Aside from perhaps the Mercedes Benz SLK and Audi’s A4 cabrio, there are currently not many options in the junior executive market when it comes to open-top driving. Things are however set to change in 2007, with Audi releasing the gorgeous roadster version of their new TT coupÃ© (also available with the 147kW 2.0 TFSI engine or the 184kW 3.2 V6), while BMW’s new 3-series coupÃ© gets a folding hardtop roof a la SLK. To be launched during the European spring, the 3-series convertible will initially be offered in 325i and 335i derivatives, with smaller-engined petrols and diesels following later (which are highly unlikely for South Africa). Unfortunately it’s too soon to place these beauties on your Christmas 2006 wish list; but who said you can’t also spoil yourself in the middle of the year?
SOME MORE BOTOX, PLEASE…
Yes, Volkswagen’s super-successful Citi is definitely here to stay; the company is working on getting the Citi to comply with emissions legislation so that the car can be sold almost indefinitely. The fact that so many people are actually still buying it is probably what urged VWSA to add yet another model to the range – this time in the form of the Citi 1.8R. Fitted with a fuel-injected 1.8-litre engine that develops a healthy 90kW of power and 162Nm of torque, the 1.8R is visibly sportier than your average Citi, most notably because of the red striping along the sides of the car and around the front grille (very GTI…). Twin exhausts, 15-inch alloys and a lower suspension rounds off the look. Priced at roughly R118 000, it is definitely a strong contender for the title of most-affordable performance car. But the fact that you still don’t get power steering, airbags or ABS brakes is rather off-putting… especially on a so-called ‘performance’ car. But, odds are that VW has yet another winner in its evergreen Citi range.
…RATHER A FACE LIFT
But, if you’re not comfortable with spending your hard-earned cash on something the same age as you are, consider the Peugeot 107. As reported in our Auto Africa special last month, the 107 is the first of the three city cars jointly developed by Peugeot-CitroÃ«n and Toyota to reach local shores. Featuring Peugeot’s already established new corporate look, the 107 is instantly recognisable as a Peugeot and initially three models are already available: the entry-level XR (R89 900), the XR with aircon and sound system (R94 900) and the X-Line (R105 900). Fitted with a 3-cyliner, 1-litre engine (as supplied by Toyota), the baby Pug develops 50kW and will take you to a top speed of 165km/h – which is rather nippy for such a small engine! Due to its small size and small engine, fuel consumption is very good and with exceptionally keen pricing, the new 107 should be very popular amongst those who want the best value for money in the entry-level market. Next up is the CitroÃ«n C1 in January – expect similar pricing and engine choices. With Toyota’s Yaris T1 selling for the same amount of cash as an entry-level 107 it’s doubtful whether Toyota will bring the Aygo to South Africa at a more competitive price. So if small and nippy with a bit of French flair is what you’re looking for, your prayers have certainly been answered!
HOT HATCH SURPRISE
As if the battle for the hot hatch market isn’t frantic enough, there is a distinct possibility that things will heat up further in the near future. Everyone from the legendary Golf GTI to the gorgeous Opel Astra OPC and current hot hatch king, Ford Focus ST, had better watch their backs, for if the Mazda3 MPS arrives it’s going to get really scorching. The Mazda3 MPS is fitted with Mazda’s acclaimed 2.3-litre DIDI Turbo engine that delivers a whopping 191kW of power… more than the before-mentioned road racers have to offer. Externally, the MPS doesn’t obviously stand out from a normal Mazda3 – it has bigger wheels, a slightly different grille and subtle styling differences front and back – which is exactly why I love it: its inherent capabilities in terms of power, speed and performance aren’t as obvious as you’d expect. Mazda has however not yet confirmed the Mazda3 MPS for South Africa (unlike the Mazda6 MPS which is already on sale), and I sincerely hope that if – or rather, when – it arrives, it’s not diluted too much to make it adaptable for our shores (or rather, our fuel).
THE LIMO EVERY HEIRRESS DREAMS OF
If you feel that Mercedes Benz’s S-class is not quite big or luxurious enough for you but you find a Maybach a bit excessive, the company might just have the car you’re looking for available in the near future. With Rolls Royce (or BMW, if you want) already exploring the possibilities of creating a smaller version of its magnificent Phantom, Maybach has indicated that it’s also seriously considering the creation of a baby ‘Bach, especially since there is a gigantic gap between the range-topping Merc and the entry-level Maybach.
SUPERSIZE THAT, PLEASE
The BMW X5 looking old and the Q7 not tickling your fancy? Chances are you’re a bit of a conservative then. Fear not though, as there’s still a German manufacturer that caters to the needs and desires of those who do not necessarily want such in-your-face modes of transportation. Enter the Mercedes Benz GL – the SUV that aims to have the final word in terms of luxury. Built on the same platform as Merc’s much improved new ML – yet considerable larger – the GL also features a third row of seats for extra passengers. But, unlike many other SUV’s (like the JEEP Commander), the third row folds completely flat to provide class-leading luggage space. Available in GL320 CDI and GL500, it’s a tad more expensive than its competitors (especially the R770 000 GL500), but I doubt whether it will deter die-hard Merc fans from acquiring one. Mercedes Benz is constantly releasing brand new models (just have a look at their existing line-up), with the next addition being the MLK – a smaller SUV that will compete directly with BMW’s X3 and Audi’s upcoming Q5. Whether there’re enough letters in the alphabet to name all Mercedes’ models remains to be see though.