Is it a Yaris or a Polo?

I plan to buy a car around August or September. I am interested in: VW Polo 1.4, Toyota RunX 140 RT or a Toyota Yaris sedan. I can pay monthly instalments of between R3000 and R3500. Can you advise me on which one is the best option?

- Vincent


Vincent, your short list is very intelligent. Both Toyota and Volkswagen have good records of commitment to quality and service in South Africa over many years. The RunX is no longer in production, which implies that you are weighing the option of a used car versus a new car. That is a topic worthy of a lengthy debate.

Very briefly, a used car is cheaper to buy and the initial depreciation will be less than on a new car. On the negative side, problems of spares availability, an unknown history and limited guarantee back-up, count against it. A used car is the right choice for someone who is on a tight budget, but who knows a bit about the workings of a car and can work on it when necessary.

Looking at the Polo and the Yaris, I must emphasise that the decision is greatly influenced by personal preferences. Go for test drives and try to concentrate on every aspect of the driving experience. Then question the salesperson closely on the service plans offered. A service plan that offers free services for four years or 60000km (no labour charges and no charge for compulsory replacement of items such as oil and spark plugs, only excluding wear-and-tear items like brake pads and exhausts) is a big advantage compared to no service plan or an extra-cost, add-on service plan. Another factor that complicates the decision is the price of spare parts, especially if you intend to keep the car for a long time. Enquire about the price of cam belts, CV joints, shock absorbers, etc. My personal preference in your position is the Yaris.

The ABS warning light on my 2006 Renault Clio 1.4 has suddenly come on. The brakes still function. I removed the front wheels and inspected the brake pads and there's ample lining left on them. Is the ABS light warning me that my brakes are suddenly going to pack up? I don't have money to have this looked at right now, so please tell me how urgent it is.

- Jakes


No, Jakes, the ABS warning light is just telling you that the ABS part of the whole brake effort is not operational. It can be caused by various things, often a problem in a wheel sensor resulting from a careless wheel change or a little stone trapped in the ABS segmented wheel. You will still have normal braking, but the Anti-Brakelock System will be out of action and thus your wheels will lock if you stamp too hard on the brake pedal, especially if the road surface is slippery or gravelly.

Locked wheels provide less braking than rolling wheels and also lead to a loss of steering control. Provided you keep this in mind and drive and brake in such a way that you never need the ABS function, there's no reason why you cannot ignore the ABS light until you have money to sort it out. When the ABS light and the normal brake system warning light remain on at the same time, while driving, with handbrake released, it's a different story. Then it requires immediate attention.