On the Go in 2019

Datsun Go driving on bridge

Those curves, oh good grief, those curves. When you can finally tear your eyes away, you open the door and let the smell of that interior upholstery invade your nostrils as you savour what is about to happen.

Slide in, grip the steering wheel, your palms slightly sweaty with anticipation. Turn the key and hear the engine roar into life. Now you can blip the throttle once or twice for the sheer pleasure it provides.

Pop the clutch, floor the accelerator, feel the power build as you are pushed into your seat. Ahead of you, nothing but tarmac. Behind you, nothing but yesterday.

The smell of freedom blasts from the aircon vents, the sounds of the greatest time of your life is being cranked through the stereo’s speakers and you’re … all grown up, finally.

Datsun Go interior

The touchscreen fitted to the Datsun Go is surprisingly good and provides access to a range of functions. It includes Apple Carplay and Android Auto technology. Flanking the touchscreen is the new airbags fitted for driver and passenger.

It’s easy to forget what that first car was like, the first taste of freedom when you finally got the keys to a set of wheels (your own or loaned, it never mattered). Now, driving for years, you’re jaded and quick to judge.

Pretty much the situation I found myself in when I recently drove the Datsun Go. On the wrong side of the line, you see a laundry list of flaws. On the right side of the line, you see escape, adventure and freedom.

The first cars I had access to were a long time ago now. They were all great cars, from the newest to the oldest. Those in the best condition to those that would barely run at all. They were fantastic. No more walking, running, cycling, hitchhiking.

I remember the R700 Mercedes-Benz (it was worse than you can imagine), the R1500 Volkswagen Beetle, the R3500 Volkswagen Notchback and the R9000 Lancia Fulvia. After that, it was more grown-up cars – which means “boring”. It did mean less time working on them though, more time driving. Looking back, I’m not sure it was an improvement.

At this point on my road, I’ve become more discerning and have a greater expectation from what I drive. Gone is that youthful enthusiasm and that makes cars like the Datsun Go unlikely to ever be a favourite.

Now, why would I write about the Datsun Go when it was launched into South Africa nearly five years ago? Facelift. They’ve changed it up a bit.

Don’t bother looking under the hood though, the same 1.2 litre, three-cylinder as the original is tucked in there. There’s no change and that’ll be important in this vehicle segment because it means a low fuel consumption figure of 5.2 litres per 100km.

The first of the upgrades you’re likely to spot are the new LED running lights. Neat units installed in an upright design in the front bumper which look quite good.

Datsun Go with LED lights

The update for the Datsun Go sees the fitment of LEDs in the front bumper, ABS, airbags up front and rear parking sensors.

Far more interesting to potential owners is the rather good touchscreen located in the dashboard. This was a rather pleasant surprise – and it gets better when you find out it offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The fact that the screen is responsive and is bright and crisp just ices the cake.

Then there’s the inclusion of airbags up front (driver and passenger) in the update. Since the Go had a rather rocky introduction in the safety stakes, this is a very welcome addition, as is the installation of ABS. There’s even Park Distance Control sensors in the back to make parallel parking that little bit easier.

Combine these things with the electric windows, the power steering and “follow-me-home” lighting and the test model Go was very decently specced.

All of this comes at a price though. When the Go arrived on the South African market, it was under R90 000. Now, less than a handful of years later, base pricing will see you digging out R149 600 for the Mid and R166 300 for the Lux derivative.

In both cases, this included a 100 000 km, three-year warranty. However, this has changed and as from 13 March 2019, the warranty is six years or 150 000 km. It applies to all vehicles sold from 1 March 2019 and includes roadside assistance.

Being blunt, the Datsun Go doesn’t set my world alight but, considering I’m nowhere near fitting into the target demographic, that’s hardly surprising. For the first-timers and perhaps even the sunsetters, it could be exactly what they are looking for. It sure does seem to be a favourite with the local Uber drivers in my area.

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No change in @FordSouthAfrica’s new #Fiesta

Line up for a corner, sight your apex, turn in and you have that deeply satisfying feeling of the G-forces pulling at you as you grip the wheel to stay on course, slowly unwinding to straight ahead as you exit.

This is a pleasurable feeling when you get it right – and so much better when you’re driving a car that handles well. To achieve this you need a good chassis and that’s the real charm of the Ford Fiesta. I’m sure many owners forgive the little quirks of the Fiesta just for the pleasure of the drive.

For me, the quirk in this new model is that rear-windscreen wiper switch on the left stalk. Change gear, return my hand to the wheel and I bump it. This happened several times, resulting in the obligatory side-to-side wiping motion distracting me in the rearview.

Internationally the Fiesta monicker has been used since the mid-70s and this latest one is something like the eighth generation of the name. We didn’t get all eight in South Africa, but we definitely did get the last few – and that has been good news.

The latest Fiesta, I’m happy to report, retains that suspension system feel. Sure-footed, planted, sticky, call it what you will. It works – and the drive is rather agreeable as a result.

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Ford have been building the Fiesta long enough that they’ve knocked off the rough edges and it works well. Combine the sure-footed handling with comfortable seats and the interior layout which offers lots of toys to keep you comfortable and the Fiesta is a good place to pass the time.

I appreciated the ease of connection for my phone to the entertainment system and, although I’m no fan of the tablet appearance of the dashboard touchscreen, it works well. I also enjoyed how well the seat held me in place, being both firm and comfortable.

The design is quite modern featuring the obligatory daylight running lights making use of LED technology, it is wider and longer than the previous model meaning more legroom for rear passengers and small touches like a larger cubbyhole. Ford have also made a break from tradition with this model, there are fewer buttons on the console – and the Ford models I’ve driven in the past certainly loved their buttons. The addition of a touchscreen has reduced the number of physical buttons required to access the vehicle’s functions.

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Locally there are five flavours of the Fiesta available, in Trend or Titanium specification with either the 1.0 EcoBoost in manual or automatic or the 1.5 TDCI manual (the test model I drove). That 1.0 EcoBoost engine has won the International Engine of the Year award in the category “engine under 1.0 litre” for six years running.

Interestingly, of the four models using the 1.0 EcoBoost engine, Ford have bumped the power output of the Titanium manual by 18kW in comparison to the others. The torque figure is identical across the EcoBoost range.

Common across the board in the new Fiesta range is the warranty (four years/120 000 km), corrosion warranty (five years), roadside assistance (three years), service intervals (15 000 km) and service plan (four years/60 000 km).

Pricing for this latest generation starts at R261 900 up to R292 500 (for the diesel model tested) and rising to R310 600 for the Titanium spec six-speed auto. For all colours but Frozen White there is a R970 premium to add.

While the new Fiesta is clearly improved on the previous generation and offers a quieter, more sophisticated ride with additional technologies, it very importantly still feels the same and retains that attention to a fun driving experience. In that regard, there is no change in the new model, it is the same as its predecessors – guaranteed to provide a thoroughly satisfying ride.

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A handful of handy apps

Apps on screen

It has been a while since I’ve shared details of some of the apps I use on my phone regularly. The previous piece I wrote about my mobile apps can be found here.

Those are still relevant, even two years later, with the exception of GPX Master which appears to have fallen off the update wagon.

No matter, it is 2018 and there are other apps to explore, so join me for a wander through the online store appropriate to your mobile operating system.

LastPass

With the increase in privacy awareness and the rise in hacking, I’m going to start things off with a password manager. We’ve all made the mistake of using one password (or one or two passwords) for everything from our banking to our social media and email accounts. This is a bad idea but remembering those two hundred and one and 90 passwords – or even which one should be used where – is a pain we don’t need. So, I use LastPass.

You can add all your existing sites and it will generate random passwords for you – you can also launch those sites from the app and some will allow you to automatically change the password from LastPass as well.

You can log in via the app on your phone, download the app to your computer or simply log in via a web browser to access those hard-to-remember passwords from one secure location.

It isn’t free, but at US$12 per year it is good value – and you only need to remember one password to access all of your stored passwords. Used in conjunction with the Authenticator (Apple or Android) app I mentioned in the original article for two-factor authentication, your security just got a lot better.

Telegram

Moving on to communications with others. You’re a member of a WhatsApp group, right? Drives you mad with all those messages. You want to leave, but you can’t because information that is important to you is made available – if you can sift through messages and content that is utterly irrelevant. Enter Telegram. Here you can create a channel which allows you to broadcast messages on a “one to many” basis. No more having to block or ban or plead that irrelevant messages not make it onto the channel, the person who creates the channel (and their admin) can post only what is relevant – peace returns.

There are many more features to the app which are common to messaging platforms, but this is a stand-out feature.

Maps.me

Last time I covered a navigation app, it was the very popular Waze system which allows real-time interaction between users. If you are travelling a route and something happens ahead of you, those road-users posting an alert will inform you of the problem. Easier to plan for it – or find an alternate route.

Maps.me is for mobile users with limited data. It allows you to download sections of map for countries around the world so you don’t have to be online at all to get where you want to go. You will lose traffic information using it off-line, but you’ll be able to find all the places you need without worrying about roaming charges or getting a local sim-card.

Simply Gas

Fuel prices are burdensome. No-one looks forward to their visit to the filling station, but it is necessary for most commuters. An easy way to track your fuel consumption is with the Simply Gas app. A quick search on the Apple app store will bring it up among your search results (the Android version is linked above). It allows you to enter your mileage, the cost (no choice of changing the currency symbol, but that is unimportant) and it captures the date. This allows you to track your fuel consumption and how much you are spending every month on fuel. Handy and simple.

Magic Hour

My final app for this list is iPhone specific, but I’m sure the resourceful Android users out there will find something similar. A simple app, more useful to my photographer friends. It tells you when “magic hour” is going to happen – what time of day you are going to get the nicest light for shooting outdoors. Recently a “moon watch” section was added, but the app has retained its very simple and clear layout. A great addition to your photographic tools.

That’s it for my list of five handy apps to keep on your phone. If you can muscle them into the remaining space between your six Candy Crush versions and Angry Birds (is anyone still playing that?), with WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger and Twitter all fighting for their share then I’m sure you can put them to good use.

SA Car of the Year semi-finalists named

SAGMJ Facebook page

The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) last night published the list of semi-finalists in the annual WesBank SAGMJ Car of the Year (COTY) competition.

The list comprises 21 vehicles selected by SAGMJ members, with five manufacturers fielding two nominated entries. From this point, the list will be further whittled down to the finalists which will undergo testing to determine which vehicle will carry the title of 2018 WesBank South African Car of the Year.

Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Suzuki all have two models apiece in the competition which sees the COTY field this year comprising a variety of different model styles.

SAGMJ members will whittle down this list in the coming months:

You can keep up with the developments in this competition by searching the #WesBankCOTY2018 hashtag on social media.

Port Elizabeth gets its own ghosts

Traffic cop

Recently it was made public that Port Elizabeth has followed the example set by Cape Town and implemented their own Ghost Squad (unmarked police vehicles). This new setup is part of the city’s recently (finally) launched Metro Police.

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Regional competition at #AldoScribante on Saturday

Saturday, 25 March, sees Aldo Scribante Raceway in Port Elizabeth host the second round of the Algoa Motorsport Club’s Eastern Cape Regional Championship. The event will include motorcycle and car racing.

The motorcycle riders will tackle five categories, the Historic, Powersport, 600s and Unlimiteds. The car racers will divide into the Eastern Province Regional Saloons, Historic and Classic Saloons, Street and Fine Cars and Sports and GT for this event.

Qualifying starts at 08:00 with five sessions taking place until 09:10. The first race of the day gets underway at 10:00 – and races vary between six and 10 laps depending on the category, each of which will compete in three races on the day.

A 45 minute Algoa Motorsport Club mini enduro will close off the race day – and this is scheduled for a 16:45 start.

The Aldo Scribante race circuit is located in Markman Township, on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth on the N2 freeway travelling towards Sundays River.

Entry to the circuit is R50 per car (not per person, but a whole car full of your friends, relatives, acquaintances or hitchhikers you might have collected on the way to the circuit). The full programme for the day is currently located at this link.

Algoa Rally Club goes bashing in the valley

A Ford Escort rally car in action on gravel

The @algoarallyclub starts off the 2017 season tomorrow (18 March) with The Valley Bash. This is round one of the Algoa Rally Club R50k Challenge and the start is scheduled to take place in the Baakens River Valley in Port Elizabeth.

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