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Category Archives: Launch Pad

Launch Pad: Ford Fiesta ST




Fiesta ST 1


Honest Joe hot hatch

Reuben van Niekerk

I started driving in the late 90’s and lusted after cars like Honda Civic V-tecs and Golf VR6s. These were fairly ‘simple’ hatches with – in those days – plenty of power under the bonnet, adequate styling and a soundtrack like few others.

I say simple because they were without all the frills that have seemed to creep into cars these days. It was just four seats, a punchy motor, comfortable interior and air conditioning. Those were the days when anything over 100 kW in a hatch was fireworks.

Driving the latest Fiesta ST around Joburg and Red Star Raceway gave me the same warm fuzzy feeling inside. This car is honest, what you see is what you get. Yes, there are creature comforts, but they are not overwhelming. The ST is a simple package, good engine, gearbox and chassis. What more could a young petrolhead want?

Under the bonnet is a 1,6-litre Ecoboost engine with 134 kW at 5 750 r/min and 240 Nm from 1 600. On overboost, which lasts for 20 seconds, the torque is up to 290 Nm and Ford claim a 0-100 km/h sprint of 6,9 seconds. Impressive stuff. And there should be no need to break the piggy bank to fill up the tank as it is said to use only 5,9 litres of the good stuff per 100 kilometres.

In terms of styling, I think there are enough hints to ensure that everyone knows this is not a regular Fiesta, but at the same time it leaves space for youngsters to do their own thing with the car. Up front there is a trapezoidal grille, and a bodykit, with bigger bumpers, side skirts and spoiler, give it a sportier look. At the rear is a diffuser flanked by twin exhausts. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels round off the package.

Inside the sporty theme is continued with nicely bolstered, yet comfortable Recaro seats, an ST steering wheel and gear shifter as well as aluminium pedals.

When developing the car, engineers listed key factors such as steering, handling, braking, sound quality and performance feel as important. I think for the most part they got everything pretty spot on. However, I do think that the full electric power steering could maybe do with a little bit more feel.

Fords sound sympose system delivers attractive engine noises to the cabin, through a tube in the firewall, and although it is probably fake, it does make the car sound good from the driver’s seat.

Where Ford are definitely winning with this car is in the pricing department. It is really nice to see that one can still get a practical performance car for an affordable price. At R254 000 the Fiesta ST is a great value proposition against its main rival the VW Polo GTi.

And if you need any other reason to buy the Ford, they are the only manufacturer currently competing on all three discipliness of national racing – production cars, rally and off-road. That’s racing heritage right there.

Kia Cerato Sedan

Cerato pic 2Seoul searcher

Reuben van Niekerk

Kia are marketing their new Cerato sedan with the tagline, ‘The power to surprise’ and it does just that, surprise…

I think the biggest obstacle for Kia, yet also  the factor that will help them mostt, is getting bums in seats. I say this because once people get over their preconceived idea of what a Kia is actually like and go and see for themselves, I can almost guarantee that they will be more impressed than they thought they would be.

The Koreans are no longer a threat approaching in the distance, they are here. With European styling that makes European cars look bland, they certainly stand out in the parking lot. Quality is also right up there with the Japanese – it is world class.

The Cerato is a – segment contender, and this caregory makes up 35%t of the South African market, so it is an important one. Kia believe that customers demand certain qualities in this segment, such as interior quality, safety and gadgets, and  have built the new Cerato to fulfil these needs.

With improved sportier styling, the Cerato features an all-new bodyshell and boasts improved quality, upgraded equipment and a variety of additional convenience and safety features.

The Cerato will be offered in three different equipment levels across two engines – the 1.6 EX, 2.0 EX and 2.0 SX.

The 1.6 EX model has an array of standard convenience features, including a manual air conditioner, automatic light control, built-in bluetooth, steering- wheel-mounted cruise control, front and rear electric windows, LED daytime running lights, an MP3/iPod/USB compatible radio with CD front loader, rear air vents, six speakersand remote controls on the nsteering wheel. On the ‘spave front’ it also has 60/40 rear split seats.

Upgrading to the more powerful 2.0 EX model gets you a dot-matrix LCD cluster, leather seats and the option of a sun roof. Kia’s much-vaunted Flex Steer system allows the driver to individualise his driving style with the flick of a switch. Three settings are available: normal, sporty and comfort.

The top of the range 2.0 SX model features various high tech features including HID xenon headlamps, a rear-view camera, a smart key with stop/start button, a smart welcome lighting system, front and rear park distance control and a supervision TFT LCD cluster.

The Cerato is available in a choice of two petrol engines – a 118 kW 2.0-litre engine and the popular 95 kW 1.6-liter Gamma engine.

Models featuring the 2,0-litre engine and  manual gearbox accelerate to 100 km/h in 8,5 seconds. Automatic versions need 9,3 seconds, but both versions attain a top speed of 210 km/h.

Cars powered by the Gamma 1,6 engine top 200 km/h and reach 100 km/h in 10,1 seconds  (manual) and 11,6 seconds (automatic). All transmissions, whether manual or auto, have six ratios.


While the specifications of the new Cerato’s fully independent front suspension –  MacPherson struts – and coupled torsion beam rear axle are unchanged, both systems have been fine-tuned to improve agility, enhance shock absorbance and deliver greater refinement. The improvement is noticeable, with none of that ‘wallowy’ stuff that  old Korean cars were famous for.

Kia has invested heavily in R&D to maximise occupant protection making the safety of people using its products and other road users a top priority.

Now, incorporating a much higher percentage (63%) of high-tensile strength steel than many competitors’ cars, the bodyshell structure features new engine bay bulkhead bracing linked to two new longitudinal chassis members each side of the central tunnel.

Torsional rigidity of the new bodyshell is increased by 37% (over the previous model), bringing the added benefits of improving refinement and creating a stronger foundation for the suspension and steering.

Safety technologies standard on all models include ABS with built-in EBD, active headrests, impact sensing auto door unlock, a passenger airbag on/off switch, six airbags consisting of driver, front passenger, side and curtain airbags, Isofix child seat anchors and fog lights.

The SX model features ESC (Electronic Stability Control), HAC (Hill-start Assist Control), which prevents slip-back during stop-start driving on inclines, and a VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) system that works with the ESC to provide ‘corrective’ steering inputs to help the driver avoid loss of control, especially on asymmetric (wet and dry) road surfaces.

But do yourself a favour, go and have a look at the Cerato if you are in the market for a C segment sedan. It is not without reason that Kia are selling all the stock pretty much as soon as it lands in South Africa.


1.6 manual R219 995

1.6 auto R229 995

2.0 manual R249 995

2.0 auto R259 995

2.0 manual SX R279 995

2.0 auto SX R289 995

Launch Pad: Citroën DS3 Cabriolet

DS3 Cab 2

Open season

John Bentley

It’s a rare windless day in Cape Town and we’re bowling along the N1 with the roof open. My hair’s being ruffled just a little by a light stream of air coming off the pop-up deflector above the screen. Nothing unpleasant, just a slight frisson that adds to the sense of travelling en plein air

I glance down at the speedometer to see we’re cruising at close to 120 km/h. I press the button to close the top, let it close, wait a few seconds, then open it again. No drama. The fabric unfolds, then folds again with no problem at all.

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Launch Pad: Mini Paceman

MINI Paceman

Future icon?

Reuben van Niekerk

Mini are fast becoming the leaders in terms of giving the public cars that they never knew they wanted. Their latest introduction, called the Paceman, takes the Countryman one step further by dropping two doors and fitting it into designer clothing. Where the Countryman is practical, the Paceman is stylish.

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Launch Pad: Hyundai Veloster

0805 Hyundai Veloster 1

Innovative fun

Reuben van Niekerk

The Veloster has joined the local model line-up of Hyundai – bringing a mixture of fun, innovation and attractive, sporty styling to the Korean carmaker’s range in South Africa. Packed with features and with cool looks that will attract new buyers as well as loyal brand customers.

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Launch Pad: Ford Tourneo/Transit

0805 Ford Tourneo:Transit 1

Perfect people mover

Reuben van Niekerk

The Ford Transit is absolutely an icon in the van market in Europe, with about 250 000 sold there annually. So its surprising that it took so long to get to South Africa where competitor models such as the Toyota Quantam, VW Kombi and more recently the Hyundai H1 have had the market to themselves.

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Launch Pad: Audi A3 Sportback

0805 Audi A3 Sportback 1

More is more

Reuben van Niekerk

The premium hatchback segment gains another competitor as Audi add the Sportback range to the A3 lineup, which was launched earlier this year. With two added doors and a slightly longer wheel base it takes of where the A3 left off.

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Launch Pad: Toyota Verso

0605 Toyota Verso 1

Wholesome goodness

Wendy Robinson

The aroma of soup emanates from my kitchen as I write this review. You know that familiar connection that the nose sends to the brain when all the senses start working together to cause the body to feel cosy and warm?  I guess that is what an MPV does for a family. You know, it’s not all exotic or particularly over-spiced, but rather a predictable sensation of familiarity. And what is wrong with that? When it comes to comfort, space and practicality, why force the issue with inappropriate vehicles for family comfort.

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Launch Pad: Mercedes-Benz GL


Class act

Richard Macaskill

Mercedes-Benz calls all its cars ‘Letter(s)-Class’. Now, while class is a word that can’t necessarily be used to describe all Mercs (let’s face it, some are found wanting, though recent years have shown improvement across the board), if I was forced to choose one word to describe the new GL-Class, it would be exactly that. Class.

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Launch Pad: Renault Clio


Cool curves

Wendy Robinson

Sensual, sexy, curvaceous, young, sporty and dynamic are key words when describing the all new Renault Clio.

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