We take a look at the best new cars of ’07: the vehicles that left us wanting more; one that’s not all it’s cracked up to be and a happy surprise – as well as the ’08 SA Car of the Year finalists.
FIVE OF THE BEST: THE CARS THAT IMPRESSED US IN ‘07
FIAT PANDA 100HP – R124 900
In a country where not many people can afford the fast, fun cars, Fiat impressed immensely with the 100 horsepower performance-version of the adorable Panda. It’s a huge bundle of fun for what you’re paying!
MAZDA2 – R116 990 to R158 990
A 2008 COTY finalist and the second-last offering in Mazda’s new model onslaught for 2007, the Mazda2 offers gorgeous looks and willing performance at an impressive price that’s bound to sell like hot-cakes.
NISSAN QASHQAI – R183 900 to R219 950
Many manufacturers have attempted designing a vehicle that combines the space of an SUV with the handling of a car, but none have done it as impressively as Nissan has with its brilliant new Qashqai.
BMW 335i – R415 000
Whether they did it deliberately we do not know, but the BMW 335i’s performance rivals that of its M3 sibling at R235 000 less. Impressive in every way, it’s a shame that it is not a 2008 COTY finalist. It would’ve won.
AUDI R8 – R1 255 000 or R1 300 000 (DSG)
With the 4.2-litre, V8, 309km/h R8 supercar, Audi surprised absolutely everyone. The R8 is awesome in every respect, and we were impressed with Audi’s arrogance in making it in the first place. Porsche should be worried!
FANTASTIC FIVE: THE CARS WE DROVE & LOVED IN ’07
CHEVROLET CAPTIVA 3.2 V6 LTZ – R343 900
Chevrolet’s Captiva was one of 2007’s biggest surprises because it does absolutely everything well. The 3.2 V6 LTZ especially impressed in terms of power, luxury and appearance, didn’t use nearly as much fuel as a HUMMER H3 and came standard with off-road features like hill descent control which most of its competitors do not have. Captiva still has me captivated.
HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2.2 CRDI 4×2 7-SEAT – R339 900
Its exceptional fuel efficiency made the Santa Fe one of my favourite cars of 2007 (I got more than 750km on Â¾ of a tank in urban driving). It’s better looking than its predecessor, has a quality interior, offer a comfortable and nippy drive and is exceptional value for money. The Santa Fe appeals to both the logical and emotional side of my mind: it’s that good.
JAGUAR XKR CONVERTIBLE – R1 110 000
In Jaguar’s XKR Convertible, everything in the interior is covered in leather, the seats are adjustable in 16 ways, the touch screen works better than any of the German attempts and the sound from that 306kW, 4.2-litre, supercharged V8 engine is simply orgasmic. It has phenomenal acceleration and very politely begs you to drive at illegal speeds. It’s mind-blowing!
NISSAN 350Z ROADSTER – R453 900
Whereas the Jag politely asks you to speed up, Nissan’s 350Z grabs you by the balls and makes you do it, no questions asked. Never mind the minimalist interior, this car has the soul of a maniac and there is no way to drive it like a normal car: creature comforts come second to driving enjoyment. The 350Z Roadster is a completely honest, modern sports car.
AUDI TT ROADSTER 2.0T FSI R-TRONIC – R401 000 (without options)
Audi’s TT Roadster, in 2.0T FSI R-tronic guise (and loaded with R57 000’s worth of options), was not only my favourite car to drive in 2007, but is undoubtedly the ultimate compromise in convertibles, offering the same honest power, acceleration, speed and exhilaration as the 350Z, but with quality and luxury similar to that of the Jag – at less than half the price.
NOT ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE…
HUMMER H3 – R417 000 (without options)
Never before has a car been introduced to the South African market with so much brand awareness already in place. Such is the hype that surrounded the SA launch of the locally built HUMMER H3, the new baby of the HUMMER range. I was beyond myself with excitement when taking ownership of a gorgeous H3 Adventure, albeit only for a week. In trying to establish what it would be like to live with one every day, the seven days were spent doing everything “every day” I could imagine, and even included a long-distance trip to Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal.
I simply love the H3’s looks and think the smaller interpretation of the trademarked design works very well. I also loved the seating position and general interior space, and could even live with the interior quality. (The interior isn’t bad at all, but I will concede that it is a decidedly bland dashboard design.) What I simply couldn’t live with is the H3’s pathetic engine and decidedly disappointing performance. The H3 is fitted with a 3.6-litre, 5-cylinder engine that develops 180 kW at a 5 600rpm peak, and 328 Nm of torque at a low 4 600rpm.
The torque is brilliant and enables you to go anywhere off the beaten track, but it doesn’t translate well into on-road performance. H3 is beyond slow when accelerating, and mated to a terrible 4-speed automatic gearbox, the engine easily runs out of breath up steep hills. I couldn’t get it even close to its claimed top speed of 156km/h. It is also insanely heavy on fuel in every circumstance – I recorded 7km/litre at best!
All is, however, not lost: HUMMER is a comfortable cruiser that does most other things well, and if you like being noticed on the road, you certainly can’t go wrong with an H3 in yellow, red or black. Just don’t attempt getting anywhere fast and keep that garage card close. At a base price of R417 000, the much-hyped HUMMER H3 is unfortunately not all it’s cracked up to be.
CADILLAC BLS 2.8T V6 AUTO – R362 000
Another American automotive brand with a rich heritage, there was considerably less hype around Cadillac’s return to local shores. Cadillac has been here before, albeit decades ago when cars still had tailfins. The first new Cadillac to arrive was the BLS, a mid-sized sedan built in Europe for the European market. As such, it really is only the badge that is truly American, with even the styling watered down slightly to suit European tastes.
I immediately loved it: sharp lines and bold light-clusters ensured that the BLS stood out wherever I went; something I particularly enjoyed since I consider myself a non-conformist. The BLS doesn’t conform either, and there is simply no way it can be mistaken for one of the conformists’ German choices. The BLS has however been criticized for sharing too much with the SAAB 9-3 on which it’s based, but this didn’t bother me either because I happen to love the SAAB 9-3.
I could not find fault inside the BLS, except that I would have preferred a brushed aluminium trim to that wooden-crap manufacturers use to give their car