The Middleton household fortunately has 2 cars: A 2001 Jeep Cherokee CRD and a 2003 Peugeot 307 2.0.XS. We’ve had the Peugeot longest and the clock sits on 270,000kms. Given this figure and the fact that we’ve never had major trouble with it, the services have always been spot on and it’s still a decent looking and comfortable car, I’d say it has treated us well.

The Jeep...well, we haven’t had it long but it’s had a long and hard life, trekking across Southern Africa many times to and from Zimbabwe; Mozambique and the whole landscape of South Africa and Swaziland. It hasn’t treated us well, though it has travelled more than 362,000kms. Anyhow, that said, by way of a long introduction, we have 2 relatively old cars.

With this sort of age comes the reality that things will go wrong and we’ve never spent anything less than R10,000 bucks on ‘servicing’ the Jeep. That said, the last 2 issues were a broken fuel pump (I think) and most recently a broken starter. On the Pug, as we affectionately call it, the rear seat clip broke a few months back and then an oil leak sprung from somewhere between the gearbox and the engine(there are technical terms for these but I don’t know em). It is this leak which has brought me to this debate and slating session.

I decided that we had spent too much money on dealers when our cars had issues, so low and behold, 200 metres down the road from our house, a shiny new ‘Car Service City’ opened up. They looked the part, the staff was friendly and after a little bit of debate, we sent the Pug there to get this oil leak seen to. We ‘checked’ the car in and were told they’d have it sorted within a few hours. At this point let me assert that the car was fine, apart from a small oil leak which was only causing issues with the body corporate where I live, because the paving was getting dirty. Other than that the car drove perfectly well, without any issues. When we picked it up a few hours later, I noticed 2 things. 1) The car sounded like a diesel, which is ISN’T. (2) The car felt like a Diesel, which it ISN’T. Not a C220 CDI Diesel; but like my father’s old Toyota Hilux diesel. It was rough; idled erratically and the engine shook as if an engine mounting was gone.

I complained. Graciously. The car was not the same car we drove in this morning. Was the oil leak fixed? A resounding YES! But the rest of the car was a mess. A complete and utter mess! They then suggested they clean out the fuel system, whatever that actually means. That too was a joke, and one of the skilled mechanics almost lost his face when the car popped hot air and liquid (I don’t know what kind) straight into his face. It was clear...I was dealing with idiots. And I was an even bigger idiot. The ‘flush’ didn’t help and I complained again to the manager; who said they did nothing other than fix the leak. I complained again, to the Owner, an older, more arrogant man. I wanted my money back, plain and simple! He refused saying I couldn’t prove that they had worsened the car. Oddly, all the staff were fired a few days later, so when I returned to complain more, nobody was there who had worked on my car, so....

I then complained to Head office of Car Service City who kindly told me to eff off and deal with the owner of the branch. I wrote complaints to RMI and I complained on HelloPeter, all to absolutely no difference. All that I got was the same garb from the owner, except this time in written form.

So I spend R5000 to get a worse car that needed even more repair. I then took the poor old Pug to Peugeot Fourways and as always, they sorted it quickly and professionally, and as always, it cost me a further R6000.

In my mind, there’s no debate here. I am loathe to use another independent repair centre. . . oh yes but then a Bosch Centre opened a few metres from the said Car Service City. I took the Jeep there for it’s starter motor to be fixed. They stored the car, fixed the car in bullet quick time AND it cost me R489.00.
So now what? I still don’t know what is best and if there is a way to establish when to use a repair centre or when to go straight to the dealer.

- Bosch Service Centre 100m from home.

We’ve now decided to buy new cars. The clutch on the Pug has just gone, and you know what? I can’t deal with it right now. I knew it was coming, but now that it has, well, I hang my face in my hands and cry man-tears because I know that we’re in for double figure thousands. That trip to Greece looks like it’s going to remain a dream...and there’s no money there either.

(Oh and by the way, if you Google ‘Car Service City’; you’ll find that a the 2nd result...and the 3rd and the 4th. Wow I’m surprised!!!! )

Formula 1 in 2012 - It's ON!

2011 is behind us. Finished. Done.

2012 is ahead of us, and with my never-look-back-unless-it-was-a-good-season-attitude, I look forward, confident that this will indeed be a Leap year for us. I should explain that by 'us' I mean the 2 teams that I support emphatically and enthusiastically during an F1 season.
Team 1: Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes. Team 2: Formerly Renault and now Lotus F1-Renault.
More commentary on these teams later.

2012 F1 Rules and regulations: I will start with the most visibly and disturbingly noticeable and that is the introduction of frontal height limits of 550mm. In a bid to improve safety on track this height imposition is designed to stop Mark Webber flying through the air when he crashes into the back of someone. It's a good thing but the result is ugly.

See what I mean?
Only the Beautiful Mclaren has made a plan. (I just hope that the beauty has not come at the cost of speed.)
They've also banned the blown exhausts which means less downforce and therefore grip. I don't believe this will be noticeable as it affects all F1 cars on the grid and levels the playing field.

Pirelli is coming to the 2012 season with all the learning and experience gathered in 2011. Of all racing factors in 2011, Pirelli's tyres made the season for me and this year it's going to be more of the same. They've increased the grip of the tyres and reduced the variation between the compounds so that there is less of a difference between the 2 tyre choices at a race weekend.

Whether you understood or liked DRS, the DRS activation zones and/or KERS last year, they stay for the 2012 season. Thankfully, they made good TV. There are some revisions of the DRS activation zones but I'm excited that these technologies continue into the 2012 season. There are a few other driver regulations but the most notable one is the revision to the defensive action a driver can take. Only ONE defensive manouvre/change of direction is allowed, and driver must leave a car width of space between the car and the edge of the track. Fernando & Lewis will need to practise and understand this one. They both put people on the grass in 2011 and disagree or not, Lewis does as many direction changes as is necessary so that Mark Webber doesn't overtake him.

Continuing on about Lewis - He had a bad season last year and for all the wrong reasons. There's never a right reason for a bad season but when a woman who hails from a group called 'The PussyCat Dolls' is involved, it's absolutely terrible. Jonathan Neale seems to think Lewis will have a much better season and I certainly hope so. I lost a lot of money last year Lewis. Come on ol Chap, get back to your winning ways and as my slogan says, 'Keep it on the Black Stuff'.

The season looks set to deliver what F1 always aspires to do, and that is to 'Raise the Bar.' Red Bull Racing; Ferrari; McMerc and Mercedes GP will no doubt be fighting at the front, and I have a feeling that the Iceman Kimi Räikkönen, will also be playing right up there with the best of em. The Williams Renault and Sauber-Ferrari teams seemed to be flying during pre-season testing and I do hope they'll have more honours this year.

- Kimi Räikkönen the ICEMAN is back.

My end of season predictions as follows:
P1 - Lewis Hamilton
P2 - Sebastien Vettel
P3 - Jenson Button
P4 - 'Fantastico' Fernando Alonso
P5 - Mark Webber

I always believe in my team to deliver the goods so I predict Lewis Hamilton to get back to his winning ways and to WIN the season. There has been some doubt over the car's performance but the driver's seem happy and I'll stick with that for now. I have no doubt that the ICEMAN will have some time with the champagne bottles but not enough for a title challenge.

- Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1 is back, and as always, I am certain it will be a nailbiting season with plenty to argue about over a few beers.

Join the Etana fantasy league here:

- Welcome back F1

There are a few apps with which to follow the season with live updates; but these are sure worth a try and come from one of 'my' teams, the Lotus Renault F1 team.


F1 App:

The Citroën DS4 – Not for Fickle minds

We’re a fickle bunch of people at times. We all hated Bafana Bafana before the World Cup, and then Tshabalala scored that goal and all of a sudden, we were as patriotic as the Irish on St. Patties Day. When Whitney was alive, we all had terrible things to say about her. Now that she has passed, all of a sudden we remember her for the good things she did and ignore what we said a few days prior. Oh and by the way, now we all hate Bafana Bafana again. My time with the Citroën DS4 made me realise much of the same. I’ll elaborate.

The Citroën DS4 is a car that boasts many accolades, 2 of which are in the beauty stakes. An online poll in 2010 awarded the DS4 the ‘Most Beautiful Car of the Year’ and the ‘Most Beautiful Interior of the Year’. As I write this, the DS4 is also in the running for the South African Car of the Year and in just a week, we’ll all know the car that will be put up on billboards with that SAGMJ COTY logo and some clever slogan to go with it. Will it be the Citroën DS4? I’ll give my opinion later....
I spent a week behind the wheel of the HDi 160 Sport model and didn’t quite have a WOW moment up front. The car is billed as a 2+2 Coupe and so has a coupe-like roofline, with 2 rear doors for easy entry and hidden door handles worked nicely into the C-pillar section; but that means you can’t open the rear windows. So you have ample space and legroom in the rear, without the nicety of an open window. That aside, I can’t deny that it’s a striking car with bold lines and great detail in the all-round design.

Driving the car is where it all started to come together for me and I began to realise just how much detail has gone into this car and into giving it the DS treatment specifically. It’s a beautiful interior and out of the 2 awards, I definitely agree with this one. My car featured two-tone black and white leather; iPod and USB connectivity; MP3 CD player; heated seats with massage function; multifunctional steering wheel etc. (but here’s where it gets interesting); a Sat Nav Unit that changes from day to night mode on its own; the sound system monitors how many people are in the car and adjusts the sound quality accordingly; the on-board lighting ambience can be changed to suit your mood; the tones for the warning bells and alarms can be changed to suit your taste; the fog lights change direction when cornering to add more light to the direction in which you’re going; there is a blind spot monitoring system; and then of course, in true French flair, automatic lights and windscreen wipers etc. Added to this, the cabin so silent when cruising that you really do feel seated in the lap of luxury. They’ve done an incredible job with the noise dampening and it’s a comfortable, cosseting place to be. This is what I love about the French, their attention to the details, and the way they throw it all in there, without you having to tick the boxes.

After a hectic boys weekend; I drove the DS4 back to JHB some 300kms away. I was tired, hungover and sunburnt. Driving to JHB was the last thing I wanted to do. You know what? I absolutely loved it.

The combination of that 120 kW/340 N.m 2,0-litre turbo diesel unit; the comfort and solid feel of the car over all the surfaces that the ‘Carolina stretch’ serves up; the music; the seat massage function; the panoramic windscreen and the ambience of a beautiful cabin made it all come together.
That said, I always ask as many people as possible for their opinions on the cars I evaluate and here is where it all gets strange.
Many of the people I spoke to started their sentence with this: ‘Wow, it’s beautiful hey?’ OR ‘I love this car!’ OR ‘This looks like a seriously nice car’..... however, they all have a ‘BUT’ that comes straight afterwards. ‘I love this car BUT... I would never buy it.’

When asked why, I generally get a mumble of something that they probably heard their father’s say many years ago. The Marketing collateral for this car alludes to us having said yes all our life; and now it’s time to say NO. It’s exactly what I am talking about, we’ve heard others say they would never buy French, and so we do the same without ever really knowing why. These DS models really are a serious bit of kit. The DS5 is in the running for World Car of The Year and the DS4 is a finalist in the SAGMJ Car of the Year. This is no coincidence. These are accolades backed by the best motoring journalists in the world. Why wouldn’t you listen to them? Look at the DS4 Racing that you see in the images and tell me that does not look better than any other hot hatch you know of?

The Citroën DS4 is a striking; distinctive package with crossover appeal. It’s cabin is incredibly comfortable and silent but it’s the attention to detail that I love the about this car. I don’t think it will win the Car of the Year title but that’s just because I really do think there is one other car there that deserves it more.

So stop the uhms and aahs and maybes...and make up your mind. Go ahead, say NO to drugs, and say NO to conformity.

To end, let me say, I love this car, BUT, I wouldn’t buy it either, only because it’s not fast enough and that’s important for me. I can’t wait for the DS4Racing to arrive. I would buy that as soon as it lands.

- AM