Get In The Car

4 cars you might not consider considering, but should consider

Words: Gavin Williams | Illustrations: Bennett Atkinson

We’re not a car magazine. Hell, we’re not even a magazine, but because you probably get from A to B using some sort of four-wheeled vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine we asked our friend from Benoni, Mr Gavin Williams, to test-drive four reasonably priced, entry-level cars so that you can make an educated decision the next time you have to kick some tyres and then apply for vehicle finance. And because we know you couldn’t care less about RPMs and torque and the other type of anorak stuff most motoring journalists bore you with, Gav has broken his review down to the essential bits only, like “Song Playing” and “Celebrity Equivalent”. Jump in, lets go.

Hyundai i20


Hyundai's cash cow hatch, with an ad campaign that insists it will open our eyes to inspiration. The designers, however, were certainly inspired; it's a real looker. I took it away for the weekend to a wedding where I was more inspired than usual on the dance floor, so maybe they're onto something.


Former Polo drivers (so, just about everyone) will have had their heads turned by this. The Hyundai badge value is increasing seemingly every day, making this a real rival to the old European guard.


Did I mention the looks? It's as if something French (possibly a Citroen, we'll have to check the poolside security cameras) seduced an Audi A1, and this was the result. The build quality is exceptional too – a great chassis for a pretty face, so to speak – and the i20 is as rattle free as a Styrofoam wind chime, even on some of the rutted farm roads I drove along. The C-pillar (that's the one at the back) is made of glass to create that uninterrupted look all the way to the rear hatch (very nice!) It has simple, durable controls – nicely laid-out too – so you immediately feel acquainted with the car.


Not much really. You might still have to get over the fact that you have to tell people you drive a Hyundai but, like beards, it’s becoming more socially acceptable in enlightened circles. Doesn't feel slow to 100km/h, but it actually is.


Roads. These things are going to be everywhere soon if South Africa knows what's good for it.


Taylor Swift or something. By the way, the built-in media interface is simply brilliant.


Jordan Henderson. Used to be rubbish, now isn't.


The 1.4 Manual but the 1.2 won't be at all bad either and is over 20 grand less.


(As per test unit)

Engine: 1.4l 4-cylinder

Power: 74kW

Torque: 133nM

0-100: 11.4 seconds

Top speed: 182km/h

Economy: 7.2l per 100kms

Price: From R184 000, test unit R204 000

Toyota Yaris


The smallest offering from the world's largest car manufacturer. Their baby used to be the Corolla but that's middle-aged now and has packed on a few pounds; the Yaris is the upbeat younger sibling stepping into the sales department, sporting some tech-savvy gear and a grille from its mad uncle, the Lexus LFA.


Pretty much anyone who likes to be thrifty – Be it that student who buys expired foodstuffs and cider to save a bit of cash, the penny-wise empty nester, or the cash-strapped football manager looking for a bargain striker to save them from the drop.


That new front. Toyota insist on calling it a "spindle grille" but we all know that it's borrowed from the Lexus LFA (or more accurately the Lexus IS-F). It looks bonkers on the little car, adding a slight snarl to the cute factor.

The touch screen. It has uncluttered the dash completely with most of the controls stored on the 10" digital display. This makes it the rarest of combinations: functional, simple to figure out and easy on the eye. A bit like One Direction.

The engine. It revs like an electric toothbrush.


Besides that Super-GT front bit, the rest of the exterior design is a bit uninspiring, but that’s not only a crime of the Yaris, but of most compact cars these days. By making them relatively safer, they all kind of end up looking the same.

The name. Yaris? It could be a type of processed grain snack from Egypt, an Armenian aftershave or Belgium's contestant in this year's Eurovision Song Contest (Ed: Turns out the actual contestant is a certain Loïc Nottet). Actually let's not give Toyota any ideas or we might see a "sports-urban lifestyle component" Toyota Nottet soon. 


Everywhere. Except parts of the world civilization has not yet reached. Like Saturn. Or parts of Liverpool


Having the radio and the aircon on at the same time costs money, potentially skyrocketing your fuel economy to 5.9l/100km. However some Yaris owners have been known to make an exception and play the song from Frozen for the kids on the way to school if they've been good.


That guy Emmet from The Lego Movie voiced by Chris Pratt, mainly because… well… on the Yaris everything is (kinda) awesome and things are just better when you're part of a team. He is the hero and gets Batman's girlfriend in the end, remember?


If you're truly thrifty go for the 1.0, which produces 51kW. If you're a bit of a wildcard you can have the 1.3 which pumps out 73kW for almost 26 grand more. That's about R1200 per extra kilowatt. You decide to what level your thriftiness thrill factor can go.


(All specs as tested on the 1.3)

Engine: 1.3l 

Power: 73kW

Top Speed: 175km/h

0-100: 11.5 seconds

Price: R194 300


The name is derived from Greek goddesses.

Renault Duster 4x4


A contestant in the 2015 Car Of The Year, dontcha know! A fact not lost on me, because my test vehicle came straight from the competition covered in stickers declaring it a finalist in the South African Car Of The Year 2015. Proudly brought to me by Hollard, SAGMJ, Total and Wesbank. It was like going on a date with someone who came 12th in Miss South Africa and insisted on wearing the sash everywhere, announcing that fact to everyone.  It is also a Miss Romania contestant because this is essentially a Dacia, a marque from the former communist state. On the plus side, if you bought a car in those days it would be expected to last a lifetime, making them way tougher than their softie Western counterparts.


Budget adventurers, canoeists, campers and nudists. You know, that sort of thing.

Also great for people who want to get into SUVs but aren't investment bankers, eco-travelers and backpacker aristocracy. People whose idea of relaxing is sleeping under the stars. In a thicket. 


The ruggedness. This feels like it's made from very sturdy Cold War plastic. Like something a USSR submarine's bunk beds would be made of I imagine. Surprisingly, the looks grow on you. It's rather bulbous which instead of translating into awkwardness makes it look quite purposeful. Like it's off to do something, but in the bush. Everything is pretty no-nonsense here, including the name of the colours. You can choose from Brown, Grey, Silver, White etc. Not Polar Caps White, Wizard's Hat Blue, Saturnalia Red etc. 


Not too much really. It's not going to get you laid, unless she's also into free climbing, eating beans out of a tin cup and nudism.


Waterways, non-private game farms, eco-resorts, forests, lakes, hills, koppies, rivers, plains, gorges, beaches and townhouse complexes in Edenvale.


Nature Anthem by Grandaddy


Timothy Treadwell. The self-proclaimed bear expert and subject of the incredible documentary Grizzly Man, who decided to live amongst the Bears and was then killed by them.


The Diesel, all day long. Great, simple technology from Renault. It'll save you enough money to stay in a hotel next time you're away.


(On vehicle tested)

Engine: 1.5l dCi.

Power: 80kW

Top Speed: 165km/h 0-100: 11.6 seconds (the exact amount of time it takes to strip down and leap into a river. Apparently.)

Fuel Consumption: 7.5l/100kms.

Chevrolet Cruze

With their golden logo adorning the least successful Manchester United team in 2 decades, expectations from Chevrolet should be quite low, but their latest incarnation of the Chevrolet Cruze is pretty good, possibly because it looks like an Opel inside and feels like an Opel to drive. So which "Cruze" are you getting? The one who flew F-16s and played volleyball in his jeans? Or the couch-jumping, idiotic gibbon from The Oprah Winfrey Show


Chevrolet's second-generation Cruze has just been given some ornamental flourishes like more chrome and LED running lights along with other design elements. By adding the letter E onto a popular Latino surname, Cruze is supposed to mean driving slowly past the beachfront if you're into the Beach Boys, or out looking for love in a quiet part of town if you're into the Pet Shop Boys. 


Sales reps mainly. It's a comfortable, economic drive for all those lonely miles between factory visits, drumming along to Maroon 5 or something on the sturdy leather-clad steering wheel. 


The Chev My Link entertainment system. Plug in your iPod via the USB port hidden in the centre bin and it plays your device seamlessly, displaying the info on the touch screen. If you don't have the album artwork loaded for all your songs it searches its database and puts a (usually unflattering) picture of the band up instead. It even knew who Archers Of Loaf and Japandroids were. Now that's pretty cool. 

It's good-looking in a rather bland way – like those girls in dubbed Infomercials – though its latest surgical enhancements haven't hurt. 

The Cruze competes in the World Touring Car Championship along with fellow cool kids Citroen, Honda and err...Lada. The last round of the Championship took place at the Nordschleife. Yes, the original 25km Nurburgring layout. Now that's cool. Case closed.

We also like the headroom. 


The hatchback isn't nearly as easy on the eye as the sedan. It looks a bit like when Subaru tried to make the Impreza a hatch, and were marched upon by irate fans wearing Colin McRae vests and Scooby hats, wielding pitchforks. The Cruze doesn't quite inspire that sort of fanaticism, so they should be alright.

It's not a bad thing but it is an Opel inside. Or the Opel is a Chev inside, depending on who you talk to at GM. That "world car" lack of identity might make it a bit of a no-go when car enthusiasts consider what to buy. 

The torque range in 5th isn't nearly good enough, which makes you wonder if the Cruze even needs a 6th cog. Highway overtaking almost always requires you to drop to 4th, searching for it in a gearbox that isn't quite notchy enough.


Stuck behind two trucks on a blind rise in Mpumalanga. In 5th gear. 


Whatever sales reps listen to. Eminem? Highveld Stereo? Motivational Tapes? The voices in their heads?


Michael Douglas in "Falling Down".


Looks-wise, you've got to go with the sedan. Engine wise, the Turbo. Newer technology, better performance and economy. No brainer.


(As per test unit)

Engine: 1.4litre Turbo 4-cylinder.

Power: 103kW@4900-6000rpm

Torque: 200nM@1850-4900rpm

0-100: 9.3 seconds.

Top speed: 195km/h

Economy: 5.8l/100km (Claimed, although as usual I got nowhere near this)

Price: From R248 700

BONUS FACT: The model I have had Cruze control! Geddit? Seriously, it did though.