BEHIND THE WHEEL: Hardy engine but hard to get - Daily Nation

Outlander, X-Trail or Captiva? This isn’t a typical SUV list

Wednesday May 23 2018

The Captiva is little-known. PHOTO| COURTESY

The Captiva is little-known. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Hi Baraza,

Thanks for the good work you are doing, enlightening many of us through your weekly column. I read you religiously. While at it, thanks for confirming to a reader (Wednesday, April 11) the availability of spare parts for the Nissan Bluebird Sylphy. There are many shops in Industrial Area and on Kirinyaga Road (Grogan) dealing in them.

Now to my question: I have been thinking of getting a crossover or SUV, given the state of our feeder roads and also for travel upcountry, where the roads are not necessarily smooth.

There is the consideration of family, so a 7-seater vehicle would be a bonus.

With that in mind, I have thought of options, namely the Chevrolet Captiva (2011-2013), Nissan X-Trail NT32 (2014) and Mitsubishi Outlander (2011-2014), all imported, used vehicles.

Kindly, give an insight into the three on drive-ability, fuel efficiency, cost-effectiveness in maintenance and spare parts, as well as resale value. 

Jerry K.


Hello Jerry,

That is quite the selection you have there. Rarely do I get a crossover shopper who fails to include the Trifecta of Clichérisms: Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Subaru Forester.

Because while you might have your preferred list, these three trounce them respectively on the criteria on which you have chosen to dissect these cars.

I won’t change your mind about your wish list though, because it is not every day that someone mentions a Chevrolet Captiva in this column.

So now:

 1. Drivability: Of course the most “drivable” car is the one that is easiest and most enjoyable behind wheel, which in this class is the Fores... sorry, no Subarus. In this class of three it is the Outlander that is the most engaging, but that is not saying much, it only highlights the woeful plight of the other two.

(Note: the 2011 Outlander and the 2014 Outlander are two different cars, so we’ll go with the former). At least there is the XLS version to spice things up a little.

The X-Trail offers a certain blandness to the driving experience that can only be outdone by the opioid effect of the Captiva’s captain’s seat. The first generation Chevy (2011) is one very boring car to drive and to be in generally, sorry to say. It recently featured in a segment called “Meh Car Monday” on one of my favourite automotive websites.

The sheer levels of anonymity and nothingness that this car brings to the table are staggering. You could fall asleep just  looking at it. It is generic to the point of invisibility.

If you want to know just how boring this car is, here is a little factoid: it was developed by Daewoo, who didn’t even have the gumption to stay independent and allowed General Motors to invade them and throw them little projects such as the Daewoo Winstorm, of which the Captiva is a captive import. The puns are writing themselves by this point.

How many have you seen out there? Yes, very few because the potential buyers probably nodded off in the middle of signing transfer paperwork and dreamt about a Fores... sorry, we agreed no Subarus.

2. Fuel Efficiency: Well, Mitsubishi’s GDI has been developed over the years to iron out the initial kinks with the touchy and hypersensitive ECU programming that resorted to default non-fuel saving mode every time you even thought about the accelerator pedal. Now it actually works over a wider range of throttle openings to give outstanding economy, but only if you go for the little 2.0 litre. Avoid the 2.4 if you are a fastidious cheapskate (and miss out on the sweet spot of the Outlander lineup — barring any forced induction, which is that 2.4).

The 3.0 V6 is for those with shares in oil companies. The X-Trail comes a close second on a scoreboard that can easily be flipped by one injudicious prod of the long pedal — okay maybe two or three prods — but the Hostagea is left trailing. It is the second heaviest (1,685kg vs the X-Trail’s 1,437 and the Outlander’s 1,700kg, which is compensated for by MIVEC and GDI tech) and the crudest as well; and it comes with V6es of the 3.0 to 3.2 variety. There is a smaller 2.4 but still... you can see you will not be winning any fuel economy challenges with this thirsty horse.

3. Cost efficiency in parts: look who comes swinging right back in the third round! It’s the Chevy Hostage. That crudeness and weight I mention in point 2 above means that the big, unstressed engines are simple and uncomplicated and unlikely to fail any time soon, as opposed to the gimmickry used by Mitsubishi to boost economy, optimise smoothness and eke out performance in the higher reaches of the rev range, all from the same engine.

It’s a bit sad that Chevrolet pulled out of this market in which they sold Captivas as well, but did you ever notice? No. I told you this car is boiled white rice. They might or might not still stock parts for the Chevrolet Detainee, but even if they didn’t, there is the Internet to help you source parts.

The Outlander is the flimsiest of the lot, with the X-Trail falling somewhere in between. The proliferation of these cars means parts will be easy to find, and probably cheap as well, if you go for the nebulous black market offerings.

4. Resale value: Forget about it. You might recover some of your money by selling the Outlander shortly after you get it but where is the joy in that?

However, keep it longer and you are giving gremlins more leeway to make their presence felt, which in turn puts you at the mercy of mechanics, the same mechanics  who do not have the presence of mind or critical thought to immediately know that a faulty AWC pump needs replacement - really, what was so hard about that as solution to a faulty AWC pump? This kind of manpower is what will cause your vehicle to age fast and, therefore, it’s goodbye resale value.

The X-Trail is also quickly becoming a victim of market dynamics. Its brand plays against it: the Nissan badge has had its rep steadily weakening on the used-car market in Kenya, which does not do resale value any favours. Price your car high and potential customers will simply do DIY imports. They are not here to make you rich; overcharge them and they walk.

As for the Chevrolet prisoner, well... nobody has ever heard of it, let alone seen one, so most likely nobody will be looking for one. You are the first person to bring this up in the eight years this column has existed, so that should tell you the resale prospects for this car.


(Clarification: you are the first person besides myself to bring the Captiva up in conversation because once upon a time, General Motors was kind enough to facilitate my travel to Port Elizabeth in South Africa to spy on their factory and drive a Chevrolet Lumina SS to double the speed limit on the N2 heading towards Stone River Mouth in a convoy that included two Chevrolet Captivae, the 2.4 and the 3.0.

That latter extralegal speeding manoeuvre was not part of the programme, but if you give me a 6.0 litre V8 saloon car with RWD and leave me to my own devices, there are certain outcomes you are begging for. One of them is thunder and lightning on wide open blacktop.

That was many years ago, though; I am a grown-up now, and anyway, I am sure by now the statute of limitations has expired so I can safely confess to some of these shenanigans...)


Jerky Merc: There’s more to it than a faulty MAF sensor

Hallo Baraza,

Mr Kimathi wrote to you about his Mercedes Benz jerking when  he accelerates. I have an elaborate answer to that query because I had a similar problem.  Let him check the airflow mass sensor; it is dead. Advise him to replace it and all will be well.  

Newton Nganga


Called it!

I said it, didn’t I? There goes our third-party contributor. However...

Ng’anga, while the sporadic jerking could be the result of a faulty MAF, I would beg to differ since there are often other symptoms associated with a bad MAF sensor, which our inquisitor did not bring up, such as hard starts, erratic idling and occasional stalling. All he said was the car jerks until it is turned off, then it is fine (briefly) after restarting.

Do we have any other takers out there on this matter?


So the AWC pump is faulty; have you tried replacing it

Hi JM,

I have a Mitsubishi Fortis Galant SportBack, 2000cc turbo, which has a faulty AWC pump, as diagnosed. The problem is that when I stop, I have to press hard on the accelerator for the vehicle to start moving. It behaves the way a manual vehicle with a worn-out clutch would. This is making it consume a lot of fuel and also underperform.

I have visited Simba Colt Motors and several other Mitsubishi mechanics but they have not been able to fix it. Kindly assist me on how, or where, to get this problem fixed.


I have a Mitsubishi Fortis Galant SportBack, 2000cc turbo, which has a faulty AWC pump, as diagnosed. PHOTO| COURTESY

I have a Mitsubishi Fortis Galant SportBack, 2000cc turbo, which has a faulty AWC pump, as diagnosed. PHOTO| COURTESY

Ahem! Murimi...

You say you have a Fortis with a faulty AWC pump “as diagnosed”. The Simba Colt guys (yikes...) and random mechs say they have no idea how to go about fixing the problem, but I have only one question: Did anybody suggest replacing the pump?

I mean, that is the most obvious thing that jumps at me out of your message: faulty item, so replace the said item. It’s fairly straightforward: most faulty items are either repaired or replaced, with the bias being towards the latter.

 However, if it is what I think it is (Mitsubishi’s All Wheel Control system that has been used to devastating effect in the Lancer Evolution), then that pump will not be cheap. It might be in need of servicing, which could be cheaper overall; or more likely, it actually is gone and needs replacement outright, in which case... prepare your wallet.

This newfangled electromechanical trickery is never cheap.

You could source a new pump via the dealer, who will include a substantial markup and probably charge you unfathomable amounts for labour, or you could look for a garage that deals with street performance cars (Evos and their ilk, basically) and ask them for help.

They might strip the item from a salvage vehicle, hoping that some Fortis parts are interchangeable with Evo X componentry (this might not be very likely, so don’t hope too much), or they might know where to get just such an item at short notice and at a more reasonable cost.

They will definitely know how to uninstall and reinstall the AWC pump. Don’t go to a rally garage, they are usually not affordable either since they dabble in motorsports, which is an upper-crust, higher-echelon pastime.


No, I’ve never said I don’t like coil spring suspension

Hi Baraza,

I’m one of your many dedicated fans. Thank you for your not only informative, but also entertaining, articles.

I’ve noted your lack of love for coil suspension and especially on crossovers. Can you please elaborate on their pros and cons?

Peter N. Muchuku


Hello Peter,

I will do it like your biblical namesake and deny, deny, deny. Where have I displayed a lack of affection for coil spring suspension? More so on crossovers? The first alternative is leaf-spring suspension, which is what was used in the Roman Empire. I am not that retrogressive.

The second alternative is air suspension, which is high-end technology typically found in vehicles more substantial than crossovers. Pros and cons of coil springs? There are mostly pros and very few cons, if any.

They are cheaper than air bags (and their respective compressors), they are more comfortable than leaf springs, and provide better handling, road-holding and wheel articulation in off-road applications; and speaking of off-road, they create a roomier underfloor space since they don’t jut out longitudinally like leaf springs.

Air suspension is even more comfortable than coil, and is adjustable both for height and stiffness. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Air suspension is even more comfortable than coil, and is adjustable both for height and stiffness. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cons? Air suspension is even more comfortable than coil, and is adjustable both for height and stiffness.

Specialist coilover suspension that gives you the same height adjustability — but without the convenience of electronic adjustment, meaning you have to do it manually — is prohibitively expensive.

Stiffness adjustability in turn comes, not from the coil springs themselves, but by use of magnetorheological shock absorbers, which are as expensive as they sound and so only feature in very few cars, such as the Range Rover Evoque, Audi R8 and some Cadillacs. Leaf springs are more robust and have a greater load-bearing capacity, as well as being as cheap as soil.

Coil springs are the business. That is why my car has them.


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