alexa The Sylphy is bigger all round, the Belta is basic motoring - Daily Nation

The Sylphy is bigger all round, the Belta is basic motoring

Wednesday June 20 2018

The Sylphy is bigger inside and out, and that by itself gives it an automatic victory. It also has bigger engines available, and is generally better resolved as a vehicle. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Sylphy is bigger inside and out, and that by itself gives it an automatic victory. It also has bigger engines available, and is generally better resolved as a vehicle. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Thank you for the good work you are doing, teaching us about motoring. I really appreciate your free advice.

I am planning to buy my first car in the next few weeks. I have done a lot of research about different cars but am kind of getting confused with all the information out there. Anyway, I have settled on a saloon, preferably a Toyota Belta or Bluebird Sylphy.

I have all the information about these cars which I read online but I would like your expert opinion on which one is superior. Cost is not an issue.

On a different note, do I have to understand everything about cars before I hit the road or is just knowing how to drive enough? My online research has taught me that a car is a very complex machine and that the most interesting part of it is not covered in driving school. I even engaged some mechanics and was shocked to realise that they do not know everything about cars.

What is your opinion sir?

Baba Mike


Howdy Baba Mike,

I have to ask: exactly what kind of research were you doing that failed to produce a satisfactory result to your quandary? The answer to your question is very obvious: the Sylphy is superior, and by quite a margin.

The Sylphy is bigger inside and out, and that by itself gives it an automatic victory. It also has bigger engines available, and is generally better resolved as a vehicle.

The Belta is the Piltdown Man: the missing link between cage-like three-wheeled rickshaws and legitimate four-wheeled motor vehicles like the Sylphy (this is disregarding homemade aberrations like Mike Oscar Bravo).

The Belta is rudimentary motoring at a breadline price; and it should cost a lot less than it actually does – this is where implied brand equity rears its ugly head again and half the outlay you put down on a car is accounted for by the badge festooning the grille and steering wheel boss.

You cannot lay claim to any accolade beyond "cheap AF" if your genetic predecessor is the Platz; you just can't.

The Sylphy, on the other hand, is aspirational; it gave the Nissan engineers hope. You can see they were trying to achieve A Class hedonism on a Sunny budget and almost making it, almost getting there before discovering that they, perhaps need slightly higher cylinder pressures for better torque and a more commanding exhaust note, and higher quality dashboard plastics that do not melt in bright sunlight.

It is easy to feel bad for the Sylphy, but in a lopsided matchup such as your comparison, domination falls easily to hand. Bravo Nissan! You don't need our pity this time round! Give all your saloon cars GTR interiors and win the game already! ...or not.

Anyway, the car also gave its buyers and fans hope: it does look like the business if you don't stare at it too closely. It looks upper-crust even, in the half-light of late dusk.

If you have a Nissan Sylphy, you can stare a Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse owner dead in the eye and tell them, "I have better rear legroom than you do; ...but only if your car is the W211 or newer"... yes, the older Es have a lounge behind the driver, to which the model line owes its success as a Berlin taxicab.

But this is not about Mercedes, this is about the Sylphy, and the fact that it has more room in the back seat than the newest version of the world's most prominent German saloon. Nice shot, Nissan.

We could go on about the size of the trunk and the smoothness of the ride and overall comfort levels, but should we really?

Should we subject the Sylphy to the ignominy of comparison to a Belta even the lesser Nissan Tiida is a closer but ultimately better rival to the puny Toyota designed to be bought by college students in California*?

(*This is not just a random question, the Platz did arise from the need felt by Toyota's bean-counters to exploit the hitherto untapped niche that is the student body of American universities in general, and those on the West Coast in particular. California has given the world many strange things, and Hollywood is not even the strangest)

On to a different Note (pun intended): No way in hell will you understand "everything" about cars; even I don't; yet my paymasters hail me as the next best thing to happen to motoring since the invention of the 10mm socket (I can blow my horn very hard when I want to).

For one, the breadth of information is too wide for a single mind to fully engulf, and secondly, the industry is very dynamic; something changes every day so the simple act of just keeping up with the updates will become a full-time job that I think nobody will pay you for.

One of America's wiser leaders from its glorious past once said, "It is better to know something about everything than everything about something", and that can be transposed onto your musings: no point learning everything about the motor vehicle.

Learn just enough to make educated automotive decisions and you'll be home and dry.

The car is a complex machine as you discovered, and the part they don't teach at driving school is taught in engineering courses at post-graduate level... perhaps in Californian universities, sometimes elsewhere.

A good number of backstreet mechanics have not been to California, or to any other universities, which might explain their deficiency in the finer details of automotive engineering.

These gentlemen rely more on apprenticeship and deductional reasoning than on formal education to repair motor vehicles.



For power, speed and comfort, try a Merc, BMW or Audi

Hi Baraza,

I’m a regular consumer of  your weekly wisdom.

Now, I’m looking for power, speed, comfort and interior space, all in one vehicle. Which saloon car do I go for?

Midigo Rombo


You could try one of the larger offerings from Mercedes-AMG; perhaps an S Class or its rivals from across Germany, the BMW 7 Series and/or the Audi A8, either in V8 or V12/W12 (where available) guise.



Get a car you enjoy driving… and looking at

My name is Isaac  I applaud you, Sir, for the incredible job you are doing.

Now, I need your deep insight on this. I’m a first-time driver and have never owned a car. But I want to get one for myself and the family and I’m torn between a Toyota Auris and Toyota Premio (1500cc). Some of the features I’m looking out for are comfortability, durability, safety, resale value and stability.



Which of these two would you recommend? I need something that I can use within the city as well as cover the occasional long trips upcountry.

Secondly, between Toyota Noah (seven-seater) and Voxy (seven-seater), which one would you recommend for long-distance travel, a machine that would do well in the shuttle business, covering approximately 600km daily. Here again I’m looking at the durability, stability, resale value, fuel efficiency, etc, (assuming they are both 2000cc).



Hey Swila,

You are asking questions that have no polite answer. Between the Auris and the Premio, it comes down to this: the Auris is better to drive and feels more expensive, while the Premio has a bigger boot. Your choice.

“Comfortability” - which is not even an actual word - durability, safety and stability can only be differentiated by splitting hairs and skewing test parameters while resale value is something you need to get out of your mind if you are to enjoy owning a car at all.

For both intra-city and extra-city use, I’d personally pick the Auris because if I am to own a car, I have to enjoy driving it... and looking at it as well. That’s why I have a turbocharged Subaru with black rims: I enjoy driving it and I like looking at it (sometimes). The Premio is not much to look at, I’m afraid. Too generic, too conservative, too ambiguous, too anonymous: the default fallback for the chronically uncreative. The Auris is better from an enthusiast’s perspective.

Between the Noah and the Voxy, either buy the cheaper one or close your eyes and throw a dart.

They are one and the same. There are those who will say, “Oh, but the Noah has this, the Voxy doesn’t have that yakkety yaketty yak” but at the end of the day it is the same damn car. Exactly the same, it’s just that one has a snazzy label while the other has a name from the Old Testament. Same. Damn. Car.


All I know is that the MU-X has a low airbag count

Dear Mr Baraza,

I am an ardent fan of your articles and I would like to request that you give us your take on Isuzu’s latest foray into the SUV cars market segment. Of particular interest is their new Isuzu MU-X (I wonder what the name means). Kindly review it.

L.R Kibet

Hello Kibet,

I was meant to test drive the Isuzu MU-X when it came out but I opted out of that driving exercise because the days preceding the test drive had been physically and psychologically draining, and fatigue laid me down flat.

Also, I prefer test drives under “natural conditions”, not the strict supervision and predetermined routes that usually typify ride-and-drive travelogues. They (Isuzu EA) say they will supply one soon for me to come to grips with. I still await that phone call.

Here is a hint though: those already exposed to the MU-X allege it is not much more than a softened Trailblazer, so there is that. I also received a spec-sheet from one of my unnamed sources — a sleeper agent and intelligence asset strategically embedded within the local industry— for the purpose of comparison with one of its more popular rivals and I was bit disappointed to see the low airbag count. Given how Kenyans handle large vehicles, we might soon start marketing cars based on how many airbags they come with, rather than how many kilometres it can do per litre of fuel. So as far as the life-saving balloons go, the MU-X plays second fiddle to the Fortu... to its cross-town rival. As soon as I receive the test car, I will let you know what’s up in a detailed review.

P.S: “MU-X” is a rather puerile acronym for “Makes U eXciting.”


For Sh1.8m, you can get only an old SUV

Hi Baraza,

Thanks a lot for your very informative articles on vehicles and their performance. I always enjoy reading them.

I need a 4WD SUV that is hardy, easy to maintain and to run in terms of fuel consumption. I work in a rural set-up. I need a car that will serve me on rough rural roads and also on tarmac. The car should be easy to maintain for an average, middle-class Kenyan.

Recently, I bought the last generation of RAV 4 (the one that shares design features with a Vanguard), but it has proved to be a fuel guzzler, although it is impressive in terms of performance and power. I also don’t feel it as comfortable as I expected; it’s a bit bumpy.

I have a budget of up to 1.8 million.



Hello Lawrence,

If you think a RAV4 is thirsty, then perhaps you are better off sidestepping the whole jacked-up station wagon/crossover/SUV game altogether. Fuel consumption only gets worse from here, not better.

You have two options:

1. Learn to drive better. My own exposure to the RAV4 did not reveal any dipsomaniac tendencies, so methinks the problem lies in your right foot and not with the lump of metal under the random access vehicle’s bonnet.

2. Go diesel: yea, or maybe not. Small diesel engines don’t do very well around here, and for some models such as the RAV4, they use engines that a lot of local mechanics are deeply unfamiliar with. To this add the inherent complications of running a workaday diesel engine such as sensitivity to fuel quality, turbo deaths, short service intervals, high maintenance costs etc... what you don’t pay for at the pump you will pay for at the garage, and then some.

Go with option 1.

For a hardy, full-on SUV (4WD), at Sh1.8 million your best bet is a Landcruiser Prado, the J120, but for that money you can only aspire to the 2.7 litre petrol, which will be thirstier than the RAV4 by far. It will also have quite a substantial amount of miles under its belt and it will not be easy to maintain if you find yourself in need of a front diff or a low range actuator.

Back to option 1.


The faulty AWC pump in Galant Fortis


Let me start by thanking you for the good job you are doing.

Secondly, I’ve read your article about a faulty AWC pump for the Galant Fortis and remembered something. A year ago, my Mitsubishi Lancer CK4 developed some problems, and I remember seeking your advice. Well, it had a problem similar to the one Murimi reported: I had to press hard on the accelerator for the vehicle to move. First, I started by visiting Simba Colt Motors. They booked the car, investigated and probably advised on fuel-pressure (I had replaced the engine with a 4G15 - GDI), that the secondary pump had a problem.

However, in my mind I disputed their findings and took my car.

After some time, I was driving from Kirinyaga County and the car developed some noise from the timing-belt side and when my mechanic looked for the cause, it was the sprocket gear that had its pins on both sides broken. With this, the speed-sensor could not give the correct.... I don’t know how to put it.

My mechanic, Meshach, replaced the worn-out sprocket gear and the car regained its strength. I always felt bad without knowing the exact cause of my car’s laziness.

Gukemba Gachoki


Hey you!

I think I recognise your name from Facebook! Thanks for the tip; I hope Murimi is reading this.


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