So, you can’t quite stretch the budget to an RS4 (yet)? Fear not, friends, as early 2007 sees the arrival of Audi’s version of a hot hatch: the S3. Fitted with a modified version of the VW group’s 2.0T FSI-engine, the S3’s 195kW of power and 350Nm of torque will propel it from 0 to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds and is unfortunately also limited to a top speed of 250km/h. A stylish and sporty body kit, a lowered suspension and 18 inch wheels sets it apart from its milder siblings. Prices are as yet unknown, but be sure that this sporty version of the 2006 SA COTY will be very, very popular.
CONTENDER OF A DIFFERENT CALIBER
2006 sees the Dodge nameplate return to South Africa after an absence of decades, with its first offering being the rather different Caliber. The Caliber is yet another crossover vehicle with attributes of both functional city cars and smaller SUV’s present in its design. Externally I like the car’s decidedly butch and rugged appearance; definitely no sleek lines here! Initially four models will be available: two 1.8-litre and two 2.0-litre petrols, with prices ranging from R169 900 to R219 900. Standard specifications are impressive (they all ride on 18-inche wheels), but it has been noted that the interior is a bit plastic. I think that Dodge will sell quite a few Calibers locally – on looks alone. Whether any of the current top-sellers are in danger I seriously doubt.
HOW TO INCREASE SALES…THE GERMAN WAY
Back to the real cars, Volkswagen has announced three new models to its already successful Polo range. First up is the 5-door 1.6 DSG – a decidedly normal Polo with a 77kW 1600cc engine, but fitted with VW’s exceptional double-clutch DSG gearbox. Priced at a mere R150 000, it comes in Comfortline spec with a radio/CD/MP3 combo, climate control and 14-inch alloy wheels as standard. For the Polo, this is where the normality ends though. Next up is the CrossPolo, a vehicle completely new to the South African market but already in its second European generation. In essence a 5-door Polo with a raised suspension, a new 4X4-style body kit and roof rails, the CrossPolo is powered by the VW group’s standard 1.9TDI engine and comes in a range of exciting colours, offering a look that is more sporty and adventurous than the run of the mill Polo. Priced at approximately R175 000, the CrossPolo is roughly R17 000 more expensive than a standard 1.9TDI, a price premium non-conformist buyers would definitely consider.
Last but not least, Volkswagen launches the Polo GTI to the SA market in an attempt to compete in the hot hatch sector (and make up for the shortage of Golf GTI’s). Exterior styling mimics the Golf GTI in that it also has a blackened front end (with the discreet red line around the grille) and bigger alloy wheels. Under the bonnet you will find a turbocharged, 1.8-litre engine that develops 110Kw and 220Nm of torque as fitted in the previous generation Golf GTI – enough power to get you to 100km/h in 8.2 seconds before topping out at 218km/h. Priced at approximately R185 000, the Polo GTI is bound to sell like hot cakes – especially to those who cannot fork out the additional R55 000 for a Golf GTI. With the addition of these three models, Volkswagen now offer 15 variants of the Polo – something that most definitely contributes to the fact that the Polo is the biggest selling car in South Africa for 2006.
HOW TO INCREASE SALES…THE INDIAN WAY
In the past couple of months I’ve checked monthly local car sales figures less religiously than I’m known for – it just became too boring watching Toyota’s Corolla/ RunX/ Verso and Yaris ranges battle it out with Volkswagen’s Polo and Citi Golf for the top spot. This is however the reason why I completely missed the fact that Tata’s Indica/ Indigo range has already racked up enough sales to be the 10th biggest seller for the year to date – a total of 5853 units. Okay, it doesn’t really come close to the Polo’s 22854 units for the same period, and considering that you can get an Indica/ Indigo for anything between R69 995 and R106 995 (excluding the station wagon) it’s not really that surprising either. We all know that the cars are not quite on par with the major marques but that it is a sales success cannot be argued. For that I think Tata deserve a little applause.
Which brings us to the brand new Indigo GSX, Tata’s so-called range topper. For R114 995 the Indigo now features a leather interior, DVD screens in the headrests of the front seats, a DVD/CD/MP3 radio with surround sound, alloy wheels, ABS brakes, two front airbags, electric windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, power steering, fog lights front and rear as well as an immobiliser, making it the sedan with the most luxury and safety features in its class… A scary thought to say the least, but another brilliant move by the company in my opinion and good news for anyone who has been racking their brains for a way to pimp their base model Indica. It’s a move that still hasn’t inspired me enough to want one, but considering how many people can’t actually afford anything better I doubt Tata will be disappointed with my lack of enthusiasm for its bling-bling range topper.