Mzansi flies China’s colours

2011-06-25 08:58

Cheap quality Chinese cars – a myth or are we about to get really lucky?

Three years ago, Calibra Motor Corporation (CMC) arrived in the motoring market with the launch of the Amandla taxi.

Known for its patriotic colours on the sides, no one really took much notice of them apart from those in the taxi industry.

And while the Amandla taxis (the cheapest and most comfortable on the market) have been a success, in terms of sales, the bakkies were truly awful.

CMC Auto claims it has been selling between 500 and 600 minibuses each month since its launch in 2008, and that it is about to build a plant in Harrismith, Free State.

Last week the corporation showed six new vehicles set for the market in the guises of a single- and double-cab bakkie known as the Plutus; the Lifan sedan and hatchback models; as well as the face-lifted Amandla and Ses’Buyile minibuses.

While all these vehicles appear to have a much sturdier build on the outside, sadly, there are still a few quality issues
that need to be addressed on the inside.

Plutus
The bakkies are more aesthetically pleasing than the first one, the Minotauro, launched in 2008.

They are available in single- and double-cab with 2.2-litre and 2.4l petrol engines, as well as a 2.8l diesel engine.

The design is not bad – the black bar that runs across the headlights is an interesting focal point – and it should make for a good workhorse. It will compete against Mahindra’s Bolero which starts off at R118 500 and ­Foton’s Thunder cabs from R104 950.

The Plutus range, although pricier, scores when it comes to standard features. It has a side airbag for the driver, an adjustable steering wheel, anti-lock braking system and electronic brake-force distribution, CD player, leather seats and alloy wheels.

The loadbins are rubberised and include additional cargo hooks. The dashboard layout is neat and tidy. Seating in the rear is not the most comfortable.

Then there is also the odd bit of beige, padded material on the door panels which does not blend with the black-and-silver trim.

The price includes a 60 000km service plan, a three-year/100 000km warranty and a three-year roadside assistance.

Lifan
This sedan sports a name badge similar to the 520i, which BMW might not find amusing.

The most notable feature is its massive boot, big enough to ­accommodate two adults.

Both the sedan and the hatch are not pretty – they’re just ­practical and affordable. They come with adjustable steering columns, dual airbags, air conditioning, central locking, ABS, MP3 and CD players.

The 1.6-litre engine vehicles ­feature electric windows and the interior finish has a patterned ­carbon trim which left me dizzy.

Amandla and ­Ses’Buyile
Amandla has been improved with bigger seats and better ­material to accommodate the 14 passengers it carries.

It also features the 2.2i ­engine found in the Plutus bakkie.

Ses’Buyile comes with the 2.4-litre engine and seats 16 passengers.

Both taxis feature a driver partition, CD player with six speakers, adjustable front seats and individual two-piece seatbelts for each passenger.

Highlights include the chrome grille, rear-light cluster with chrome trim and built-in indicator and park lights.

Safety features include emergency exit windows, high-mounted brake lights, a higher roof clearance, ABS and EBD. 

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