Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Petrol price increase... not again!

It seems that petrol prices increase with a disconcerting regularity. If I had a penny for every time I have heard the phrase "remember to fill up your car today, petrol prices are increasing tomorrow", I would be a wealthy man, provided of course, I too didn't need to fill up.

At moments like these, when the impending doom of yet another hike is upon me, I take some time to reflect on ways to stem the tide of this petroleum beast. The logical choice would be to change my mode of transport, a bicycle sounds really good, but just isn't practical in Johannesburg, walking a definite no no. While a motorbike or scooter is an option, the aura of danger surrounding these vehicles is enough to put me off. Cancel public transport due to unreliability and we are once more right back where we started... a Car.

The good news however, is that there is ample choice when buying a car, and with the advancements in technology, hybrid cars (and hopefully electric cars in the not to distant future) are definitely worth considering. Just how much can you save financially buying a hybrid car? In the short term, probably not as much as you would save scratching the idea and taking the extra 34c per litre in your stride. This however, is not the case on a more long term timeline. The effects of a more fuel efficient car on your wallet and the environment will be quite significant going forward and hopefully the prices of these cars will come down too, thus making it easier for us to help ourselves and the environment.

A while ago I wrote a post on the most fuel efficient cars in South Africa, give it a read if you are interested in upgrading.

Driving the Renault Sandero 1.6 United

This weekend past I has the opportunity to drive the Renault Sandero 1.6 United, a car marketed as having ample space, in fact, the most space in its class. I took the opportunity with both hands, and put this "little" car to the test.

The first thing I noticed when approaching my charcoal coloured Sandero, was that it actually looks quite good. Sure its no fancy sports car, but the Renault Sandero is certainly not offensive in any way. The car seems well put together and flows nicely. The charcoal colour also worked quite nicely on the model and worked nicely with the grey interior. So far we were off to a good start.

A quick trip around the car testing things soon brought many nuances to light. The boot for example doesn't have a regular handle, and requires a second look to figure out how to open it. Though it really is simply enough, straying from the generally accepted norms can be quite disconcerting for first time drivers, myself included. The Sandero also didn't seem very big, in fact I likened it to a 4 door hatch in many ways and wasn't overconfident that it would be able to live up to Renault's space claim.

On entering the drivers seat and playing around, I was once more presented with certain foreign intricacies. The window winders worked in reverse, the dash seemed to be presented in code and no matter how many times I turned the radio down, it would always return to a default volume when starting the car (though this may have been unique to my Sandero). On the positive side, everything seemed easy enough to figure out, the seats were comfortable, and the car did come with some bells and whistles - air conditioning (an essential in the hot Durban climate) and power steering, not to mention a small bag of mint imperials. The other overwhelmingly impressive thing was the space. It is strange, but Renault have somehow managed to create space without flaunting it. The space is certainly there, large objects just seems to fit, and I had 4 small adults comfortable seated in the back seat. The Sandero is actually deceivingly large, despite its diminutive looks. At least Renault had delivered on their main claim to fame, always a positive.

Aesthetics aside, it was time to begin my weekend away and take the Sandero out onto the open road. Air conditioning blowing full steam ahead, we eked out of the parking bay and began our mission. While not the most powerful car, even with the air con on and a full car, the Sandero seemed to drive alright. It was sufficient for urban driving. The car did seem to increase in size on the road, and I often felt I was straying out of my lane. Still, the drive was smooth enough, until we hit the highway. The major negative point for me about the Renault Sandero was the cars ability at higher speeds. Hitting 120km/h and the car seemed to bounce all over the road, the steering wheel begun to shake and the steering seemed so sensitive that the faintest touch would have the car leaping from side to side. This was certainly not a performance machine, but then again, it was never supposed to be. If you are looking for performance however, keep looking, this is not your car.

In my opinion, the Renault Sandero is a great urban family car. Aesthetically pleasing, spacious, fairly inexpensive and well constructed. The extra features are a nice touch and make the drive comfortable. It delivers on its promises, and is a great addition to its class of car.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Losing a car key

There are few things more frustrating than losing a car key. Sure, one can take some comfort in the fact that one has not lost the whole car, but still, for those few hours it is tantamount to the same thing.

The inconvenience caused by the loss of such a simple object is immense, especially when far from home. Obtaining a spare key (if you are lucky enough to have it) is time consuming and frustrating, but it needs to be done. This too is easier said than done, as invariably you are not within a close proximity to the key and must therefore arrange a lift to the destination of said key, and then back to the car, all the time hoping that someone else has not found the desired item and driven off in your prize possession.

When you finally do arrive back at the car, spare key in hand, the mission surrounding it seems completely unnecessary, as with a simple turn you are back in your car and ready to go, as if nothing happened. Yet, something did happen, and it has just cost you a few hours of your life. That, however is not all, as the prudent owner is now faced with the cost and task of acquiring a new spare key. Having just proved its value, one cannot justify not owning a spare car key.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Most anticipated cars of 2012

If last years car manufacturer announcements are anything to go by, 2012 promises to bring with it an array of impressive new cars. With the turn of the year in our rear view mirrors, the eagerly awaited car releases have once more grabbed the attention of motoring journalists around the country and the world.

Cars.co.za has released a comprehensive article, highlighting the Top 5 most anticipated cars of 2012.
The list covers a variety of cars to suit most individuals.

Lets hope that all the cars live up to the hype which the announcements created over the past 12 months.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Festive season road safety

Found quite a comprehensive article on festive season road safety. I know it may be a little bit late, but a lot of the tips are pertinent all year round and the rest... consider it an early start for next year.


On a similar note, I drove from Johannesburg to Durban this December and was very impressed by the traffic police presence. I must have driven past about 7 fixed cameras and almost a dozen temporary police operated speed cameras. It really felt like there was a concerted effort to keep the roads safe over the festive season, a very worthy cause. I must admit that of late there really has been a noticeable difference in road safety in South Africa. Lets keep up the momentum and make our roads safer for all!

Top car videos of 2011

With the recent video craze, everyone and their dogs are creating and uploading videos to sites like Youtube with the hope of being a instant celebrity. For each successful video however, there are thousands which fail. This does leave the average user in quite a pickle, as due to the volumes of videos available, it is very difficult to find the choice videos to watch.

Cars.co.za has taken the time to compile a list of the top 5 car videos for 2011, based on number of views. Whether you are a car fanatic, video fundi or just want to be able to hold your own in conversation with your mates, this list is a must view.

Click here to view this list: http://www.cars.co.za/motoring_news/The_top_5_Car_videos_of_2011/608/