Johannesburg - South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) could be boosted by R37 million a year if government only bought locally-produced vehicles.
This is what emerged in a study released late last year, conducted by Lourens Weyer, a postgraduate student at the Wits School of Economics and Business Sciences, according to 702. Weyer pointed out that although it fluctuates from year to year, usually only a quarter of the vehicles government buys are locally made.
If government sales, which only make up between 2 and 3 percent of total vehicle sales can make such a difference to the local economy, imagine the implications if more corporations and ordinary citizens went the local route?
Sure, buying a locally-built car will limit your options somewhat as there are just 14 of them, but why not at least consider one of these before looking at other alternatives?
If nothing here suits you, next best thing is to consider one of the products imported by one of these manufacturers as you’re still supporting a company that has invested in the local economy and in most cases they’re building a single platform in high volume for export.
So here’s a quick go-to-guide to walk you through all the cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles that are built in South Africa.
The X3 recently replaced the 3-Series as BMW South Africa’s export product as part of a R6.1 billion investment.
The X3 is available with a relatively wide range of engines, with customers able to choose from three petrols (20i, 30i and M40i) and two diesels (20d and 30d), with outputs ranging from 135kW to 265kW.
Priced between R651 404 and R1 038 379, it is on the expensive side but certainly a great all-rounder that the well heeled and politicians should consider, and it’s downright exciting in M40i guise.
The Ranger is South Africa’s second best selling bakkie, and a big export too. It also comes in a wide range of models and South Africans sure love to accessorize them into their own personalised 'Mini Raptors'.
Single cabs are priced from R268 900 to R457 600 and SuperCabs from R308 900 to R579 900, while a double cab will set you back between R341 900 and R655 900.
The Rangers ride comfortably and the 2.2 and 3.2 diesel engines are known for their punchy performance, particularly the latter, while a new 2.0 twin-turbo diesel will bring extra sophistication to the range when it arrives in April.
On that note, a recipient of the new 2.0 is the much-anticipated Raptor, which will usher in a revised Ranger line-up in 2019, all forming part of a R3 billion investment that Ford made to expand production in South Africa.
The Ranger’s SUV sibling was initially imported but as of late 2016 it has been built in South Africa, a move that also brought a wider range that now includes more attainable, lower-spec 2.2-litre diesel models.
Considered to be the Fortuner's greatest enemy, the Everest is offered in a range of eight models, priced between R467 100 and R751 900, with 4x2 and 4x4 as well as 2.2 and 3.2 diesel options, as per the Ranger.
Isuzu stepped in to save the day when General Motors abandoned its local operation in May 2017, and the D-Max range (formerly KB) continues to be produced at the Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth.
Isuzu offers the usual mix of single cab (R260 000 - R485 100), extended cab (R363 400 - R521 500) and double cab (R337 500 - R615 500) derivatives, from humble workhorses to plush 4x4 leisure derivatives, powered by either 2.5 or 3.0 turbodiesel motors.
Although seemingly not quite as sophisticated as the Ranger and Hilux bakkies, Isuzu does offer some solid and affordable options, while the X-Rider double cab (R400 500) hits a sweet spot for those seeking something well priced and sporty.
With the 3 Series making way for X3 on the local assembly line, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is now the only high-end sedan being built in South Africa, and it’s also our biggest export overall, with around 10 000 of them leaving the East London harbour for world markets each month.
The C-Class was recently given a facelift, with mild exterior and interior design changes joined by new electronics (with driver aids hand-me-downed from the S-Class) and fresh engines, including a new 1.5-litre turbopetrol in the C200.
The C has become rather expensive over the years, however, with the sedan range currently retailing for between R612 669 and R1 560 136.
Following GM’s exit and the demise, further back, of the Ford Bantam and Fiat Strada, the Nissan NP200 is the only unibody half-tonner left on the South African market and as such is the default choice in the segment.
Pricing is on the steep side, from R173 500 to R260 500, and the NP200 offers a choice of two 1.6-litre normally aspirated petrol engines (a 64kW 8-valve and 77kW 16-valve) and there’s a 63kW 1.5-litre turbodiesel.
Nissan NP300 Hardbody
A continuation of the older-generation Hardbody, the NP300 is a sturdy option for those that prefer sticking to the tried and tested.
Priced from R229 900 to R452 500, it offers a choice between 2.0 and 2.4 petrol engines or a 2.5 turbodiesel, single and double cab configurations and 4x2 and 4x4 transmissions.
Your Uber Cab
Toyota could just as well have called this the Uber as it is South Africa’s archetypal ride-hailing cab, although technically it is known as the Toyota Quest.
As it’s a continuation of the previous Corolla whose tooling has long been amortised, the Quest is significantly cheaper than the latest-generation Corolla or anything else in its size class for that matter, the four-door starting at R222 900.
The Quest offers a really comfy ride and the standard 1.6-litre engine has enough power to appease those whiny customers that insist on being delivered to their destinations in a hurry.
The latest-generation Corolla is the more expensive four-door option in Toyota's range (R280 100 to R374 400) but it does offer more style, modern touchscreen infotainment and a wider range.
Corolla customers get to choose from 1.3, 1.6 and 1.8 normally aspirated petrol engines and a highly efficient 1.4 turbodiesel.
South Africa’s best-selling vehicle by far, the Hilux is built in Prospecton for both local consumption and export.
The range was recently given a perk-up with facelifted SRX and Raider double cab models (and the new Dakar edition) getting Land Cruiser inspired styling, while a set of more affordable double cabs were added to the range.
As with some of its rivals, the line-up is so vast it’s dizzying, from simple workhorses to fully loaded double cabs. Single cabs cost between R259 600 and R539 900, Xtra cabs (R396 400 - R569 300) and double cabs (R394 700 - R680 400).
Five engines are on offer: 2.4 and 2.8 turbodiesels and 2.0, 2.7 and 4.0 V6 normally aspirated petrols.
Those migrating into the SUV world have made Toyota’s Fortuner the country’s best-selling SUV.
As before, it’s based on the Hilux but with a more sophisticated rear suspension and a more car-like exterior design.
All Hilux engine variants (barring the 2.0) are offered here, with prices going up from R477 600 to R715 400.
The 16-seat Ses'fikile is the champion of South Africa's taxi market and it is built in Prospecton in Completely Knocked Down (CKD) form, while its Quantum Panel Van and GL Bus relatives are imported.
The Ses'fikile is priced at R419 100 and Toyota has localised as many components as possible in order to mitigate the weakening rand / yen exchange rate that affects the price of imported parts.
Volkswagen Polo Vivo
Volkswagen has hit a sweet spot in the market with its carried-over previous-generation Polo series, which recently graduated to a more recent generation as the new Polo was launched.
Pricing starts at R189 400 and most engines in the range are VW’s older-generation normally aspirated units (1.4 and 1.6) but the range-topping GT gets the more modern 1.0 TSI, albeit at a price of R258 100.
Although VWSA has cut costs in places, the Polo Vivo still offers what is almost certainly the most mature product at the price. It’s still stylish after all these years and the cabin uber classy.
Built around VW’s latest MQB platform, the new Polo is bigger and more refined than its now-Vivofied predecessor, while also introducing the latest-generation cabin electronics, with premium options including a glass encased touchscreen system and digital instruments.
New Polo is powered by the company’s latest 1-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine, offered in 70kW and 85kW guises, while the GTI gets a 147kW 2-litre turbo.
Expect to pay between R245 500 and R389 900.
Semi-knocked down (SKD) production
Technically speaking the aforementioned aren’t the only vehicles that are assembled in South Africa, but these are the major operations in which the vehicles are fully assembled on local turf.
It's worth noting that Hyundai and Mahindra also operate smaller SKD (semi-knocked down) operations for their H100 Bakkie and Pik-Up light commercial vehicles, the former operating from a facility in Benoni and the latter in Durban. These vehicles are imported in kit form and then finished off locally.
Chinese carmaker BAIC is also currently setting up a facility in Coega, which will initially assemble vehicles such as the X25 crossover in SKD form, with a view to expanding to full-scale production once its paint shop and other aspects are completed. Total investment is expected to eventually total R11 billion.