The Dogs. 

Automotive brands try to justify why each of the estimated 50 000 cars sold in South Africa per month are not just adequate, but allegedly excellent. And so there’s a massive difference between the marketing blurb and reality, it’s a kind of spin doctors trick if you like. The car companies selling these lemon cars are aware very aware that these vehicles are going to bite you. Yet they will happily sell you one of these third-rate cars and wait patiently for you to discover it’s inherent weaknesses.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Scratch these lemons from your short list, and you’re better placed to buying a good car instead.

The Cheapies. 

You can buy a brand new car for under R140 grand – sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And so you get that new car smell, the full factory warranty however there is a point where buying a used car makes more sense – and R140 000 is that point. Anything that costs R140 000 or less brand new is going to be eclipsed by a two-year-old used car costing R140 grand. It’s that simple. So, your VW UP! your Toyota Yaris, your Chevrolet Spark – interesting as they are, you’ll be better served by a used car. Take the Toyota Etios – always on special drive away under R140k. That entry-level Etios – with an asthmatic 1.5-litre engine and clunky five-speed manual is hardly a definitive good buy. For that R140 grand you can easily step into a low mileage Ford Focus 1,6 or one year old Chevrolet Cruze 1,6. So If it’s brand new and R140 000 or less, it’s barking… Don’t buy it.

Worst Bakkies. 

You need to scratch from your 4×4 bakkie buying short list any pick-up that’s not a Ford Ranger, or Mazda BT-50. It really is that simple. So here is a contemporary complement of 4×4 bakkie goodies and current engineering best practices. let’s call that a five star NCAP or ANCAP safety rating, six-speed automatic transmission and 3.5-tonne tow capacity, plus an engine with more than 400 NM, only the Mazda and Ford tick all the boxes. Everything else, at the time of writing, scratches and barks and licks its … so you get the idea. Frankly the Hilux is yesterday’s hero. This is not about opinion – objective points leads you inevitably to choosing one of these two, sad but so true. The Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, and Isuzu just don’t measure up.

Unsafe Evoque. 

Land Rover says, quote: the “Range Rover Evoque can take anything the city can throw at it”. Anything … except of crashing that is… It’s not very good at that. Independent crash testing authority ANCAP says, of the Evoque, quote “protection from serious chest injury was marginal for the driver.” ANCAP added, quote: “the bonnet provided predominantly poor protection in the areas likely to be struck by a pedestrian’s head”.  Range Rover Evoque, the kind of SUV a Kardashian would build.

The Range Rover Evoque didn’t even qualify for five stars. After the first crash test it was immediately a four star – scoring only 12.39 out of 16. For the frontal offset crash test. (You need 12.5 to qualify for five stars.) And this is not even the most stringent crash test out there, I would like to see the IISH (insurance institute for highway safety) small overlap test, I am sure this would be catastrophic.  A Hyundai i30 gets 15.35 out of 16 in the same NCAP test, and costs a quarter of what the Evoque. If you’re buying a premium car, you expect no compromises on safety. It’s that simple. The Range Rover Evoque just does match up. This is what happens when you focus on Victoria Beckham interior design rather than making sure the basics in safety are dealt with. It’s like getting Kim Kardashian to pilot at Mission Control. You just know things are guaranteed to go bad; you just know it. So there it is, you could buy this ‘Kim Kardashian’ of SUVs … or a vehicle that will actually protect you properly in a crash.

All Sub-R1m BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes & Audis. 

Premium German cars really are outstanding … provided you spend more than about R800,000. Below that, well, they’re a marketing con. And below R500,000 what does premium actually mean… because equivalent Japanese and Korean cars decimate the Germans on every level

And you’re not seriously thinking about buying a Mercedes C200 are you? look at these performance and price figures, If blind folded and asked which of the two specifications sounds better what would you say.

C 200 Blue Tec Engine: R479 000 (Dec 2016)

1.6L inline turbocharged

Fuel: diesel

Power: 100kW @ 3800rpm

Torque: 300Nm @ 2000rpm

Mazda6 diesel Engine: R404 000 (Dec 2016)

2.2L inline twin-turbocharged

Fuel: diesel

Power: 129kW @ 4500rpm

Torque: 420Nm @ 2000rpm

If you analyse a R500 000 German car objectively, on measurable criteria, a Japanese or premium Korean car at the same price point just makes it look like the insanity pill has been handed out amongst the Germans. So if you want a Bavarian Money Waster, the four rings or that much-admired three-pointed star, go nuts you’re just going to be a brand whore and you’ll be sitting in your cleanly clad four wheels, wondering if you should have ticked the box for the options. Even the dealer will think you’re a loser at R500 000, and believe me yes they really do. German cars under R500,000 are not the ultimate driving machines they pretend to be.

BMW’s 2010 320i. 

Under the bonnet (hood) lies a Mongol of a power plant, and I use that word loosely. Despite the manufacturers quoted consumption and performance figures this BMW should never have seen the light of day. Quoted urban fuel consumption at 11.5 L/100Km is laughable and then try and achieve this figure in the real world. Best you can hope for is around 13L/100Km, much larger Japanese or Korean SUVs delivering fuel consumption figures much lower from power plants much larger with more impressive performance outputs.

VWs 2,0 TFSI engine. 

No one can deny Volkswagen make sexy cars that drive well … right up to the point they break down, well not all of them though, just a few mangy dogs that have slipped through the hole in the fence at Wolfsburg and nobody from Planet Volkswagen gives a toss

Anything with the 2.0 TFSI engine. This engine where the ‘T’ stands for ‘turbocharged’ and the ‘FSI’ stands for ‘fuel stratified injection’. Firstly one needs to understand that everything in engineering is a compromise. The Germans in their zeal to achieve fuel efficiency through reducing internal resistance managed to compromise basics of engine integrity, and Inadvertently designed to consume both oil and petrol, the new ‘normal’. That’s VW’s engineering answer to designing efficiency into the internal combustion engine.

The rings and the valve guides need to separate the oil responsible for lubrication and the combustion chamber. If you go moggy reducing friction inside an engine, it starts drinking oil, because it leaks past the rings and valve guides. The 2.0 TFSI engine has a global reputation for doing just that. And the fix? Well just wait for the low engine oil warning light, and add a litre of engine oil. Really!!! Now if these Germans would only have said ‘hey, we got the balance wrong, and it will be fixed, that would be the right thing to do, VW says ‘move on, Really!

In South Africa in just 10 years from 2004 to 2014 inclusive, Volkswagen sales have been on the upward path. It’s mainly off the back of an aggressive roll-out of new product aimed at achieving objective one being world domination in the motor business. What a pity the engineering fundamentals just aren’t right. So if you’re happy with your Volkswagen, you’re likely to be a very happy motorist indeed, yes these cars look good and drive so well. But if it lets you down you’re likely to be profoundly unhappy. Partly because the problem could be solution-resistant, that DSG gearbox case in point. Before admitting to the problems and work with you, their mission is to protect the brand by denying any problem exists or expect you the customer to return to the dealer for endless software adjustments. To be fair, all car companies have problems. So, in a sense buying any car is a gamble with reliability. Only difference is some manufacturers are better than others at delivering good after sales service to remedy the problems that may exist.

And so we end off this initial “dogs and lemons” look into car buying, look out for a follow up to this article were we will explore the dark side to servicing and maintenance of your brand of vehicle.