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These are the 13 best cars in SA

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The 2016/17 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards program recently concluded with the announcement of the thirteen best-considered new purchases in their respective categories of the South African new vehicle market.

Established to be the most prestigious, credible and influential awards programme in the South African motor industry, the second iteration of Cars.co.za Consumer Awards was distinguished by two significant factors: it was backed by the biggest provider of vehicle finance in South Africa and, in conjunction with the 13 judges’ scores, the findings of the Cars.co.za‘s Owner Satisfaction Survey (in association with Lightstone Consumer) had a substantial (50%) weighting on the final results, excluding the Brand of the Year award, which was based entirely on the Survey data.

The winners are:

Premium Hatchback of the Year      Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG

First Class Car of the Year              BMW 750Li Design Pure Excellence

Leisure Double-cab of the Year       Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 Auto

Executive Sedan of the Year           Jaguar XF 25t Portfolio

Premium SUV of the Year              Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription

Business Class of the Year             Audi A4 2.0T FSI Sport S tronic

Compact Family Car of the Year      Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+

Fun Car of the Year                        Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport DSG

Lifestyle SUV of the Year                Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 S

Compact Hatchback of the Year      Opel Corsa 1.0T Enjoy

Budget Car of the Year                  Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL

Performance Car of the Year           BMW M2 M-DCT

Family Car of the Year                    Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline DSG

Brand of the Year                           Suzuki

Cars.co.za‘s awards programme has a multi-faceted judging process, based on inputs from seven members of the experienced editorial team and six respected guest jurors drawn from specialist fields. The combined jury allocated scores to the three finalists in each category based on their assessments from two test days (on which available vehicles were compared back-to-back).

Once the judges’ scores were tallied and audited, the brand-specific data from the Cars.co.za Owner Satisfaction Survey, which incorporates feedback from thousands of South African new vehicle owners, based on their experiences of their vehicles (must be less than five years old and serviced through franchised outlets), was factored in for the purpose of calculating of the final results.

The prestigious Brand of the Year award, however, was determined solely by brands’ ratings in the Cars.co.za‘s Owner Satisfaction Survey (in association with Lightstone Consumer), which was compiled from thousands of surveys completed between September 2015 and December 2016. Consumers rated the brands in terms of: after-sales service, overall ownership experience and sales processes of its dealerships. Changes in market share were also factored into the final standings.

Highlights from the 2016/17 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank

  • Volkswagen dominated with 3 category wins: Premium Hatchback, Family Car and Fun Car
  • BMW and Suzuki won two categories each; it was the first awards garnered by the Japanese brand, which also succeeded Toyota as the overall Brand of the Year for 2016/17.
  • The Cars.co.za Owner Satisfaction Survey had a big impact on the programme; it determined the final results in three of the categories
  • The Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Volvo XC90 defended their titles, although the latter two won with different derivatives than in 2015/16.
  • Certificates of merit were awarded to other brands that finished in the Top Five rankings of the Cars.co.za Owner Satisfaction Survey: Audi, BMW, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.

 

Complete list of winners:

Premium Hatchback of the Year

Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: had to be a C-segment hatchback/crossover with a list price of between R350 000 and R500 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): electronic stability control, dual front, side and curtain airbags. The most important judging factors were: a balance of efficiency and performance, practicality, brand strength, design and quality appeal, ride/handling, safety, as well as in-car entertainment systems and connectivity.

“I’m not surprised the GTI defended its title. Given its blend of occupant comfort, premium features and finishes, plus driving enjoyment, it has a maturity that other hot hatches lack.” – David Taylor

Runners-up: BMW 120i 5-dr M Sport Auto, Mercedes-Benz A220d Style Auto

 

First Class Car of the Year

BMW 750Li Design Pure Excellence

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of more than R1 million at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016). The most important judging factors were: powertrain technology, luxury features, brand prestige and exclusivity, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, ride comfort and overall refinement.

“The BMW 750Li Pure Design Excellence was a more than worthy winner in a category filled with equally impressive machines. The new age technology found in the car, coupled with its dashing good looks and presidential appeal, set it apart.” – Francisco Nwamba

Runners-up: Mercedes-Benz S500e L, Range Rover SDV8 LWB Autobiography

Leisure Double-cab of the Year

Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 Auto

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: had to be a double-cab bakkie with a turbodiesel engine and four-wheel drive, with a list price in excess of R450 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016). The most important judging factors were performance, space and practicality, occupant comfort, all-surface ability and safety.

“The Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 Auto features attractive styling and excellent off-road capability that’s tough to beat in the leisure double cab segment.” – Gero Lilleike

Runners-up: Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Raider 4×4 Auto, Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 BiTDI Highline 4Motion

Executive Sedan of the Year

Jaguar XF 25t Portfolio

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a D/E-segment sedan (or so-called four-door “coupé”) with a list price of between R750 000 and R1 000 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016). The most important judging factors were: powertrain technology, brand strength, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, technological features and occupant comfort.

“The Jaguar has an intrinsic elegance to it, which is reflected in its performance and driving experience. Its comfortable, refined cabin underlines its executive sedan status.” – Kojo Baffoe

Runners-up: Mercedes-Benz E220d Avantgarde, Lexus GS 350 F-Sport

Note: The Mercedes-Benz E220d Avantgarde received a zero score from the judges as a test vehicle was not provided for the evaluation days. The brand concerned accepts the decision as fair.

Premium SUV of the Year

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R750 000 and R1 200 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016) and it had to be a large SUV (or its crossover derivative) with all-wheel drive as a standard feature. The most important judging factors were powertrain technology, luxury features, brand strength, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, space and practicality.

“The XC90 was a clear winner in this category. I loved its infotainment system and plethora of on-board technological features; the Volvo embodies a premium driving experience.” – Nafisa Akabor

Runners-up: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro, Jaguar F-PACE 30d R-Sport

Business Class of the Year

Audi A4 2.0T FSI Sport S tronic

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R500 000 and R750 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): at least six airbags, as well as electronic stability control. The most important judging factors were powertrain technology, luxury, brand strength, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics and technological features.

“With the new A4, Audi has done the unexpected: it has turned the A4 into something that rivals its competitors in the bends. The newcomer’s interior quality is unrivalled in its class.” – Ashley Oldfield

Runners-up: BMW 330d M Sport sports-auto, Mercedes-Benz C250 AMG Line

Note: The Mercedes-Benz C250 AMG Line received a zero score from the judges as a test vehicle was not provided for the evaluation days. The brand concerned accepts the decision as fair.

Compact Family Car of the Year

Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R250 000 and R350 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS, electronic stability control, a minimum of four airbags, air-conditioning, split/folding rear seats and a service plan. The most important judging factors were: balance of fuel economy and performance, space and practicality, design and quality appeal, occupant comfort and safety features.

“The Vitara is an excellent all-rounder, with a level of practicality that you’d expect from a bigger SUV, as well as a smooth engine which delivers excellent fuel economy.” – Ciro de Siena

Runners-up: Nissan Qashqai 1.2 Visia, Renault Captur 1.5 dCi Dynamique

Fun Car of the Year

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport DSG

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of less than R600 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016) to ensure that this category isn’t dominated by extravagant exotic vehicles. The most important judging factors were drivetrain engagement, entertaining handling, sensory appeal and the number of standard features.

“The Clubsport made me feel like I was at the wheel of ‘a racing car’. I loved its responsiveness, the exact reactions to driver inputs and, especially, the overall composure of the car.” – Khutso Theledi

Runners-up: Mazda MX-5, Mini John Cooper Works sports-auto

Lifestyle SUV of the Year

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 SE

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of less of between R500 000 and R750 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): electronic stability control, at least six airbags, split/folding rear seats, a minimum ground clearance of 180 mm and all-wheel drive capability.  The most important judging factors in this category were performance, space and practicality, in-car entertainment systems, cabin comfort and all-surface ability.

“The Discovery Sport seems to have it all – a desirable badge, genuine off-road ability, a luxurious and well-made cabin and even excellent performance/efficiency.” – Hannes Oosthuizen

Runners-up: Ford Everest 3.2 4WD Limited, Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Auto

Compact Hatchback of the Year

Opel Corsa 1.0T Enjoy

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R160 000 and R250 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS, electronic stability control, dual front airbags, air-conditioning, USB/Aux audio support and a service plan. The most important judging factors were balance of fuel economy and power/performance, value for money, practicality, brand strength, design and quality appeal, ride/handling prowess and safety.

“The Corsa is just beautiful: It rides comfortably, yet it’s dynamic, corners confidently and is anything but sluggish. There is definitely an element of fun to the car; I could not fault it.”– Wendy Knowler

Runners-up: Honda Jazz 1.2 Comfort, Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI Comfortline

Budget Car of the Year

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of R160 000 or lessat the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS and dual front airbags. The most important judging factors were: fuel economy, value for money, practicality and brand strength.

“Although the Celerio is not the most spacious car in its segment, its standard specification list is long, the engine feels surprisingly perky and Suzuki’s reputation counts for a lot.” – Mike Fourie

Runners-up: Renault Sandero Expression, Toyota Aygo 1.0 X-Play

Performance Car of the Year

BMW M2 M-DCT

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R600 000 and R1 000 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016) to ensure that the category isn’t dominated by exorbitantly expensive exotic cars. The most important judging factors were: driving engagement, handling, sensory appeal and standard features.

“The M2 is excellent. It’s so powerful that you’d expect it to become easily unhinged, but it’s beautifully composed. It’s certainly engaging to drive. it keeps a driver on their toes.” – Eddie Kalili

Runners-up: Ford Focus RS, Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic

Note: The Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic received a zero score from the judges as a test vehicle was not provided for the evaluation days. The brand concerned accepts the decision as fair.

Family Car of the Year

Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline DSG

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: an automatic-transmission vehicle with a list price of between R350 000 and R500 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS, electronic stability control, a minimum of six airbags, split/folding rear seats, air-conditioning and a service plan. The most important judging factors were: engine flexibility, fuel economy, space and practicality, design/quality appeal, comfort, safety and in-car entertainment.

“I favour practical cars and there’s so much to like about the Tiguan that I am tempted to buy one for myself. The Volkswagen exudes quality from design to finish and looks fantastic.” – Juliet McGuire

Runners-up: Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Elite Automatic, Nissan X-Trail 2.5 SE CVT AWD!

Brand of the Year

Suzuki

The prestigious Brand of the Year was determined solely by the manufacturers’ ratings in the Cars.co.za‘s Owner Satisfaction Survey, allied with market share change and resale value statistics per vehicle brand (supplied by Lightstone Auto). This recognition of Suzuki Auto South Africa, parallels the feat achieved by its British counterpart, which was recognised as the “most improved organisation’ in The Institute of Customer Service’s annual UK Customer Satisfaction Index in 2016.

Cars.co.za (in conjunction with Lightstone Consumer) has developed the fairest and most credible formula for determining the winner in this category. It is entirely data-driven, and entirely determined by what consumers and the market believe to be happening in South Africa. Although this result may come as a surprise, it mirrors Suzuki’s achievements in other markets.” – Hannes Oosthuizen

 

 

 

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Mini embraces innovation

Mini has launched its 2018 models with customisable interior features and major technology upgrades, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Mini has never been known as a high-tech car, due to its small form factor being the differentiator. But now the well-known brand has received a long-awaited strategy overhaul, bringing with it a new technology focus. Even the Mini logo underwent a subtle redesign, opting to use negative space to show the gaps in the wings of the logo instead of a raised metal look. This forms part of the new “MINImalism” strategy. 

Mini’s strategy for now and the foreseeable future is to increase automation in its cars.

Connected Drive, pioneered by BMW, allows for an intelligent connection between the car and smartphone. This enables one to check the fuel level, heat the interior and start the onboard navigation, all without having to be near the car, from a smartphone. When one is in the car, calendar events with location data can trigger the onboard navigation to calculate ETAs and time in traffic, offset on real-time data collected through the smartphone’s Internet connection.

We tested it with both the Mini Connected Drive and BMW Connected Drive apps, and both interfaced well with the car. Surprisingly, the BMW Connected Drive app seemed to interface slightly better with the Mini than the Mini Connected Drive app.

While the app is recommended, it’s not required, because the car integrates excellently with Bluetooth-enabled devices. iPhone users are in luck, because the entertainment system includes CarPlay, Apple’s simplified connected car interface software. This allows for music, maps and other CarPlay-enabled apps to be shown directly on the car’s touchscreen ,as they do on the iPhone, save some text-sizing adjustments. 

Pairing the iPhone is as easy as holding down a button on the steering wheel and tapping the car when it appears in the built-in CarPlay menu on the iPhone. No app download is required.

MINImalism runs through the car’s technology. The Mini’s 6.5-inch touch screen control panel shows an image of the car with layman’s terms of what the internal systems are doing, keeping to minimalist design patterns. The new Mini Coopers come standard with a Harman/Kardon 12-speaker setup, which features in the Mini Connected Drive. 

The steering wheel is redesigned, now featuring more buttons to help keep one’s hands on the wheel. The left side of the wheel features cruise control buttons, while volume and call controls are located on the right side. This bears a strong resemblance to the BMW configuration, featuring similarly placed steering controls. 

With all the Mini’s customisations, the company invites consumers to take it further with optional extra.s Mini Yours Customised (yours-customised.mini) is a web platform where one can choose custom side scuttles, custom cockpit facia, customised LED door stills and even a customised door projection light. These parts are either 3D-printed or laser-cut, depending on the material, to the specification outlined on the web app.

As optional extras, one can opt for a wireless charger in the armrest compartment and secondary front USB port for both the driver and front passenger, to charge their phones simultaneously. A SIM card connecting to the 4G/LTE network can be fitted directly into the car, allowing for use of Mini Teleservices and Intelligent Emergency Calling, with automatic vehicle location reporting. The Mini Find Mate is an extra service that uses wireless tags to track items from the car’s onboard system or from the Mini Connected Drive app. This tag can be attached to frequently misplaced items or travel items, like  backpacks, suitcases and briefcases.  

Future Minis are expected to be electric by 2019 in Europe and are expected to arrive in South Africa in mid-2020. This seems realistic, considering that the BMW i3 forms part of the same group. 

Overall, the Mini range has received a subtle yet effective cosmetic and technology overhaul, delivering loads of functionality in a minimalist package.

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Why SA needs connected taxis

Traffic across South Africa continues to be a headache and digital acceleration may just be the answer in mitigating daily congestion, says CLAYTON NAIDOO, General Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, Cisco.

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Creating smart cities and digital workplaces means connecting infrastructure and digitizing transport systems, particularly in the taxi industry. Can you imagine what South Africa roads would looks like in 10-years-time, if taxis were connected?

According to Statistics SA’s 2013 Household Survey, taxi operators transport over 15 million commuters daily.  Around 200,000 minibus taxis, across 2 600 taxi ranks, provide the main mode of transport for 50% of SA’s population earning less than R3 000 per month. 

The impact of the taxi industry on the daily lives of South Africans is huge, research by Transaction Capital, a financial services provider in the taxi industry revealed.   An estimated 70% of people who attend educational institutions make use of taxis, 69% of all South African households use taxis in their transport mix, and a staggering 68% of all public transport trips to work are in taxis. Plus, minibus taxis reach remote places other forms of public transport don’t – the average South African lives within a 5-minute walk of a minibus taxi. 

Sadly, the industry is still faced with challenges when it comes to road congestion, accidents and safety, and with drivers often forced by financial needs to work long hours. But a future where taxis can operate efficiently and profitably, while improving safety and providing a more convenient customer and employee experience, is possible. But it requires a digital business transformation. 

Our cities need to start connecting infrastructure and piloting these digital experiences now. Globally, there will be 380 million connected vehicles on the roads by 2020, but that is only half the battle. The first step toward making the frictionless commute a reality is for local governments to begin investing in technology architectures and physical infrastructure to accelerate connected transportation systems and create workplace innovation. 

On the strategic side, transportation officials can begin by identifying best practice. It is best to first pinpoint a problem that is unique to a city or region. For example, a city with notorious traffic congestion might want to start integrating smart sensors on roadways to alert drivers and connected vehicles in real-time of potential hazards, and possibly prevent accidents before they happen.

How would that look in practice? Let’s take the example of Sipho Ngwenya, a fictional character, from Zola in Soweto, one of the 600 000 people employed in the industry. 

He gets up at 4am everyday to get to the taxi rank where he parks his mini bus overnight. Sipho hopes to be one of the first drivers there to ensure he fills his taxi with commuters, who travel to the northern suburbs of Johannesburg for work and school. 

The earlier he starts transporting people, the better chance he has of generating the daily “rental fee” he pays his boss – the owner of the minibus. If Sipho is even 10 minutes late, the queue of people at the rank may have halved. If his taxi is the last one in the queue, it may not fill up, and he may need to drive around the block to find more commuters. The delay means longer hours for him, his conductor-cum-assistant (guardjie) will have to spend more time calculating and collecting fares, and it will increase his costs – he’ll spend more money on fuel.

Fast forward six-months later, when the Joburg metro area would have implemented the Cisco Connected Mass Transit technology solution to connect the taxi industry. Sipho’s alarm goes off at 4am. He grabs his phone and logs onto the Cisco platform before he jumps out of bed: the weather is clear but there’s been an accident overnight on his route to the rank – he’ll have to take a detour. He checks once again just as he leaves home, and sees that he has time to grab breakfast on his way. 

He is the first driver to arrive at the rank that morning – stress-free and ready to start. The rest of the minibuses are stuck behind the accident. He loads commuters and manages to get all of them to their destinations 10 minutes early, by checking the best routes.  Payments are no longer collected in person – there is now an easy mobile payment option that customers love, especially the young ones. And Sipho no longer needs to search for commuters – they stop his minibus on the road because it is marked as a ‘connected minibus’. This is a smart workplace.

These digital solutions are real and available to the SA taxi world. There are some caveats, though: Cisco’s international experience shows that these solutions are best implemented alongside awareness campaigns for commuters and government incentives to drive adoption, as well as ensuring the regulatory environment is conducive. Luckily, technology itself isn’t too much of a problem: the solutions work with existing IT systems local governments have installed.

Imagine South Africa in a decade. Now imagine a South Africa where traffic congestion is a thing of the past. 

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