Falabella Furious with the @FordSouthAfrica #Mustang

The wild horses of the American plains, running free for thousands of miles, carefree and with no responsibilities conjures evocative images of absolute freedom which are inescapably enticing for anyone trapped in the modern world.

These Mustangs, descended from the colonial Spanish horses of the Americas, lent their name to one of the most popular of the American muscle cars, created by Ford. Under the leadership of Lee Iacocca the Ford team created what would become an enduring automotive brand – one which was originally unveiled at the World’s Fair in 1964.

For reasons that are best known only to the South African psyche – and perhaps too many American movies – we have an inherent love for muscle cars. Maybe stories from our grandfathers about the American cars, the Fords and the Chevs, too much Mad Max in our early years or the memories of the Interceptors that were the stuff of dreams for the average South African have entrenched themselves in our genetic code.

Perhaps, instead, the dearth of big displacement horsepower in the local market and the accompanying mystique of the big bangers has influenced us (you always want what you can’t have) and the opportunity to own your very own American muscle car has been greeted enthusiastically by the local market. Ford actually ran a lottery with the introduction of the Mustang – win the lottery and you get to buy a Mustang before anyone else.

Ford Mustang
The 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder Ford Mustang. Does it have the legs to hold it’s own? Photo: Morné Condon

When I got the call to say there was a Mustang on the schedule, I did some reading on the first official Mustang model to be available to South Africa.

Locally there are two models available, a 5.0 V8 and a 2.3 EcoBoost four-cylinder. When I came across the EcoBoost, I knew instantly which model would arrive for testing. Not a real Mustang. Reading the specs on that model, I just knew what was going to come knocking at my door. It would not be some fire-breathing, gas-station draining, unsociably loud 5.0 litre V8, it wouldn’t even be a Mustang. Instead if would be a Falabella.

A Falabella is a breed of horse, of Spanish origin, which does not roam the American plains. It does not run free and it is not the epitome of all things cool. It isn’t even big enough (at 81cm at the withers – whatever that is) to be classed as a pony. It is a miniature horse.

In case I haven’t been clear yet, a four-cylinder turbo-charged Mustang? That’s not a Mustang, it isn’t even a pony car, it is just crap.

Anyway, whatever. Despite the clockwork engine I would at least be able to experience the rest of the car and hopefully something there would be of use to me.

In order to be diligent in my preparations for this new half-breed of Mustang, I felt I needed to know at least a little bit about the latest generation so took the time to watch the documentary “A faster horse” featuring chief engineer Dave Pericak and his team. This covers the creation of the Mustang that has finally made it to South African shores as an official Ford South Africa model and served to show just how much pressure the Ford company is with each new generation to make sure it is considered a good car – something about the Mustang is a reflection on the state of America.

This is a pretty heavy responsibility, trying to cater to everyone when the brand means so much to so many. In the tradition of “you can’t please all of the people, all of the time” somewhere along the line you’re going to screw it up.

I was pretty sure I knew where at least one of those screw-ups was – under the hood of the car that was yet to arrive.

Mustang switches
The Ford Mustang features a row of silver toggles which are a nice touch in a thoroughly modern layout. Photo: Ford

Anyway, when it did arrive, the Mustang was covered in a dark finish which I believe is referred to as “Magnetic” and the wheels were covered with something even darker. The appearance was murderous – the stuff of drive-by gangster movies.

The interior was equally somber, kitted out in black leather, with a splash of silver here and there to provide highlights. The interior is also sprinkled with Mustang emblems, from the standard on the steering wheel and on the plaque on the dash, to the illuminated Mustang on the door sills as well as the projected Mustang logo which shines on the ground outside the vehicle – originating from the wing mirrors. What you won’t find is a Ford logo – that’s only to be found on the windscreen, sharing the space with the rearview mirror.

What does strike an odd note – at least for me – is the inclusion of Ford’s very modern interface with touchscreen, voice commands and all the other tech associated with modern Ford models. To my mind, at least, this kind of car isn’t supposed to feature all these modern conveniences, it should be more hairy-chested. All this electric windows, dual aircon, fancy power-steering, climate controlled electric seats, six-speaker sound system with bluetooth business seems a bit anti-performance.

Speaking of performance, if you have the muscle-bound 5.0-litre Mustang, you’ll get 306kW, 530Nm of torque and an acceleration time of 4.8 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h. If you’re stuck behind the wheel of the Falabella model with the 2.3 litre twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder direct injection motor, you’re stuck with just 233kW and 430Nm of torque with an acceleration figure of 5.8 seconds from standstill to 100 km/h.

This Mustang weighs in around two tonnes. Ford is getting it from standstill to 100 km/h in under six seconds. That’s the four-cylinder, just in case you’ve forgotten. Not exactly compact car performance that, is it?

Mustang steering wheel
To keep it current with other Ford models, the Mustang steering wheel is festooned with buttons in the quest to keep the driver just a thumb-click away from all sorts of functions. Photo: Ford

Let’s get to the business of the Mustang as a Mustang for a moment. Let’s forget that Ford pumps engine noise into the cabin to give this EcoBoost a bit more character. Instead, feel that leather hold you when you slide into the driving seat. Grip the chunky leather steering wheel and gaze through that slit of a windscreen at the horizon, the acres of bonnet hiding your present in favour of a rapid future.

Press the start button, located in the centre console, alongside the other aluminium switches which are a bit of a throwback to an earlier time, let the engine purr and then just keep that accelerator pushed to the floor. It feels good, it feels right, just how decades of dreaming about driving an American icon told you it would feel.

Treat this 2.3 as a GT car, a Grand Tourer, rather than a traffic light hero and you’re going to enjoy it rather more. It looks good, it feels good, the magic of modern engineering means the drive is comfortable and handling makes the Mustang feel secure and competent – no matter how hard you push it.

Before the Mustang arrived, the idea of having a four cylinder under the hood meant it could never be a Mustang. Thing is, with a light foot you can get pretty far with the 2.3 – and while the petrol price might not out-accelerate the Mustang, it shows no intention of ceasing that inexorable increasing trend.

Don’t meet your heroes they say, you’ll be disappointed. Not me, not this time, this meeting was nigh on perfect. Yes, I don’t doubt a 5.0 V8 would have provided a rather more visceral experience, but in modern times and under current circumstances, perhaps a 2.3 with four cylinders pushing as much power as the older V6, is the true modern interpretation of a classic V8.

In the end, does this four-pot have the legs to carry the Mustang brand into the future? In my opinion, the answer can only be a very clear yes.

#Ciaz I tell you all about this @Suzuki_ZA sedan

I drove the Suzuki Ciaz for a week while in Johannesburg. This article is my summary of those few days with this sedan which features space as a big part of its design.

For those of you that follow my Tweet stream (@M0rneC) you’ll have noticed me recently – and hilariously – using the name of the Suzuki Ciaz as a verb, creating a hipster-like “See As” whenever I tweeted about this car – the headline on this article is another example of that wit. It was ingenious, hilarious, unique and the product of nearly 20 years of journalistic skill (effectively my whole life focused on that moment where more than four decades of sarcastic wit and wise-ass attitude crystalised to provide pure automotive entertainment).

Now I’m here to expand on those tweets and flesh out the details of the Suzuki Ciaz. Thankfully, there’s more substance to this sedan than there is to my sad attempt at being a smart-ass.

Before I get to the test – and my experiences – let me make one observation. The Ciaz is a lot bigger than I had expected. I had anticipated a small sedan, similar to that of the Swit Dzire (2430mm wheelbase) but the Ciaz is larger (2650mm for a difference of 220mm) – you can see the photo I took in the embedded tweets below which will show you my legroom in the rear (keeping in mind this was with the driver’s seat adjusted for my driving position.

First up, I did not drive this on home turf, I drove this in that delightful little village of Johannesburg. Me, a coastal chap from a small town at sea level, driving a 1.4 litre, four-cylinder in the frenetic traffic that can be found on Jo’burg’s freeways at nearly 1800m above the sea. Why is the height important? Height above sea level means less power, less power means reduced performance. Since I’m starting at 1.4 litres and working down from there in the power stakes my expectations weren’t high.

Suzuki Ciaz
The interior of the Suzuki Ciaz is spacious and comfortable, offering a high specification level including keyless entry

Didn’t last long though with the 70kW of power and 130Nm of torque proving itself more than up to the task of keeping up with the traffic, or even setting the pace. At this point it is worth mentioning the fuel consumption. Suzuki claim fuel consumption figures of 5.4 litres per 100km (18.52km/l) for this model, I recorded 5.65 litres per 100km (17.7km/l) and I was not doing economy run driving by any stretch of the imagination. Should make getting close to their figures a reality and your 43 litre fuel tank could see you getting as much as 760 km per filling station visit (if you use Suzuki’s figures it would be closer to 800km, but real-world driving is unlikely to get you to that level).

As I mentioned earlier though, 1.4 litre engine at altitude … There is no listing of 0-100km/h acceleration times for the Ciaz on Suzuki’s site but if you do a bit of scratching online, a figure of 11.3 seconds is quoted by some commentators. The Ciaz certainly seems zippy enough, even way up there on the Reef.

This could be explained by a kerb weight which is just over a ton, so with just me on board the Ciaz is quite nimble and light on its feet. Manoeuvring through the city traffic doesn’t take much effort but roadholding is at least two levels above what I had anticipated. I thought what I would encounter was a car that was adequate family transport but without much in the way of fun driving dynamics. The Ciaz instead proved to be an enthusiastic running, sure it isn’t sports car performance but it is more than you’d think looking at the spec sheet.

There are three variants in the Ciaz stable locally. All are 1.4 but you can have manual or automatic in GL and GLX guise. The base model is R182 500 moving up to R217 500 for the auto. Naturally trim levels vary between the two with steel wheels on the GL and alloys on the GLX. All have central locking, power steering, USB and Bluetooth and aircon while the GLX model I was driving also had leather seats, keyless entry and steering wheel controls – the latter two being on the list of standard features on all models as well.

On the safety front, ABS (anti-lock brakes) and driver and passenger SRS (secondary restraint system) airbags are to be found in all models.

Suzuki Ciaz
The Suzuki Ciaz boot is roomy, offering lots of packing space for your luggage

Time to get to the bits about the Ciaz I don’t like. Ummmm … a maximum power output that isn’t all the way up at 6000rpm? Frankly, for the Ciaz there isn’t really anything I can point out other than the electric door locks don’t engage automatically when you pull off. The keyless entry and go system is fabulous and you’ll love it when you’ve used it for a while. It just makes so much sense.

In terms of warranty and service, etc. Suzuki offers a three-year / 60 000 km service plan and a 100 000km or 36 month warranty. Service intervals are annually or every 15 000km.

Overall, I rather enjoyed driving the Ciaz around the Big Smoke. It has the typically light clutch action you find on modern Suzukis, it is brisk and comfortable to drive, it is light on fuel for munching all those kilometres required to get around in Johannesburg and it is quite stylish. With the available legroom and other interior space as well as the large boot it makes good sense as family motoring goes.

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It is @WesBank @SAGMJ #COTY time again

The list of 20 semi-finalists in the annual WesBank SAGMJ (South African Guild of Motoring Journalists) Car of the Year (COTY) competition were announced today (9 October 2014). These are the cars that will compete to make the list of finalists, one of which will ultimately win the title of 2015 WesBank / SAGMJ Car of the Year.

Continue reading “It is @WesBank @SAGMJ #COTY time again”