Picture: www.mureza.co.za.

Johannesburg - Africa’s new car company Mureza announced this week that it will kick off its operations with a budget crossover hatchback that’s curiously named Prim8 (and pronounced Primate) but the company has bigger plans than that in the long run, with two bakkies in the works - a half-tonner to compete with the Nissan NP200 and a Cummins-powered one-tonne range that will be marketed under the Tusker name.

The half-tonne bakkie, if executed correctly, will be a godsend for South African buyers, who currently only have a single option following the disappearance of the Chevrolet Ute and Ford Bantam.

Mureza says that the half-tonner will be based on the same platform as the Prim8 hatchback (pictured below), which will also spawn a sedan and compact SUV. 

This vehicle's platform and parts will be supplied by the SAIPA Group, and as yet it’s unclear how much local modification will take place, although we do know that in the longer term Mureza wants to be more autonomous in terms of vehicle design.

The Iranian partner company currently offers a compact pick-up called the Saipa 151 (pictured below), but the half-tonner that we eventually get will likely be based on the vehicle that replaces this, as the 151 is based on an older-generation platform called X4, while Mureza says our bakkie will be built around the Prim8's X100 platform.

It’s probably safe to assume that the half-tonner will use the same 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine that powers the Prim8, which produces 87kW, and which can be mated to either a five-speed manual or CVT transmission.

Bold one-tonner

The other exciting bakkie news is the plan to build a one-tonne range under the Tusker name, although it’s not yet clear where the platform will come from, or whether it will be a local development.

The design sketch that you see here appears on Mureza’s local website, and although the rendering is clearly unfinished, it does give us an idea of the design language that the bakkie is expected to follow. It has some bold touches, including a massive front grille and some unique silver styling accents on the side of the vehicle.

According to Mureza, the one-tonner will be powered by a 2.8-litre Cummins sourced turbodiesel. There are also plans to offer a high-performance petrol engine as well as a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain, but these have not been detailed as yet.

Mureza plans to offer the bakkie in Single Cab, Double Cab and ‘Sport Coupe Cab’ body styles.

Ambitious project

Starting a car company from scratch is an ambitious undertaking, but Mureza plans to be a leading manufacturer in Africa by 2025.

Vehicles will initially be assembled in SKD kit form at a facility in Rosslyn near Pretoria, as well as at the Willowvale assembly plant in Zimbabwe and in the ex-Hyundai plant in Botswana. CKD production is likely to commence at a later date.

Click here to read more about the company’s local plans.

IOL Motoring