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Auto Africa roundup

2004-10-26 11:26

The striking Alfa GT at Auto Africa

John Oxley

The highlight of the show was undoubtedly the massive DaimlerChrysler stand, claiming a number of "firsts" and "best".

The stand, enveloping Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler-Jeep, Maybach, Mitsubishi and smart brands, was, said chairman Christoph Kopke, the only one from a luxury brand designed and built locally.

What's more, he said, when it was stripped down after the show the trimmings would be used to furnish the SOS Childrens' Home in Johannesburg.

Mercedes also had what it claimed was the fastest car on show, the 334 km/h Mercedes-McLaren SLR, as well as the fastest station wagon, the Mercedes C55 AMG Estate.

Other new products were the Mitsubishi Evo VIII, a rally-derived four-seater that's due on sale in SA, in limited numbers, from next year, as well as the smart ForFour, a four-seater derivative from the smart city car stable that comes with either 1.3-litre or 1.5-litre power, and which will be priced at R139 000 and R159 000 respectively.

Completing the Merc lineup was the new A-Class - just shown in Europe, and bigger/better/faster/safer - and the CLS, dubbed the world's first four-door coupe.

The Chrysler-Jeep brand was particularly active, with its new 300C HEMI 5.7 litre V8, due here at the end of next year, as well as a host of facelifted Jeep models which include a 6-speed manual version of the legendary Wrangler.

A new 2.4-litre version of the PT Cruiser was also on display.

On the Mitsubishi side great interest will be shown in the Colt, a small four-seater with similar underpinnings to the smart ForFour, and which may get to South Africa once its export future is decided.

Sizzling wheels

BMW concentrated its efforts on convertible versions of the MINI-Cooper and Cooper S, while the BMW brand gob-smacked with the latest M5, complete with 370 kW 5-litre V10 power and a seven-speed gearbox.

Also on display were cars already on sale in SA, including the 6 Series.

Audi showed its new A3 complete with 184 kW 3.2-litre V6 and a choice of either six-speed manual or 6-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox, priced at R313 500 or R329 000 respectively, but the "star" of the show, the RSQ designed for the Will Smith film "I Roboit" had a disappointing 1.3-litre Golf engine beneath its futuristic exterior.

Better, though, were the new Audi A6 and A8, both destined for big things in the luxury market, and which have already been launched here.

On the Renault stand all eyes were on the Renault Megane CC, the first tin-top convertible from the French marque, and destined for SA soon after Christmas.

The CC shared centre stage with a new niche market contender, the Renault Modus, a small MPV based on the platform of the next Clio, with an extremely versatile interior, great looks, and pricing which sees it coming onto the SA market at less than R110 000!

Also on show was the latest version of the Espace luxury MPV.


The star in Volkswagen's firmament was the one the robot dicers have been waiting for - the Golf 5 GTI.

Complete with 2-litre turbo-charged 147 kW engine, it is set to attempt to re-take its position as SA's most desirable hatch ? but the competition has hotted up significantly.

However, at the bottom end of the market Volkswagen ensured its leadership with the VeloCiTi, the sportiest Citi Golf to date.

Replacing the Citi.Com (1.4) and Citi Life (1.6), the VeloCiTi takes the sporty theme to new heights with a classy interior package that will appeal to the Citi's traditionally young market.

Prices start at R85 280.

At Nissan the accent was on the future, with the DuneHawk, a concept for a new 4x4, vedry much in evidence, as was the Murano, a crossover vehicle expected in South Africa next year.

Of more immediate interest, however, is the 350Z Roadster, a droptop version of the fast and furious 350Z Coupe. This is due here mid-year 2005.

Available almost immeidately, however, are new versions of the Hardbody pickup range.

There are four KingCab versions to expand on the current single and double cab lineup, with a 4x2 3-litre petrol and 4x4 versions with 2.4-litre petrol, 3.0-litre petrol and 3.3-litre turbo-diesel power.

Nissan also showed the latest version of its massive 4x4 Patrol.

Indian attack

We moved to the Tata stand next, where chairman Ratan Tata unveiled three new small cars.

The Indica is a smart-looking 5-door hatchback; the Indigo a booted version, and the Marina a station wagon.

All are about the same size as the Fiat Palio/Sienna range, with 1.4-litre power plants and high levels of standard equipment.

Pricing has not yet been revealed, but expect the entry-level model to start at R71 000.

Tata also had its 4x4 safari station wagon on display, and this car is likely to come here, too.

Subaru went upmarket at its reveal, with two brand-new versions of its Legacy luxury car.

These are the 3.0R models, with 3-litre normally-aspirated engines that pump out 180 kW, and drive through all four wheels via either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 5-speed auto. Prices: R364 000 and R357 000 respectively.

Subaru also showed its legacy 2.0 GT, with 190 kW of turbo power, for R346 000.


Toyota's stand concentrated on two things ? firstly, it's new slogan "lead the Way", and secondly, its rising commitment to the environment.

To this end the Prius hybrid car, which combines elelectrical and petrol power to give cleaner exhaust emissions, was on display, and Toyota SA president Johaqn van Zyl revealed that the car would be on sale here from January 2005 onwards -?in limited numbers.

Also on display were upgraded Toyota Camry models, as well as the latest Prado 4x4s.

Van Zyl also revealed that the car would build a new 4x4 as well as new pickups at its Prospecton factory.

R2-million in additional investment has already been made to cater for this, and for the frist time Toyota would export vehicles to Europe.

Across the hall at the Peugeot stand, the French company had an unveiling of a different kind, pulling the covers off its new 407 station wagon range.

These cars will be available with a choice of 2-litre turbo-diesel, 2.2-litre petrol or top-of-the-range 3-litre V6 petrol engines, with pricing at R261 900 for the two four-cylinder units; R371 900 for the V6.

New pickup

Fiat introduced its new "designed in Brazil, made in South Africa" Palio and Sienna range, with facelifts in terms of a new grille and lights, and new atil-end treatment, but the biggest introduction was the Fiat Strada, a ¾ ton pickup.

Like the Palio this will also be built in South Africa, and will get a choice of 55 kW 1.2-litre engine, 74 kW 1.6-litre petrol, and a 51 kW 1.7-litre turbo-diesel.

It will hit SA markets by mid 2005.

Fiat SA also showed its recently introduced new Multipla and Fiat Stilo Abarth, as well as the latest 3.2-litre Alfa 166.

But the highlight of the stand was the beautiful Alfa GT 3.2 V6 Distinctive. This car is expected to be available here in limited numbers.

Over at Ford there were a couple of BIG surpirses, noty least of which was the news that the massive Ford 250 will be imported from America, complete with 4.2-litre 163 kW turbo-diesel with a stump-pulling 500 Nm of torque.

This will be available from the first quarter of next year ? as will the sporty Ford Fiesta ST, a 3-door 2-litre version with 112 kW and 190 Nm.

And Ford showed the nifty Territory 4x4, born and bred in Australia, and fitted with a 4-litre 6-cylinder engine. That one will get here in the middle of 2005.

The biggest drawcard, though, was the new Ford Focus. All-new from the wheels up, this is bigger/better/faster, but also concentrates on better ride qualities and hugely improved build quality and finish.

It will be available next year.

Topping-off the Ford presentation was the news that the Focus will not only be built for local markets, but will be exported to Australia, New Zealand, and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

This is the first time the Ford Focus export programme has been released officially, although Wheels24 revealed this in December last year.

At the Land Rover stand pride of place was taken by the new Ford-designed Land Rover Discovery 3, which comes complete with a 4-litre V6 Ford engine a la Range, in entry level and top end HSE versions, or a 2.7 Peugeot-derived turbo-diesel.

The looks are awesome, and so, according to reports, is the performance.

Expect it here soon.

GM went big

General Motors went to town in a big way.

The stand was a bit schitzophrenic, however, with both the Chev Corvette C6 and the new Opel GTC jostling for pride of place.

Naturally the new Astra range was there in all its glory, but so were a couple of new models from Holden, wearing the Chev badge ? an all-wheel-drive dubbed SSR, and a new double cab pickup.

At Honda the good news was that the FR-V MPV, revealed at the Paris Motor Show, will be coming to South Africa next year. This one features 3 + 3 seating in much the same way as the Fiat Multipla, but with a bit more versatuility.

There was no big "reveal" at the Citroen stand, which is strange, for the French company had on display its new Xsara replacement, the C4, as well as the new C5.

And so to the final launch of the day, the all-new Kia Sportrage.

This features trick styling, and is built very much on the same floorpan as the Hyundai Tucson.

The nett result is a much more sophistiucated animal, with selectable 4-wheel-drive, or automatic selection which defaults to front-wheel drive.

Features include a 104 kW petrol or an 82 kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.

And there's also an all-bells-and-whistles 2.7 V6 version.

Add in such items as 16 inch wheels plus traction control and ESP as standard, and it adds up to a great package.

Prices start below R300 000, including a 3 year/100 000 km maintenance plan.


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