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The 11th generation Toyota Corolla sedan is available and is under Shs100m with all taxes paid. Maybe it is the perfect Christmas gift for you or your loved one(s) Jude Katende test drove it last week.

The last time I had a proper test drive was in 2008 in Barcelona, Spain and later on in Johannesburg, South Africa. I and a dozen other African motoring journalists, were behind the wheels of the then latest Nissan Qashqai, Nissan Hardbody and Nissan Pathfinder (the type Kampala division mayors drive). We left Barcelona city and went to some rugged forest like place because the Nissan people wanted us to feel the vehicles’ off road (save for the Qashqai) capabilities, test things like “Hill Assist”.

A similar thing happened down south when we left comfy Sandton and went to some rugged place near Pretoria. Both car testing places were devoid of traffic, now imagine my situation with crazy boda guys coming from different directions. Recently, I was test driven (sounds funny but later on in this story, you will know why it isn’t) in a VW Amarok pick-up and a Kia Sorento. The latter car was due for delivery that very day to the actual owner. Now you can imagine if I messed it up.

Risky business
If Spear Motors invites you for a test drive and the sales director, Gilbert Wavamunno, insists on driving you for your story, don’t tell him how you have 20 years’ experience. Some Mercedes Benzes have instructions on how to drive them (yes, these things happen). If it senses that you are in a drowsy state (the 2014 SL Class), it won’t move (that’s new technology for you).

I have had to use a lengthy background about the latest Toyota Corolla but it is worth it if you are a car fan. When Edwin Muhumuza invited me for the test drive last week, in my mind I was like “okay, that is fine, provided I sit in the co-driver’s seat.” Come 3pm, my photographer and I were in Industrial Area and as I headed left, Muhumuza was like, “You man why are you dodging the keys?”

See, when you crash or expose an expensive car to dents, you will forget about your pension. Back to the story. I didn’t have to use Muhumuza’s keys. I put the keys in one of the cup holders. I just pressed the start stop engine button (a common feature in new cars) and it went into a soft purr. Destination: Northern Bypass. We went through Kololo down through Bukoto and everywhere we passed, it felt good.

Pretty young thing
You know how people praise 20-year-old cars and they forget that they could actually be the third or fourth owners. It is because to them, the well maintained cars feel good. Now imagine the feeling in a 2015 car. Along the Bypass, Muhumuza would urge me to give it more power but 60kph felt like 100kph. It goes up to 240kph, a sign that it is indeed meant for this market, otherwise all Japanese domestic market cars are restricted to 180kph.

The dashboard has an icon that tells your average speed and mine recorded by the trip computer showed that I was doing an average of 22kph. No, I wasn’t driving that slow, but it was the “average” I don’t know if you have understood. See, Friday afternoons can get messy with so many traffic gridlocks. So, where we were slow, the computer registered it. Even when you step the pedal and the speedometer hits 80kph, the trip computer still reminded me of my average 22kph. You know something is good when stares increase. It felt like we were in something close to what is usually reserved for Miss Uganda or Miss World.

Quiet engine
As the stares increased, we savoured the moment. It has a smooth quiet engine and doesn’t make the noise other automatic cars make when shifting gears. Thanks to the continuously variable transmission, gear shifting is seamless and quiet, you don’t hear anything. To someone used to those noises, they may think the car has a problem. Muhumuza says this is new technology.
“We give them feedback and they improve on later models,” Muhumuza explains about how feedback from clients is sent to Mr Toyoda, Toyota’s big man in Japan. And they respond.

Hill Assist
In Bukoto, while ascending a hill, two vehicles were joining those descdening so that meant we were delayed a bit and that I had to step on the brakes, but I did not have to, beause the car’s “Hill Assist” feature was automatically engaged. The car remained still without me hiting the brakes! Coming back to town, we passed the same route but somehow used a different one without noticing despite the photographer pointing it out.

Later, Muhumuza agreed with her, maybe I was so fast to notice or it just felt so nice. Although it is somehow a big car, while inside you don’t feel so. The wheelbase has been extended by 100mm unlike the previous generation which the Uganda police is using. The seating space and legroom have improved. Handling and stability have also been improved.

But I was cautious not to damage the long front bumper and those long lights. It is the one drawback I noticed. The 3D layout of the headlamps stands out. The lights protrude outwards so in this jam-packed city, you need to look out for crazy boda boda cyclists for not hitting those lights as they squeeze their bikes out of the traffic.

In summary
As I eased into a parking spot near the Daily Monitor’s main entrance, it attracted more stares but I was happy, nothing bad happened to the car while in my hands. Some motoring journalists have crashed Ferraris and Lamborghinis, so my lengthy intro, I think was worth the salt.
For three years or 100,000km, the 2015 Corrolla is under warranty. So in case something happens to it (not a crash), you are covered within that period.

The first generation Corolla hit the market in 1966, and this year marks its 47th anniversary (As of 2013.) With each new generation, the Corolla has adopted new concepts and technologies, and in its history with Toyota, the Corolla has taken the role of leader in the motorization of Japan and the rest of the world. This new model marks the 11th generation, and the Corolla is now manufactured in 16 production bases and sold in 154 countries around the world. Hence, the Corolla has grown to literally become a global car.

I believe this feat has been achieved because each successive development team has observed the philosophy set forth by Tatsuo Hasegawa, Chief Engineer of the first generation model, to develop a “Corolla that brings happiness and well-being to people around the world,” says Shinichi Yasui, Chief Engineer, Toyota Product Planning Group ZE.