My hot hatch journey started around the tender age of 15.
Saturday nights were spent standing around at the Doll's house, sipping choc banana milkshakes and watching VW Golf GTi 16 valves taking on the old BMW E30 325i and in those days the legendary Opel Boss was thrown in the mix to spice things up.
A couple of years later Opel threw down the gauntlet and unleashed the undisputed champ of hot hatches: the "Superboss".
On the list
Now I was fortunate enough to own a 2.0 Boss, whichwas written of by a drunk driver, before moving on to a Superboss, which was stolen. But my company car was a Golf II GTi and my brother owned a GolfI GTi, so I have had my fair share of experience with hot hatches.
Unfortunately the late 90s was a terrible period for the hot hatch market with the new Golfs and Opels being absolute rubbish. Other car makers didn’t even bother.
I got older and moved on to a 325 TDS which was nice but gave me some serious engine trouble. Not learning my lesson, I bought a Jeep Cherokee - the old box shaped XJ Series - and loved the car until it also gave me more headaches than I needed.
So I decided to look around for a reliable, economical vehicle that would still be fun to drive but wouldn’t blow my bank account. And an ad for the Toyota Runx RSI jumped out at me from the Auto Trader.
I was originally looking for a GTI 4, but found the second-hand models to be way overpriced, until I stumbled onto my 2004 RSI with just 45 000 km and selling for R131 000. This was in 2006.
"It's a Toyota"
I traded in my Jeep for her as fast as I could, thinking "It’s a Toyota, boring but reliable" and memories of the RSI of old assured me that it had a bit of heritage.
Two years later this X hasn’t put a foot wrong. It's typically reliable; I haven’t done anything but fill the tank in over two years and 40 000 km plus of driving, she is economical (8.0l per 100/km) and has something most Toyotas don’t have - a huge grin factor.
It also has a leather interior, ABS, electric mirrors and windows, and everything else one needs in this day and age.
The engine is the 1.8l VVT-l 141-kW unit that redlines at 8 300 r/min. It is basically two engines, when you travel around at normal speeds the torque at low revs from 2 000 - 4 000 r/min is sufficient for day-to-day traffic-based commuting.
But when the revs swoosh past 5 500, the car starts wailing and the acceleration is just manic. It makes me grin every time I give her a blast.
It all seems perfect, but it's not, really...
The looks aren’t exactly state of the art either.
The engine has a dead spot between 4 500 - 5 500 r/min before the valve timing kicks in when it seems stressed and unresponsive. I believe the newer models were remapped for this problem, but in my car it really bugs me.
Lastly, the gearbox is brilliant under normal conditions, but a bit notchy when I'm ringing her neck.
But apart from these few gripes the car is just a pleasure to drive on a daily basis. It works perfectly in traffic and when the road opens she provides some serious thrills. Considering the cost of living nowadays, I don’t see myself parting with her anytime soon.