Some of the cars to expect in 2021

Andrew  Muzamhindo: Analyst

THERE is nothing so exciting than the sight of new car models on our roads (well at least for me). It brings out the child in me. Some will be incredibly hot. Others will be truly splendid, speedy, flashy, showy, and expensive. You might go for the immaculate, big, sleek, fancy, fabulous, gallant ones or just simple and practical. Whatever the case a new car is some form of progress and development in your life.

Nothing beats that new car smell. It certainly has a very distinct scent that many have come to enjoy. Maybe the smell reminds people of money or success. Or perhaps the scent evokes a sense of newness or cleanliness. The new car smell is mostly the result of organic compounds in the interior of the car. Much of a car’s interior is made of plastics and various fabrics, and many components are held together with an assortment of adhesives and sealers. These parts release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, through a process called off-gassing. The new car smell is the direct result of these VOCs off-gassing. Let us just call it the smell is associated with money and success.

Let us start with one of the most popular brands in Zimbabwe, the irreplaceable Isuzu. Pretty much everything on 2021 Isuzu is new. Isuzu’s global team has made a huge effort to leave no stone unturned for this new-generation D-Max. It is not like the “facelifted facelifts” of old. It will now compete with other lifestyle-focused trucks such as Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and other models.

The Japanese brand says the all-new D-Max has been “completely overhauled from the ground up”: the chassis has been altogether revamped, and there is modern suspension front and raise — the latter of which is presently a three-leaf setup, however still oversees payload of 1 000 kg or more on most derivatives.

Higher-grade derivatives include a nine-inch touchscreen infotainment framework with remote smartphone screen-mirroring tech. But it is more than fair the cabin plan. The front seats are exceptionally comfy, also there is reach and rake alteration for the controlling wheel, and tallness alteration for the driver’s seat — the X-Terrain indeed gets electric driver’s seat adjustment.

The re-engineered engine has maximum power output of 140 kW (at 3 600 rpm) and peak torque is 450 Nm (from 1 600 to 2 600 rpm).

Those are unassuming increments for what is presently an “expansive capacity” turbodiesel truck and, indeed in spite of the fact that the engine’s apparently more refined than the engine it replaces, it still sounds or maybe strained beneath firm increasing speed.

We are also expecting the Toyota Hilux which is Zimbabwe’s top-selling double cab in its own right. A new Hilux with a 2.8-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel (2.8GD-6) engine will be slightly more powerful, as well as torquier, with outputs of 150 kW and 500 Nm — increases of 20 kW and 50 Nm. For buyers who want plenty of overtaking grunt, or at least more effortless cruising ability from their top-spec truck, that’s a nice improvement.

Whereas both manual and automatic adaptations of the 2.8GD-6 have a top control yield of 150 kW, the torque pick up as it were applies to the self-shifting derivatives of which the 6-speed transmission’s software has been changed. There’s still selectable four-wheel drive. The top-grade versions retain a rear differential lock.

The Hilux’s suspension and steering have been re-tuned to better cope with the extra loads on the chassis when towing

And, inside the cab, Toyota has fitted a new 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with the smartphone mirroring tech you would expect in 2021 — Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are now standard, but it i s not quite as up to date as the new-gen Isuzu D-Max, which has wireless CarPlay (so no more iPhone cable tangles!).

The Hilux’s tweaked steering setup is lighter and easier to manage at higher speeds than before.

I have a delicate spot for the new-generation 2021 Mazda BT-50. It is the foremost Japanese that this Japanese double cab has ever been; after decades of being a Ford Ranger clone, the 2021 BT-50 is now based on the current Isuzu D-Max. The outgoing version, which was built at Ford’s Silverton plant at the beginning of its product cycle (pre-facelift), never received substantial marketing support from the Blue Oval, largely because the global partnership between the US and Japanese brands dissolved in 2014 (which was when Mazda Southern Africa was established as an independent subsidiary).

As a Mazda-flavoured execution of the Isuzu D-Max, the BT-50 is handsome, upmarket and, importantly, sufficiently distinctive. Top-of-the-range BT-50s feature chrome-look detailing, satin-chrome running boards and bold 18-inch alloys.

The Isuzu underpinnings are particularly apparent in the Mazda’s spacious interior; the trucks’ switchgear, instrumentation and steering wheels are identical, but their facias are different, with the former having rectangular centre vents and the latter triangular ones. Nonetheless, the cabin execution is plain but smart, with a soft-touch finish to the edge of the dash, as well as tasteful applications of piano black and chrome-look trim.

In its most luxurious spec, the BT-50 features leather trim, automatic climate control and a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

The Isuzu motor is said to be substantially reworked from the current D-Max’s 3.0-litre turbodiesel (including a revised block, head, internals and injection system) and slightly down on power and torque compared with the outgoing truck’s Ford-supplied 3,2-litre five-cylinder powerplant. It will sound like a power plant mill — especially that Isuzu cranky sound at startup. The jury is still out there as to whether this new development is for the best. I think it is considering that Isuzu outsells Ford Ranger in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

On the fuel savers, the new Starlet must be on its way. The Starlet is powered by the same 1,4-litre petrol engine offering 68 kW and 130 Nm of torque and mated to either a five-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. In terms of fuel efficiency, claimed returns of between 5.1 — and 5,4 L/100km can be expected, depending on the transmission.

The new Starlet is the result of a collaboration between Toyota and Suzuki which was formally announced in 2019. The Starlet is the first alliance product to reach South Africa but other products such as the Suzuki Across, which is a rebadged RAV4 hybrid, have already been revealed and further rebadged models are expected in the future. The Starlet name, however, isn’t new and dates back to the 1973 Toyota Starlet hatchback which was produced until 1999 in Japan. This new modern-day Starlet therefore effectively revives the nameplate.

It’s no surprise then that the Starlet is essentially a rebadged Suzuki Baleno with the key differences seen in its grille and wheel designs. This is bound to be popular if launched locally.

Our account of 2021 would be incomplete without a purvey on the benchmark of luxury.

Manfred Chaniwa, the business development manager at Zimoco, concurred that there will be a brand-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class besides other models such as the all new Pajero Sport, Fiat Tipo and many more. CEOs, business leaders and politicians you know the S-Class is your measure of self-actualisation.

It will have momentous levels of extravagance and state-of-the-art innovation. The S-Class is a badge of success. Although its storied history is partly responsible for that prestige, the latest generation looks to improve on its impressive predecessor in every way. The new S-class will have grander proportions, an even richer interior, innovative safety equipment, and some seriously futuristic features.

The highlights include a 3D gauge cluster, a massive OLED touchscreen, rear-wheel steering for better maneuverability, and an active air suspension that makes cornering smoother and keeps passengers safer in the event of a collision. A combine of turbocharged powertrains and standard all-wheel drive ought to guarantee that the 2021 S-Class monster can whisk you to business gatherings or political events on time, but its genorous comforts and lounge-like back seat can be a reason to be stylishly late. You may not have the urge to get out of this limo.

Covid-19 lifestyle is no longer the new normal. We have been in it for a year. It has become part of our life. We have to drive on.

Happy driving in 2021. — andrew@muzamhindo.com

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