Home ENTERTAINMENT I am shopping for car with Sh700,000, which would you recommend?

I am shopping for car with Sh700,000, which would you recommend?

by biasharadigest

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I am a young professional looking to buy my first car in the next four months. I have been going through various options and frankly feeling overwhelmed on the choice to make. My budget is between Sh600,000 and Sh 700,000. The key features I am looking for are durability and affordability in terms of maintenance and fuel consumption. I had thought of the Nissan Tiida or Nissan Note (new shape) but changed my mind on learning about the gearbox problems Nissans manufactured from 2013 upwards have. I am currently toying with the idea of getting either the Peugeot 207 or the Mazda Verisa but I am open to other suggestions. Your recommendation would be highly appreciated.

Well, you were wise to heed the naysayers and steer clear of the Notes and Tiidas. They do seem to have consistent difficulties with the transmission, particularly the Note. A friend of a friend is currently playing a game of thimble rig with two lazy-matics and three TCMs and/or ECUs (the little compu-thingies that are the brains of an engine and/or slush-matic tranny), one of which is not even model-specific and will therefore not work. The choice between the 207 and the Verisa will depend on how much you like to drive. Both drive quite well, but the Peugeot is marginally more engaging — so marginally that it will take a hardened petrolhead made edgy by the strongest coffee to suss out these differences, but the differences are there. Incidentally, the 207’s controls are also soft to the point of stodginess, which is at odds with my earlier allegation, but listen, cars are complex, multidimensional inventions, things are not always black and white with them.


Both cars have interesting looks, with Peugeot going the artsy Euro-chic way and the Mazda opting for the Pokémon aesthetic, which just so happens to be similarly Japanese. This boils down to taste. What does not boil down to taste is opting for the 207 wagon — it is an exercise in badge blindness at the expense of common sense and anybody who buys it should never comment on your fashion sense. With the 207, you want the hatchback, or better yet, go full Riviera and pony up for the drop-top.

You will look good in the cabriolet … briefly. Then you will become angry and frustrated when the Peugeot acts like a Peugeot and starts exploring the limits of your patience and your piggy bank with its legendary French dependability (or the lack thereof). For this reason, the Verisa wins. In this age of isolation and social distancing looking good while driving has become overrated.

Which, between the Nissan B15 and Toyota 110, do you recommend?

 I enjoy reading your articles. I intend to buy my first car. I have a budget of between Sh350,000 and Sh400,000. My online survey has drawn me to Nissan B15 (which I realised you dislike) and Toyota 110. Let me know whether I can get a good car with this budget and propose other, better or similar models.

Enough with the “Baraza dislikes Nissan” narrative, it’s baseless and patently false. A 110 at 400k will be in fairly good nick: what Kenyans like to call a “clean” car. A B15 at 350k is flushing money down he toilet, almost literally. No B15 is worth that much on the used market and new ones don’t exist to push their asking price beyond a quarter million. Really, if you pay anything more than that for a used B15, you deserve to lose your money.

However, I understand you brand worshippers and your affiliations that sometimes fly in the face of logic, so if you want a Nissan that badly, then go ahead and relieve someone’s psycho-emotional torment by divesting them of B15 ownership in exchange for some money. It could even be more than a quarter million. The used car market is like a sandbox game, the only limitation is your imagination. My column and I will be awaiting the inevitable correspondence that will surely follow should you go down this road.

[Or just save yourself a headache and get the 110.]

What do you know about Corolla Fielder variants in the local market?

I am in the process of acquiring a Fielder hybrid but I am confused about the Corolla Fielder variants in the local market. I need advice, especially on mileage considerations for SBT Japan Corolla Fielder hybrid vehicles, paying attention to fuel economy and mid-range price. Your assistance in review and advice on which to go for will be highly appreciated.

I know we live in strange times of gender fluidity and political correctness, but “Dear Sir/Madam” is not the way to start if you want to stay on my good side. I’m most definitely a “sir”.

That said, there are many things that can be unpacked here, first being we have no local market for a Corolla Fielder. All the Corollas sold locally are saloons — no wagons — and all Fielders around are Asian imports, so those are for and from the Asian market.

This makes them difficult to categorise, for several reasons, one being that we weren’t really invited for their respective launches, which in turn means we’d be hard-pressed to fathom the entire Fielder line-up, like we do, say, the Land Rover Discovery line-up. Secondly, unless one has access to the revenue authority’s database, which, I believe, contains the specification details of every imported vehicle and which, I also believe, not every Tom, Dick and Sally* — or Harriett* — is privy to, it will be well-nigh impossible to trace every spec of every Fielder that has found its way into this country

[*See what I did there? Gender equality and gender fluidity are two different things].

This therefore implies that the variants of Corolla Fielder traipsing around here are as many and as diverse as the people importing them and the number you are looking for is “a myriad”, which means “a whole lot”. However, with the exception of mechanical differences such as drivetrain (2WD/4WD), powertrain (petrol/diesel/hybrid/electric) and engine capacity (1300, 1500, 1800 etc) most of these spec levels are split on trifling and largely irrelevant details that should not make a difference to you the second-hand car buyer. You gave up the right to be choosy by not buying brand-new.

I am not sure you want a right hybrid now, less so a used one, for reasons I’ve already visited before. As for the mileage, ask for certification to show that what is displayed on the cluster is genuine and not rewound. If it has been turned back, you could either abandon that purchase or proceed with it keeping in mind what the real mileage is (the figure can be verified via that certification. I hear a name like JEVIC being bandied about)

Which minivan would you recommend for airport transfers and city laps?

MK here, I have been looking up various minivans for a tour company for airport transfers and city laps. From Honda Stepwgn, Nissan Serena, Toyota Noah and Toyota Voxy. What would you recommend based on consumption, maintenance, and reliability? I am also curious to hear your thoughts on the vehicles below if one was to upgrade for executive transfers: Mazda Biante 1.9m and Toyota Vellfire 2.2m

Let’s start a fire that I have been trying to quell over the past several weeks: ignore the Nissan Serena. Really, just look past it. Also ignore the Noah if the Voxy is part of the list. The Voxy is a Noah Plus, so go for the good stuff. Life is too short to starve yourself … or something.

That leaves a showdown between the Toyota Voxy and the Honda Stepwgn — that is not a typo, the creatives at Honda seemingly developed an aversion to vowels halfway through naming that vehicle. Both these vans have reputational clout for engine reliability. They also look exactly the same. They both pack CVTs in their bowels and are both motivated by 2.0 litre 4-cylinder units with only 3kW (4hp) separating them. Needless to say, they both seat seven and have sliding doors. They are basically the same car. Whereas all cars are the same, some are more same than others. A 2014 Hnd Stpwgn (no vowels!) costs a whopping 1.8 million based on what I saw when I clicked on Cheki.co.ke. That is a whole lot more than a 2013 one that I spotted lurking in the 1.1 — 1.3 region. Half a million shillings for a year’s use, ha! A 2014 Voxy, on the other hand, costs from Sh1.6-Sh2 million, but those of earlier vintage don’t seem to drop in price as drastically as the Honda. This is the point where people with less mental clarity will start garbling about resale value, but I am not about that nonsense. But I will warn you to shop carefully because based on the previous paragraph, the Voxy is more expensive than the Stpwgn on average but you may end up overpaying for a Honda if you don’t do your due diligence.

There is no contest between the Biante and the Vellfire. The Biante is smaller and aimed at poorer people. The blurb even specifies “young couples with small children”. The Vellfire is the AMG or STi version of the Alphard, which in turn is the S Class of the Hiace, which in turn is a bigger van than the Mazda. Not all of the above is completely accurate but the point is the Vellfire is far superior to the Biante, more so when you start using terminology like “executive transfers. These are what the roided Alphard lives for.

Baraza, do you have a blog?

You have a totally good column that I love to read every week. I wanted to know if you have a special blog page, Twitter account or website where I can be reading your articles about automobiles. Looking forward to your response,

I’m glad to have a follower in you. I don’t have a blog (yiekkh, I hate that word) but I do have a hyperactive, 86,000-strong forum on Facebook where you can learn a few things if you can manage to sift through the opinions and world views of tens of thousands of people, some of whom may have no meaningful contributions to any conversation. That is the way of the internet.

All my presences on social media carry the tag “Baraza JM”, so do the searching and requisite following, but there is something even better coming along: a magazine. This is an independent publication that owes no allegiance to anybody but its makers, so expect a lot of open views, brutally honest reviews, uncorked interviews, captivating narratives, touching projects, climate change, road safety, motorsport, adventure, wanderlust and generally anything that touches on motoring and travel even in the remotest way. The magazine is called MPA: my company’s initials (Motoring Press Agency), but the tagline is Motion, Power, Advancement. Unlike the internet, where anything goes, the content of this publication is carefully curated and thoughtfully edited with a bias on dissemination of accuracy and truth, so yes, you will find a wealth of information and entertainment in every issue. The first issue should be out by the time you are reading this, if things go according to plan.

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