CAR DOCTOR: ‘I’m a new driver, should I get a Fiesta?’

Justus Visagie.
Justus Visagie.

Mike: Is the Ford Fiesta a good car for new drivers?

I drove the new automatic Fiesta 1.0 Titanium (R329 700) and it’s a brilliant car for all drivers. Its only flaw was relatively high fuel consumption of around 8.5 litres per 100km. If a young driver has mastered the manual gearbox, consider one of the 6-speed manual versions, such as the Fiesta Trend (R278 200). It uses less fuel.

You don’t say if you are familiar with the retail prices of the Fiesta range. If you aren’t, they might come as a bit of a shock. But it’s a premium small hatchback and it drives as well as an Audi A1.

It’s safe too; each Fiesta has six airbags. Other features that make it well suited to new drivers are headlights that turn on by themselves, bright LED daytime lights, cornering lights that improve diagonal visibility as you turn, and road-side assist for three years.

If the Fiesta range doesn’t fall in your budget, do not despair.

You can have the Peugeot 208 1.2 Active for R224 900, the Mazda2 1.5 Active for R228 900 or the Opel Corsa Enjoy 1.0T for R257 500. These cars (all manual) are about as good as the Fiesta. If you want an automatic, consider the Kia Rio hatch 1.4 LX at R280 000 or the luxurious Peugeot 208 1.2T GT Line for R286 900.

If you need to take the price down another notch, you’ll find the Suzuki Baleno, Ignis or Swift around the R200 000 mark.

And if you want to keep it in the family, buy the recently improved Ford Figo. It’s priced at just R187 500 to R221 300.

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Siya: I’m interested in the new BMW X5. Is it a good family car and is it worth spending extra to get the more powerful M50d version, rather than the xDrive30d? I want a safe car that will not have trouble overtaking long trucks. It should be light on fuel too.

Though the X5 M50d has a 3.0 litre diesel engine with four turbo-chargers (where one turbo is the norm), it’s not that much quicker than the xDrive30d – only 1.2 seconds in the 0-100km/h sprint. Therefore, the more affordable car will easily sweep past slower vehicles on the open road. The price difference – about R400 000 – can buy you a whole other car.

A family car should have loads of luggage space and the X5 will carry enough cargo for a trip to Cairo. Legroom behind the pilot and co-pilot is not generous, though.

The X5 series has a number of standard and optional safety features, including a large heads-up display that projects cues from the satellite navigation system (among others) on the windscreen.

This helps the driver keep her eyes on the road. Then there’s a lane-departure function that steers the vehicle back into its lane if you stray from it. It feels quite aggressive and can be disabled by the driver if she wishes.

For a large vehicle that weighs more than 2.2 tons, the X5 is surprisingly fuel efficient. There’s no plug-in hybrid available in the X5 range yet, but there are attractive options elsewhere, such as the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, Range Rover Sport PHEV and Volvo VC90 T8. Also consider the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE.

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