In Summary
  • German machines could be good start-up vehicles, just don’t buy one that is already used.
  • A good start-up example is the Polo Vivo — I’m sorry if I sound like I am marketing, but this car won our prestigious award at the end of 2017, and with very good reasons.

Hello Baraza,

On real-time personal assessment, I want to get my first car as a used VW Golf 1.4 TSI 2013/14 (import, fairly at 90,000 mileage).

However, on a friend’s advice, German machines are not the best 'start-up' vehicles. He advises that I get a Japanese vehicle like a Toyota, a Nissan or Mazda.

He further says German cars require close attention compared with the latter. On the brighter side, contrary to the statement, nowadays there are so many VW Golfs cruising the roads, which means the market has embraced it as an economical and reliable vehicle.

Further, from a bit of research on the VW Golf TSI 1.4 from various website articles, it seems this particular model, VW Golf MK7, is a mixed bag; frequent issues with the timing chain, valves and majorly the DSG issue, especially if one is importing a VW Golf with mileage of 40,000 onwards.

I’m conscious that online stories bring out the horror of a used VW Golf, but I would like to know the straight genuine fact here.



Hey Vike,

These are the questions that usually lead to an uncomfortable Wednesday-to-Wednesday week where certain truths are bound to rub select individuals the wrong way given how I present them.

Let me give some truths as I know them:

Truth 1: German machines could be good start-up vehicles, just don’t buy one that is already used. A good start-up example is the Polo Vivo — I’m sorry if I sound like I am marketing, but this car won our prestigious award at the end of 2017, and with very good reasons.

It could cost as much as (or even be cheaper than) the Golf you are trying to buy, yet it sports the same 1.4 litre TSI engine without the turbo, which, depending on how you look at it, may be saving you from trouble further down the road.

There is the three-year, 100,000 kilometres warranty as a buffer against unforeseen eventualities, or even foreseen ones like our friend with a seized Hyundai elsewhere in this write-up.

There are financing options, as little as a Sh180,000 down payment and roughly Sh35,000 per month. I don’t think any importer will offer any of these incentives and yet you get most of the features in the Golf in the Polo at that price.

So, yes, you can have a German as a start-up car, but for peace of mind, keep it small, keep it cheap and buy new.

Truth 2: Buy a used German car and you will single-handedly keep the spare parts industry afloat with your regular fiscal inputs.

Once they start ageing, they tend to maintain their elegant gracefulness but this beauty is only skin deep.

Beneath the metal is a mechanical and electronic nightmare waiting to manifest itself when you least expect it.

The problems you have listed are known issues with the Golf, and at 90,000 kilometres, expect them to show up sooner rather than later.

So yes, a used German will keep you on your toes in a way you won’t like. You could get a brand-new Polo with a warranty and good financing.

Truth 3: “Japan” is not always synonymous with “reliable”. There are certain brands that will go unnamed for now because I hope to be given a Nissan Patrol next week to drive and therefore I don’t want to anger them; but these brands are not known for their longevity.

There is also another factor to consider: previous ownership.

The Land Cruiser is known as a bulletproof car but buy one that has evaded service (like the Hyundai) or has been driven by a masochist and it, too, will not be reliable or last long. Provenance for used cars matters more than brand reputation.



Poor installation or poor quality of plugs could be the culprit

Dear Baraza,

Mine is straightforward: My Toyota 5 L diesel engine blows heat plugs immediately I replace them, why? Due to this, I start the engine by turning the ignition key and keep it in that position until the engine fires, same as an engine with hard start.

Will this action damage the engine?



Dear Kenneth,

My response is also straightforward: Poor installation seems like the prime suspect here; either that or a missing fuse/rheostat somewhere that puts the electrical current in check.

There is also the possibility that whoever is selling you these glow plugs does not prioritise quality or originality.

In other words, fake parts. How you start the car may not damage the engine in the interim but expect frequent hard starts especially in cold weather.

These hard starts place a lot of strain on the battery and may cause the starter to overheat.

Also, without the glow plugs’ influence, you will be shortening engine life due to poor lubrication in the initial stages of engine operation (the frequent cold cranking).


Where can I find Hyundai spare parts?

Dear Baraza,

I bought a brand-new Hyundai Santa Fe from the Hyundai showroom when their head office was located in Kenya.

For three years, everything was perfect, only to find out later that they gave the dealership to somebody in Tanzania.

At only 30,000 kilometres, the engine seized and finding spare parts has been a nightmare.

Calls to the Tanzania dealer go unanswered. I have even written to the head office in Korea with no response.

Please advise how I can get the spares and further sue Hyundai Korea for damages and inconveniences caused.


Hello Jaspal,

Let us take this step by step: First, why did the engine seize at only 30,000 kilometres?

Did you never service it at all? I would have asked about the warranty but I guess not everybody does three years or 100,000 kilometres like Toyota.

Usually, when an engine seizes, the remedy is to replace the whole block; not to look for spares. This may or may not be the reason the vehicle has never got back to its feet.

That being said, how hard is it to find a Hyundai engine anyway?

I neither know why nor understand why they would ignore you, a customer, even if you may have bought the vehicle when the dealership was under different management.

If you want spares, your best bet now would be to either trawl the dusty streets of Industrial Area looking for someone who sells engines, or trawl the dusty streets of the Internet looking for someone who sells engines.

You did not provide enough details for me to know whether there are grounds to sue the manufacturer.

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