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Which do I buy? The Honda Fit Hybrid, Nissan Note or Vitz?

Tuesday June 23 2020
NOTE

A Nissan Note on display in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 2014. The mini multi-purpose vehicle is produced by the Japanese manufacturer Nissan. PHOTO | AFP

By BARAZA JM

Dear Baraza,

I hope this finds you well. I look forward to your column every Wednesday. I’m considering buying my first car. I’m in dilemma whether to buy the Honda Fit Hybrid, Nissan Note or Toyota Vitz. This is a car I wish to drive for more than five years. Kindly comment on matters efficiency, fuel consumption, durability, availability of spare parts and cost of repairs.

Samuel Gatheru

Hello Samuel,

You need a bit of ambition in your life, sir. But first, congratulations on attaining an economic status suitable enough to motorise your life, but really, you didnt get there by lacking drive, did you?

Many of us get into motoring via a tiny sub-1500cc vehicle, typically a hatchback or compact saloon, but we don’t stay there for the rest of our lives. No even for five years.

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Get the car, but honestly speaking, within five years, you should be in something more substantial than the trio of baby strollers you have listed. It’s not just about materialism, fake-it-till-you-make-it-style of keeping up with the Joneses and/or Kamaus, though the social and psychological effects of upgrading your wheels cannot be gainsaid. This is not about anthropology.

Those cars are designed to have a discrete shelf-life, half of which was already used while the vehicle was still in Japan. That means it lands here as a machine whose life span is firmly on the dark end of the clock of doom.

Once here, it is subjected to conditions significantly less conducive than it enjoyed in its land of origin, so that half-life is halved yet again. Five years is one year more than the remaining balance of the sands of time pouring through its metaphorical hour glass. What I'm saying is, change your plans. But that will be then, this is now.

HONDA

Honda Fit Hybrid.

Fit Hybrid vs Note vs Vitz

The Fit Hybrid starts off poorly by possessing something called an IPU, the Intelligent Power Unit, which is essentially the hybrid system, or “one more thing to go wrong” in reliability terms.

This IPU brings benefits, which were mostly enjoyed by the original owner. You’ll be ending up with the internet’s version of a slay-queen-ready-to-settle-down kind of joke, a joke that will not only cost you a pretty penny when it starts showing its age, but will practicality also rob you by depleting space and utility.

Somebody at Honda also said that they made the side mirrors smaller to improve aerodynamics. Now that you’ll be driving a small, non-sporty car, why make your life harder by cocooning yourself in one with limited visibility?

ABS, brakes and gearbox

The Nissan Note carries with it a history of transmission failures as has been documented again and again right here. One of my more enterprising online associates demystified this shortcoming by placing the blame squarely on poor maintenance, which makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is a flashing ABS warning light implying that my transmission is about to go. Last I checked, ABS had something to do with the brakes, not the gearbox, but the intricacies of modern motor vehicle construction means the interconnection between on-board systems is getting more and more intimate and orgy-like (the traction and stability control systems require ABS input to work, and their effect is channelled to engine and transmission. There you go...).

If only Nissan made the Note’s self-diagnostic setup to read “low transmission fluid” when the transmission fluid was actually low, instead of flashing the wrong light at me, making car ownership not entirely dissimilar to solving a cryptic crossword puzzle in Cyrillic...

VITZ

Toyota Vitz

The Vitz.

The Toyota. The infallible. The cliché. The girl’s car. The one cleaned in a kitchen sink instead of at a car wash. The one whose details are recorded on a receipt instead of a logbook. The reliable. The one you should really buy.

 If you get an RS version, everything else pales in comparison, and that will be the one roller-skate you are actually allowed to keep longer than five years without your life coach feeling embarrassed by your implied developmental stagnation.

It’s very hard to criticise one of Toyota’s smallest offerings and you can tell just from looking around: buyers love it, the company itself loves it — they recently teased a 268hp rally-inspired road-going version of the car. You don’t send your child to the Ivy League if they mean nothing to you, ‘naw mean?

*****

1. Efficiency & fuel consumption: Theoretically, the Fit Hybrid dominates this skirmish. In the real world, you will not see any difference... like, at all. Cars at this level of sippy-sippiness have wildly fluctuating consumption figures that are affected by conditions as mundane as the strength of the wind and the size of your passenger. Also, if you want to split hairs on engine capacities smaller than a flask of tea, perhaps you are not really ready to own a car.

2. Durability: Toyota at one end. Nissan at the other. Honda in between.

3. Availability of spares: Toyota at one end, along with Nissan. Hybrid cars at the other. If that IPU fails, my friend... hehehe.

4. Cost of repairs: Toyota at o.... You know what? I think we’ve already established enough of a pattern here. Figuring out the car to buy is not as difficult as solving a cryptic crossword puzzle in Cyrillic...

504

Peugeot 504.

I am eyeing a 504, do I go ahead and buy it or not?

Dear Sir,

I am keen on buying a 504 saloon car, please advise me on whether to go ahead or not.

Regards,

Alex.

Go ahead.

Really, get the car. Being a 504 it can't be THAT expensive. They're relics that fall into two groups: pristine examples that appear at the Concours D'Elegance, which means the owners have no interest in selling them, or middling-to-junk cars whose owners are tired of them or want to create space in their garages so they're getting rid of them, which means they can be had for lunch money. Either way you won't be spending much for that car.

Or will you? How much are you willing to spend getting the car? And how much are you willing to spend getting the car into shape? Those are two different questions which involve two different things. The first question’s response is in monetary terms. The second one's response involves mental and emotional stability. If you buy sculpted rust you will never get that car right, ever, so the rest of your life will be spent in regret. Think hard before committing. If you buy a proper example, then you'll be in like Flynn. 504s are very simple cars that don't demand much from the owner besides steep fueling costs, however, if you choose to abuse or overuse that vehicle then... it will do as Peugeot does and lose both dignity and attractiveness at a rate similar to a streetwalker approaching retirement age.

Your call.

SUBARU

Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT on display at Bangkok International Auto Salon 2013 on June 20, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.

I want to graduate from Toyota; which of these 3 models do I buy?

Hello Baraza,

I’m a young guy looking forward to buying my second car and finally march away from Toyota. I own a 2010 Toyota Wish. What would you say about the following cars in terms of reliability, cost of maintenance and performance? Which one would you advise me to go for?

Subaru Impreza S-GT, Mitsubishi Galant Sportback or Subaru legacy BR9. The car will be used as a daily drive and take regular road trips on weekends.

Albright.

Let’s see what is what:

1. Subaru Impreza S-GT

Reliability: on the “confidence-inspiring” side of fair.

Cost of maintenance: not as cheap as Kenyans would like it to be, but hey, it’s a performance car (sort of)

Speaking of Performance: good. Quite good, in fact. More than you’ll need for your daily running and road trips, but the thing about turbo power in a Subaru is very addictive, you may end up wanting more... and more.

2. Mitsubishi Galant Sportback:

Reliability: on the laughable side of fair.

Cost of maintenance: comme çi, comme ça, but potentially worse than the Impreza.

Performance: depends on which spec you go for. Do Ralliart and you will give the Impreza a real run for its money. Fiddle with lesser ones and you become just another person in just another Japanese car.

3. Subaru Legacy BR9:

Reliability: it has an electrically-operated power-assisted steering system. Those long words do not bode well for it. Otherwise, this is the car to have.

Cost of Maintenance: the steering rack will cost you about Sh130,000, give or take.

Performance: the Di-T will outrun everything else in this list, fair and square.

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