In Summary
  • There is the belief that Volkswagen parts are expensive and there is the not-unfounded reputation of everlasting Check Engine Lights. All the best.

  • The Honda? Swap out the automatic gearbox for a manual and you are home and dry, or else be prepared to send a few messages featuring the words “jerking” and “failed to engage” to this page in future.

Would a used 2012 VW Variant, a 2012 Mazda 3 or a 2012 Honda Stream make economic sense in terms of cost of purchase, fuel consumption and overall maintenance?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Garney.

Last week this part of your message went unanswered, Garney, so here we are revisiting it to see it to completion:

Cost of Purchase:

As usual, I went right back to the very popular car-selling website I usually visit occasionally whenever I want to inspire myself by checking how cheap used European SUVs have become, and this is what I found: these three cars all cost the same. They really do, all their pricing hovers around the Sh1.1 million mark. So I dug a little further.

2012 Volkswagen Golf Variant: As stated, it costs Sh1.1 million. If you venture towards engines bigger than the 1.4, expect an attendant surge in pricing towards one-and-a-half thousand. Oddly enough, the Variant is bigger and more practical than the hatchback but costs less generally. Also Tyrone, my friend who has appeared here in this column every time a Variant comes up, and thus appears again since we are discussing Variants again, sold his well-kept example to a mutual acquaintance for a fair price which I will not disclose here for obvious reasons, but the point I am making is this: private punters, especially of German cars, are an open secret as far as bargains-of-the-century go. Perhaps you need a friend like Tyrone to help you save a couple of hundred grand.

2012 Mazda 3: Costs Sh1.1 million, but hold on a minute. It is easily the cheapest car here, probably because it is the smallest, a characteristic that we will discuss shortly, but after poking around the sellers a little more, I realised that you shouldn’t pay a shilling over a million bob for one of these, or else you’ll be doing what the youth nowadays call “kujishikisha handball”. Expect quotes in the 950-980 range once you steer clear of the opportunists, but these can be negotiated down to 900 flat if you have a deft tongue in your head and a penchant for incessant haggling.

2012 Honda Stream: Charges lurk in the Sh1.1 million range with a few money-hungry dealers wandering as high up as 1.3. Avoid these avaricious types and pay the 1.1 that I have told you about … or, don’t pay. In fact, don’t pay anything at all. So, while these are just numbers, with some looking bigger than others, what do they actually mean? Let’s start with the Stream, since I just asked you not to pay for one. I have praised Honda mills here before, particularly those with “VTEC” written on the engine covers, but take note I was not as effusive about their transmissions, more so of the self-shifting kind. A cursory perusal of Car Clinic’s 2019 to 2020 history should provide an answer to this — we not only had the lengthiest consistent correspondence with a reader, Alice, her husband and the case of her temperamental Fit last year, but a mere two weeks ago we had two different Airwave owners both decrying the state of disrepair their transmissions had fallen into after use. So, through guilt by association, I daresay buy the Stream if you like repairing automatic transmissions.

And now the Volkswagen. The Mk. 6 estate does not actually carry Golf Mk. 6 underpinnings, it is a facelifted Mk. 5 — a peculiarity limited to the Variant derivative only from within the Golf family. That means that, not unlike Hollywood actresses, scratch beneath the surface and you discover that it is in reality five years older than it claims to be. Hmm. Despite these false pretences, the other two cars still trail the Teuton in terms of premium feel, so you could still buy the Golf for its sheer Germanic solidity and not feel cheated.

Not so the Mazda. Wonderful little car that is amazing to drive, but the operative word here is “little”. It has neither the practicality and carrying capacity of the Variant nor the seven-seat versatility of the Stream yet it costs the same as them. Why? If “value for money” carried a score, the Mazda would perform poorly in this company. If I pay a million for a car, I expect to see a bit more metal than the shadow the 3 casts on the driveway.

Fuel Consumption:

None of these is particularly thirsty, but I keep saying time and again the seven-speed DSG in the Volkswagen does wonders for its fuel economy that the other two will be hard-pressed to match, especially the Honda. If the Mazda has that SkyActiv witchcraft, then it may, just may, come within spitting distance of the German, but really, there is no matching The People’s Fuel Economy.

Overall Maintenance:

This will boil down to how badly you treat your car, but again, a little history of the correspondence this column has carried over the years should put things in perspective. There is the belief that Volkswagen parts are expensive and there is the not-unfounded reputation of everlasting Check Engine Lights. All the best.

Mazdas face allegations of having chicken’s teeth for spare parts: they are not easily found. I’m not sure how much this new generation of Mazdas share with other cars, but once upon a time when I owned a Demio, I discovered that certain engine components were interchangeable with those from a Nissan Wingroad. Hardly high praise, this Wingroad link, but that means spares should not be scarce, but then again, we have the internet.

The Honda? Swap out the automatic gearbox for a manual and you are home and dry, or else be prepared to send a few messages featuring the words “jerking” and “failed to engage” to this page in future.

The Subaru Impreza G4: Is it worth it?

Hi Baraza, there is this relatively new entrant on Kenyan roads known as Subaru Impreza G4. Kindly educate us on its specs and prowess. I’m particularly interested in the NA 2000cc AWD. What are its improvements on the predecessor the GH version. Does it have any inherent mechanical weaknesses? It looks rugged and beautiful, is its performance and reliability the same as its looks?

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