Renault Kangoo Reviewed

The Renault Kangoo has been with us for a while and it now and has received a mid-life rejuvenation, with a new model also entering the range. It’s called the Express Panel Van and features the two major updates within the range.

The first of these changes sees a tweak to the familiar naturally aspirated 1.6-litre power plant. The changes include improved power and torque outputs of 77kW and 148 Nm. Efficiency has been improved, with a claimed fuel consumption of 7.7 litres/100km and carbon emissions of 180g/km.

There have also been a few cosmetic changes, with the incorporation of the new Renault family front end as featured on the new Clio and upcoming Mégane models, as well as the addition of a more tapered headlamp design.

There are a few creature comforts inside the cabin, including electrically assisted power steering, air conditioning, a trip computer and height-adjustable driver’s seat. A radio with CD, MP3 playback and Bluetooth connectivity is available as an aftermarket dealer fitment.

Standard safety features include a driver’s airbag along with an anti-submarining hump in the seat cushion. Other important impact safety features include a deformable magnesium steering wheel frame, door padding, metal shield in the shell under the steering wheel to reduce the risk of lower limb injury as well as a collapsible brake pedal.

The New Kangoo Express also comes standard with the latest ABS system, integrated with electronic brake distribution and automatic activation of the hazard warning lamps during emergency stops.

As with the outgoing Kangoo, there is a dashboard-mounted gear shift, with the handbrake’s design taken from the aviation industry, which increases stowage space between the two seats. There are several storage bins throughout the cabin, one of which is an A4 document storage area and pen holder on the dashboard. The central storage compartment allows the driver and front passenger  keep essential items close at hand.

Being a business-orientated vehicle, the 800 kg payload and 3m3 utility volume should provide an adequate carrying and loading capacity. The rear swing doors are designed for heavy duty use and can be opened up to 90 degrees with the internal latch in place. Stability has been improved, with the 2.7-metre wheelbase and front- and rear-track dimensions of 1.52 metres and 1.53 metres respectively. The MacPherson-type suspension up front and programmed deflection coil-spring suspension at the rear have been optimised for load-carrying capabilities.

If the Renault Kangoo ticks all the boxes for you – visit Group 1 Renault for more information here or book a test drive at a Group 1 Renault dealership today!

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2017 Renault Clio Intens review

The 2017 Renault Clio range has been rejigged, with a new ‘luxurious’ model at the top of the range. This is it – the new Clio Intens.

Velvet. Say it out loud. Go on. Vellllvet. Imagine Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine saying it. Let it roll off your tongue. It’s one of those words, one of those materials, which conjures a certain image – like, when I wrote ‘tongue’ and ‘velvet’ in the same paragraph, I bet your tongue was flushed with a strange, dry, sandpapery sensation.

What’s it all got to do with this review? Well, when was the last time you heard of a car with a velvet interior? The 2017 Renault Clio Intens has exactly that. Mmmm, exotic!

It’s not in the same league as that red dress worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but the newly added Intens variant in the updated Clio range features (fake) leather and velvet seat lining. For reals.

The Intens model – obviously – is going for the luxury angle in the updated Clio range, which also has more affordable Life and Zen  models available, and a sporty GT-Line version for the same money as the Intens – all prices plus on-road costs. Read the full pricing and specs story for more detail.

So, can a little car like this up-spec Clio offer the little luxuries you might expect? Renault, after all, is pitching this version as “luxurious” – it even says so in the brand’s media release. Consider it a rival for the newly-added Mazda 2 GT, the Volkswagen Polo Highline or a Peugeot 208 Allure.

It’s not our place to say whether a car looks nice or not, but the 17-inch alloy wheels are schmick, and Intens models can be had with free personalisation options, like Flame Red or Ivory exterior elements (door sill and grille inserts and rear spoiler), and Red or Grey interior highlights (dashboard, door panels, seat highlights).

I’m one of the first to admit it can be difficult to think how a compact car like this can offer the indulgences you might find in something bigger and more expensive. But this version has other bits and pieces to make it stand out from, shall we say, lesser Clio variants – like chrome window trims and tinted rear windows. And it also has a hands-free parking system with front, rear and side parking sensors in addition to the standard-across-the-range rear-view camera system.

Like most semi-automated parking systems, you hit a button (in this instance placed logically up next to the media screen) to activate the system, then use the indicator so the car knows on which side you wish to park. You need to choose the gear (drive or reverse) as the car instructs, and apply the brake and throttle – just be careful: if you’re facing downhill and put it in D, it can roll forwards, and because of the dual-clutch gearbox there can be some lurching under light throttle, and the indicators auto-cancel when you make minor adjustments to the steering.

It doesn’t just do reverse-parallel parks, either. It’ll deal with perpendicular and even 45-degree angle spots. As with many of these systems, it can be slower than a human to pick a suitable space, and it can be frustrating to use if you’ve got someone up your clacker, too (just like any reverse-parallel move!). But it works, and works well. If you want to see it in action, what the video attached to this review.

Other niceties in the flagship Intens model include the brand’s R-Link multimedia system with built-in satellite-navigation and voice control, and a four-speaker Arkamys sound system. Even though this is an update, there’s no change to the phone connectivity on offer – still one USB port, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto mirroring.

Even in the entry-level version you get keyless entry (front doors only) and push-button start, automatic on/off headlights and automatic windscreen wipers. Our car (and the Zen below it) has LED headlights, which are excellent.

And while all of that shiny, special looking stuff is enough to get excited about what the little Clio has, you also need to consider some of the stuff it doesn’t have.

There is no autonomous emergency braking system, even as an option, and there are no curtain airbags to protect rear-seat occupants, either. Those exclusions may or may not matter to you, but you should consider that every other car in the class has rear curtain airbag coverage, and many now have AEB available – the Mazda 2 has it standard in every model.

There are other driving quirks that’ll either be fine by you, or not. The dual-clutch transmission is one such objectionable item, because at low speeds it can be jerky at times, it can also roll back/forward as mentioned, and the throttle can be hard to modulate as a result.

When you’re taking away from traffic lights it’s relatively easy to judge the throttle, although there is some turbo-lag to contend with along with the transmission hesitation. If you do a lot of stop-start urban driving, be sure to do exactly that when you go for a test drive.

The drivetrain is great above 15km/h – there’s enough punch from the 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, with its 88kW of power (at 4900rpm) and 190Nm of torque (at 2000rpm) helping it hustle along nicely. It never feels breathless, though the lack of a sport mode means you might resort to doing manual shifts, and there are no paddle-shifters.

Still, the dual-clutch transmission has a less crisp action than other gearboxes of this ilk. You can feel the clutches working under hard acceleration, for instance, though the shifts are smooth when you’re cruising or call on a lower gear for a quick overtaking move.

It’s quiet under acceleration, which is nice, and it’s not too loud on coarse-chip roads, either, even with Michelin Primacy 3 tyres (in 205/45/17 spec).

Those tyres have a bit to do with the good level of grip on offer. In the wet it can tend to want to push on in really tight bends, but the steering is accurate and well weighted, so you know what’s going on at the front axle at all times.

The Clio’s suspension is pretty well sorted, too. It corners with ease, holds a nice flat line when you’re pushing it hard, and isn’t too firm over bumps. You’d expect, being a French car, it would be good over pockmarked surfaces – similar enough to cobblestones, after all – and it doesn’t get too worried in those circumstances.

Sharp edges are a bit more of an issue, as it can bounce a bit firmly on the rebound. But on the whole the suspension has a nice tension to it; it’s not cushy, or luxurious for that matter, but nor is it too hard to live with.

Other aspects that need to be examined when considering luxury are cabin space, materials, technology and equipment.

It isn’t packed with kit – you miss out on seat heaters, and the seats are manually adjustable in lieu of motorised toggles. You don’t even get dual-zone climate control – there’s manual air-conditioning with temperature increments, which Renault says is single-zone climate control. I tend to disagree.

If you think rear seat space is vital for a car with lavish pretensions, you’ll be upset. There’s not much space in the back – in fact, it’s cramped by class standards, with tight knee, head, toe and shoulder room, particularly if you’re trying to fit three across the flat back seat.

There’s not much storage either, with small pockets in the back doors, no cupholders (and no armrest) but a pair of map pockets. I guess you could put a take-away hot chocolate in one of those, right?

The shortage of storage continues up front, to a degree. The door pockets are small, the cupholders are low between the seats and shallow (there’s a third full-sized one but it’s hard to reach), and there’s no usable room in the glovebox – but there’s a little shelf above which is handy for passengers to stow their wallets or phones.

This spec gets an armrest between the front seats that includes a small storage bin, while the boot is competitive for the class, with 300 litres of cargo capacity and a space-saver spare wheel under the body of the car.

The materials on the dash fall short of what you might think you’d get by looking at the car from the outside, and the plastics on the doors are fine, but not special. The velvet on the seats, though… (cue Homer Simpson gurgle of desire here).

Renault’s R-Link media touch screen is bright and colourful but can be slow to load between screens, and when you are connected to the Bluetooth audio streaming it can jump between sources – for instance, I was listening to a podcast, then took a phone call, and once I hung up it resumed playing music, not the podcast. Weird.

Still, we love that the only speedometer in the Clio is a digital one – it’s easy to see, even for oldies, and there’s a trip computer displaying the vitals like fuel consumption above it, though that’s mirrored on the screen. On that topic, our test regime saw a return of 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres – just a bit over the claim of 5.6L/100km.

The updated Clio model falls under Renault’s revised servicing plan that sees it need maintenance every 12 months or 30,000km – generous, right? The Clio is backed by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and has the same cover for roadside assistance.

The Renault Clio is a reasonably well-equipped model with a fair amount of European flair to help it stand out in the segment. View the Renault Clio’s on offer at Group 1 Renault and test drive a Clio today!

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The new Renault Sandero – a Stepway in the right direction

2017 is Renault’s best year to date, so far. Its pillar models are doing far better than expected, with the one-airbag, no-ABS Renault KWID in such demand that the French automaker can’t keep up.

For February, the comely Renault Sandero was in 7th position overall in the local top ten best-selling passenger vehicle list, less than nine days before the SA launch of the facelifted Sandero even took place. Renault’s February sales figure of 681 Sandero’s reigned supreme over the Datsun Go, as well as the other entry-level contenders such as the Ford Figo and VW Polo Vivo.

I attended the local launch near the Cradle of Humankind last week, and was reminded as to why this little runabout is packing such a punch in the popularity stakes. The new one will undoubtedly be punching even harder. Here’s why:

1. It’s a more dapper-looking Frenchman

The outgoing Sandero was sufficiently attractive, but the new Sandero makes more of an urban style statement. All models benefit from a reshaped nose, grille, and headlamps with C-shaped daytime running lamps. Other changes are hard to spot, but the fog lamp housings look different, and at the rear, the tail lamps gain the C-shape as well.

I find the grille design of the entry-level Sandero Expression (R159,900) more attractive than that of the Stepway.

The interior has been upgraded and enhanced, with different trims and a redesigned front fascia. The practical placement of window controls in the doors (instead of on the front console) is also new. The interior is no Audi A1, but for what you’re paying you really shouldn’t complain. Leather seats are a 10K option in the Stepway Dynamique.

2. You can be counting pennies and still afford an SUV

The Stepway always offered a raised ride height and other outdoorsy details, and since the SUV-lifestyle is all the rage right now, the flagship Sandero Stepway Dynamique cross-hatch is now joined with another Stepway-variant: the more affordable Sandero Stepway Expression.

The Sandero Dynamique hatchback will be falling away completely – Renault found that people would rather buy an entry-level SUV than a more luxuriously-specced Sandero hatch. In the Stepway Dynamique, you can adjust the height of the driver’s seat for maximum visibility up ahead.

3. It’s loaded with technology unheard of in this price range

The new Stepway Dynamique is kitted out with Renault’s MediaNav 7-inch touchscreen system, featuring integrated navigation. Other creature comforts such as cruise control, rear-park assist and electrically operated door mirrors are thrown in as well. Even the humble Sandero Expression gets a 2-DIN integrated radio CD MP3 with a USB port, Bluetooth telephony and music streaming, fingertip controls, front power windows, and a gearshift indicator as well as Eco Mode.

4. Its fuel economy is exemplary

Agreed, the turbocharged 900cc engine is not going to give you a jolt in the backside when you pull away from stop streets, but it’s perfectly sufficient for town as well as open-road driving. Hitting the winding roads of the Magaliesberg proved to be a fun exercise. However, going around a slow corner in first gear is sometimes needed when you think second would have sufficed. You quickly get used to the turbo lag in first and second gear, and you adapt your driving style accordingly. We only spent 180km inside the 66kW Sandero, but it was a relatively vivacious 180km, while our fuel economy returned a fantastic figure of 5.6 litres per 100km.

5. It’s suited to our poorly-maintained roads

The Sandero is loved by rental companies, who prefer their cars to be robust and capable of handling a fair bit of everyday punishment. The 16-inch FLEX wheels that the Stepway-variants are shod with, are especially designed to withstand those pesky potholes.

6. It’s the safest car in its class

If you needed one reason to convince someone to go for the Sandero Expression rather than the bestselling, more expensive Polo Vivo, the safety features are it.

In this class, not even ABS is a given, but every Sandero is equipped with ABS as well as EBD and Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist, and (drum roll please!) ESP (Electronic Stability Program) with ASR (Anti-Skid Regulation).

Sandero and Stepway Expression-variants get two airbags, and the Stepway Dynamique gets four. Younger, inexperienced drivers need safer cars, and Renault realises this – let’s hope this way of thinking is continued into the next KWID.

7. After sales service, warranty and service plan

Once again very competitive, beating the VW Polo Vivo, Ford Figo and Toyota Etios with its warranty of five years/150,000km and its two-year/30,000km service plan. Its parts basket is also the lowest of the bunch mentioned above.

Parts availability is no longer an issue since the Nissan/Renault alliance. According to the Kinsey report, the Sandero is also one of the cheapest cars to maintain, service and repair.

Test drive the Renault Sandero today! Visit a Group 1 Renault or view Renault’s range here.

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2017 Renault Clio Update Revealed – Cosmetic Refresh, New Diesel

Renault has given its Clio small hatch range a modest refresh for the 2017 model year, with some minor tweaks to exterior styling that help modernise its appearance, but stop short of bringing it into line with Renault’s new breed of passenger cars.

Bumpers are new, with a wider lower grille at front and a new shape at the rear that Renault says sports “additional robustness”. The headlamps and tail lamps sport new internals and LED elements, though the Clio doesn’t receive the same “extended-C” daytime running lamp arrangement as the new Megane, Koleos or Talisman.


New wheel covers and alloy wheel designs round out the remainder of the external changes, and four new colours have been added to the Clio’s colour palette – Intense Red, Titanium Grey, Pearlescent White and Iron Blue.

Interior changes are minor, with the Clio retaining its dashboard layout virtually unchanged – though Renault says material quality has improved, with all-new cloth and leather upholstery too.


The silver interior trim is more subdued, with a matte rather than glossy finish. The texture of some cabin plastics has been improved as well to help impart a more premium feel to the Clio’s cabin. Three infotainment systems will be offered in Europe depending on specification, starting with a base “R&Go” system, a midgrade R-Link Evolution and Media Nav Evolution.

Under the bonnet changes are limited to the addition of a range-topping 80kW 1.5 litre diesel to the range, plus a six-speed manual transmission for the formerly auto-only 88kW TCe 120 petrol engine.


The diesel is highly unlikely to come here, though it remains to be seen whether Renault will equip locally-delivered Clios fitted with the TCe 120 engine – namely the automatic version of the Clio Expression, the Clio Dynamique and Clio GT/GT Premium – with the six-speed manual.

Check out the Renault Clio range at a Group 1 Renault dealership. Find a Renault Clio that suits you here and take it for a test drive.


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Renault Sandero Stepway Dynamique (2017) First Drive


Renault’s fast-selling budget offering, the Sandero, has been facelifted and the range rejigged to focus more on the popular Stepway derivative. We drive it.

In many ways the sales success of the Renault Sandero was predictable. Originally launched in 2009 and offering great value for money through its practical packaging, big-car features and good warranty, the first-generation (and locally built) Sandero sold briskly.

If anything, the second-generation car (imported from Romania), has been doing even better. Since its launch in 2014 more than 17 000 have been sold, with a significant percentage opting for the crossover-inspired Stepway derivative.

Now, Renault South Africa has introduced a mildly facelifted version, and also took the opportunity to rejig the model line-up to be more in tune with current trends. Consequently, the previous higher-specification Sandero (called the Dynamique) has been dropped in favour of an additional Stepway derivative in Expression trim.

Small, but stylish upgrades

Look closely and you’ll notice a stylish new rear light signature.

For the launch drive, we were offered the popular flagship Stepway model (Dynamique), which is priced at R189 900 (correct at time of publishing). The pre-facelift car was hardly in need of aesthetic attention, being one of the better-looking budget offerings on the market, but the changes have certainly given the Renault a more upmarket look and feel, and also brings it into line with some of the newer models in the Renault arsenal. Tweaks to the grille, bumper and lights have been subtle, but very effective.

You’ll have to step inside to be able to differentiate the 2 Stepway derivatives. The Dynamique adds a smart leather-wrapped steering wheel, an armrest between the front seats and the neat 7-inch touch screen that we’ve already experienced in the Duster and Kwid, among others. These additions, along with subtle trim changes contribute to a cabin ambience that can hardly be described as “budget”.

Lots of features


Subtle trim revisions, a smart new steering wheel and standard 7-inch touch screen on the Stepway Dynamique lift the cabin beyond its budget origins.

As far as standard features go, the Renault Sandero continues to be a market leader with the French brand going for a full-house offering where the only optional (cost) extra is metallic paint (R2 500) and, on the flagship model at least, leather upholstery (R10 000).

In addition to the Sandero Expression’s front electric windows, remote central locking, remote audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity and music streaming, as well a comprehensive safety package (ABS + EBD, EBA, ESP, dual front airbags, Isofix, hill start assist), the Dynamique adds side airbags, cruise control, rear park assist, rear electric windows, electric mirrors, and the aforementioned touchscreen etc.

As opposed to the situation in the Duster, the touchscreen is conveniently positioned higher and is consequently easier to use. The controls for the front windows have also moved to the (more obvious) door panels. A comprehensive trip computer is included, too.

Comfortable on “real” roads


With its relatively big boot (for this segment) and 60/40 split/fold rear seats, the Sandero remains one of the more practical offerings in this segment.

One of the main benefits of the turbocharged 0.9-litre engine under the bonnet is its combination of torque and efficiency. Compared with its naturally-aspirated rivals, the Sandero Stepway has excellent torque (135 Nm), with the maximum being available at 2 500 rpm. It is also very efficient, with a claimed consumption figure of only 5.4L/100 km (for Stepway models).

I still encountered some lag on my drive (in Gauteng), which coupled with a somewhat tricky clutch, did make for a couple of slow and “lurchy” getaways during the early phases of the drive, but one soon gets used to the delivery characteristics, and once in the meat of the power band, the Renault Sandero is not only powerful enough but also refined.

Besides its good looks, features, space and efficiency, one of the biggest attractions of the Stepway package remains its ride quality on roads of… shall we say… varying quality. The extra ground clearance, comfort-tuned suspension and plump tyres combine to make the Stepway feel very comfortable on roads where driving normal passenger cars would lead to gritted teeth.



With its greater ground clearance, soft suspension and plump tyres, the Sandero Stepway copes very well with South African road conditions.

With a strong warranty (5-years/150 000 km) and standard service plan to support what is, in many ways, a class-leading offering, the Sandero Stepway Dynamique is likely to continue to sell up a storm. If you’re in the market for a budget car, the inclusion of air-conditioning as standard on the Expression model (priced just below R160 000) makes it a very strong contender. And if you want some crossover style, then you now have two excellent Stepway offering to choose from, with your selection largely dictated by budget. Either way, you’ll be stepping into a very good vehicle. Test drive the Sandero and find out for yourself if a Sandero is the right car for you.

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2017 Renault Kangoo new car review


Renault’s small van mixes work and family duties all at once.

What is it?

The Kangoo Crew is a small van for those who need the option of a work vehicle but also need to carry up to five passengers whether it be colleagues at work or family at home.

How does it drive?

Small vans have come a long way over the last few years, and the Kangoo is no exception as it drives more like a conventional car than a traditional commercial van.

Unladen the van is very comfortable as small bumps and rough roads are soaked up with little fuss. The 1.5-litre engine gets along very well too with minimal turbo lag and a healthy 240Nm of torque making it feel spritely around town. The steering is well weighted too, the clutch is light and the gearbox shift is direct, albeit a little notchy.

When the rear seats are folded down there is more road noise booming through from the cargo area compared with the seat upright.

Overall, the van has great vision with glass all round (our test van has optional rear cargo glass) and a low window line making a noticeable impression as soon as you look over your shoulder.

What’s the interior like?

The interior is full of quality hard plastics with different colours and different textures of grain, which gives the appearance they could be made of a soft material, while some shiny black trim around the radio and ventilation controls is a nice touch.

There is a high rise centre console with plenty of storage space but elsewhere the glove box is deep yet it’s small and fairly useless, as are the door pockets even though they have a cup and bottle holder.

The van has a storage shelf in the roof but it has no liner for things to grip on to under hard acceleration or on steep inclines. The sunvisors also don’t have vanity mirrors and the steering wheel only has height adjustment. The front seats have good bolstering, are comfortable and supportive.

The hood lining in the van covers the second row of seats but then stops, which allows for a little more cargo height but creates some more noise resonance. The rear seat has plenty of room, all three seating positions have lap/sash seat belts and the seat itself, which has a 60:40 split-fold function, stows away nicely into the floor.

The Kangoo has cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and headlight adjustment as standard features.


What’s the payload and towing capacity?

Payload is 750kg for this model variant. Its unbraked towing capacity is 750kg with a maximum 1050kg braked. Tow ball down weight is 90kg max.

What about load space dimensions and anchor points?

The length of the cargo bay, with the seats up, is 1008mm and 1862mm with them down. Its 1251mm high and, coincidentally, the same measurement in width between the wheel arches. It’s total load volume seats up is 1.3 cubic metres as a five-seater and 3.4 cubic metres with the seats down. It has four tie down points at mid height and another four on the floor


How does it perform under load?

The engine gets along fine and does a good job with the weight on board, and although you will find yourself going through the gears on hills the van had no problems sticking to speed limits when loaded up with our 600kg test weight.

Even though it looked as though it was going to struggle with that much on board, as the rear of the van sat very low. But it was still a full two inches clear of the bump stops and handled the weight surprisingly well.

Bumps and undulations in the road didn’t fazed it, nor did average roads, but the Kangoo did tend to wander around in the back-end at highway speeds.

Any special features worth mentioning?

It takes a full-sized Australian pallet between the wheel arches, which is handy. It also has twin sliding doors as standard.

Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Lifestyle pack which includes R-Link enhanced audio and navigation, leather steering wheel , rear air vents, body painted front and rear bumpers , gloss black door mirrors and extra tinted windows.

Any criticisms?

The radio controls are mounted behind the steering wheel, and are easily bumped when turning. The accelerator, clutch and brake pedals are too close together – you find your clutch foot catching the top of your brake foot when braking and downshifting, which can make you ‘stab’ the brakes unintentionally.  It misses out on a reverse camera as standard equipment and there’s no automatic option for this model.

Also, the windows in the sliding doors do not wind down but rather push open a few inches. The rear barn doors open in two stages, the first to a 90 degree angle while the second is out to a full 270 degrees, which is handy, but it requires releasing a separate latch around the side of the van and they don’t lock in place to stop them moving. We found this out the hard way when a slight breeze swung the doors shut, one of which gave us an almighty thud in the back while the other hit the pallet on the fork lift.


What else should I consider?

If safety is paramount then the VW Caddy is worth a look, while the Citroen Berlingo and Fiat Doblo represent viable alternatives.


The Kangoo Crew is a flexible small van if you need to mix work and family into the one vehicle, as there is plenty of room for both – even at the same time. But like others in its class the Kangoo is short changed in the safety department and doesn’t have a lot of creature comforts.

The Kangoo Crew is unfortunately not available in all country, some offering only the commercial option, the Renault Kangoo. You can find out more about that model here.

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Renault’s F1 car of future is fascinating but the sport must be competitive


Renault’s vision for a 2027 F1 concept car with 1,340 brake horsepower is exciting when you consider that the current Mercedes engine is producing close to 1,000bhp.

Change is coming to Formula One and the sport, which has evolved in an awkward, disjointed and unsatisfactory fashion in recent years, badly needs to get it right.

In the short term the new 2017 regulations seem to have at least worked in the sense of having two teams – Mercedes and Ferrari – competing at the front, with a good chance Red Bull will be joining them as the season progresses. It is a step forward from the dominance Mercedes have enjoyed for the past three years. However, the big three being in a different league to the rest of the grid is not something that should be accepted and nor is the sport’s inability to ensure the survival of new teams in the paddock.

Renault revealed their concept for the F1 car of the future at the Shanghai motor show on Wednesday. A vision for 2027, the manufacturer presented a 600kg, closed-cockpit car, with four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, driven by a small internal combustion engine, with large battery systems to produce 1,340 brake horse power – a power to weight ratio far in excess of anything previously seen in F1. To put it in context, the current Mercedes engine is producing close to 1,000bhp. It’s a fascinating proposal but first the sport needs to ensure it is still popular and relevant come 2027.

As things stand the de facto two-tier grid is a major problem but the vested interests of the big three and their antipathy to giving away their advantage over the midfield has to be overcome. The next couple of years look promising in terms of competition and the future remains unwritten but in the mid-term the playing field needs to be levelled.

The Haas team principal, Guenther Steiner, knows why it is so crucial to get it right. “If all our fans go away what have the big teams achieved?” he asks. “If you outspend everybody but nobody watches any more it’s no good for their business. Nobody will be making money if all the fans go – all of us will be broke.”

Ross Brawn, F1’s sporting director, is working on how the sport will develop, with engine plans for 2021 already under discussion and a five-year plan for change, including how to make the grid attractive to new entries. Budget control and distribution of funds are key but so too is the model for how teams operate and here Haas is instructive.

The team, who were eighth last year in their debut season, are not content with being part of the midfield battle for ever, nor that there should be a separate midfield battle at all. Their founder, Gene Haas, certainly did not enter F1 only to compete for scraps and knows how to play the long game – he entered Nascar in 2002 and by 2011 had won the championship.

“He knows that it will change,” confirms the Italian Steiner, who previously worked for Jaguar and Red Bull. “The sport will change and you need to be there to be part of it – you cannot jump on to the bandwagon when it’s too late. In 2021 the new contract is coming up and maybe the playing field is going to be levelled and maybe we can compete and we will be ready for that.”

Being there to be part of it is one of the most crucial challenges. F1 has lost all three start-up teams who joined the grid in 2010: HRT, Caterham and Manor. Haas have taken a different approach to ensure they do not follow them. The team have a technical partnership with Ferrari. They use the Scuderia’s engines, and buy in their parts – gearbox, suspension, steering rack, brakes, uprights, pedal box and fuel cell – some fearsomely expensive components to build and develop independently. They design their own chassis in conjunction with Dallara, subcontracting parts of the task to the Italian manufacturer.

It is a framework that ensures they control their budget, as Steiner notes. “It’s much easier to estimate your costs because you have a contract,” he says. “You know if you can afford it or not.”

The customer car concept is not one that is favoured in F1. Teams such as Williams and Sauber vehemently oppose it but Haas are not a customer team. They have a close but legitimate partnership with Ferrari and are a team in their own right rather than merely a client. Brawn very much believes the sport can learn lessons from their example.

Steiner agrees. “People who want to start a team should look at it,” he says. “It seems to be working. The last three teams which entered are gone, it didn’t work so it’s proof that more of the same will not work.”

The big boys will not be laid low by the Haas model but nor would its adoption necessarily devalue the sport. The teams that remain as entirely independent entities will continue to do so but if it encourages new entries, especially from a greater range of countries, it should not be dismissed and that is exactly why Brawn believes it is worthy of further study. If he is successful in building a truly competitive grid, that it could be a healthier and more sizeable one will be a further change for the better.

“It is achievable and I think the will at the moment is there for most people,” says Steiner. “And it will be the best thing for the sport.”

Group1 Renault boasts an array of excellent urban cars to suit the needs of any driver. Find out where you can test drive a Renault vehicle in the eclectic streets of the Western Cape, by contacting a Renault Western Cape dealership near you.

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Car maintenance checklist for road trips


The summer road trip is as American as apple pie and Fourth of July fireworks, so don’t fail in your national duty to hit the road this year just because Old Nellie is overdue for some car maintenance.

Those who neglect doing a quick mechanical check-over – even of newer cars – before taking to the highway are begging to be stranded. We’re not talking about rebuilding the cylinder head or performing a line-bore on the crankshaft mains. Below are just a few reminders that may slip your mental checklist in the rush to get bags packed and kids fed.

Your family is counting on you to take a few preventative measures before you hurl them into the gauntlet of our national highway system.

  • Engine oil: Check your oil levels and the date you’re due for an oil change, preferably in your driveway before you embark on that first 29-hour leg. If you’re close to the manufacturer-recommended oil-change interval listed in your manual, then change it. Nellie deserves better than a crankcase full of gunky old oil as she hauls you up the Loveland Pass.

If you’ll be going long distances, consider opting for a synthetic motor oil. If you’re traveling in hot weather or pulling a trailer, a fully synthetic engine oil such as Mobil Super™ Synthetic can give you the extra protection against thermal breakdowns that you need. It will also cut friction losses in the engine and bump your fuel economy while creating savings that you’ll see magnified on a long drive.

  • Transmission and differential fluids: Did you forget about the other oil reservoirs in your car? Both your transmission and drive axle have their own lubricant supply. Check your owner’s manual for their change intervals, as they are quite a bit longer than engine oil. A regular oil-change shop can handle the greasy job of changing manual transmission oil and the differential oil. While they are under the car, have them give the drive-shaft U-joints and any other grease points a squirt of grease.
  • Hoses: Rubber hoses would last 10 years if all they did were sit on a shelf. In a car, they are regularly exposed to temperatures around the 212-degree boiling point. At high temps, the plasticizers that make rubber squishy leach out at a faster rate. Once a hose gets hard, it cracks and hot water spurts out. Look first at where both the input and output radiator hoses attach to the engine and to the radiator. The extra stress on the hose from the pipe collar and hose clamp means they typically crack and fail there first. Also check your heater hoses, which run from the engine (usually near the thermostat housing) into the firewall and back. Look for bulges or blisters, which indicate a weakness in the hose wall. If your hoses have cracks or blisters, replace them. It’s easier to do it now than in the 112-degree heat of Death Valley. As a precaution, buy a hose-patch kit at the local auto parts store.
  • Belts: Check the engine belts by turning them sideways with your hand so you can see the friction surface. If they’re at all ragged, torn, cracked or showing the fiber cords, it’s time for fresh ones. Newer cars often have one large belt, called a serpentine, which runs the water pump and all the accessories (A/C, power steering and alternator). If your car has less than 50,000 miles, it’s probably fine. Older cars have more than one belt to run these devices. Make sure they are all in good condition. If you hear loud screeches when you pull away from a stoplight, a loose belt is probably the cause. If they are loose – in other words, if your finger can depress the belt more than a half-inch of deflection at a point halfway between pulleys – the belt is stretched. If it’s old and worn, replace. If it’s not, you’ll have to retension it or it may fall off, usually at a really inopportune moment such as in the 2-mile backup at the turnpike toll booth.
  • Engine coolant: New vehicles come equipped with engine coolant designed to go 100,000 to 150,000 miles. If your car is less than four years old, check that the under-hood coolant reservoir – usually a clear plastic bottle that says “engine coolant” on the cap – is topped up.

Water is water, right? Wrong. Not all coolants are the same, and they don’t want to be mixed. Be sure to use the same coolant type as is already in the engine. You can tell the difference from the color. Green coolant is the most common, indicating an ethylene glycol-based coolant with a standard package of rust inhibitors. Orange is called Dex-Cool, originally developed by General Motors but manufactured by other coolant name brands under license. The jug should have a large “Dex-Cool” trademark on it. It is also ethylene glycol-based, but it has an enhanced package of corrosion inhibitors (and, hence, tends to be more expensive). If you have an older vehicle, check both the coolant reservoir and the radiator. If your coolant is rust-colored or looks like mucky pond water, it’s time for a change.

  • Tire pressure and tread: Tires are your contact with the road, and since losing contact generally results in the remains of your vehicle being vacuumed up, check ’em out. Most people believe the appropriate tire pressure is listed on the tire itself. Actually, the number on the tire is the maximum amount of pressure the tire can hold and, if combined with extreme heat and speeds, could lead to a blowout. Be safe. Look on your driver’s side door, in the glove compartment, or on the fuel filler door for the recommended tire pressures, and check the pressure before you leave with a good gauge (available from your auto parts store) and an air hose (available at the corner gas station). Low tire pressures waste fuel and, more importantly, cause the tire to run hotter from the extra friction.

Also, look at the tread on all four tires to make sure it’s not too worn or unevenly worn. Most new tires come with about 10/32” of tread depth. If your tire tread-depth gauge (just a buck or two at the parts store) shows less than 2/32”, it’s time for new tires. You can also use a penny. If the depth is below Lincoln’s shoulder, it’s time to change. If your tires are on the bubble in terms of wear, or have a bubble in the sidewall from a recent bounce against a curb, it’s better to install new tires now than to take a chance on them wearing out while you’re on the road.

  • Brake system: Brake fluid classified by the government as DOT3 or DOT4 (most brake fluid, in other words) is a hygroscopic mineral oil, meaning that it attracts and absorbs moisture. As it ages, it turns the color of maple syrup and begins rusting your brake components. Check your brake reservoir for the color of the fluid, and make sure that it is topped up to the “full” mark. If you haven’t had a flush in two or three years, get one before you leave. Water-laden brake fluid, besides causing damage to very costly brake parts, also lowers the fluid’s boiling point. A lowered boiling point can lead to a squishy brake pedal, which may provide more excitement than you want while descending out of the Rockies with a 24-foot camper in tow. If your car is newer, it may be running DOT5 fluid, which is silicon-based and not subject to water absorption. Still, you will want to flush this fluid per the recommendations in your owner’s manual.
  • Battery: If the battery in your car is more than a couple years old, check that the terminals are corrosion-free and the positive and negative leads are tight. If your starter sounds sluggish, it’s either corrosion or a dying battery. Don’t wait to be stranded with a dead battery. If it’s not a sealed, maintenance-free battery, have a gas station test the electrolytes. If it is sealed, they can check the output voltage. If there is corrosion – white chalky stuff on the terminals – clean it off with a wire cable-brush available at your local parts store. Secure the leads tightly. If one falls off while you are driving, it can cause a harmful “voltage dump” that can kill the alternator, so make sure everything is tight.
  • Test the car: Do a quick run up the local freeway to listen for noises, feel for shakes, and watch for trouble signs in the gauges. Don’t assume everything is fine just because you drive your car every day. This is a test, not a commute, so focus on your car. Do you hear grinding or moaning from the wheels? That could be a bad wheel bearing or a worn CV joint. Does the car pull? Check for alignment problems or worn tires. Does it shimmy or squeal under braking? Might be warped rotors or worn pads. Does the brake pedal feel soft? Might mean worn pads or bad fluid. Do the headlights flicker at idle? It’s probably a loose alternator belt, a dying alternator or corroded battery terminals.

Consider checking off car maintenance items before you leave, because if Old Nellie acts up later, she could ruin your whole vacation. Family photos of America’s purple mountains’ majesty won’t put your relatives to sleep quite as quickly as those taken inside a grimy service station in Panguitch, Utah, while you’re waiting for a mechanic to get your new radiator hose drop-shipped from Fukuoka. Take time, take care, drive safely and we’ll see you out there.

Any Group1 Renault dealership can also assist you in doing a routine check of your vehicle before heading on a roadtrip. Contact a Renault dealership in your area for more information about the Renault Sandero – a great option for road tripping and everything in between.

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10 Things You Should Know About the Renault Kwid


Renault India knew it had to pull a miracle out of its hat if it were to convince people of their seriousness in making a dent in the entry-level compact car segment. Called the Kwid, they managed to do just that, announcing to the world that the smallest baby in their model portfolio pulled punches above its class. We’ve drawn up a list of 10 things you should know about the Renault Kwid, to show you just how distinctive this car is:

  1. The Renault Kwid looks like no other small-car in the history of the Indian automobile. Butch, SUV-esque styling giving it a larger-than-life presence that other cars, many classes above would kill for.
  2. The car is built on the CMF-A platform that Renault have developed in conjunction with their Japanese partner, Nissan. The Kwid is the first car to benefit from the platform in India and ushers in a new era in car-building for the manufacturer.
  3. Renault have been aggressive on the localization front with the Kwid. This was done with the aim of keeping costs low, translating into the car’s low sticker price that undercuts the competition by a comfortable margin.
  4. The Renault Kwid’s mileage is an astounding 25.17 km/l as per ARAI certification. This makes it the most powerful car in the segment, besting the likes of Maruti’s Alto800 and even the Tata Nano.
  5. Renault will be launching both, a larger, more powerful 1 litre engine as well as an AMT variant for the Kwid in the coming years.
  6. The Renault Kwid’s mileage is not the only thing that’s better than the competition. The car is longer, wider and larger than all other offerings in the segment.
  7. Frugal engineering features high on the 10 things you should know about the Renault Kwid. From using three wheel bolts, to a single wiper, the manufacturer has focussed heavily on cost and weight savings. Even the fasteners are lower in number, while plastic has been used extensively to achieve targets.
  8. The Kwid has delivered a telling blow with its pricing. With an on-road price that’s a good INR 50,000 lower than the comparable competition, it makes for a compelling buy.
  9. The Kwid also has the highest ground clearance in its class, almost putting larger crossovers and even some SUV’s to shame in this department.
  10. The Renault Kwid’s interiors are unparalleled, both in terms of the features offered (7-inch touchscreen infotainment system or the long accessories list) as well as sheer space in the boot & the passenger cabin.

All-in-all, the car is a delight on multiple fronts, making it a compelling-buy for someone contemplating a purchase in the segment. Pop into a Renault dealership near you and test drive the Kwid for yourself.

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Renault Sandero Expression – Budget Car of the Year


Renault Sandero Wins in Budget, without Compromising Excellence’s Consumer Awards is among the most credible and significant awards programmes in the South African motor industry.

Esteemed judges allocate scores, in each category, based on back-to-back comparisons of finalist vehicles, comprehensive feedback from an Owner Satisfaction Survey, and statistics supplied by leading automotive industry data specialists – Lightstone Auto.

Efficient, Economical and Awesome

In order to be eligible for Budget Car of the Year, contender vehicles had to cost R150000 or less, and include the following features: ABS, dual front airbags, and a service plan. The most important judging factors were: fuel economy, value for money, practicality and brand strength.

Ashley Oldfield claims that “The Renault Sandero is modern and solid offering. Despite its keen price, it still manages to maintain excellent levels of standard safety equipment and in-car entertainment.”

Consumer’s Choice

The Owner Satisfaction Survey incorporated feedback from South African vehicle owners who rated their vehicles for reliability, after-sales service, cost of ownership and general satisfaction. Judges’ final scores reflected the consumer experience, as well as each brand’s market performance.

“There are many awards programmes out there that claim public participation, but what we mean when we talk of consumer input, is not a popular voting mechanism,” said Consumer Experience Manager Hannes Oosthuizen. “We didn’t want a ‘beauty pageant’… we wanted real, credible input, and the only way to do that is for the public to give us their views on the cars they know best — the ones they own”.

The results of the Consumer Awards were verified by respected auditing firm KPMG, and reflect the true experiences of South African vehicle owners.

For more information on the Renault Sandero and the Renault Sandero price,  visit a reputable dealer such as Group 1 Renault in Stellenbosch.