Fans of the hot hatch segment will be over the moon with the fact that Honda’s latest Civic Type R is just about ready for launch in South Africa. In the dramatic hatchback body style we’ve now become used to, but with a bigger engine, bigger wheels, bigger spoilers and a black mesh grille up front, Honda’s Civic Type R strikes gold visually; its 2.0-litre, 147kW iV-TEC engine sure to wreak havoc amongst the ranks of GTI, Cupra and ST. Civic Type R is fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox and Honda claims acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds before reaching a top speed of 237 km/h. If driving dynamics and sheer performance are more important to you than merely driving a car with the right “label”, I’d suggest you get your name on that waiting list very quickly. The Civic Type R will retail for approximately R260 000.


Good news for fans of Scandinavian marque SAAB is that the new 9-3 range, which will be released in Europe around August, features bolder styling inspired by the company’s award-winning Aero X concept car. The entire front bodywork has been revamped, as have the door panels and rear styling features and, combined with the brand’s new signature lighting, SAAB reckons that the new 9-3 looks more sporty and assertive. The most significant changes are at the front where they have used grille and hood themes from the Aero-X concept together with the return to SAAB’s classic “clamshell” design. Combined with vast improvements in terms of performance and handling, I personally hope that this rendition will sell more SAABs, especially once General Motors releases it locally. More info will be made available closer to launch date.


In a move that is not entirely surprising, Daimler of Germany has finally ended its nine-year affiliation with Chrysler of America, originally one of the biggest ever transatlantic mergers that cost Daimler $36 billion in 1998. Chrysler has however failed to become profitable as part of Daimler, forcing the company to draw the line and dump its loss-making division. All is not lost however: Daimler is making only $7.4 billion from the sale of Chrysler to US-based private equity firm Cerberus (a fifth of its original investment) and will retain a 19.9% stake in the company. The company will also change its name back to Daimler. The sale should be considered a last resort as Daimler did much to try and salvage Chrysler, including the futile shutdown of plants and cutting approximately 40 000 jobs in 2000 and 2005, actions that still left them clocking an operating loss of €1.12 billion in 2006.

The sale to Cerberus leaves Daimler with no further debt towards Chrysler, as all financial obligations for employees’ pension and healthcare benefits are retained by Chrysler. New owners Cerberus is very optimistic about its acquisition, stating for the records that they believe in American manufacturing, the American automotive industry and, more importantly, in Chrysler. Because Daimler has been marketing Chrysler, JEEP and Dodge models separately, it is reported that the sale to Cerberus won’t affect local sales, distribution and back-up for Chrysler, JEEP and Dodge vehicles.


It seems as if Merc’s tendency to create a car for every need has rubbed off on JEEP before the big divorce. Where our choices were once limited to the Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee – and more recently, the Commander – the company recently added the decidedly odd-looking Dodge Caliber-based Compass to its range. Also, the all-new Wrangler – a favourite among gay men – has also just arrived in SA. Unlike the hideous new Compass, Wrangler retains most of its iconic styling cues but is now also available in four-door guise. What is, however, obvious is that Wrangler is more refined this time round, with better on-road manners and a softer, smoother interior – it even features speed-activated central locking and electric windows. Available in Sport, Sahara and Rubicon, engine choices include a 3.8-litre V6 (146kW & 315 Nm) and a 2.8-litre turbodiesel (130kW & 410Nm) coupled to either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Prices are yet to be confirmed but should be far below current Cherokee models. Also due shortly is the Patriot – a vehicle positioned above the Wrangler but below the Compass and Cherokee. The Patriot is a very close relative to the Compass but is more suited to off-road use. It certainly is better to look at, and will feature the same engine choices as the Compass. Another model to look forward to next year is the all new Cherokee. JEEP claims that it’s an all-new design, but to me it looks like a squared-off version of the current model, the most obvious change being the new square headlights. Whether any of these new models will be able to reach the iconic status of the Wrangler and Cherokee remains to be seen.


They may have lost out considerably at the World Car of the Year Awards, but BMW were triumphant at the ninth Annual Engine of the Year Awards, held recently in Stuttgart, Germany. BMW’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo, as fitted to the new 335i, walked away with the coveted International Engine of the Year 2007 award, an engine that also dominated the Best New Engine of 2007 category. Besides walking off with the main prize, BMW also won awards for it 2.5-litre inline six (used in the 325i, 525i, X3 and Z4) and 5.0-litre V10 engines (used in the M5 and M6). Elsewhere in the prestigious Awards, Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged TSI unit, which is not yet available in SA, triumphed for a second year in the 1.0-litre to 1.4-litre class, with its larger sibling, the 2.0-litre turbo (developed by Audi and housed in the Golf GTi and Audi A3) topping the 1.8-litre to 2.0-litre category. Toyota meanwhile saw its 1.5-litre hybrid (that powers the Prius) named Best Fuel Economy engine and its 1.0-litre three-cylinder from the Aygo and Yaris took the honours in the Sub 1.0-litre category. Some of the loudest cheers were for Porsche, however, who finally won an International Engine of the Year Award trophy for its 3.6-litre turbo engine in the 911 Turbo. It was voted the best 3.0-litre to 4.0-litre engine in production today. The International Engine of the Year Awards are judged independently by 62 motoring journalists from 30 countries.


When the amendments to the National Credit Act kick in on 1 June, vehicle leasing options will, for the first time, be available to private individuals in South Africa. Up until now, lease agreements were only available to individuals fortunate enough to benefit from corporate car allowances. For those not really familiar with the concept, leasing boils down to vehicle usage over a specified period of time and does not include outright ownership as it would with an installment agreement. This new legislation will most likely afford first-time buyers on the entry-level front a better opportunity to drive a brand new car, but education will undoubtedly be necessary as owning a vehicle is still considered a matter of status in our country. Industry watchers have also warned consumers to be aware of large residual values or balloon payments which often make deals look a little bit more affordable.

Lease agreements allow the consumer the opportunity to

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