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By 29 August 2012 | Categories: feature articles

 

You don't need to be an Oppenheimer to be able to smell the finest leather and mahogany wood from the driver's seat of your luxury hatchback. Here are our top 5 choices.

Mercedes-Benz A class

Mercedes-Benz A class

The brand new A class is only arriving in 2013, but is already shaping up to make a play for the top spot within this segment. Until it arrives though, buyers can get the current model, with our pick of the bunch being the A180 that boasts a 1.7 litre four cylinder engine pumping out 85 kW at 5500 RPM and 155 NM between 3500 at 4000 RPM. This is enough to propel the luxury vehicle from 0-100 km/h in just shy of 11 seconds, on to an illegal terminal velocity of 188 km/h.

Not that you'll be able to notice its speed from within the cocoon of luxury, since the standard features on this car include cruise control and an audio system with six disc CD changer and eight speakers. Safety equipment includes a tyre pressure loss warning system, while drivers can add optional extras like an active park assist system for R5100. The most affordable car to feature a three-pointed star badge on its bonnet costs R252 000.

Volvo C30 2.0 Essential

Volvo C30 2.0 Essential

Volvos are renowned for their safety features and the C30 hatchback offers plenty in this department, including dynamic stability and traction control, as well as an adaptive brake light system. The latter is able to detect the difference between normal and panic braking and acts accordingly, by flashing the brake lights at the rate of four times per second during a panic braking situation.

Other than safety, this hatch's biggest drawcard is its styling, with its look certainly playing a part in setting it apart from the more conservatively designed rivals within this segment. Its 2.0 four cylinder petrol powerplant develops 107 kW at a music to the petrolheads' ears 6000 RPM and 185 Nm at 4500 RPM. It's enough to propel this Swedish supermodel to 100 km/h in 9.4 seconds, whilst using around 7.6 litres per 100 km in a combined cycle. A date with this looker isn't cheap at R275 000.

Audi A3 1.8T FSI Ambition manual

Audi A3 1.8T FSI Ambition manual

Performance wise, the A3 is right up there with the Beemer since its 1.8 TFSI engine delivers 118 kW of power between 5000 and 6200 RPM as well as 250 NM of torque between 1500 and 4200 RPM. Drivers will be able race from robot to robot since it can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 7.6 seconds onto a theoretical (we hope, unless you're on a race track) top speed of 222 km/h.

Driving it conservatively however should, with the assistance of the start-stop system, result in a combined fuel consumption figure of just over nine litres per 100 kilometers. The problem with the stunning A3 is its an extensive list of optional extras that easily propels its already premium asking price into the stratosphere. Yours for a pricey R290 000, but add the acoustic parking system (front and rear) for example and you'll fork out an additional R7000.

Lexus CT 200h

Lexus CT 200h

At R359 000 the CT 200h is the most expensive car on our list and the only hybrid. It is powered by a 1.8 litre 16V DOHC petrol engine developing 73 kW at 5200 RPM and 142 NM of torque at 4400 RPM, plus an electric motor that churns out 60 kW and 207 Nm.

As a hybrid the CT 200h S delivers exceptional fuel efficiency with its combined figure of an incredible 4.1 litres per 100 km. Even so, this car is no less zippy than its conventional rivals, accelerating from standstill to 100 km/h in 10.3 seconds onto a top speed of 180 km/h.

Beyond treehugger credentials, this vehicle offers a head turning design and all the creature comforts associated with Lexus including a premium sound system, Bluetooth system with voice command, daytime running lights, keyless start system and dual automatic aircon system with pollen filter.

BMW 1 Series

BMW 1 Series

BMW might be on par with its German rivals, Mercedes and Audi, in terms of design, tech integration and safety, but its in its sporty driving experience that this brand shines. Even though this is the entry-level vehicle in the automaker's stable, it is no less exhilarating to drive thanks to BMW's TwinPower turbo 1.6-litre petrol engine powering the 118i (and 116i). This efficient German powerplant churns out 125 kW at 4800 RPM and 250 NM of torque between 1500 and 4500 RPM, enough to propel this car from standstill to 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds.

All this whilst still delivering a claimed combined fuel figure of less than six litres per 100 km, with fuel usage rate boosted further by ECO PRO Mode. According to BMW, driving in ECO PRO mode makes it possible to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%. Getting into the driver's seat of the five door 116i costs a cool R273 000.


This article first appeared in TechSmart 107, August 2012.

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