• Petrol prices are heading towards R27 per litre soon.
• Family cars come in all shapes and sizes depending on a driver's needs.
• Here are four cars most consumers would not ordinarily think of when looking at cars to buy.
Everyone knows bakkies and SUVs are the picks of the bunch for the vehicles South Africans love the most. It's the ones we all aspire to own somewhere in our lives. But, there are so many cars that get overlooked and serve as great purposes for the average family.
What makes a good car for my family? It has to be frugal with outstanding fuel consumption - this is probably on top of everyone's list, no matter the vehicle you're thinking about buying. Next is good dynamics; it should have enough power for highway driving, the daily school run, and the occasional weekend getaway. And then there's space; the boot must be large enough to carry a good load and enough of all the little girl's belongings.
I've recently driven four vehicles that don't usually feature top of mind when consumers are thinking of buying a new car. But these four picks tick most of the boxes I need checked when looking at any vehicle. And, despite each one being very different, there's something for everyone on this short list.
The Japanese automaker is on a roll as they surpassed the sales figure of SA's leading automaker, Toyota, in May. Despite the Toyota local plant being shut down for two months now since the devastating KZN floods, Suzuki is due their credit for consistent good figures every month. The Celerio is one of the brand's good sellers; 178 units were moved off showroom floors in May.
It's such a good package, with pricing starting at R174 900 for the 1.0-litre GA manual model and up to R209 900 for the range-topping GL AMT model.
Under the bonnet, a 1.0-litre Dualjet engine is mated to a five-speed manual or auto manual transmission (AMT). Suzuki claims a combined fuel consumption of 4.2-litres/100km. While fuel readings are always based under near-perfect European driving conditions, I have to say my readings were not far off - even with the air-con blasting on warmer days. After driving for an entire week, more than a quarter tank of fuel was left when the car left our test garage. Our reading was 4.7-litres/100km on a good day and 4.9-litres with daily highway commutes.
It's roomy too in the rear, and even in the boot. It's a nippy little car and surprisingly agile behind the wheel. But what surprised me most, besides the great fuel consumption, was the amount of active and passive safety features it comes with. There are dual front airbags, an engine auto stop/start system, an electronic stability programme (ESP), rear park sensors, and even hill-hold control on the AMT model.
Another Japanese automaker flies under the radar in South Africa for some reason. And, I always wonder why because Mitsubishi is known for building great quality vehicles. Their dealer footprint might be small, but their name carries a legacy one just can't deny.
The Mitsubishi ASX only has a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder engine in its local range. We tested the entry-level five-speed manual ES model; it delivers 110kW and 197Nm. It's a car for a niche market or someone not looking to go for the usual likes of the Ford EcoSport or Haval Jolion.
It has a solid build and is more than eager on the road, no matter the driving conditions, whether in heavy traffic or on free-flowing open roads. My average fuel consumption for the week on the test gave me a reading of 7.3-litres/100km, while my colleague Pritesh Ruthun achieved 8.0-litres/100km up in Johannesburg. He also said, "The ASX is one of the most reliable cars Mitsubishi has ever made". And I tend to agree here.
Priced at R371 995, the ASX comes pretty loaded with standard equipment, including three airbags, electric windows and mirrors, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, hill start assist, cruise control, active stability and traction control systems, keyless entry and an engine start button.
A few years ago, Mahindra entered our local market as an Indian automaker, and most people didn't entirely take to the brand like a duck to water. Since then, Mahindra's sales growth has been expanding so rigorously that the brand has had to open several dealerships in record time, and they're continuously growing their dealer network.
It's taken a while to get here due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing havoc on global car supplies for many brands, but the XUV300 is a special gem in the Mahindra stable. Relaunched earlier in 2022 after its debut in 2019, it is Africa's first vehicle to bag a five-star safety rating in the global NCAP crash test. We drove the range-topping 1.5-litre turbodiesel in W8 trim - which is also available on the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the XUV300 delivers 86kW and 300Nm and a frugal fuel consumption reading that won't see you having to fill up as often.
It also comes packed with standard features like electronic brake force distribution (EBD), hill-hold assist, a panic braking system, a sunroof, seven airbags, and other active and passive safety features.
Mahindra reckons the fuel reading is 4.8-litres/100km in perfect driving conditions, but I managed to get an average reading of 5.6-litres/100km, which is pretty good anyway.
Pricing for this model is at R336 999. With fuel prices heading towards R30 per litre soon, this makes for a good choice if you're looking for something reliable and helpful regarding the monthly fuel budget.
The Volvo XC40 SUV is probably the most premium on the list and naturally the most pricey. But, it has a lot going for it as a family SUV. Besides the high-end materials and good looks, it's one of those cars you need to really get to know and get used to. Like a married couple, really - you have to know each other well to get the best out in your natures.
The fuel consumption is a good example here. Drive around town or on the daily school run, and you'll see your range drop as consumption is usually on the higher end of the scale - yes, even in Comfort mode. However, the engine has a stop/start function, so this helps. Also, make sure to use the Eco mode and expect to see readings of about 8.5-litres/100km, which isn't too bad for a medium-sized SUV.
The trick is to drive conservatively; easy on the throttle and gentle braking. Cruising at slower speeds will also naturally help readings stay low.
So why would I put this down as a frugal vehicle, you might be wondering? Put the XC40 on the highway, and this is where the car excels. Consumption might only come down to 7.9-litres/100km, but as you stay at a constant speed for longer, the vehicle gives you back range, and you'll actually see that number increase and drive further. This is definitely a car suited for longer daily commutes in flowing traffic and would work best for someone who perhaps lives quite some distance from work or has to be on the road quite often.
It's also packed with loads of standard features and offers various driving modes. There's keyless entry and an auto-powered tailgate, and it's incredibly comfortable and spacious.
Its price tag might seem steep, but this is a great family car if you're looking for something long-term or to retire with. And, with all the standard features already worked into the price, it's undoubtedly a value-for-money buy.
Pricing for the XC40 range starts from R673 600.