alexa No, I do not recommend getting a used hybrid - Daily Nation

No, I do not recommend getting a used hybrid

Wednesday January 15 2020


You want a Lexus? Get a Lexus. Life is too short to fret over what a columnist wrote. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Dear Baraza,

I am considering importing a used 2012/13 Toyota SAI or Lexus CT 200h because of their reported impressive fuel consumption. However, I noticed from previous articles (going back to 2013) that you wouldn’t recommend getting a used hybrid car.

Considering the developments in technology, would you still consider hybrid cars expensive and irrelevant? If the answer is yes, which low-maintenance sport compact hatchback would you recommend for long-distance travels to the Coast from Nairobi? 

Would a used 2012 VW Variant, a 2012 Mazda3 or a 2012 Honda Stream make economic sense in terms of cost of purchase, fuel consumption and overall maintenance?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,



Hi Garney,

I addressed the issue of hybrids in mid-2019, but since you obviously missed that issue, here we go.

You are right, I do not recommend getting a used hybrid. And yes, gone are the days when hybrids were horrendously priced, tasteless and just a bit impractical (I never called them irrelevant) but this technology you talk of is yet to attain the heights of transforming lithium-ion batteries into Infinity Stones. The arguments I had then are still the arguments I have now, bar one: performance. Between then and now, certain hybrids have come up that go like stink. This will be discussed deeply in an upcoming feature.

And now, my arguments. Hybrids in the real world rarely attain the same economy figures that their makers advertise in those brochures and breathlessly copy-pasted internet blogs you find on “car sites”. We have cars like the BMW i8 that can allegedly do close to 280mpg but no … just no. It will never clock this figure, not even in a laboratory. BBC’s “Top Gear” demonstrated that an E92 BMW M3, a 4,000cc V8-powered fire-breathing coupé, burns less fuel than a Toyota Prius at the same speed, though in the interest of full disclosure, the speed in question was at the very edge of the Prius’ rather limited capability.

Battery life: if you have owned a phone or a laptop, then you know that the older it gets, the less its ability to charge up quickly and withhold that charge for long, not entirely dissimilar to the kind of problems men face in the boudoir once they are past middle age. However, while Mankind (with a capital M) has Viagra and Cialis to circumnavigate these rough waters, with devices — phones, laptops, hybrid or electric cars — the options are limited to exactly two. Replace the batteries or ditch the vehicle.

Battery life is determined by “charge cycles”, which are the number of charging-discharging loops the batteries undergo in their productive lives. This number is finite and once exhausted, that’s it. Buying a used hybrid means the number has been depleted through usage by the previous owner, with obvious implications. Now, unlike a combustion engine whose life can be extended via an overhaul or replacement of individual components or even curative metallic conditioners (such as XADO, ha!), once a battery is dead it stays dead and has to be thrown away, and a replacement sought.

This introduces a whole new problem: where to get a replacement battery. The internet is there, yes, but how do you know the number of charge cycles left in whatever you are buying blindly from a faceless seller? You could also buy from the manufacturer but good luck contacting Toyota in Japan from Kenya. Then there is the little matter of cost: a sojourn through the interwebs many moons ago revealed a replacement battery pack for a Prius to hover around the 7,000-dollar mark or … the price of a used Prius. This is hilarious. Welcome to the world of the disposable car.

Then (again) there is the little matter of repair work. Modern cars are getting increasingly complex and more of them require proprietary tools to access their innards. There has been quite an uproar about this, with accusations that carmakers are sidelining entrepreneurial independent garages by locking them out of the maintenance loop through these two methods, the response to which has been the carmakers retorting: “Oh, yeah? Hold my beer” and then proceeding to make the newer cars even more inaccessible to a regular toolbox. So with a hybrid, which is a lot more complex than a regular ICE car, who exactly do you expect to do your curative maintenance for you?

Carmakers may give independent garages the boot by making their cars almost impossible to work on without special tools and special training, which leaves their dealerships as the only reprieve, but have you visited a Kenyan dealership with a car they don’t sell and asked them to fix it? Try that and tell me how it goes.

And you will need to visit these dealerships because you bought a used car in the first place. The car has already expended its best years of productivity and is now in the downward slope towards uselessness, where, with increased frequency, things will either break or stop working; again, just like most men past middle age. Electrics and electronics have a shelf life much, much shorter than mechanical stuff.

You want a Lexus? Get a Lexus. Life is too short to fret over what a columnist wrote: someone has to buy the CT 200h anyway, it might as well be you.

(The three-way comparison you request at the end of your message will be handled next week. Like the charge cycles of a battery, the word count limit in this column is finite too.)

Tell me all there is to know about the Nissan Teana …

Dear Baraza, 

Thanks so much for your very informative articles on vehicles, I am one very enthusiastic lady driver! I love it!

I recently parted ways with my Mazda Demio 2006, a decision that took me two years because of the love for the Demio.

I currently have the Nissan Teana 2.5XE version 2012 model and I am enjoying the ride. I have never owned a Nissan before. Kindly advise on the pros and cons so that I can drive knowing what to expect. (I was attracted by its beauty, interior and exterior, the cost compared to its competitors, and of course the space.)

I also want to purchase an SUV. Considering the perfect performance of the Demio, I had earlier, I am tempted to go for a Mazda CX5 2.2 2012 diesel 4WD. Kindly review it and advise on how to take care of the diesel engine.

Hi Scoller,

I believe I exhaustively discussed the Mazda CX-5 diesel a few weeks ago, so in light of that, let’s focus on your Nissan Teana instead.

They say it feels really stable at speeds above 150km/h but I don’t believe it and have no interest in finding out. You shouldn’t either. Who’s they? People who have driven and reviewed Teanas in other countries. I have driven one (or three) locally and I must say all three were unmemorable except for the fact that they invariably had interiors that were such a searing shade of beige it felt like sitting inside a custard pudding. They felt and handled like custard puddings too, come to think of it, what with the finger-light steering and decidedly marine handling dynamics. A large car with a front-drive platform takes quite some engineering to get right as far as tactile feedback and road manners are concerned, which is why precious few carmakers have nailed it.

(Toyota, on the other hand, have the Camry and the US-only Avalon, which are big-boned front drivers, while Honda has the Accord occupying that slot. All these drive remarkably well for what they are.)

That said, it’s not really the Teana’s raison d'être to be chastised for not feeling like a Golf GTI or an Impreza WRX when shown a long and sinuous stretch of tarmac such as the one between Dundori and Lanet. You will only be disappointed if you do that. Take it for what it is: a family car for beginners, and it serves the purpose convincingly. Once you accept the fact that your children will smear mud and chocolate on the beige upholstery, this gives your mind the leeway it needs to understand that the vehicle is quite roomy. It is capacious in there, and the boat-like ride is smooth and pliant with it, which is what you want when all the occupants are feeling cantankerous after getting on each other’s nerves on their way to church. The MMI (multimedia interface), I am afraid, will not provide much distraction from the mutual irritation going on within — irritation brought about by, perhaps, a failure of the rear shock absorbers, a Teana foible, or by flooring the rather unresponsive car only to be treated to a ruckus that is raucous coming from the prow: yet another Teana weakness, and when you decide you’ve finally had enough and turn around to go back home, the Teana’s turning radius will shock you, and not in a pleasant way. The Teana rides like a container ship, and it turns like one too. Three-point turns will be your forte in situations where rivals pull a simple 180 in one move.

The brakes have a spongy pedal feel, though the engagement is positive enough to inspire confidence. The wipers have a judder that manifests itself a few moments into active operation, a problem that punters across Asia counter by installing aftermarket units or (goodness gracious!) varnishing the windscreen. Don’t varnish your windscreen.

To its credit, the Teana has a very large boot, which infinitely boosts practicality, and to further assuage whatever seeds of doubt I may have planted into your mind-brain, fuel economy is not half bad, pirouetting between nine and 12km/l depending on how impatient you are and where you exercise this impatience. Your self-description as “one enthusiastic lady driver!” (complete with interjectory punctuation) hints at a lead foot so … yeah. I wonder, though, how you cope, since the Teana is not exactly a “performer”, even the top layer 3.5 has a lethargy at odds with its specifications. Perhaps it’s the CVT’s bias towards economy that is to blame. This 3.5, a rare sight in the country, is also where all the specifications lie: if you want heated seats, twin-pane electric sunroofs, powered tailgates or automatic anything, the 3.5 is where it’s at — minus the powered boot. You will not get this in a Teana. The options may be scarce, but we wrap up with the Teana’s party piece: it is cheaper than mulch. For the amount of car you are getting, buying one feels like shortchanging the seller, so it is very easy to get had by a wily pusher who understands a wee bit of psychology, be it formally or streetwise. Cross-shopping between dealerships will get you a good price. I hope this was the case for you, if it wasn’t, then you are in for a surprise because it won’t happen with the Mazda you are fantasising about either. Mazdas in general are becoming increasingly popular in Kenya, while the crossover segment is as profitable for manufacturers as it is desirable for buyers, which places the CX5 in the most expensive area of the body type vs brand name graph-chart.

All the best.