Our favourite cars to hit the road in 2018

ALL I WANT FOR CHRIST­MAS/ Mo­tor­ing Edi­tor De­nis Droppa gives a rundown of the best ve­hi­cles launched in SA this year

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO

Yes, we know Al­fas don’t sell well in this coun­try but they de­serve to be more pop­u­lar only peo­ple dropped their prej­u­dices and took them for a test drive.

They’d dis­cover that the Ital­ian brand’s first-ever SUV isn’t just a pretty face. It’s a late­comer to an al­ready crowded seg­ment, but ’neath that sexy Ital­ian skin is an ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle with typ­i­cally sporty Alfa han­dling and sharp steer­ing.

It’s solidly en­gi­neered too, but the big­gest sur­prise is how com­fort­ably it cruises over rough gravel. Per­for­mance is fairly lively from the 2.0l petrol turbo ver­sion, but a pow­er­ful 2.9 turbo QV ver­sion is to soon join the range.

VOLK­SWA­GEN POLO

It’s not hard to see why this is SA’s best­selling car. It’s an all-round class act with its solid feel, good re­fine­ment, and easy-to-drive na­ture. The cabin sets the stan­dard in the com­pact-car seg­ment for its smart look and feel.

New high-end tech avail­able in the lat­est Polo in­cludes blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, self-park­ing, ad­justable sus­pen­sion and a dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter like you get in Audis. The up­dated in­fo­tain­ment is right on point.

The high­light of the range is the tur­bocharged Polo GTi, now bumped up to a hearty 2l for per­for­mance that comes close to match­ing its more pow­er­ful (but heav­ier) Golf GTi cousin.

MERCEDES-BENZ A-CLASS

The fourth gen­er­a­tion A-Class has grown into a larger and more fam­ily-friendly premium hatch­back, but the big­gest draw­card is the daz­zling new tech­nol­ogy.

At the heart of it is the new MBUX mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem which Mercedes calls a “rev­o­lu­tion of the user ex­pe­ri­ence in the car”. The star­ship-like all-dig­i­tal dash brings out one’s in­ner Cap­tain Kirk, and there’s ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that learns and adapts to suit the driver.

The premium in­te­rior fit and fin­ish makes this com­pact Mercedes feel like a scaled-down S-Class. In the en­try-level A200 the lit­tle 1.3l turbo petrol en­gine is a zesty-per­form­ing rev­e­la­tion, and a longer wheel­base has smoothed out the pre­vi­ous car’s rather jar­ring ride.

BMW X3

if It’s big­ger and bolder-look­ing than be­fore, mak­ing for an ap­peal­ing mix of prac­ti­cal­ity and road pres­ence.

The smart new in­te­rior also gets more piz­zazz while the ve­hi­cle gets the lat­est in­fo­tain­ment and semi-au­tonomous driv­ing tech­nol­ogy.

Hav­ing shed some weight, the new X3 is graced with more agility and has out­stand­ing road­hold­ing for an SUV.

Round­ing off its ap­peal is that it can do some mild of­froad­ing, thanks to a de­cent ride height and an in­tel­li­gent xDrive all-wheel drive sys­tem.

HYUNDAI KONA

The hand­some new Kona brings out the party side of a “bread-and-but­ter” Korean brand usu­ally known for mak­ing solid but not-ter­ri­bly-ex­cit­ing fam­ily ve­hi­cles.

This crossover SUV re­ally swings from the chan­de­liers with its flam­boy­ant vibe, com­bin­ing sleek curves with slit-shaped LED head­lamps. Things are vi­brant in­side the cabin, but its colour­ful ac­cents are matched with premium-feel­ing ma­te­ri­als.

The Kona’s the first car to of­fer Hyundai’s im­pres­sive lit­tle 1.0l turbo petrol en­gine in SA, and it’s a punchy per­former with more zest than its cu­bic ca­pac­ity sug­gests. It’s also avail­able as a nor­mally-as­pi­rated 2.0l. It comes with a five-year/150,000km plan.

RE­NAULT DUSTER

The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Duster has gained pol­ish and so­phis­ti­ca­tion in­clud­ing a classier new in­te­rior but re­tains the good value-for-money that made its pre­de­ces­sor such a pop­u­lar fam­ily SUV.

In a seg­ment of road-fo­cused crossovers and SUVs it has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the more dirt-ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cles. New Duster main­tains the same for­mula but it’s been perked up with im­proved re­fine­ment, new styling and a fuller spec sheet.

Raised ground clear­ance and bet­ter ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles make it more ad­ven­tur­ous, and the 4x4 ver­sion to be launched here next year will also have hill de­scent con­trol.

SUZUKI JIMNY

Peo­ple ei­ther “get” boxy shapes or they don’t. For those who do, this squared-off Jimny’s the cutest, bad­dest lit­tle 4x4 to hit the streets and trails in a long time. Un­der that mini-Hum­mer shape is a ve­hi­cle with an en­larged cabin that can now seat four adults. The tech­nol­ogy’s grown up too with touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment avail­able on the higher-specced GLX model.

With a hoisted ground clear­ance and new Brake Lim­ited Slip Dif­fer­en­tial and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, the diminu­tive 4x4 scur­ries over of­froad ob­sta­cles bet­ter than ever.

There’s more thrust un­der the bon­net too with the en­gine grow­ing from 1.3l to 1.5l, and best of all it’s very af­ford­able.

HONDA CIVIC TYPE R

As we head into the fes­tive sea­son it’s time to re­flect on an­other busy mo­tor­ing year in SA. De­spite a dip in new car sales there’s been a bar­rage of de­sir­able metal (and car­bon Honda’s lat­est hot hatch is not only a bet­ter track car than be­fore but also a more com­fort­able daily driver. Japan’s ri­poste to the Volk­swa­gen Golf R and Ford Fo­cus RS has shed weight and gained up­graded sus­pen­sion and a stiffer body to make it a bet­ter driver’s car. Aided by a lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial to re­duce un­der­steer, the front-wheel drive Type has lapped the Nur­bur­gring faster than any other front-wheel drive car.

The se­cret to its dual per­son­al­ity is the ad­di­tion of a new Com­fort mode (along with Sport and +R modes) which light­ens the steer­ing and soft­ens the ride for a more mild-man­nered de­meanour when you want it. fi­bre) un­leashed onto our roads in 2018 from hum­ble com­muter cars to fire-breath­ing

NIS­SAN MI­CRA

With a much more ap­petis­ing de­sign than be­fore, Nis­san’s all-new small hatch has mor­phed into a roomier and smarter car with one of the most premium-feel­ing cab­ins in the seg­ment.

It’s also geeked-out with mod­ern touch screen in­fo­tain­ment and mu­sic/phone con­nec­tiv­ity, and the high-level fea­tures list in­cludes sta­bil­ity con­trol, auto head­lights, six airbags and cruise con­trol.

All ver­sions are moved along by an eco­nom­i­cal and rea­son­ably peppy three-cylin­der 900cc turbo petrol en­gine.

The pric­ing is at­trac­tive too and so’s the six-year/150,000km war­ranty.

HAVAL

A Chi­nese brand? Yes, Haval is the premium di­vi­sion of blue-col­lar brand GWM and it has raised the bar with a range of mod­ern SUVs that truly shake off the cheap-and-nasty im­age.

Havals like the H6 C and H9 (above) of­fer sig­nif­i­cant price sav­ings over more well-known ri­vals but without the qual­ity short­cuts that have plagued many Chi­nese ve­hi­cles. They’re stacked with toys and safety fea­tures and come with up­mar­ket trim­mings like soft-touch dash­boards, all sup­ported by a de­cently-sized dealer foot­print and a five-year/100,000km war­ranty. Long-term build qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity is still an un­known fac­tor for this new brand, as are re­sale val­ues, but Haval seems to have turned a cor­ner for Chi­nese prod­ucts.

VOLVO XC60

The mid­sized XC60 is the cur­rent World Car of the Year and con­tin­ues the Volvo re­nais­sance started by the larger XC90 SUV.

The typ­i­cally min­i­mal­ist Scan­di­na­vian in­te­rior now has a more premium edge that oozes class.

The Swedish car is an ap­peal­ing cock­tail of lux­ury, re­fine­ment and tech­nol­ogy, and it’s avail­able with air sus­pen­sion that blends a cushy ride with sharp han­dling.

The Pilot As­sist semi-au­tonomous tech is bet­ter than most, par­tic­u­larly the self-steer­ing mech­a­nism.

PORSCHE GT3 RS

su­per­cars and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. Here we list some of our favourites: The money’s-no-ob­ject, pure-thrills car of the year? It has to be this track-fo­cused, nat­u­rallyaspi­rated 911 which han­dles like a race car and sounds like a rock con­cert. Even now while writ­ing this, I get goose bumps re­mem­ber­ing what it sounds like revving at its 9,000rpm red­line.

The sound and fury of the thing makes it the 911 for driv­ers seek­ing the most in­tense sports car ex­pe­ri­ence. Rear-wheel drive and ra­zor-sharp steer­ing com­plete a vis­cer­ally sat­is­fy­ing drive that will make any sports car purist go weak at the knees. It’s also one of a small hand­ful of road-le­gal cars that’s lapped the Nur­bur­gring in un­der seven min­utes.

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