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.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the menu on the left.
*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
On introducing the rationalised Sandero range last June, Renault announced that its new entry-level model might be short on unimportant toys, but safety was uppermost in their minds. The R105 000 Sandero 1.4 was the only car available at that price level in South Africa with both ABS/EBD and two airbags. It probably still is.
It is also the largest externally, with most inside measurements either greater than, or close to, those of its natural competitors. Its 50-litre fuel tank and 320-litre boot are biggest as well. As indicated, basic equipment is simple with manual window winders and outside mirrors, and a radio/CD unit that’s optional. You do get an air conditioner, remote central locking with autolock, an adjustable driver’s seat, power steering and an immobiliser though.
Our test unit was fitted with an aftermarket Sony sound machine with auxiliary and USB plugs, but buyers could probably have a qualified fitter put in any of many very competent combinations for under R2000. Wheels are straightforward steel items with plastic covers, while the spare is a full-sized unit slung pickup-style under the boot. You get to it by using a mechanism operated from inside, so security should not be a concern.
Affordability is the name of the game, with its Kinsey Report standardised spares basket being the least expensive of any car under R120 000. A five-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance, fixed-price menus for servicing and a mobility plan to cover the unlikely event of finding yourself carless owing to a part being unavailable. Both 1600s are sold with a three-year/45 000 km service plan, but it’s optional on this one.
The engine used in this basic version is the proven model K7J 710 eight-valve unit displacing 1390 cc and developing 55 kW/112 Nm. It’s not exciting, getting to 100 km/h in 13 seconds and topping out at 161 km/h, but it keeps up with city traffic and gets the job done. It shows its age in fuel economy too, with a Car magazine fuel index of 8,4 l/100 km. Most modern naturally aspirated 1400s do a little better.
Other evidence of building down to a price includes rather thin and sloppy carpeting in the boot, absence of makeup mirrors on the visors, a non-adjustable steering wheel and a driver’s seat with just two adjustment options – all the way up or all the way down. But; it’s big and competent and basic safety is taken care of. You decide what’s most important.
It’s also livable, with reasonable space for tall people in the back seat, a nice big boot for its class, well-spaced foot controls with room for large left feet and a decent view outwards. Steering is light, making parking easy and the overall feeling is one of quiet competence. As the man said: not too many toys, but the basics are taken care of.
Price: R104 900
Engine: 1390 cc OHC 8-valve four-cylinder
Power: 55 kW at 5500 rpm
Torque: 112 Nm at 3000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 13,0 seconds
Maximum speed: 161 km/h
Fuel Index: 8,4 l/100 km
Tank: 50 litres
Warranty: 5 years/150 000 km with roadside assistance
Service plan: Optional
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!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously. Email me from here