Every two years the South African motoring industry comes together to celebrate everything automotive at Auto Africa. This year wasn’t any different, except that it’s the expo’s 10th anniversary and probably the biggest one yet. While there is no doubt of Auto Africa’s status as Africa’s premier motor show, it’s also worth mentioning that it’s one of only 22 exhibitions worldwide that are on the OICA list of accredited international motor shows for 2006. The Nasrec exhibition center is literally bursting at its seams, as every last bit of exhibition space has been booked. This year, Mambaonline received media accreditation for the show and we were thoroughly impressed with the general execution of the event. Here are some of the highlights of Auto Africa 2006.


As is now tradition, Auto Africa again played host to the SA Car of the Year finalists’ announcement. Organised by the SA Guild of Motoring Journalist and sponsored by Wesbank and Total, the 8 nominees for the 2007 COTY crown are (in alphabetical order):

the Alfa Romeo 159 2.2 JTS, the Ford Focus ST, the Honda Civic 1.8 Vxi sedan, the Hyundai Accent 1.6 GLS, the Lexus IS250 SE auto, the Opel Astra GTC 1.9 CDTi, the Renault Clio 1.6 Dynamique 5-door and the Toyota Avensis 2.2 D-4D Exclusive. Mambaonline will take an in-depth look at the nominees later in 2006.


With increasing pressure on manufacturers to bring down development costs, the sharing of engineering and design knowledge is becoming more commonplace by the day. Often, this sharing of expertise is not obvious to the naked eye (like the Mazda3, Ford Focus and Volvo S40 sharing a platform), but in the most recent exercise to hit local shores, the resemblance is striking. Meet the Citroën C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo. Developed as a joint venture between France’s PSA-group and Toyota, the three city cars not only share their platform and engines, but also their looks. Thankfully, each manufacturer had only the platform, windscreen and front doors as starting point, enabling them to incorporate individual design features that will make each car instantly recognizable as part of its respective family. Toyota is still deciding whether the Aygo will be released locally (as the long-awaited replacement for the discontinued Tazz) with both the Peugeot and Citroën available locally early in 2007. Although the 107 will give Peugeot a firm contender in the entry-level market, I believe that the C1 will be the more successful variant initially. Powered by a 1.0-litre engine, it produces 50kW at 4000rpm, equating to an exceptional fuel consumption figure of a mere 4.1-litres per 100km. Pricing is expected to be in the region of R90 000, which means it will be flying off the showroom floors; pre-ordering is strongly advised!


American brand Dodge returned to local shores earlier this year with the Caliber, a car that is supposed to cement the Dodge-name back onto the collective South African consciousness. The next model to be released locally is the striking Nitro. Typified by a love-it-or-hate-it appearance, I can reassure you that its interesting combination of muscle and bling is much better observed in the flesh (or should that be metal). It bears absolutely no resemblance to Jeep’s Cherokee (with which it shares a platform), and I simply love it. The Nitro will initially be powered by a 3.7-litre V6 engine (157kW and 319Nm of torque, with either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox). Conservative buyers will despise its blatant, in-your-face looks, but if you are a true non-conformist, the Nitro is the SUV you’ve been waiting for.


Nissan South Africa displayed the Qashqai – a name derived from a nomadic Iranian tribe that’s pronounced “kash-kai”. According to Nissan, the Qashqai will cater for those car-buyers who want a more dynamic design than offered by a traditional C-segment car, but are not attracted to the large, aggressive nature of a compact SUV. In terms of design, the top half of Qashqai is reminiscent of a dynamic passenger car (with a sleek, dynamic form that features a distinctive shoulder line) while the lower portion of the car suggests SUV attributes of strength and solidity (thanks to large, pronounced wheel arches, slightly elevated ground clearance and a purposeful stance). Four engine options will be available in Europe – two diesel and two petrol – that include an 84kW 1.6-litre petrol, a 103kW 2.0-litre petrol, a 78kW 1.5- and a 110kW 2.0-litre diesel. Several gearbox options are available (according to engine choice), and both 2.0-litre engine options can be specified with Nissan’s advanced ALL-MODE 4×4 system, which gives added security and stability in marginal conditions. The Qashqai might not be as radical as its Murano-brother, but is, in my opinion, another example of the fine automobiles Nissan can create.


Convertible driving in South Africa is largely limited to premium-brand drop-tops at the moment, (apart, perhaps, from the Renault Megane, Mazda MX5 and Daihatsu Copen). But that might possibly change in the near future as a number of manufacturers displayed convertibles at Auto Africa this year. On what I would call the more affordable side of the convertible spectrum we had Opel’s Astra Twintop and Ford’s Focus CC – both offering fun-in-the-sun driving experiences and the ease of a mechanical fold-away roof. Unlike Renault (who offers the Megane CC with three engine options), both General Motors and Ford of South Africa is positioning their convertibles as premium models in their respective ranges. Opel has specified the top of the range 2.0-litre turbo engine for the local version of the Astra Twintop (placing it next to the Astra GTC range), while the Focus CC will offer the choice of 2.0-litre petrol and diesel power plants in its position alongside 2007 COTY finalist, Focus ST. It is however difficult to predict which model will be more popular as brand loyalty plays a major role in the decision making process, especially in this segment. Does it really matter which one is more popular? Not really…they’re both gorgeous.


Named after the Greek goddess of the dawn, Volkswagen’s breathtaking Eos is one of the highlights of Auto Africa…and it’s coming to South Africa. Exterior dimensions place it between the Golf and the Passat, but VW is adamant that resemblances to the Golf are coincidental and that the Eos was developed from scratch. Regardless, the Eos is a four passenger coupe-convertible with a retractable hardtop that is a tad more premium-priced than what I would have hoped for. The South African range will get the 2.0-litre FSI engine pumping out 110kW (R311 000) and the 147kW 2.0-litre TFSI (R350 500), both with a five-speed manual gearbox (the DSG transmission is a R13 500 option on the turbo). I cannot see why the Eos wouldn’t be widely popular on local shores, but it does have some competition…


Volvo’s all-new C70 has a very purposeful look – and it really is a beauty. Volvo opted to first design the C70 as a coupé. Once they were satisfied with the result they made the necessary convertible adaptations. The C70 is also one of the first open cars in the premium segme

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