mains a pri­or­ity right now and cer­tainly for the time be­ing we can’t de­pend on pub­lic trans­port, e- cars, ride-shar­ing and ride-hail­ing.

This line of think­ing is un­der­scored by the Global Trends Re­port, co‐pre­sented an­nu­ally by Prime Re­search and Au­toneum. Ac­cord­ing to Au­toneum CEO Martin Hirzel, the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try is “in the midst of an up­heaval that goes far be­yond anything it has ex­pe­ri­enced in the past 100 years”. Emerg­ing in­dus­try trends such as au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, elec­tric mo­bil­ity and con­nected cars are changing not only ve­hi­cles and their tech­nolo­gies, but also their con­cepts and forms, he said.

So to get some in­sight into the cur­rent state of the ur­ban-car art, we spent a week with Suzuki’s nippy new Ignis. Although it’s a cross­over, which means it’s kind of high and boxy, it also scored run­ner-up spot in the re­cent World Ur­ban Car of the Year com­pe­ti­tion. The win­ner, the BMW i3, clearly made its mark in terms of its space util­i­sa­tion, elec­tric driv­e­train and gen­eral cool­ness. Quite how much weight judges ac­corded the BMW’S eye- wa­ter­ing price com­pared with the com­pe­ti­tion isn’t ap­par­ent, though they lauded its value for money. The fact is, ur­ban cars don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be cheap but one thing they do have to be is small (see “Ur­ban car: the check­list”).

Around town, the lit­tle Suzuki’s boxy lines, snappy gearshift and will­ing 1,2litre en­gine add up to the abil­ity to sneak in and out of tight spots – in­clud­ing park­ing – with con­fi­dence.

On trips out of town, the Ignis’s driv­e­train pro­vides re­laxed free­way cruis­ing. The 61 kw 1,2’s torque peaks at a mod­est 113 N.m, but is geared to pro­vide enough pull that you don’t have to keep changing down to tackle up­hills and has a sur­pris­ing abil­ity to main­tain speed (ad­mit­tedly, if that speed is around 100 km/h in Top). A mi­nus point is the cu­ri­ously numb steer­ing that feels a lit­tle sticky around the cen­tre point. For re­ally long trips, the 260-litre boot will strug­gle, though the rear seats do fold down. Of course, that’s when you catch a plane in­stead.

The ur­ban car ac­co­lades, pre­sented for the first time this year, form part of the World Car Awards, ini­ti­ated and con­ducted by au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ists from all over the world and ad­min­is­tered by a non-profit. It is in­tended to com­ple­ment, not com­pete with ex­ist­ing na­tional and re­gional car of the year awards.

This year’s win­ner was cho­sen from an ini­tial en­try list of seven cars, even­tu­ally whit­tled down to three fi­nal­ists: the BMW i3 (94 Ah), the Citroën C3 and the Suzuki Ignis.

BMW Amer­i­cas head Lud­wig Wil­lisch said the i3’s win high­lighted his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s com­mit­ment to sus­tain­able

mo­bil­ity through its first all‐elec­tric ve­hi­cle made pri­mar­ily of car­bon fi­bre. “The de­sign brief for the BMW i3 was to cre­ate a mega city ve­hi­cle for the cities of the fu­ture. To­day, the new 2017 BMW i3 (94 Ah) pro­vides more range paired with a high‐level of dynamic per­for­mance, mak­ing it the per­fect ur­ban ve­hi­cle for peo­ple around the world.”

World Car vice‐chair­man, Mike Ruther­ford, com­mented, “It’s an award whose time has come. Ev­ery­day cars in many – per­haps most – parts of the world will have to be­come smaller if road and park­ing space is to be found for them in in­creas­ingly packed towns and cities whose pop­u­la­tions are swelling an­nu­ally. This year’s win­ner in our in­au­gu­ral World Ur­ban Car cat­e­gory proves that th­ese small ve­hi­cles don’t have to be cheap, un­de­sir­able and un­pleas­ant to drive. Quite the op­po­site. It is among the best value‐ for‐money prod­ucts on the mar­ket.” How does the Ignis rate? Well, it’s small (3,7 me­tres long and 1,69 me­tres wide), nippy (850 kg weight), ag­ile (180 mm ground clear­ance, short over­hangs) and a sprightly per­former. There’s a com­pre­hen­sive list of con­ve­nience and safety items (dual front airbags and ABS with EBD and EBA) at prices that start at around R180 000.

Best of all, though the one we drove has a 5-speed man­ual shift, it also has an au­to­matic op­tion. I know at least one per­son who’ll be in­ter­ested in that.


FI­NAL­IST: Suzuki Baleno

RUN­NER-UP: Citroën C3

FI­NAL­IST: Ford Figo/ka+

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