Pocket perfect city slickers

2011-05-28 07:55

» Bargain buy - Geely LC
Geely brings a new meaning to bravery with the launch of their entry-level LC. It’s a car that will make consumers change their perspective when they next see a ‘made in China’ label.

At the launch in Knysna, it became clear that the Chinese had taken all the negative feedback to heart and tried to fix the problems.

The LC’s material quality stands out with its sturdy dashboard. There are hardly any gaps in between parts and panels, and the carbon trim of the centre console adds a cheeky touch.

We tested the little cub through a long, off-road route. It was a bumpy ride, yet nothing fell apart proving that the car was quite ­capable of ­handling unpredictable local roads.

The Geely LC is known as the Panda in China, but that name has already been claimed by Fiat. The rear- light cluster is in the shape of a bear paw print. The front end of the car also resembles a Panda’s face. The LC houses a 1.3-litre engine benchmarked on a Toyota unit and is available in three derivatives: GS, GL and the top-end GT. All models include anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, power steering, collapsible steering columns and dual airbags.

The GT model features an ­additional two-side impact airbags as well as two curtain airbags. Now that’s impressive for a car that costs only R90 000.

» Mid-range - Nissan Micra
Nissan has just launched their fourth-generation Micra and while it still has its bubble-like looks, it’s more in sync with sexy city living.

The car is more robust with a 25mm wider wheelbase and is also 65mm longer. The designers and engineers have made the new car 36kg lighter and instead of using 27 parts, there are now 14 on the dashboard.

These aspects combine to make a more fuel-­efficient vehicle. The roof features a boomerang wedge which helps reduce noise from roof vibrations, while the roof stiffener has been removed. Other adjustments include smaller brake discs, a simplified fuel tank and suspension. Thicker materials have been used and there are less gaping holes on the dashboard which also reduce noise.

There are four grades available with one 1.2-litre petrol engine and 1.5-litre diesel and petrol units.

It’s a great little car to drive around town in and has an impressive turning circle that makes parking and three-point turning a breeze. It has a nice big boot with a luggage capacity of 265 litres and 1 359 litres when the rear-seats are folded down.

The bubble theme is ­carried over to the interior with a twin-bubble design on the dash.

Also, the wide windscreen for better visibility, four standard airbags and the three-tier glove compartment score the Micra extra points.

» Mid-range – Hyundai i10
The Koreans have blown ­consumers’ minds in the past couple of years with their ­better-looking cars and improved quality. Their sales have rocketed and Hyundai now wants to be known as a premium brand instead of just for selling cars that are value for money.

The facelifted i10 has just been relaunched and will take on the Toyota Yaris, VW Polo, Chevrolet Spark and Peugeot 107.

The range includes the 1.1-litre entry-level car as well as the new 1.25-litre engine. The higher spec one comes in manual and automatic.

New goodies on the i10 include foglights that follow the design of the longer, headlight cluster. It has a wider grille, improving on the previous one which was square-shaped, and the indicators are now integrated into the side mirrors. Also, the rear lights are more visible and the rear bumper and boot top are colour-coded.

We drove the 1.2-litre through the Magaliesburg area in Gauteng and could definitely feel the extra nine ­kilowatts of power. It makes for a good run-around car.

The interior cloth is much darker than before, all windows are now electric and while the fresh car features a nifty new audio system, the base model only has a driver-side airbag and has no ABS, which is a disappointment for the safety savvy. ­

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