I tested over 15 cars last year including a Mercedes GLS, Toyota Prius, BMW X6, Renault Duster, BMW Active Tourer, Land Rover Discovery, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and a Mini Copper. I loved a few and disliked some.
Last year, there was little to cheer about in the passenger vehicle segment, but we saw the launch of many models and four cars stood out for me and each serves a different demographic.
As fuel prices and public transport system remain disorganised, will you keep buying a used ‘luxury’ car just to impress or will you opt for one that makes economic sense in the long-term?
Unless you are buying a Toyota with the intention of selling it three years later for the same price, you might as well buy a new vehicle that will serve you well.
Why spend Sh3 million to Sh4 million and instantly start replacing failing parts as you ‘tropicalise’ the ‘luxury’ vehicle? But if you have an amazing relationship with zeros and you’re on speed dial with a private banker, there is obviously something for you. Here are the four vehicles that impressed me and another four that I hope shall be introduced in 2019.
This vehicle sneaked into the market with very low numbers as the Thika-based plant came to grips with its production capacity. What is it like? Basic. But it is amazing.
I drove it for a few days and it offers value for money. At Sh1,750,000, I can drive it without a worry, save for insurance fees and fuel. It is a basic car because I had nowhere to hang my jacket at the back and cannot have it in lime green. I may seem petty, but a coat hanger should be a standard feature and it will certainly not break the bank for VW.
Regarding exterior colours, one needs to justify buying a small car, hence it should come with full character and a lively spirit. White or grey just don’t communicate.
The French are set to take over the auto industry. The Renault Group has seen four years of growth in Europe, thanks to its ‘Drive the Change Strategy’. Number one in France and number two in Europe, after Volkswagen, how will its global success affect its Kenya operations? The bravery and confidence of the Simba Corp Group is all that is needed.
Renault Kwid sent the right signals and now we have the handsome Mégane that has also been competitively priced. With clever positioning to catch the eye of the right customer, it should see better sales. It certainly looks amazing from every angle, especially the interiors.
Renault Mégane, a family car, stands out because it is the bravest when it comes to its design.
This car costs more than most can afford and for Multiple Hauliers Group to introduce it in Kenya is either a sign of bravery or insanity. I will choose the former.
Bentayga has broken records for being the fastest luxury SUV and certainly it does not shy away from opulence. It is not the most spacious but why should it be? It was designed for the wealthy enthusiast who would also consider the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. If you look carefully you shall see a few Bentley SUVs on the roads.
Other models coming into the market this year is the remarkably long Bentley Mulsanne, Flying Spur, Continental and New Continental GT. These cars targeting the ultra-wealthy will remain as elusive as the Bentley GT ‘‘Dark Sapphire’’ Edition timepiece which I love.
Range Rover Velar
You can never go wrong with a new Range Rover. The emphasis is on ‘new.’ Land Rover has been producing some amazing cars. The Velar is the handsome twin of the pretty Jaguar F Pace and it will be interesting to see how sales will do locally.
What I love about it is the efficiency that comes with the new range of 2.0 engines; it keeps you away from the pump and unlikely to dampen your driving experience.
Vehicles I wish for in 2019
Always give your dreams content. Whenever possible, go out and kick a few tyres of a few exotic and rare vehicles. Here are some I would not mind having to choose from and one I certainly will be waiting for:
Maserati and Alfa Romeo
Italians are known for their pasta, wine, amazing fabric and dress sense. When it comes to ordinary vehicles, they do not fare too well, but they are the best at high-end super and hypercars. Ferrari and Lamborghini are good examples.
The rare Pagani and Lancia may not come to mind but the most attractive brands for this market are Maserati and Alfa Romeo. These two marques have so much heritage and are accessible and practical for Kenya. I had dismissed Alfa years ago until I visited a car museum in Arese, Milan. If you are looking for a vehicle that stands out, this is it.
Maserati is definitely a halo brand that needs to exist within a portfolio of other brands from the FIAT Group.
Like the Bentley, it is unlikely to find many Kenyan buyers because it stands for luxury, sports and style, a rare priority in many people’s lives. This ultra-high performance vehicle will be appreciated by the ultra-wealthy, possibly in their mid-40s.
You may have seen the Quattroporte and Ghibli models that dot the roads of western Europe. In Nairobi, you might have spotted a Maserati Levante or a couple of saloon models.
The names given to the Rolls Royce models speak volumes. Which other carmaker would name a car Ghost, Phantom, Wraith and Dawn? A Rolls Royce is for the extremely wealthy Kenyan with refined taste and a great sense of style.
Words like unmatched, unrivalled, striking, seductive, powerful, dramatic have been used to describe this brand recently and this may indicate their shifting focus to younger drivers with new money.
Perhaps, this is enough to convince Adil Popat of Simba Corp Group to introduce this amazing car to this market? Perhaps not.
Mercedes-Benz has introduced a premium pick-up created in partnership with Nissan Navara. This car provides die-hard Mercedes fans with something practical within the family. No word when it will be added to the DT Dobie showroom but this will be the most ambitious move by Mercedes-Benz.
It is the first massed-produced pick-up from a premium German manufacturer. Will it do well in a price-sensitive local pick-up segment? We can only wait and see, but it is expected to be launched in Kenya as soon a technical committee approves it.