JULY16-15_01Opel Astra hatch 1.4T Sport hatchback
by Helen Carstens

Sleek and smooth best describes the new Opel Astra.  It features a new design that sets the scene for the premium vehicle from Opel.

The stylish sedan look with silver edges around the windscreen culminates in the hatchback design of the rear to create the look, certainly a different take on the Astra.

Defined lines down the sides and the sleek slightly extended roof extending to the rear roof fin all add to the sporty look.

Inside the sleekness continues, offering a neat dash and centre console.  My test unit was the 1.4 Turbo Sport Hatchback and featured cloth seats and lots of bells and whistles:  Cruise control with speed limiter, auto-dimming rearview mirror, lane deviation warning, dual aircon, Bluetooth telephone and media streaming, rain sensing wipers, LED daytime running lights, auto off headlamps – once turned on you can leave them on as they automatically turn off when you turn off the engine.  And that is not all – Keyless entry with push button start/stop, auto-stop/start, electric windows and side mirrors with blind-spot warning indicators to assist with lane changing.  Even more the Astra features a reverse camera and parking sensors, an adjustable multi-function steering wheel which adds to a comfortable drive.  Paramount among the extensive feature list, the keyless function is always a plus for me.

All the controls are laid out neatly with centrally located buttons below the central display screen.

I was most impressed with the six-speed manual I drove as the gear changes were effortless and extremely quiet.  The new Astra certainly sets the bar, providing a sporty, sleek ride.  The drive was smooth and comfortable. Rear-seated passengers also said that the ride was comfortable.  Additionally the 60/40 split rear seats can fold flat if you need to carry a large load in the boot.

The new Opel Astra certainly appeals to me, offering style, comfort and an unbelievably smooth ride.


JULY16-15_02Jeep Cherokee 3.2L 4×4 Trailhawk
by Warren Hammond

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee brings quite a few changes to the existing formula.  The offroader has been upgrade to mirror a sleeker sports look from the rugged bundu basher of before.

The bonnet tapers downward from the windscreen ending in a more rounded front with a narrow grille that sits quite high.  The Jeep logo sits above the grille on top of the bonnet.  A nice addition to the top of the range Trail Hawk is the centre portion of the bonnet cut in black vinyl to shape that runs up to the end of the bonnet to the windscreen.  The bonnet itself tapers inward toward the grille and the front fenders wrap around on top creating a rounded front with narrow, sports car-like wrap around headlights.  These units house the main headlights as well as the daytime LED running lights.

Red badges on the body in front of the side mirrors that say “trail tested” give credit to the Jeeps 4×4 capabilities.  Park assist sensors front and rear are standard and there is a rearview reverse camera, however this is available only as an optional extra.

The Tailgate opens and closes automatically at the push of a button – perfect if you’re loading luggage and your hands are full.  The boot provides ample storage room with the option to drop the rear seats to further expand this, at the cost of carrying extra passengers in the rear of course.  The spare wheel is located under the floor of the boot on a hinged door.

The Trail Hawk features a Leather-bound multifunction steering wheel and leather seats with a modern black interior.   The seats are leather and stitched in red with the Trail Hawk label in Red below the headrest.

The bulk of the driver information is displayed is via a full colour LCD panel situated between analogue speedometer and rev counters.  The display can be adjusted, via the navigation buttons on the steering wheel, to show range, fuel economy, speed (which can be set to display in km or miles), media and a range of settings among others.

The main console features a large full colour touch display for navigating radio, media, climate control and several vehicle settings as well as the onboard GPS navigation.  Below the display are the controls for the dual-zone climate control, most of which are edged in chrome to add a certain level of class.  At the bottom are ports for Car Charger, Aux, USB, SD Card and iPod connectivity.  Bluetooth connectivity for telephone and audio streaming is also present as well as voice control accessible via the multifunction steering wheel.  Additionally the steering wheel has buttons on the back, very cleverly situated in perfect reach of your fingers when your hands are on the wheel, for controlling the volume and track selection of the media you’re playing.

At the base of the console are the controls for the Cherokee’s offroad capabilities.  The dial features settings for auto-snow-sport-sand/mud and rock.  Buttons on the dial control additional features such as hill hold assist and incline descent assist.

The automatic gear lever shifts smoothly and precisely and the electric parking brake sits just behind it.  The parking brake engages automatically when you shift into park, which I found to be really handy.

The Jeep Cherokee Trail Hawk is loaded with features.  You can expect all the standards like auto-locking doors on drive-away, electric windows all around and electric folding mirrors, but what stood out for me was the keyless entry and start with auto stop/start as well as rain sensing wipers and auto lights with daytime running LEDs.

The Jeep Cherokee provides a solid ride.  The V6 engine pushes out 200kW and 315nM of torque to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.  The 60 litre petrol tank offers a range of approximately 500km and an average consumption of around 10.8 litres per 100km.

Ample space is afforded to all passengers and the ride is solid and comfortable.  On the road and off the road the Jeep Cherokee Trail Hawk is a great drive, affording the driver and passenger comfort and class.


JULY16-15_03Renault Kadjar 96kW TCe Dynamique
by Helen Carstens

New from Renault is the Kadjar – an SUV that is functional and practical.  The Body presents as an SUV with large wheel arches, a curvaceous bonnet and large side mirrors.

My test unit was the 97KW turbo 1.2 model and featured an interior with leather-stitched seating and an uncluttered dash housing a large display screen with dual aircon below.  The Kadjar packs a multifunction, adjustable steering wheel with the volume and media/phone control stalk behind the steering wheel, as is Renault trademark design.  The driver is greeted by a simplified driver display with the rev counter in the centre with a digital speed display nested in the centre of that.

The touch screen allows for navigation of various menus and options as well as the handy reverse camera.

My Kadjar was loaded with features including keyless entry, push button start/stop, an electric parking brake, cruise control with speed limiter, lane change indicators, rain sensing wipers, doors that auto-lock on pull away, auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric side mirrors and electric windows all around.  Furthermore I was impressed by the number of USB iPod and Aux ports as well as built in navigation and Bluetooth telephone and media streaming.  I absolutely loved the panoramic glass roof, especially when driving through areas where trees line the roads as you feel like you’re driving through nature with a window to the beauty of the world.

The six-speed manual provides a smooth drive. It includes an ECO mode and gear change indicator which both help with the fuel economy.  You can see when you are driving economically by a leaf display that shows and guides you, aiding you to drive in the most economical manner.  After each drive you can pull up a display via the touch screen that shows you how economical your last trip was.

The Kadjar is spacious and comfortable and my test unit included my ultimate favourite feature – heated seats.  The boot is spacious and the rear seats can fold down to greatly increase the carrying capacity.

The phrase what you see is what you get most certainly does not apply here – versatile is one of the best ways to describe it because besides standard suburban driving, I had the opportunity to take the 1.6 Turbo Diesel 4WD Kadjar on sand dunes where it handled just as superbly.

While the Kadjar had a wide selection of niceties, the thing that stood out the most for me was the superb fuel efficiency, which I think is the most important aspect to most any driver in our current economy.


JULY16-15_04Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6 d/cab Raider auto
by Helen Carstens

The Hilux is synonymous with durability and functionality and, I must admit, it was not anywhere near the top of my rankings.  It had its place and was a top seller to no end, but to me it has always been just a bakkie, nothing more.

The new Hilux is, to me, anything but just a bakkie. It is different to its predecessor from every angle you can think of. It has a modern appearance, from the outside and the inside.  Besides all of the upgrades under the bonnet, it has a completely new appearance.  The exterior is bold and strong with curves and smoothness.  From the front grille over the accentuated wheel bonnet to the roof and down behind the cab to the back loading bay, it most certainly shows strength in its appearance.

The interior is radically different from anything before – you could easily be mistaken for thinking you are in an SUV and not a bakkie.  The new Hilux has a sense of style and a host of modern features absent in the Hilux of yesteryear.

The smooth, straight dash is seamless with a dual display and aircon dials, USB and Aux inputs, juice holders and the gear lever all below that.  My test unit was the Hilux 2.8 six-speed auto.

The Hilux features a leather-bound adjustable multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth telephone and media streaming and multiple functions for the display screens.

The 4×4 controls are handled via a dial (as opposed to a lever), ensuring that the functionality of the Hilux is still there – and somewhat better than before.  Now I can say, and it’s about time too, that the Hilux has finally arrived and can comfortably compete with others on an even playing field.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  It was smooth and gear changes silent. The ride was most comfortable and there was most definitely power.  I was unfortunately unable to unleash that power, but believe me it is definitely there!

The new Hilux is here and I think it is a welcome addition that the die-hard Hilux fans are going to love.  It shows boldness and strength in the suburbs and durability and functionality in the great outdoors where it will sparkle and shine like never before and can definitely compete with any of its rivals.


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