As the world we live in changes, so do our ever expanding needs when it comes to motoring. This is the reason why there are so many different vehicles available not only worldwide, but in South Africa as well.

While some manufacturers are pioneers in establishing new vehicle types – like Chrysler and Renault did with the MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) – others choose to not compete directly when it comes to originality. Instead they take an existing type of vehicle and try to improve on the basic form. The next two candidates both aim to do just that.

With the 5, Mazda attempts to provide a better-looking alternative in the MPV market with more innovative features and nice-to-haves. Similarly, Nissan’s Qashqai takes the best of a traditional car and combines it with the best of an SUV to create a vehicle that satisfies those living in the urban jungle.

Success is a relative concept, but I believe that their presence on the list of Car Of The Year (COTY) nominees is a fair indication that they have indeed succeeded in what they set out to do.


I have always been a huge fan of Mazda’s vehicles and have been vocally defending their worth for more than a decade. The past few years have seen the company grow and come into its own on local soil, with a range that satisfies every possible need.

Mazda’s cars are solid and reliable, and while they may not have the brand appeal of certain other (German) makes, there is little that can be taken away from them in terms of general reliability. This is perhaps why Mazda is the only manufacturer this year to have two cars on the list of nominations.

The Mazda5 is in essence an MPV, but there is nothing out there that is quite as good-looking. Just look at it: this is one very chic mom’s taxi! Its sharp lines, sporty dimensions and neat alloy wheels certainly don’t look “married-with-children.”

Also very nifty are the sliding rear doors, which make entry and exit – especially if you have shopping or dogs (or babies for that matter) on the back seat – so much easier. Cleverly, Mazda offers the 5 only in 2.0-litre guise but at a price that won’t scare the living daylights out of a suburban mother.

There have been complaints about handling and performance not living up to the promise of the styling, but what has to be remembered is that the 5 is not a sports car. So does it have what it takes to win the 2008 SA COTY?

Although the Mazda5 is a competent vehicle in its segment and completely worthy of its nomination, it probably won’t win: competition is simply too fierce. While several of the finalists – like Nissan’s Qashqai – will give it a good run for its money, its biggest threat comes from another vehicle in the Mazda stable. (More about that in the next installment).


So why exactly is Nissan’s Qashqai one of my favourites for the 2008 SA COTY title? It’s quite simple: because it is such a successfully executed idea. The Qashqai directly targets the changing needs of suburban society; one that spends the majority of its time in cities and the general urban sprawl, but which wants some opportunities of country escape without an intimidating SUV appearance. And it works. It combines the advantages of an SUV type design with the practicality of a car.

In terms of genuine competitors, only the Dodge Caliber comes close (it was also designed and created as a crossover.) While both offer solid, almost sporty, designs I believe Nissan will be the better seller, even though Dodge is currently selling every Caliber it imports.

In fact, the Caliber remains a bit of an oddball outsider, whereas Qashqai also competes against some B-segment cars like VW’s Golf. To me, Qashqai is much more innovative, versatile and practical. I certainly like its chunky design much more than the decidedly bland Golf.

Nissan’s Qashqai steps up to the plate with a package that is not only good-looking, but also innovative and competitive. It also returns a level of desirability back to the Nissan brand. As such it will undoubtedly bring many buyers back to Nissan, and it is one of my favourites to take the 2008 SA COTY title.

It certainly is the first Nissan since the 90’s Maxima that is truly worthy of the honour. No wonder Qashqai sounds very similar to “cash cow”…

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