A decade or so ago you could buy one of the hippest little cars on the market for about R20 000. Yes, Fiat’s little Uno revolutionized the entry-level market, but since it was put to pasture a few years back the company has struggled to regain its former glory. The Palio didn’t do much for the marque, and Palio 2 is doing even less. Besides the funky little Panda, Fiat hasn’t had much on offer to entice fans. But that is hopefully about to change with the arrival of the bigger and decidedly more handsome Grande Punto. Firstly it’s priced right: the entry-level Punto 1.2 and 1.4 Active retail for a mere R108 000, while the (current) top-of-the-line 1.3 Multijet Dynamic will set you back only R137 320. Secondly, it’s gorgeous. And lastly, it’s the first Fiat to score a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, which makes it an even more worthwhile purchase. I’m not mad about the colour scheme of the seats though, but it’s funky looks and Italian flair more than make up for it in my books. With the introduction of the new Grande Punto it appears as if the winds of change have arrived for Italy’s biggest automaker. I – for one – certainly hope so!


A brochure containing all the details on the next generation Land Rover Freelander has been leaked ahead of its international debut at the British Motor Show in July. As predicted, the pictures confirm that Land Rover’s baby will be more rugged and up-market, sporting styling treatments a la Discovery 3. It’s based on the Ford Motor Company’s C1-platform (think Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volvo S40), and engines could possibly include a Volvo-sourced 2,8 and 3,0-litre petrol engine, a Ford-sourced turbodiesel and possibly even a V6. While it all sound marvelous, I can’t help but wonder whether the previous generation’s constant problems will keep people from getting a Freelander… The new Freelander should be available locally in 2007, so we’ll have to wait and see.


It seems everyone wants a part of the hot hatch market that Volkswagen’s Golf GTI and Ford’s Focus ST are dominating. First, Renault introduced a face-lifted 5-door derivative of its stunning Megane RS, and now Opel is fighting back with the absolutely gorgeous Astra GTC. Basically a coupe-version of its striking 5-door Astra, the GTC stands out with its lower roofline and pouncing stance – a clear winner in the looks department! Add the panoramic-roof option (the windscreen extends to the B-pillar) and you’ve got something quite spectacular. Three models are available: a 1.8-litre petrol, a 147kW 2.0-litre turbo engine, and a 110kW 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine. Prices range from R195 000 to R230 000 which makes the GTC yet another brilliant option in the hot hatch market.


Following hot on Fiat’s heels is Renault’s brilliant new Clio. The previous two generations were worldwide success-stories, and Clio 3 is set to take things even further. Bigger and better styled, Clio 3 aims higher (prices start at R125 000), but it’s completely understandable as Peugeot’s stylish new 207 is also heading our way and both models will be fighting fiercely to keep their share of the market. More on these two models next month.


You’ve got to love the people at the Competition Commission. Based on their investigation into excessive pricing in the local new car market, the Commission recently presented a report to the mid-term review of the MIDP (Motor Industry Development Programme), finding that cars in South Africa are an average of 18% higher than in European countries. A car such as the Volkswagen Golf 5 is said to be between 10% and 42% more expensive locally than in Europe, while a car like the BMW X5 is on average between 12% and 18% more expensive. The MIDP lists vehicle affordability as an objective, and the Commission has slammed them for not passing the benefits of boosted output, exports and employment down to the consumer. Some manufacturers have already begun slashing prices, but it is yet to be seen whether all will follow suit.

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