I WISH to buy a car that won't give me any trouble. I was thinking of a Renault Sandero 1,6 but my husband believes Renault is not as good a car as Toyota, Polo, and the like.

I WISH to buy a car that won't give me any trouble. I was thinking of a Renault Sandero 1,6 but my husband believes Renault is not as good a car as Toyota, Polo, and the like.

My problem is that I could ignore him but if I have problems at a later stage the "I told you so" statements will begin.

What is your advice? I specifically chose the Sandero because it is, comparatively affordable. I know we grew up knowing Toyota to be the best but I tend to differ, which I don't want to regret it.


Rhandzu, your delightful letter prompted me to visit the nearest Renault dealer to have a good look at the Sandero. And I can see why you like it.

It is surprisingly spacious for its class and the specification level is good - you get airbags on all models and ABS brakes on all except the two cheapest models.

I regard ABS as such a valuable feature that I would forego the price advantage of the two cheapest models and consider the 1,6 "United", priced at R124900, as the entry model.

Even that price still compares favourably with its nearest rivals. Admittedly the Sandero's power and torque are not quite on a par with the class leaders, nor is the fuel economy, perhaps a more serious drawback. There have also been quibbles about the interior trim not exuding enough quality ... something that wouldn't worry me too much.

Your main concern is the long-term reliability of the car that you are going to buy, and on that score the Sandero is an unknown factor at this stage.

It hasn't been available in South Africa long enough to establish a clear reputation as being either good or bad.

Perhaps it would be more meaningful to accept that with any new car, even the most prestigious ones, there is a statistical chance that something serious will go wrong in the first few years and, of course. any car needs periodic servicing throughout its life and the occasional replacement parts due to minor mishaps.

This calls into focus the long-term availability of spare parts, and the affordability of services, once the maintenance plan has expired.

Problems in this regard can be just as annoying as mechanical niggles. It is infuriating to discover, four years down the line when the maintenance plan has expired, that servicing costs and parts prices have rocketed and spare parts are not as instantly available as the suave salesman had promised.

It is in this department that the smaller South African manufacturers find it hard to compete with the big mass-producers, of which Toyota and Volkswagen are currently frontrunners.

There is a good reason why vehicles like the CitiGolf and Nissan 1400 LDV were champions of low parts prices and freely available spare parts during the latter years of their production runs.

By then hundreds of thousands of them had been built and you could find their parts everywhere. That gives you peace of mind. Volkswagen are now telling us that they intend to turn the Polo Vivo into the CitiGolf's successor.

On the strength of that I would at least consider the Vivo as an alternative.

Having said that, I fully understand that you prefer to march to your own drummer when it comes to motor cars, and that you are looking for something different from the humdrum, run-of-the-mill cars.

I have great empathy with rugged individualists. (As the playwright Henrik Ibsen said: "The majority is always wrong!") So I am not trying to dissuade you from buying the Sandero.

I am merely pointing out that there is a price to be paid for individualism.

I suggest you look at all the cars in the Sandero-Vivo class (there are quite a few). Study their specifications, service plans, go for test drives and then choose the one that best combines long-term peace of mind with individualism.