You start off in life, with the small things. Long walks in the park, hard work at your basic job and hopefully along the way a romantic encounter or two. This later on leads to a bit of promotion, even harder work and tough decisions, like which friend to choose as your MC for your wedding and later which hospital and Doctor to choose for your first Baby`s birth. One or two come along and then the inevitable search for the right car begins. So dear Parents, this blog is for you! (Or cyclists, with lots of friends needing lifts from Vida Café`. Or puppy party enthusiasts who need loads of romping space for Spot or Dot, after buying goods from our friends http://www.poochandkitty.co.za/.)
Enter the SUV- the beloved vehicle of choice in Suburban South Africa. We have been asked do this test many times- and here it finally is!
The Designs – Interior and Exterior
Out of all the cars above that we tested, we began our search with Honda Melrose and a test drive with the very competent CRV. We love the space in the CRV. It is huge and although the design hasn’t changed much inside our out, it had loads of space for rear passengers and many, many cup holders. Features that we liked on the CRV, included how they have carefully thought of the bootspace, and loading area – and we especially loved the how the little sliding cover can be used to protect the door from moving objects by sliding horizontally or vertically. The design outside, is not the most exciting. Lets be honest here for second, all of the cars listed here today, are meant to take the kids or babies to crèche or school as safely as possible. In the case of the CRV & Sportage, both would really be suited to older kids. The IX35 and Tiguan I found a little smaller in the back, and would recommend this for families that may have 1 – 3 smaller kids. In each case we have Isofix in the rear seats, for anchoring those Isofix Baby Seats.
We drove the Kia Sportage next, at a Kia dealership in Centurion by the name of Kia Motors Centurion. The design for this car, was what I expected. No frills or fuss, the car seemed be solid. In every single test I do, there is inevitably going to be a “big bang on the dashboard till something breaks”, test and nothing did. The problem for Kia and Hyundai in SA, is that there is a general perception about quality being of a lower standard than that of their Japanese counterparts. In a country where sometimes the Honda and Toyota dealers can give super shocking service, now would be a good time to dispel those myths! The Kia exterior design, although super boring in general, actually had a few great touches, once we moved to the interior. The leather seats were magnificent! The doors and boot felt solid when closing, and the daytime running lights added a very classy finish to the overall package.
This was the next car we drove, and we loved it! I was quite impressed by the overall exterior design. Those beautiful lines continue further, once you open the doors. The overall interior and exterior layout, was one of the nicest of all the cars we tested. The only gripe we had on the interior, was the overall amount of space being smaller compared to the CRV – both in the IX35 and Sportage. Another gripe was the small LCD Display. I put my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 ( amazing phone which we will review at another time), right next to the Centre console display and it dwarfed the overall screen. If motor manufacturers are going to produce fake Ipad displays, then at least make them the same size as an IPAD or bigger Phablet phone. Making it smaller serves no purpose, especially when driving at night – and trying to get to your destination without battling with a small display. Overall all these cars have similar space, not as roomy as the CRV, but very close. The plasticky bits, and gear lever on both the Sportage and IX, needs some work. They still don’t have the feel of the Honda or VW in terms of actual finish. This will surely take time to improve – but overall the IX is a really good car for families.
This was my overall favourite of the month. If you are a family with smaller kids, I would recommend this car over all the others. In terms of space, it had decent legroom in the rear. If your baby is 1 or 2, then things like rear legroom don’t play any role. I didn’t really love the exterior design of this car. I sometimes feel like the Germans are too hard on their exterior designers and have to stick to the VW formula to ensure that 2 km`s away, you will be able to recognise this car as VW. Overall the interior room was great. Of all the cars, this one made me “feel” the most secure in the cabin sitting in the drivers seat. Each car is high off the ground, with Euro NCAP ratings of 5 all round. The VW had a boot no bigger than a Passat or Jetta, so if you are thinking of changing your car for that reason, perhaps a little more vertical room will help with 2 big luggage bags, a baby pram and many toys/ baby bags etc. The soft touch steering, dash and overall easy to read layout of this car`s dash/displays were by far my favourite.
So- down to business. The drive feeling/feedback is very, very important to me. It is as important to me to have a good drive feeling, as it is to have a 5 Star Euro NCAP rating. When the lives of your little ones are at stake, especially on the torrid South African roads we have to deal with, the feeling you get from the car, and how it drives is quite critical. In this instance, I felt very low power output in both the 2.0 D Sportage and 2.0 Elite IX35. All the cars I drove were automatic, and if you think actual performance is not critical, wait until you have to overtake 2 trucks on the road to the Drakensberg or Pilgrims Rest Mpumalanga at night. You need a little bit of power, even if you only drive at 60 km/hr to drop off your kids at school. The Honda CRV was as slow as a Donkey pulling a heavy laden cart. It was a 2.0 litre automatic, and If you are deciding on that car, I would humbly recommend the 2.4 litre model version of that car instead. I will be honest now, the IX35 and Sportage make the same unsure noise upon acceleration. The CRV doesn’t make any noise, because it is obedient. The VW 1.4 Tiguan automatic, was the only one that responded to my power pedal input. It was very quick and nimble and didn’t feel too much roll in the bends which is always good. If you need to get your kids to school or crèche on time, then get the Tiguan. If you have loads of time, then every other model is an option too. We live in Johannesburg, work very hard during the day, and sometimes are late to fetch the kids from crèche/after care or sport. This is why the emphasis in this blog is about more power – more than at any other time. In terms of steering feel, the Sportage and IX felt too light, the Honda a little better and VW the best – this is in terms of knowing through the steering, what is happening on the road. The suspensions on all of them are equal, again, the VW came up tops in the overall handling on the road, it felt confident and again – not pretending to be something it was not.
All of the cars in this segment made me feel pretty safe and secure. If you have little ones on that back seat, in car seats, then they will be protected in any event of a side impact, because the rear door line is quite high. At the time of writing this note – Simba from Top Billing has just passed away due to injuries sustained in a car accident. I beg you all, to question the sales people selling you any car, about the safety stats of whatever you are buying. This may not come up, but 6 airbags should be the minimum that you expect in any car. My family and I were involved in an accident in 1998 in which our VW Kombi collided head on with a Truck on a very wet and misty Van Reenen`s pass, a week before Christmas. My dad and baby brother who was 2 years old at the time, were asleep on the first row of seats, with no seatbelt on. At the second row was my 11 year old brother, also asleep, and not buckled in. We all sustained injuries, with only my 11 year old brother needing immediate surgery. Thankfully, no one died. Today – anyone in my car will have their seat belt on, and any car we drive will have Euro NCAP 5 star rating and at least 6 airbags. You may even want to consider the safety stats before hiring a car on holiday or business, if you haven’t thought about that before.
Euro NCAP Links
All of the cars that we tested start out in the low R 300 000`s, up go all the way up to R 600 000 plus for the top of the range models (CRV being nearly R 588 000 at the top of the range model). I would suggest that you look at the cost of diesel, and whether you would need better consumption based on your average mileage before upgrading your car from the base models below. In the Hyundai and Kia, the diesel would be the only option for me personally. In the CRV the 2.4 litre model and in the VW, I would be more than happy with 1.4 TSI – thanks to the clever Germans making me very happy by delivering performance from a tiny engine without me begging.
Entry Level Models
VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI 90 kW Trend & Fun Manual – R 325 900
IX35 2.0 Premium Manual – R 324 900
Honda 2.0 Manual Comfort – R 240 900
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite – R 328 995
- VW Tiguan – for us, the ride, comfort and overall interior quality were the best. 5/5
- Hyundai IX35 – Very very stylish, good drive – steering was a little too light for us. 4/5
- Honda CRV – Dull looks but bulletproof engine and enough Space for Noah to round up the animals again. 3.5/5
- Kia Sportage – Very comfortable on road, soft steering and whinny engine noise. Did have the best seats in this category by far though. 3/5
- VW Lindsay Saker Hyde Park wins this category! To see what we`re on about, go for a test drive. 5/5
- Honda Melrose Arch – Really good engagement with management, reception and sales person. 5/5
- Hyundai Corlett Drive – Great DP, who is new, but very very hands on. Right opposite Ford at the corner of Corlett and Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg. Tough location to sell at, but they make it work. 3/5
- Kia Centurion – Many sales guys on used floor, Sausage Saloon has just arrived when I did. The lunch seemed to be priority more than me. 2/5
Note for sales people: Please don’t eat on the floor – move to the kitchen, have your lunch, then come back. I see about 6 dealers a week – clients need to see you, not your lunch. Keep it professional guys and girls.
- Nujmah Samodien – Honda Melrose – This lady is on fire! She has only worked at Honda for a few months, but I couldn’t believe how capable she was. Knowledgeable without dumping stats on me, getting to know me as a customer, and ensuring I was comfortable all through the drive. She may end up running her own business, I sense a deep passion in her. 5/5
- Nico Smit – Kia Centurion – Way up there in the league of gents is Nico from Kia Centurion. When everyone else looked at me, and carried on with their lunch, he walked straight to me. He has a calm, gentle way about him – and knows his product. Believes in KIA, what they stand for and their quality. He also knows himself, which is way more important. 4.5/5
- Nasan Moodliar – VW Lindsay Saker – This is a very quiet, but very capable sales person. He listened to what my concerns were before matching the features of the car to those questions. He allowed me to test drive the car, and stretch her legs, without losing his cool. He knows VW, but just a little more visible passion would be great for me. 4/5
- Zamo Sibiya – Corlett Drive – Zamo is at a new dealership for only 3 months. I am sure in time, he will grow into this new Branch. I think he has a long way to go to develop, while knowing a lot about the product and stats, I could use a little more belief from him. His DP – Allan Ngwenya, was great to engage with – and we actually met at Autopage Melrose Arch before my test. Allan is also the first Black DP I have met in all my tests, so there is hope for the SA motoring industry in terms of development. 2.0/5
Nujmah – Honda West Rand – 079 306 9275
Nico – Kia Centurion – 083 307 5411/012 678 5220
Nasan – VW Lindsay Saker Hyde Park – 074 732 6025
Allan Ngwenya – Hyunday Corlett Drive – 082 663 4881 / 010 594 7499
Word of thanks – thank you to all the dealers that took part. Thank you too reader, for going through our blog. Feel free to share comments below – and to share this blog with your friends and family if they are in the market for a mid size Family SUV.