New on the blockAuto Africa 2006

  • Dodge Nitro
  • Mitsubishi Triton
  • Fiat Strada Extended Cab
  • Clio 3 Renault Sport
  • Nissan Qashqai
Date:30 November 2006 Tags:, , , ,

The continent’s biggest event for petrolheads, Auto Africa, was bigger than ever this year – partly thanks to its new status as a firm fixture on the international motor show calendar. And for new-car buyers, already spoilt for choice with well over a thousand derivatives to choose from, the news is that there will be even more makes and models to choose from next year. This month we highlight a few of those that particularly interested us. We bet they’ll interest you, too.

Dodge Nitro
More sport, but not necessarily less utility? That’s the recipe that Dodge is promising in its first mid-size sport-utility, the Nitro. This he-man SUV has functionality, with room for five passengers, innovative cargo features, and seating and storage flexibility. But it also has serious performance and looks to match.

Fronted by the signature Dodge crosshair grille, and featuring 20-inch wheels in an ultra-wide stance with flared fenders and chunky styling, it has a brawny don’t-mess-with-me look.

In addition to Dodge Nitro R/T, the two other models offered are the Dodge Nitro SXT and Dodge Nitro SLT.

With more than 25 safety and security features, the Dodge Nitro is no stranger to the importance of safety.

Nitro is not timid about using technology, either. In fact, it’s very intuitive. The Dodge Nitro is well-versed in digital entertainment and communication technologies, including MP3, CD, DVD and Video Entertainment System (VES).

But it’s practical as well. The seats are covered in durable YES Essentials cloth, an advanced fabric that’s said to repel stains, control odours and reduce static electricity. Dodge promises that the new fabric can withstand endless cleanings (even in the same area), and will not rub off or change the texture or comfort of the seats or surfaces during ownership of the vehicle.

Oh yes, the front passenger seat folds flat, and the reclining rear seats fold 60/40.

In addition to a mass of stowage spaces, there’s the innovative Load ‘N Go floor. This sliding panel holds up to 180 kg and is ideal for loading and unloading packages and other items. A reversible moulded cargo load floor, durable and washable, is standard on the Nitro SXT.

Ah, about that get up and go. Its 4-litre V6 delivers 194 kW at 6 000 r/min and 359 N.m at 4 200 r/min. Fuel consumption is quoted at 13,8 litres/100 km (city) and 11,2 litres/100 km (highway).

Ride should be good, courtesy of coilspring independent front suspension and five-link coil-spring rear suspension. Running gear of the various models is tuned to suit the expected application, with the R/T getting a performance package that includes 20-inch wheels and a firmer ride, with stiffer settings all round.

Transmission is five-speed automatic, and the 4×4 features permanent four-wheel-drive.

Safety and driver aids include side curtain airbags, advanced ABS with brake assist, stability control, traction control and what Dodge calls Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM).

With the coming of the Dodge Nitro, the brand’s line-up now consists of passenger cars, minivans, trucks, commercial vehicles and a full-size SUV.

Mitsubishi Triton
The Triton will complement the Mitsubishi pickup range for the time being as a full import from Thailand. As the Colt is phased out over a period of a year – demand for this 12-year-old model is apparently still high – local production of the Triton will start at the DaimlerChrysler plant in East London in mid-2008. Initially available in a 4×4 derivative, the Triton will go on sale in South Africa towards the end of the first quarter of 2007.

After the start-up phase of Triton production, there are plans to export it to other countries and regions in Africa. It’s been developed as a global strategic model for Mitsubishi.

The manufacturer claims that the vehicle’s stylish, sporty design is backed with genuine bakkie ruggedness and best-in-class roominess.

Tritons are powered by a new high-output common rail direct injection diesel engine with impressive quoted fuel economy, emissions and refinement. Mitsubishi says its four-wheel drive system has benefited from the success of the company’s Pajero in the Dakar Rally Raid, too. Expected sales for Southern Africa at this stage are 200 a month.

Fiat Strada Extended Cab
Fiat claims more than 30 cm of storage space (the equivalent of 300 dm3 in extra room) behind the seats of its Strada Extended Cab. That’s the size of the average small car’s boot. The Strada is said to be the first -ton bakkie on the market with a stretched cabin configuration. Naturally, the loadbox is smaller: it’s shrunk from 1 770 mm to 1 472 mm. Payload for the Extended Cab is rated at 700 kg as opposed to 750 kg for the standard version.

The Extended Cab is also the first model in the current Strada/Palio line-up to receive the all-new 1,4-litre MPI engine. It develops 60 kW at 5 500 r/min and 120 N.m at 2 250 r/min. It’s been designed for low-down torque: more than 90 per cent of the peak output is available from just over 2 000 r/min.

The newcomer will be offered in an entry-level Trekking version and a more leisure-orientated Adventure model. The Trekking is very similarly specced to the standard cab EL variant, with equipment that includes power steering, rev counter, rear plastic bin liner, full wheel trim and roof rails.

The Adventure model adds an upscale package that includes colour-coded bumpers and mirrors, twin driving/ foglamps, side steps, alloy wheels, central locking, air-conditioning, power windows, and a sound system.

Produced in Brazil, the Strada has, by all accounts, been a hit on the South American market. Expect to see it before year-end.

Fiat Sedici 4×4
It’s the kind of name that appeals to people with a liking for numbers games. Sedici is Italian for 16, and of course it’s a 4×4 get it? Due to be launched in the second half of next year, the Sedici is said to provide the ideal alternative to conventional C segment cars for those who want a comfortable ride, good handling and off-road ability in a compact model.

A wide range of seat configurations adds flexibility to the Sedici’s list of characteristics, and the modest 270 dm boot expands to 670 litres with the rear seat fully folded.

Expect equipment levels to be high, with all the luxury trappings such as onboard computer, remote central locking, power windows/mirrors, stereo system, cruise control and multifunction steering. Dynamic features include stability control and ABS with EBD. Depending on model, you’ll get up to 6 airbags.

Its electronically controlled on-demand 4×4 drive distributes variable torque to front and rear wheels via a central differential with 3 operating modes (2WD, Auto and Lock). Under normal conditions in the Auto mode, the Sedici is effectively 2-wheel drive; when slip is detected an electric dry multi-plate clutch coupling system (operated by an electromagnet) modulates the transferred torque electronically. The Lock position torque is allocated equally between front and rear axles at speeds up to 60 km/h. Other vital statistics include ground clearance of 19 cm, departure angle of 31,1 degrees, breakover angle of 18 degrees, and approach angle of 20,3 degrees.

When it arrives in South Africa during the second half of 2007, it will be equipped exclusively with the turbocharged 88 kW 1,9 Multijet engine (similar to the MultiJet engine in the Multipla but with a slightly higher power output). This 4-cylinder in-line unit produces 88 kW at 4 000 r/min and 280 N.m at 2 050 r/min.

Clio 3 Renault Sport
It may look cute, but don’t mess with this baby unless you’ve got what it takes. The successor to the Clio Renault Sport 2,0 16V, it’s said to benefit directly from Renault’s presence in Formula 1. Specifically, there’s a rear air diffuser, a first in this class and directly derived from motor racing’s premier championship. The diffuser combines with front wing extractor vent
s for top-rate aerodynamics.

The new Clio Renault Sport is powered by an evolution of the normally aspirated 2-litre, with power now standing at 147 kW. In traditional terms it now achieves the benchmark 100 hp per litre, which according to Renault is the highest specific power output in its category. This is largely thanks to improved volumetric efficiency, which has also boosted torque to 215 N.m at 5 550 r/min. Gearbox is a close ratio six-speeder.

Its double-axis strut suspension layout is derived from the Mgane Renault Sport, and standard features include Brembo brake callipers.

Volvo C30
The new compact from Volvo enjoyed an enthusiastic reception at its recent Paris Show launch. This sporty four-seater is described as a cool car for active people – in other words, the kind of car that perhaps would not have been expected from Volvo in the past. Well, the Swedes are aiming at a new target market: two-door premium cars intended for a young and dynamic group of customers. The company focused primarily on singles, or couples without children who see the car as an entertaining tool that matches their high-energy lives. You’ve probably envied their sculpted bodies at Virgin Active, boogied the night away with them, or admired their drive in both business and personal lives. And this is not about age, either: it’s a lifestyle thing.

To ensure a good fit with individuals’ tastes, there’s a range of dedicated body and suspension options for personalising the C30.

Engine options include four- and five-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, from 1,6 to 2,5 litres.

The most powerful turbocharged T5 petrol engine features massive torque from low engine speeds (320 N.m from 1 500 to 4 800 r/min) to ensure that it retains the T5 badge’s reputation for brutal acceleration.

In South Africa the C30 will kick off early next year with a naturally aspirated 2-litre and T5 engines.

Nissan Qashqai
The Qashqai (pronounced “Kash-Kai”) compact crossover took pride of place on Nissan’s stand just a month after its launch at the Paris show.

Inspired by the concept car of the same name presented at Geneva in 2004, it’s a

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