In Summary
  • There is a Renault dealership to give you hope, but the Megane-with-a-lengthy-surname you list sounds suspiciously like a devourer of derv (dCi), which is a whole other problem in itself, and is not sold locally.

  • There was a Chrysler outlet within DT Dobie but they too realised some Yank brands are best left to the Yanks and divested themselves of that portfolio.

Dear Baraza,

My friend is shopping for a car in the UK on my behalf. I’ve been looking through a website and the cars I saw are unique makes that I hardly see on our Kenyan roads. These include: the Renault Megane 1.5 dCi, Dynamique Tom Tom EDC 5dr (Tom Tom), Chevrolet (I’ve seen a few), Vauxhall Corsa, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and Chrysler Delta.

Is it advisable to buy such unique makes for the Kenyan roads? I’m a first-time potential car owner.

Thanks for being a great resource on all things cars.

Cheers!

Edith

Hi Edith,

You are right: the cars you list may occur with a bit of ubiquity over in the United Kingdom of Great Britain-land but you’d be hard-pressed to find more than three units locally, and as you may have suspected, this comes with a glaring attendant problem: a noticeable lack of support networks.

Be it skilled workmanship honed over years of familiarity with the marque or a line of outlets selling sundry parts and components thereof, a quick look around will reveal a dearth of both.

There is a Renault dealership to give you hope, but the Megane-with-a-lengthy-surname you list sounds suspiciously like a devourer of derv (dCi), which is a whole other problem in itself, and is not sold locally. Renault only sells the petrol-powered Megane here. It is a nice, well-priced alternative Corolla, for what that’s worth …

There was a Chevrolet dealership here under General Motors which was bought out by Isuzu EA, subsequently waving goodbye to the bow-tie brand when all things non-Isuzu were purged from the roster, so there goes that.

There was a Chrysler outlet within DT Dobie but they too realised some Yank brands are best left to the Yanks and divested themselves of that portfolio.

Vauxhall is also Chevrolet is also Holden is also General Motors, but the Corsa they sold here was a model conjured up during the Moi government, making it a largely irrelevant car to this discussion unless your list comprises of hardware from the mid-90s. Newer models have never seen a showroom floor in Kenya. The Citroens we remember are as old as we are.

QUIRKY FRENCH

You may be able to source for parts — that is what the internet is for anyway, shopping — but you still have to find someone brave (or foolish) enough to tinker with a quirky French car s/he has never seen before, and trust me, French cars are quirky. This usually marks the beginning of a long and depressing slide into the dark side of the moon that is lemon-flavoured motor vehicle ownership, which in turn leads you to cuss out various brands for their general s — yness. Sometimes this is deserved, sometimes it’s not really the brand’s fault that nobody knows how to repair their cars. The starting list you have is not a very encouraging one as far as reliability goes, especially Citroen and Chrysler; and while the former has little or no presence here in Kenya, the latter was quietly put out to pasture — neither circumstance is a good prognosis.

Your best choice there is the Megane, but please make it a petrol one and let the diesel one live out its life in the North Atlantic, where they are used to it. If not, play it safe and get a Japanese brand; there are a number of UK-assembled models to choose from, such as the Toyota Avensis and the Honda Accord, among others. Your friend should be able to provide you with a more exhaustive list. Also, avoid diesel engines for now.

The best German car

is a new one

Mr Baraza,

As always, your column dispenses quite a lot of useful information and the occasional comic relief in the neighbourhood of “ raised, wide tyred, heavy duty, masculine Demio!”. I hope my note will not try your patience further.

My car history is quite chequered. Renault 16TS, Peugeot 504 and 405, Mitsubishi Chariot, Hyundai Elantra, Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and an Isuzu D-Max and Ford Ranger T6 for my farming misadventures.

As you can see, I‘ve had no brand loyalty. Now that I’m getting rather long in the tooth, I want to shift to something easier on my bones, and I’m looking at a 2015 Mercedes ML350 courtesy of Cars.co.za. The only acquaintance I’ve had with Mercs was as a passenger in my old lady’s 220S back in the 70s. So, ML350 … will it be a solid buy, or am I setting myself up for misery?

Patrick.

Hi Patrick,

I have to agree, yours IS quite the colourful automotive history … did I just see a Renault 16 in the line-up? And not one but two Peugeots? I admire the lack of brand loyalty; it is something a lot of people would do well to pick up from you. Brand loyalty tends to be an impediment to objectivity and critical analysis. Anyway …

The Benz ML350 is a bit comme çi comme ça, — ranked ninth in some American survey on a list of luxury SUVs, prestigious badge, crossover class, all that jazz — so I won’t dissuade you from getting one, but let us instead focus on the last word of your correspondence: “misery”.

I’m not saying misery awaits you; but then again I’m not saying it isn’t. This column once featured a complainant who did not have pleasant things to say about his experience trying to get a similar one repaired, but there was a caveat: his car was not new.

A 2015 car is relatively new, by comparison and also hopefully. Unknown provenance is a fickle and cruel master. This is where I pause things to ask you: Must the car come from South Africa? I noticed the “.co.za” suffix in the URL you provided; which means it is a South African website.

There is a closely guarded secret that DT Dobie may or may not be pleased with me revealing, but, as hard to believe as it may sound, it is true: brand-new Mercedes-Benz cars are not as expensive as people think they are.

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