It’s tough being at the top – just ask Volkswagen’s Golf. But while many other cars have attempted to dethrone the Golf as the King of Hatchbacks (with many coming close), it’s not as easy as it sounds. Volvo is up to the challenge though, with its striking C30 making its world debut at the Paris Motor Show in September. Volvo is aiming the C30 at a younger market with an intense urban lifestyle who prioritise excitement in design and driving characteristics. The production model is basically identical to the concepts shown earlier and retains its dynamic frontal design with angled headlights and a low, wide grille – a design that is funky and sporty but still instantly recognisable as a Volvo. Engine options include a 75kW, four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engine, a 1.6-litre diesel with 81kW, and the five-cylinder D5 and T5 turbo engines, providing 134kW and 164kW respectively. On the safety front, the C30 is billed as “a true Volvo” that features BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), the same patented structure as the S40 and V50, combined with airbags, safety belt tensioners, the Whiplash Protection System, and a Side Impact Protection System with side airbags and the Inflatable Curtain. The Volvo C30 will be Volvo’s main attraction at Auto Africa this year, with the local media launch scheduled for early 2007.
FASTER, GRANDER GRAND CHEROKEE
As if an IS-version of the X5 or AMG-version of the ML is not enough, Jeep has also stepped up to the plate with the release of the most powerful Jeep ever created – the Grand Cherokee SRT8. Powered by a 6.1-litre HEMI V8 with permanent four-wheel drive, the SRT8 has 313kW of power and 569Nm of torque under the bonnet, propelling this lump of metal to 100 in less than 5 seconds. Yes, very powerful and very fast. In fact, the speedo is marked up to 300km/h… Priced at R549 900, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is cheaper than the BMW X5 4.8 iS (R769 000) and the Mercedes Benz ML500 (R615 000), but whether it will have any impact on sales of the Germans remains to be seen. And don’t forget that Audi’s magnificent Q7 is on the way and that the Range Rover Sport (R740 000.00) is also lurking out there, somewhere in the fast lane…
BOLD, BOLDER, CIVIC
When Honda released its new Civic-sedan earlier this year the general public was divided about its styling – definitely more flowing than the outgoing model, it also appeared much larger. But now you see them everywhere, and just about every motoring publication in the country has picked it over the new Volkswagen Jetta. It doesn’t really come as a surprise as Honda’s are known for their impeccable quality. The new Civic hatchback was launched locally recently, and again everyone is talking about its bold, striking exterior styling. Decidedly different than the sedan, the new Civic hatch is the epitome of love-it-or-hate-it styling, but no one can deny the inherent sportiness of its appearance. And for Honda, it’s working a charm (they’re selling like crazy abroad). Available initially only in five-door configuration and with a 1.8-litre I-VTEC engine, the new Civic is bound to further build Honda’s empire in South Africa. However, if you’re expecting hooligan-performance (much like the first VTEC Civic hatch to be introduced in the country), rather wait another year for the absolutely scorching Civic Type-R. Until then, the 5-door Civic 1.8 is available for a mere R204 000.
LEXUS… TAKE 2
Just when Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW became used to the Scandinavian challenger in their midst, the Japanese onslaught begins. Toyota’s luxury car brand, Lexus, has always been synonymous with comfort, quality and style, but with the new generation IS250 – just launched in South Africa – the C-class, 3-series and A4 should watch their backs. Exterior design is modern, stylish and sporty, shaking off the Corolla-like styling of the previous generation and making the IS250 a head-turner on the road. As is to be expected of Lexus, comfort and safety features are all there; including keyless entry, leather trim, electric windows and mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, height and reach-adjustable steering wheel, a six-CD front loader audio system with 13 speakers and an auxiliary wireless drive for an iPod or MP3 player, a windscreen de-icer and automatic halogen headlights as well as remote releases for the fuel flap and boot lid.
All derivatives are powered by a 2,5-litre V6 with dual VVT-i, with peak outputs of 153 kW at 6 400 r/min and 252 N.m of torque at 4 800. Lexus claims a 0 to 100km/h figure of 8,1 seconds and a top speed of 235 km/h. Standard safety features include ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BAS). Also standard is traction control and a dynamic Vehicle Stability Control system. Dual-stage SRS front airbags, knee airbags, and seat mounted side airbags are adopted as standard equipment for both the driver and front passenger on all models, and inflatable curtain airbags are also standard. Prices range from R274 000 to R342 100 (depending on spec) and includes a 4-year/ 100 000km maintenance plan. With a new image, better pricing and a more extensive support structure, Lexus is bound to make a big impact on the South African market and most definitely provides a viable alternative to the traditional German class-leaders.
MEN ARE BETTER DRIVERS
According to a survey published by the organisers of the British International Motor Show, women believe that men are the best drivers. The survey covered the opinions of 1000 women, of which 58% thought that men are more confident behind the wheel. Only 47% believed they were more considerate behind the wheel, and a mere 38% thought that women were safer drivers. That might be the case in Britain, but the amount of women who have overtaken me on the N1 at ridiculous speeds (and with remarkable skill) will not only embarrass many guys out there but will probably also disagree completely. But it’s not all bad news; the more women become skillful speed freaks, the lower our insurance premiums will eventually be. First For Men, anyone?