Looking back on a motoring 2020

Andrew Muzamhindo : Analyst

In 2020 the motoring industry suffered a low blow from Covid-19, but it soldiered on.

As we say bye to 2020, let us review some of the highlights and take a sneak preview to what we can expect in 2021.

Businesses closed during lockdown as we aimed at saving lives and curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

We continued to publish in these tumultuous times. New vehicle imports by dealerships actually increased in 2020 versus 2019 by close to 20% on the light vehicle segment; 2523 light vehicles had been imported by end November 2020. I am of the opinion that without Covid-19, the numbers could have actually been higher.

The second-hand market appears to have shown greater resilience as more grey imports found their way into Zimbabwe compared to last year. More are actually coming in now as Zimbabweans try to beat the new regulations set by our government.

Southern Business Services, Zimbabwe’s leader in Customs Clearing, Freight and Forwarding, who are responsible for clearing most of the new vehicles and grey imports on our roads, confirmed the uptake in vehicle imports.

The road to economic recovery on the whole looks set to be a lengthy one. Covid-19 fresh wounds and scars will remain, but I believe that our auto industry will continue to grow.

Despite the economic challenges that Zimbabwe might be going through, there is love for new cars. Consumers are excited.

Dealerships are prepared to unleash newer models in 2021. There is a backlog from 2020 due to Covid-19.

The reincarnated Land Rover Defender, a model with great expectations thrust on its boxy shoulders, is now in Zimbabwe.

It delivers on the go-anywhere reputation forged by its forebears. And this time around, it brings an overwhelming assortment of technologies to the mix, not to mention ergonomics from this century. Gone is the strange handbrake placement, for example. The function is electronic now.

On the pick-up front, we saw the revision of a top-selling favourite. The Toyota Hilux gained styling and specification enhancements for 2020. The Toyota Hilux gained a new face, a bigger turbo and some mechanical and luxury upgrades during 2020.

Meanwhile, Ford added a special edition Thunder version to the Ranger line-up and Volkswagen finally introduced the high-output version of its V6-flavoured Amarok.

The P-Series, which I suspect was supposed to be launched in Zimbabwe this year, is also on its way for early 2021. Competitively-priced, with a decent list of standard kit and a cabin with better levels of refinement than you might think, the model is bound to change the face of double cabs motoring in Zimbabwe.

The 2020 Toyota Corolla also found its way into Zimbabwe. Output on paper is 125kW and 200Nm. Power is sent to the front wheels, of course.

The 0-100km/h dash is eight seconds flat. Claimed consumption is 6,5l/100km. With a modern interior, when a curious car-lover like me hits the push-to-start button on a 2020 Corolla sedan, it too will elicit a feeling of mixed emotions. One thing is certain: this generation of the breed will go down as the turning point in the aesthetic language that defined the nameplate. It has taken the brand to the next level, a better level.

The Toyota Corolla is a direct competitor of the Almera, which is available with one engine, the 1,5 litre inline-4 petrol. It’s a decent little workhorse; it has enough power to make it feel useful when nipping through traffic, and cruising at high speeds is no problem. Claimed consumption is fair, at 6,3 litres/100km.

In 1997 Mercedes-Benz founded the premium SUV segment with the launch of the M-Class. Since then, more than two million customers have decided in favour of the off-roader worldwide. The GLE introduced the new control concept with innovative driving assistants, a new engine range and significantly more space. The new GLE is set to continue this success story throughout. It took Zimbabwe by storm as executives queued up to buy this beauty.

Up front the driver is treated to the latest iteration of Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX, which is equipped as standard across the range along with two 12,3-inch widescreen displays that act as the central infotainment display and instrument cluster.

The MBUX interface can be controlled through touch, gesture and voice commands which are recognised and learned by the systems artificial intelligence. In addition to this, the system can also be controlled from the touchpad in the centre console as well as the touchpads on the fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz multifunction steering wheel.

The 64-colour ambient lighting is standard across the range, while the AMG line includes sports seats, sports paddles and AMG floor mats.

At launch there are three engine derivatives available, with 4MATIC drive and a 9G-Tronic gearbox fitted as standard across the board. The entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLE 300d makes use of a four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine to produce 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque. Just above that is the GLE 400d model which uses a six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine to make 243kW of power and 700Nm of torque.

The GLE 450 uses a turbocharged six-cylinder engine to produce 270kW of power and 500Nm of torque, which gains an additional 250Nm through the EQ boost feature, and is the only petrol model available.

2021 will see more game changing vehicles on our roads. Not forgetting the thrust towards cleaner fuel. This should see some diesel models disappearing from dealers’ ordering lists. I look forward to test driving the GWM P Series, Mazda BT 50, Renault Duster New Isuzu D-Max, the Jeep range, the Land Rover Defender and much more

I would like to thank our readers and advertisers for their support and look forward to continuing to keep you in the know and on the move.
Email: andrew@muzamhindo.com