Help me choose among these three small cars

Help me choose among these three small cars

Hello Baraza, 
I’m a regular reader of your columns, though I have never sought advice. I’m ready to do so now, as I am about to become a car owner. You may have tackled this question already in one of your columns but please indulge me for I may have missed it. 

Which among these three cars: Toyota Auris, iST and Nissan Note is the best choice in terms of:

1. Fuel consumption
2. Spare parts availability
3.Maintenance cost
5.Resale value and other parameters which you consider important

Alex , Embu

Hello Alex,

Your question does seem familiar, but I'll recap. The Auris and iST turned out to be more or less the same vehicle, sharing engines and platforms, but the Auris had a wider and more exciting range of powerplants (if there is such a thing) while boasting of a prettier dress but marginally less practicality especially in terms of boot space.

Now that we mention boot space, it brings back to mind that the person asking at the time specifically wanted to ferry charcoal from Marigat. It wasn't you, was it? The iST trounced the Auris on that parameter.

Toyota iST

Toyota iST.

Photo credit: Pool

Given that the two vehicles share a lot of their mechanical architecture, that means consumption, spares and maintenance should be broadly similar, though the Auris' Instagram looks may prove to be expensive should the car get dinged, which it invariably does if it sees heavy city use (I observe that you are writing from Embu). Durability will favour the iST as will ease of discarding: the Auris is pretty but a bit costly and mostly applies to people who place a premium on aesthetics, something very few Kenyans seem to care about if at all.

The Nissan Note? There is not much to say about it that is positive especially when compared to the two Toyotas, except that it is cheap, and will become even cheaper (almost tearfully so for the disgruntled owner) come resale time.

Nissan Note

Nissan Note.

Photo credit: Pool

The consumption is good, almost better than that of the two Toyotas, but the hilly terrain of Embu will soon put a stop to this aspirational naïveté as you will almost always need wide-open throttle to keep up with the more powerful Toyota pair.

Spare parts availability should be excellent, but the reason why is not what you think. The spares are many because Nissans are almost always under repair, more so these compact second-hand imports.

This means that maintenance costs, while not high, maybe a bit frequent. Durability?  Ease of discarding? You will have to shave off more than half its value at the time of purchase to even get people interested in it, let alone buy.

I want a car which can handle ‘constant abuse’

Dear Baraza,
I’ve been driving a Mazda CX5 and have no complaints so far. However, I feel that it can’t handle the constant punishment of dirt roads or untarmacked roads, which I have found myself using regularly of late.

I was thinking of getting a Subaru Forester but I remembered in one of your articles you had indicated that getting a Subaru forester that is not turbocharged is a waste of time which has led me to start thinking about the VW Tiguan. The Toyota RAV4 has crossed my mind but I don't have much love for Toyotas. So, Kindly advise me about these three options - Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan and Toyota RAV 4 - all being 2.0-litre petrol engines, which one will be able to handle some constant abuse of traversing rough un-tarmacked roads and give me back value for my money? Also, consider the fact that I would like a vehicle that won't make me miss my Mazda CX5 because I do enjoy driving the CX5 - I always look forward to getting behind the wheel and hitting the road.

Lastly, between the Isuzu D-Max, Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux double cabs (in order of my preference) - which one can give me value for my money for running some farming errands?


Hi Dennise,

Well, I did say that getting a non-turbo Forester is a waste of time, and it is, the reason being it is unexciting. Do you know what is a bigger waste of time? Getting a CX5 to do rural roads with. That aside, this is an interesting lineup: Tin Iguana versus the Random Access Vehicle versus a Suburban Lawn Tractor. Of course, based specifically on your question of which will handle some constant abuse of rough untarmacked roads and give you value for money, the answer is the Suba... wait a minute. No, it isn't.

The Toyota RAV4 could be it. Yes, I extol the virtues of robust build and symmetrical AWD in the Subaru, but the RAV 4 is hewn from granite. It will take underside punches all the livelong day, a lot more than the Subaru actually in all senses of the word in that it is tougher - the Forester is well known for its weak but cheap-to-replace stabiliser links - and it has a smaller ground clearance than the Subaru so it's more likely to scrape when the bumps get thicker. However, when it comes to value for money, we all know the popularity of the brand means they're rarely cheap, even when used...

The Tiguan is a premium crossover that birthed other premium crossovers such as the Audi Q5, which is a whole other league. While their AWD systems are almost as capable as the Subaru one and somewhat superior to the one in the RAV, you'd be insane to abuse these cars because when the time for repairs comes around, they shall be wearing overalls and gnashing of fingernails as you and your mechanic argue over whether or not he is trying to buy a Tiguan/Q5 of his own using the invoices he is giving you. Keep these cars on the tarmac for less painful ownership.

Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5

Photo credit: Pool

However, the CX5 you are about to divorce is somewhat exciting to drive, no? So is the Tiguan, but not as much as the Forester, provided it has a turbo. The RAV does not feel special behind the wheel and is a bit blegh. So, what do you know, by that process, we end up right back at where we started: a non-turbo Fozzie is a waste of time, and a Subaru Forester wins another crossover competition. Don't say you never saw that coming...

As far as the three double cabs go, if you're talking of value for money and farm work in the same sentence then there is only one answer: the Isuzu DMAX. The Hilux has always been the definitive double-cab truck but the pricing reflects that superiority, so it's a close tie between these two, but there is little the Hilux will do that the DMAX won't and the DMAX is cheaper, so it's an obvious win for the Isuzu.

What about the Ford? Call it a call girl because you are charged based on visual appeal and being the most handsome of the trucks means it's also the most expensive; so expensive to the point you could genuinely describe it as "overpriced". It's also as capable as a call girl as far as farm work is concerned if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by; I have a friend, son of a politician and classmate from high school (I went to Alliance!) who runs an extensive farming operation, and he had one. From his description, the Ranger is something to swear at, not swear by...

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