What car type is best for me?

Far from being exclusively utilitarian, vehicle ownership and lifestyle choices have become almost synonymous. Fortunately, there isn’t a shortage of choice as smart, electric, hybrid, recreational, off and on-road vehicles all give consumers avenues to express their inner petrol head.

If you’re in the market for a new ride, here are a few things to consider to ensure you get the kind of vehicle that gives you the most value for your lifestyle.

What are the different drivetrain types?

The different drivetrain types are front-wheel drive , rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The first cars were rear wheel drives but was soon followed by front wheelers that have become more commonplace than its predecessor. Front wheel drives are cheaper to manufacture and use up less interior space since the engine and transmission are situated over the front wheels. However, certain sports cars, off-road and utility vehicles are still manufactured in rear wheel drive.

Four wheel drivetrains have been synonymous with off-road vehicles and bakkies for a very long time. However, these drivetrains have become increasingly popular for road vehicles since they offer superior control over that of front and rear-wheel drivetrains.

Four wheel drivetrains come with different options. In permanent 4-wheel drive engines, the power is equally shared between all the wheels, giving drivers no control over how power is distributed.

Part-time 4-wheel drive allows the driver to select between 2 and 4-wheel power depending on whether they are on or off road. Super select 4-wheel drives are even more accommodating by allowing drivers to choose between high or low 2 and 4-wheel drive.

In a real life example, a driver would choose high 2-wheel drive to reduce fuel consumption on a long straight road whereas low 4-wheel drive would be for tough terrain like sand, snow or steep ascends.

What is the difference between petrol and diesel cars

Most car models come with a choice between diesel or petrol engines. Diesel engines are known to be slightly noisy when compared to petrol engines, but offer more torque and fuel efficiency than since they are able to produce high compression ratios than petrol engines.

This makes diesel engines better suited for jobs that require torque like towing, overtaking at low speed and sharp inclines. Diesel engines are more expensive to maintain due to their more complex nature but do offer more environmental benefits when used over long periods when compared to petrol engines.

Petrol engines are known to leave a bigger carbon footprint but offer drivers other benefits such as lower cost of fuel and smaller maintenance bills. However, drivers will find themselves shifting gears more often as petrol engines offer much lower torque than their diesel counterparts.

If you’re not sure about whether a petrol or diesel engine is right for you, think about your daily driving routine. If you live in an area with inclines and periodic traffic, diesel might be the right engine type for you as you’ll shift fewer gears and keep carbon emissions lower. If you’re looking for performance and want to avoid more expensive maintenance costs in the long run, think petrol.

What are the differences between electric, hybrid and internal combustion engines?

Internal combustion engines use traditional fuels to drive engines forward. These are known to contribute significantly to carbon emissions as they burn the various types of fuel to operate. Currently, internal combustion engines still make up 98% of the world’s 100 000 million cars.

Alternatives to internal combustion engines and fuels have always existed but haven’t always enjoyed the same exposure as its forerunner. However, new innovations in the automotive sector have given rise to hybrid electric/internal combustion engines and fully electric vehicles.

Hybrid engines use a combination of fuel and electric power to drive the car’s engine. The engine is powered by both the fuel and electric engines as the traditional engine powers the batteries that provide electricity to the electric engine. With the two engines working in concert, the car is powered by a combination of combustion and electrical current. The smaller and more efficient fuel engine supported an electric counterpart makes hybrids great on fuel efficiency and mileage.

Electric cars are the full monty of the alternatively powered vehicle, of which the Tesla brand is undoubtedly the most famous. Using electricity exclusively, electric cars are yet to take off in South Africa as the lack of charging stations makes powering an electric engine impractical for the local enthusiast. Noble by intention, hamstrung by practicality, for now at least.

Should I go with a manual or automatic transmission?

While most drivers’ first time experience behind the wheel is with a manual stick shift gearbox, there is much to say for the comfort and convenience of an automatic transmission. Manual transmissions do offer more control over how the engine shifts between gears, which is something many drivers prefer. However, constant shifting between gears can be a labour for some who prefer doing less behind the steering wheel.

Automatic transmissions might take some of the control away, but offer drivers more convenience. Modern automatic transmissions are also increasingly adaptive and responsive thanks to computing and other automotive advances, making them suitable for even tricky stop/start driving conditions. Think about what kind of driving experience suits you best and choose the transmission type that works for you.

Should I consider getting a convertible?

This would be a very weather dependent consideration. South Africans are blessed with 2500 hours of sunshine every year, making our climate suitable to owning a sexy convertible. However, you should keep in mind that owning a convertible comes with a set of pros and cons to mull over.

Some of the pros are that the car is undoubtedly great looking, will let you enjoy scenic drives and look the part while you take in the wide open skies. Cons are that you’ll have more cabin noise when the top is closed, will have less security and will have to deal with a broken convertible top if damaged or badly maintained.

Is a coupe right for my lifestyle?

Great coupes become classics for their looks and appeal in popular culture, but if your average week includes dropping the kids at school, taking the dog to the vet and long Sunday drives with the family, then you should get a station wagon. With that said, if owning a second vehicle is a possibility for you and your Forrester is happy to do all the heavy lifting, owning a smart convertible and/or coupe can be a lot of fun.

Think about the car that compliments your lifestyle

Your car of choice should give you the satisfaction that your life is made simpler, more pleasurable and convenient. This will largely depend on your lifestyle choice and environment, which you should strongly consider when choosing a vehicle.

Think about the things that are most important to you as a car owner and list them against what your range of options can offer you. Also, don’t be too quick when it comes to buying, consider taking a few more test drives before committing to a sale. The options are plenty and there is a perfect car out there for everyone.

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