alexa The qualities you desire in a car are not available in your listed options - Daily Nation

The qualities you desire in a car are not available in your listed options

Wednesday April 3 2019

A Nissan Wingroad. PHOTO | COURTESY

If the Nissan Wingroad is cheaper than a Demio, that means you get more car for your money seeing that there isn’t much you’ll find on a Demio that isn’t also available in a Wingroad. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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Hello Baraza,

I am looking to buy a car and these are my options:

A Civic, Belta, Demio, Wingroad, Nissan AD or March, or a Honda Fit. My budget is a maximum of Sh600,000 and has to be a first drive in Kenya.

I prefer it a bit raised, with wide tyres, a comfortable interior, heavy-duty body, availability of spares and between 1300-1500cc. I am looking for masculinity as opposed to aesthetics and [the vehicle] must give me value for money, meaning that I should drive it at least for five years before a major visit to the mechanics.

Kindly assist.




Sometimes, I get emails that make my work difficult because they ask me to make a choice from a list of vehicles based on selection criteria that those vehicles were specifically designed not to meet. Someone once asked about fuel economy while listing full-size, quarter-million-dollar SUVs; while another asked about off-roading a Premio. Then along comes you. In the explanation below, see if you will understand what I mean:

1. Raised: How high do you want the vehicle to be? Your list is made of sedans, hatchbacks and wagons with broadly similar ground clearance, which can be confidently referred to as “generally low”. If you want a raised vehicle, then why not select one from a list of raised vehicles such as X-Trails, RAV4s and CRVs? If those are a bit heavy on the coin box, go for lesser derivatives such as an old Rush, a Dualis, a Pajero iO and such. You could also buy the sedans/hatchbacks/wagons and lift them by changing the suspension, but why would you want to do that?

2. Wide tyres: None of these cars comes with wide tyres as standard, except for the Civic and that is only in Si or Type R form; which I'm pretty sure is not what you are looking for.

These are cheap cars biased towards minimising both operational and purchase costs. Wide tyres are not found on cheap or economical cars — because of rolling resistance and how much these tyres cost anyway. If you want wide tyres on your cut-price, you will have to install them yourself.

3. Interior comfort: You are shopping in the wrong aisle of the supermarket. Comfortable cars are two aisles up, in the section marked “Not Within Your Tax Bracket”, where the Germans and bigger Jap saloons live.

That being said, the Wingroad and/or AD should theoretically be more comfortable than the rest of the pack because they are bigger with more room inside and a longer wheelbase. Long wheelbases are good for interior space as well as absorbing road-sourced turbulence compared to shorter wheelbases on similar platforms.

The Demio and Civic have better looking and better built interiors compared to the rest — the Belta’s thorax is especially naff to the point of revolting with monochrome scratchy plastics everywhere. I don’t understand what those who buy them for personal use are thinking. You deserve better.

A Nissan Wingroad. PHOTO | COURTESY
A Nissan Wingroad. PHOTO | COURTESY

4. Heavy-duty body: Not available in any of your preferences.

5. Spares: These are available all round.

6. 1300 — 1500cc: Your choices meet this requirement.

7. Masculine: This is a subjective parameter that I really can’t help you with. Some people think the Demio is girlie but you'll find these people don’t have driving licences and can usually be found in the rear half of a 33-seater negotiating fares downwards in relative anonymity such that more decent passengers will not take notice of their poor attempt at thriftiness. Anybody with such a shallow interpretation of car design like gender bias has most likely never bought a car nor are they planning to buy one any time soon.

What is a masculine car? Is it an SUV? I see women in those, and they don't look manly; if anything — and forgive me ladies for being so forward — it raises their rank on the desirability scale. Is it a lorry? I know of a lady who helms a 22-wheeler Actros MP4 fuel rig in my neighbourhood.

Is it a bus? I don’t need to cite examples when we’ve had female drivers in companies as large as Akamba Public Road Service and Eldoret Express Bus Company. Is it a sports car? So what, exactly, is a masculine car?

Good-looking vehicles are not necessarily feminine, going by your description. I don’t think anybody minds a good-looking car. In fact some cars — hello, Aston Martin — rely more on their good looks than anything else to sell.

So, what is a masculine car? A masculine car is what you think it is. I can't help you on that front.

8. Value for money: Now we can talk, because this is where it gets interesting. The previous model of Mazda Demio which I owned, the DY, shared a lot of parts with the Nissan Wingroad/AD Van. I’m not so sure about the new one.

However, you will find that Demios hang on to their value somewhat owing to their desirability as compact, nippy, economical city cars. You may even find them on sale with a higher sticker price than a Nissan Wingroad. This should prove to be good news to the resale value clique.

However, If the Wingroad is cheaper than a Demio, that means you get more car for your money, which in turn is an upside that is extremely difficult to ignore, seeing that there isn’t much you’ll find on a Demio that isn’t also available in a Wingroad — ignore the AD Van for now, it is a bit too basic to feature in a value-for-money talk. A bigger car offers infinitely increased practicality and is more comfortable, especially on long-haul trips and on poor roads.

The Belta is overpriced, the March is a bit too small for anything, the Civic is uncommon and may lack sufficient support and the Fit shares traits with the Demio except for the horrendously expensive spark plugs it requires.

9. Five-year anti-garage reprieve: This may not happen. At Sh600,000, you are looking at third-owner territory, age between seven and nine. Mileage could be beyond 100 kilometres.

This is not exactly a new car, and since they are built to be cheap using comparatively flimsy materials (see point 4 above), asking for immortality from them is a stretch; more so given your intentions in point 1: usage on less tractable roads.

ECU Engine Control Module Replacement. PHOTO |
ECU Engine Control Module Replacement. PHOTO | COURTESY

Any time you swap an engine, ensure the new one is fitted with an ECU

Hi Baraza,

I have a 2004 Toyota Ipsum 2.4cc 2WD. A relative drove it without radiator coolant and the engine overheated, destroying the head. I had to buy a new engine and that is when my problems started.

After replacing the engine, the car has been consuming so much fuel, giving me as low as 5km per litre on the highway. I don’t rev nor apply unnecessary brakes. I say this because a place that I would fuel for a Sh1,000 now consumes over Sh2,000.

I have been to the mechanic and there is nothing I haven’t bought, including iridium spark plugs, a new battery, air cleaner, oil filter, I have changed oil several times, and even changed gear box oil. Still, there is no improvement and now, my mechanic suspects that either the crankshaft sensor or gear box is faulty. I am running out of options for a permanent solution. Please help me before I am told that the steering wheel or the wipers are the reason why the car is consuming so much fuel.


Hi Joel,

What replacement engine did you get and did it have an engine control unit (ECU? While your methods of calculating fuel economy are less than exemplary, I understand when the fuel consumption shoots up noticeably, statistical methods notwithstanding.

You may replace all the sensors and sundry parts on that engine and never solve your problem until you first check your ECU. Is it properly connected? Is it even there? I once had a red Toyota Starlet back in 2007, a 5-door EP82 with a 4-speed manual transmission which would go as high as 18km/l in fuel economy measurements until one day when it burnt through 8 litres of premium unleaded fuel over a distance of only 30 kilometres. It doesn’t take a visionary of Elon Musk’s standing to tell you that getting 3.8km/l from a 1.3 litre EFI Toyota engine is worse than a raw deal.

I went through the same tribulations you dare going through: changing parts and sensors at a great cost only for one enterprising individual in Eldoret (not many people knew about ECUs and how to handle them in those days) said the engine management computer could be on the fritz. A wiggle here and a wiggle there and the car was back to normal, so much so that when I went to sell it, I covered 400km with roughly half a tank of fuel.

I strongly suspect the ECU is the culprit here, especially since you did an engine swap. When doing an engine swap, confirm that you are getting “engine, ECU and harness”. Sometimes they are sold separately.

The new Suzuki Swift. PHOTO | COURTESY
The new Suzuki Swift. PHOTO | COURTESY

Would you recommend a Suzuki Swift for a person living with disability?

Hello JM,

Thanks for always giving us quality information. I am almost finishing my driving lessons and looking forward to buying my first car. As a person with disability, I need a hands-controlled modified car that is reliable, comfortable to drive and fuel-efficient. Basically, a car to assist in moving from point A to B. I was thinking of a Suzuki Swift. Would you recommend this?


Hello Stefano,

Well, the Swift is reliable and fuel-efficient; comfort is still an unknown from our end since we are yet to try the new one, but the previous one is not half bad for what it is. Of course, it is nowhere near a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but then again it is not similar to undergoing the ice bucket challenge in a prison cell on Easter weekend. It is just there; like the hundreds of other Japanese hatchbacks in the market. If you want comfort in a small car, go German; but what you gain in comfort you will pay for in maintenance. You can’t have everything.

A hand control set-up will have to be installed aftermarket, since it is not a factory option. I am not sure of any garages that handle this kind of work locally; so if there are any out there and they happen to read this, please get back to us pronto at this address.

A six cylinder DOHC engine. PHOTO | COURTESY
A six cylinder DOHC engine. PHOTO | COURTESY

What are the differences or similarities between DOHC and SOHC engines?

Hi Baraza,

Kindly elaborate on the working of double overhead cam (DOHC) and single overhead cam (SOHC). Are they related with the horsepower or torque a vehicle produces? Does DOHC have any advantage over SOHC in terms of power output or any other operations?

Thiga Muraya

Hello Thiga,

Single overhead cam (SOHC) engines are cheaper to manufacture and generally easier to repair since they are less complex and have fewer moving parts. Maintenance protocols like timing belt replacement are simple to do.

Double overhead cam (DOHC) engines experience lower valve train inertia since the rocker arms are much smaller compared to SOHC engines or absent altogether. The dual cams also improve airflow through the engine at high revs since the inlet and exhaust valves can be spaced wider apart in the cylinder head, and the two camshafts can support a larger number of valves per cylinder; and this is why dual cams are applied in a lot of performance engines or versions thereof. In a DOHC set-up, the spark plug/injector placement can be optimised for maximum combustion efficiency due to the generous spacing between valves. Lastly, DOHC set-ups allow for incorporation of variable valve timing systems — these can be installed in a single cam set-up but is a much easier exercise when you have dual cams.

That being said: the overhead cams may not have a direct effect on torque, since torque mostly peaks at relatively low revs, and at those engine speeds, there isn’t much to split a single cam engine from a double cam one. However, the camshaft arrangement affects the power, since maximum power is achieved at much higher revs when the torque is carried to the point where any increased engine speed will cause the torque to drop. These high revs are where dual cams come into effect, allowing for a freer-breathing engine.