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From starter-pack to glo-up: a 2018 car model for every pocket

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When a Maserati drives past, you can’t help but look. The brand — with its iconic trident logo, said to be modelled on the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore — prides itself on its core principles of personality, design, and exclusivity. And Maserati has, undoubtedly, become synonymous with luxury and having “made it”. 

On a casual winter’s day in Monaco, where Maserati had invited me to test drive the 2018 Ghibli, I had a chance to test out the pipes of the Italian beast. 

The Ghibli comes in two model lines, the GranLusso and the GranSport. Before taking you inside, let me talk you through some of the exterior trimmings which give the car its coupé-like attitude. I’m not typically one to obsess about the grille, the spoiler, and the like, but when senior exterior designer Quentin Amore spoke lovingly of the pronounced grille that resembles iconic Maserati cars of the ’50s, the frameless doors, and the range-standard quadruple chromium-plated exhaust pipes, it was hard to deny that some fine detailing has gone into giving the Ghibli (originally launched in 2014) a facelift. 

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The baseline Ghibli and the Ghibli GranLusso have the same design features, which are more focused on luxury, while the GranSport (my favourite) boasts a subtly more aggressive exterior that gives it a sportier edge. The changes d allow the car to be more aerodynamic, which means less resistance when driving.

The upper-range models are also fitted with Adaptive, full-LED headlights developed in collaboration with Magneti Marelli Automotive Lighting. The system is managed by an electronic control unit, a camera, and sensors that use real-time communication to adjust the high- and low-beam patterns, depending on the driving conditions. Hooray for us with photo sensitivity! This feature, as was demonstrated by a clever machine (since we drove during the day), means that when a Ghibli glides past you, you will not be blinded, because the lights will automatically adjust.

But inside is where the real magic happens. Stepping into the car feels like being hugged by a fantastic Italian designer label. The Ermenegildo Zegna silk interior features on the seats, doors panels, roof lining, and ceiling-light fixture, complemented by a Radica open-pore wood trim and wood-finished leather steering wheel, give the interior a lavish feel. The seats have 12-way power adjustment, as well as a power-adjustable steering wheel, all of which helped my short legs reach the pedals. The interior feels luxe but not ostentatious, and, while I was impressed, it was a little underwhelming considering the price tag.  

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And now for the drive, but first a preamble. My friend kept reminding me how Grace Kelly died on the windy roads of Monaco, so, coupled with the left-hand drive, this made for a nervous condition. But the way the car handles is like a dream, gliding and manoeuvring with ease, even through the incredibly narrow and windy roads. The sound of the Ferrari-manufactured V6 engines, is enough to make it all worthwhile, and you don’t even have to be flying to experience the glorious purr-growl. The Ghibli is just a little smaller than a Rolls-Royce, but you definitely don’t feel as if you are handling an untameable beast. The car felt balanced and stable, although the petrol version was an easier ride, as the diesel has a heaviness that takes some getting used to. The models I drove also  had Highway Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Traffic Sign Recognition which made traversing the European roads easier. Would I buy a Ghibli given the means? It’s a yes from me.

The model lines range between R1 750 000 and R2 000 000

If you are in the market for a mid-level vehicle, Thembekile Vokwana suggests the electrifying Elantra

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Hyundai hasn’t been particularly known for the speed of its vehicles, but rather for its production of safe cars in terms of design and performance. The Korean company has failed to challenge its European counterparts when it comes to adding zing to its cars but that looks like it’s about to change with its Turbo Elite Sport powered by a turbo-charged 1.6 litre engine. However, although The Turbo Elite Sport is fast, it doesn’t have the vvvvrrrrppphhhhaaaaa of its German counterparts. 

The interior is plush, and the cabin comfortable, roomy and quiet, with not much wind noise coming through. The car can comfortably seat four adults in its leather-clad sport seats, and accommodate their luggage with ease in the voluminous 458l boot space. The front grille and taut design give it a sporty look, while the back has a rather subtle boot spoiler and quad exhaust pipes to show its intention to its rivals. The five-spoke 17’’ alloy wheels compliment the car and enhance its look. The car pushes out a respectable 150kW and 265Nm of torque, delivered through a seven-speed gear transmission, with the obligatory shift paddles behind the steering wheel. I felt a bit of a turbo lag when I put my foot down, but that is momentary, because, once the turbo kicks in, the car just vanishes into the horizon.

The infotainment dashboard has your standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen that has a satnav, USB ports for your mobile devices, and Bluetooth. However, I found it quite disappointing, as it looked and felt outdated, and was not as intuitive as I would expect in a car of this price range.

But, in general, this car ticks all the right boxes, considering its pricing, at R400 000. It also comes with a seven-year/200 000kms powertrain warranty. Hyundai has managed to produce a good package, and one can only imagine the company taking it up a notch up with its next-generation Elantra. This Korean giant has made its intentions loud and clear.

The Renault Captur Blaze: not the lowest entry point but a winning option, suggests Thembekile Vokwana

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The compact crossover market in South Africa is at its most competitive, with multiple manufacturers vying for the attention of the car-buying public.

I had an opportunity to drive the Renault Captur Blaze, its entry-level trim. This is a trendy, nippy, compact crossover sports utility vehicle, with a few customisation options.

The Captur Blaze starts with the 66kW Turbo petrol engine, a 66kW 1.5 dCi (diesel) and the range topping engine that pushes out 88kW. I had the entry level trim, 66kW Turbo Dynamique, which surprised me with its cushy leather trims, and expensive chrome and metals. It is, after all, an affordable, entry-level vehicle. The fuel consumption is very good, with a claimed 5.4l/100km.

The Renault is comfortable even on fairly rutted and muddy farm roads. Most manufacturers would tell you how the raised ride height makes a difference, and in this case it did, albeit over the short distance I covered. The infotainment system uses an app called R&Go, which allows your smartphone to be the car’s custom infotainment system. The app provides information such as your fuel-consumption figure, and your eco-score, which measures how efficient your driving is. The other smart feature is the Find My Renault, which drops a GPS pin of your location to your phone when you leave the car, to help you locate it, should amnesia strike.

The boot has a false floor to reveal more boot space. Hill-start assist and ESP (electronic Stability Control Programme) care standard, as are four airbags, ABS, and EBD (Emergency Brake Assist). The price starts at R234 900 for the entry-level Dynamique range.

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