This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday June 9, 2012
Person digs up some weird and wonderful information while researching test cars. For example, how many of you knew that the original Nissan Livina was developed in partnership with Nissan’s Chinese subsidiary, Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Company and launched at the Guangzhou International Motor Show in 2006? The X-Gear version was introduced in Indonesia during 2008 and arrived here in September of that year.
It differs from plain Livinas in that it aims to appeal to youthful and adventurous souls looking for a vehicle to partner them in their outdoor pursuits. With strong SUV styling elements, it sets itself apart from the rest of the range with roof rails and matt black over fenders, door guard finishers and side sill protectors. Redesigned radiator grille and bumpers provide a more aggressive stance. To complete the overall adventurous look, it is fitted with a set of stylish 15” alloy wheels. It is 95 mm longer than the standard car, as well as being 40 mm wider and taller as a result of the roof rails and wing extensions. Ground clearance remains the same, at 177 mm.
Available in two levels of trim, Visia and Acenta Plus, the more upmarket model boasts a second airbag, body-coloured mirrors, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA, a six-CD music centre with six speakers, one sun visor mirror (left) and pockets behind the front seatbacks. Possibly disappointing its youthful target audience somewhat, no provision is made for accessory music storage devices, such as flash drives or iPods. The rear seats split 60:40 and the front passenger seat can be tilted to transport longer items like surf boards, wake boards or skis up to 2.40m long.
Remaining practical, the luggage area measures 383 litres with back seats up and 769 with them folded. A spacesaver spare is stored in the usual place under the boot floor. The car pulls strongly with decent roll-on acceleration from cruising speed in fifth, gears are evenly spaced and the box shifts cleanly. Thanks to a generous view outward, the X-Gear is easy to park and manoeuvre. Even the SA Standard Tall Passenger declared himself well satisfied, awarding ten points each for head-, knee- and foot space.
The official blurb boasts that: “The suspension system features struts in front and an H-shaped torsion beam layout at the rear with internal rebound springs and ripple-control shock absorbers, providing superior handling and stability at all speeds on any type of surface.” Fascinated by the idea of “ripple control shock absorbers,” we took the X-Gear out onto a fairly nasty dirt road. They work well, providing possibly the most comfortable and stable dirt ride we have experienced on the budget side of a Discovery, in a long time.
While this Livina does not differ significantly from its plain-Jane sisters, it looks more modern and with one or two reservations, should appeal to its target audience quite strongly.
Price: R189 900
Engine: 1598 cc Nissan/Renault HR16DE, inline four-cylinder
Power: 80 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 153 Nm at 4400 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11,1 seconds
Maximum speed: 180 km/h
Fuel Index: 8,6 l/100 km
Tank: 52 litres
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km
Service plan: 3 years/60 000 km at 15 000 km intervals.
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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