The Sedan is Dead, Long Live the SUV

What was once a reliable workhorse and off-road conqueror has now grown (literally) into a multi-billion dollar auto sector that’s rather hard to fault.

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What was once a reliable workhorse and off-road conqueror has now grown (literally) into a multi-billion dollar auto sector that’s rather hard to fault.

A raised ride-height, commanding driving position and interior space combine into the perfect formula for a sales success. It’s not surprising, then, that SUVs have become more popular than the default sedan or hatchback – which have both seen a sharp drop in sales recently.

One class that’s struggling to find a foothold in South Africa, however, is the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) – mixing electricity with a conventional internal-combustion engine. This niche sector is often plagued by high asking-prices and a fear of change.

Could combining the traits of these two types of vehicle result in a marriage made in heaven?

The South African new car market doesn’t sport a particularly wide selection of hybrid SUVs, with mostly premium brands offering hybrid models. These manufacturers have the necessary cash flow to design, engineer, and build impressive hybrids that make sense in real world driving.

We’ve compiled a short list of SUVs – all from premium brands, featuring plug-in hybrid electric powertrains. From BMW we have the X5 xDrive40e, Volvo offers the XC90 T8 Twin Engine, and Land Rover presents its first hybrid, the Range Rover Sport P400e.

Manufacturers say people buy these vehicles because they’re looking for exceptional fuel efficiency, space, and off-road ability, as well as some sportiness if they happen to find themselves on a twisty road.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

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Combining the versatility and on-road presence of a large vehicle with BMW’s proven eDrive technology, the X5 presents a compelling argument for the green-conscious SUV lover.

Taking inspiration from the brand’s trailblazing i8 hybrid sports car, the X5 xDrive40e is BMW’s first plug-in hybrid production SUV. Combining the versatility and on-road presence of a large vehicle with BMW’s proven eDrive technology, the X5 presents a compelling argument for the green-conscious SUV lover.

The cleverly controlled interaction between the X5’s TwinPower turbocharged engine and the rechargeable electric motor generating an output of 230 kW, which ensures the SUV has that extra punch for some enthusiastic acceleration, yet won’t leave you in tears at the petrol station. The hybrid returns a combined fuel consumption of 3.4 litres/100km and only 78g/km of CO2, meaning it’s exempt from emissions tax.

Of course, these figures are claimed by the manufacturer and it might prove impossible to attain that level of efficiency. Nonetheless, it’s still more impressive than conventional powertrains and a lot less harmful than those sneaky diesels.

The X5 xDrive40e features an 8-speed Steptronic transmission for seamless gear changing and almost undetectable switching between hybrid modes. Its lithium-ion battery pack can be topped up from any standard power socket, or at public charging stations, by using the included charging cable plugged into the port located on the front left fender. This allows the car to drive in pure electric mode for up to 25 kilometres – meaning short journeys can be easily completed with zero tailpipe emissions.

Looks-wise, there’s not much setting this model apart from other X5s, with only small badges on the front fenders and D-pillars hinting at its special tech. Spec it with the M-Sport package and you can a have a menacing-looking SUV with a green heart.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

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The Volvo features five different modes that offer drivers a range of performance and fuel efficient characteristics.

Volvo surprised the market with their first hybrid offering – the XC90 T8 – promising outright power, exceptional fuel economy, and low emissions, all in a 7-seat luxury SUV. The brand’s Twin Engine moniker simply refers to the two sources of power found in the XC90 – its petrol engine and the rechargeable electric motor.

The manufacturer believes the XC90 to be segment leader, boasting 42 kilometres of zero emission, pure electric range and 303 kW of power at the driver’s disposal – all through an 8-speed automatic transmission.

It certainly is a powerful hybrid, and with R-Design sport package selected, it looks the part too. Yet, claimed fuel consumption is only 2.1 litres/100km and CO2 emissions as low as 49g/km.

The Volvo features five different modes that offer drivers a range of performance and fuel efficient characteristics. Hybrid is the default mode and is suitable for everyday use, it alternates between the two power sources to deliver the best overall fuel consumption.

Pure Electric mode is when the car’s batteries are fully charged and can serve as its sole energy source, powering the electric motor over the rear axle. In Power mode, drivers get the combined performance of the combustion engine and the electric motor, offering the kind of acceleration that will make a few sports cars hot under the collar.

AWD mode puts the XC90 in constant all-wheel drive, which is especially helpful in tricky situations like navigating wet roads or going off-road. Lastly, Save mode allows the driver to “freeze” the battery level, if fully charged, and save it for later use with Pure Electric mode.

Similar to the BMW, the XC90 T8’s lithium-ion battery pack can be charged from any domestic power socket by plugging its cable into the port situated on the front left fender.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400e

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The Range Rover Sport has long been the first choice for those in search of a luxury SUV with an extra dose of grandeur.

The Range Rover Sport has long been the first choice for those in search of a luxury SUV with an extra dose of grandeur. This PHEV version is Jaguar Land Rover’s first attempt at a hybrid powertrain and it hasn’t spoiled the latter’s image, but instead widened its appeal.

Titled the P400e, this new model uses both JLR’s Ingenium petrol engine and an electric motor to deliver a total power output of 297 kW from the permanent four-wheel drive system, powered through a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. The new powertrain mixes dynamics and fuel efficiency with the tried and tested RR-level of comfort and refinement.

The P400e’s lithium-ion battery allows the posh SUV to travel up to 51 kilometres in all-electric mode, crowning it the electric range winner of this list. Like the previous two, the batteries can be charged by plugging its cable into a specific port hidden behind the grille.

Boasting a claimed fuel economy figure of 2.8 litres/100km and only 64g/km CO2, the Sport PHEV is the most fuel-efficient model in Land Rover’s history. It waits to be seen if the luxury SUV can live up to these figures, but they’re still impressive nonetheless.

Driving the future

Hybrid cars, and hybrid SUVs primarily, are still considered a niche market within South Africa, mostly inhibited by limited choice, high price tags, and the allure of frugal, yet malign diesels.

Still, with global warming, air pollution, and more stringent emission laws being passed, car manufacturers are now more ardently searching for alternate, earth-friendly powertrains.

It makes sense, then, that with the popularity of the SUV not dying down anytime soon and the increasing influx of new hybrid and battery technologies, vehicles like these will become more commonplace.

The models on this list are just a hint of what’s to come in the future – vehicles that are eco-conscious and partly electric, but still offer all the creature comforts that have made SUVs the most popular choice worldwide.

Photos: NetCarShow.com

Authentic spending habits – Millennials & their money

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Plain Millennial Jane. Melissa with one of her cats, Bella, chilling in bed.

Melissa Lee is a 23-year-old postgraduate student. She works a part-time job at an online copy editing company and lives in a small apartment with her two cats, Bear and Bella. Melissa is in a steady relationship with her boyfriend and she enjoys exercising regularly. You’re probably asking, “So what?” Well, generation-wise, Melissa is considered a ‘Millennial’.

 

Oh no! Who are they?

The Millennials, or Generation Y, are the individuals born between 1977 and 1995, though, there is a distinction made between older Millennials (31-39) and younger Millennials (21-30). This generation was brought into the world at a time when technology was rapidly developing, and producing extraordinary breakthroughs. The Millennial generation basically founded the social media movement and are often criticised for being addicted to the internet as well as digital devices.

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Not there yet. Melissa may be addicted to her phone, but her selfie skills are still lacking.

But the internet is life!

Even though that might be true, the world of marketing and brands have a dilemma on their hands. They need to be prepared for, and take into account, this generation’s specific wants and needs when it comes to spending their money. According to Business Insider, Millennials will become the dominant group in purchasing power by 2017, outspending their Baby Boomer predecessors.

How is this possible? Millennials now equal the Boomers in terms of numbers, around 20 million in South Africa. While many Millennials are still busy struggling to climb the income ladder, their sheer size is indicative of their future spending habits and purchasing power.

Just a bunch of brand-obsessed spenders, am I right?

Not exactly. Millennials are growing up in an age of severe economic turbulence comparable to the Great Depression. Taking a page from the history books, this generation is now placing more emphasis on camaraderie and less on material possessions.

Luxury products such as shoes, bags, and watches might have lured consumers in the past, but the companies who built their empires around exclusivity and luxury will have to alter their marketing strategies to accommodate the Y generation.

To them it is all about the experience and not the product. In a social media study done by The Nielsen Company, 61% of Millennials ages 21-24 said they would rather have dinner at a new restaurant than buy a new pair of shoes.

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Deals, deals, deals. 31% of Millennials’ spending consist of deals or other sales offers.

 

Food, glorious food

Food, no matter the kind, is an experience, and one that is often shared. “On many occasions I’d rather spend money on expensive sushi with friends than buy a piece of clothing I really wanted,” says Melissa.

Nielsen’s study showed that 44% of Millennials have posted a photo on social media of them or someone else enjoying food or a drink. These young consumers, pardon the pun, are now sharing photos on social media of fancy dinner parties, expertly styled pastries or frosty beverages in order to convey a sense of luxury.

The term “food porn” is now commonly used and has given Millennials the chance to show the world what is on their plate. This trend hints at a shift in the luxury-sphere: the new status symbol for Millennials is unashamedly food, and lots of it.

Yet, sharing a picture of a colourful sushi platter is considered much less pretentious than if they shared a picture of an expensive new product. Why? Because Millennials want others to know that they participated in something special and didn’t simply spend hard-earned money on a product.

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Indulgence. Millennials value food above material possessions, and Melissa is no exception.

So they’re savvy shoppers?

Exactly. Nielsen’s research showed that Millennials are more likely to live off of pay-checks on a month-to-month basis, meaning they have no choice but to spend responsibly and carefully.

Millennials are always on the lookout for a great deal. In fact, 31% of their spending consists of deals or other sales offers. It’s not surprising then, to discover that the top 20 apps used by Millennials around the globe are either trade or discount focussed, with apps like Groupon leading the pack.

This mindful spending means that Millennials take a lot of factors into account before buying a product. They place a premium on authenticity, meaning they care about where and how a product was produced.

“I’d rather buy a locally produced product at the supermarket than one I know was imported. They’re also cheaper sometimes than the imported ones,” says Melissa.

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Making the correct choice. Getting a good deal is a priority for Melissa, but she won’t compromise on quality.

What do the experts say?

Psychologist and fellow Millennial, Donovan Rudolph, says that this shift in spending and luxury is due to social status and class, and the image that is produced.  “This is best created through the places you go, the people you associate with, and the food you eat. Cars and jewellery will not be able to uphold that image.

“The talking points around those are also limited contrary to travelling and cuisine where you can really grip people’s attention and thus maintain that image and strive for social class,” he says.

Donovan says that Millennials are more socially aware than any previous generation. “They’re realising that conforming to societal norms is not that important anymore. There are many other things that are beginning to take precedence over issues like marriage and children. Life experiences and careers have become more valuable.”

Fascinating creatures

Aren’t they just? Though, making up 38% of South Africa’s population, Millennials are not to be underestimated. Their effect on the country’s economy will increase in the coming years as they join other generations in spending more.

The best way for businesses to capitalise on the opportunity that is the Millennials is to be upfront and real with them. As individuals, they want to be part of a larger discussion where they can make a contribution.

Relating to their lives and issues in an authentic way is the best possible option. How else are you going to sell Melissa something if she doesn’t feel like you took her and her cats into consideration?

“That’s very true to be honest,” she says.

Here’s a silly video about Millennial stereotypes:

Breaking the academic stereotype – an interview with Dr Lauren Mongie

“I just woke up one morning and thought, “I have to do something in the world. I can’t just be here. I can’t just eat, watch TV and sleep. Somehow I need to actively participate in the world, otherwise I don’t want to be part of it.”

Doctor Lauren Mongie (32) sits at her L-shaped desk in her spacious 5th floor office. Everything on her desk is neatly organised and spaced apart, creating rectangles and circles that coexist in harmony.

With a pink-lacquered nail, she pushes back her slightly oversized, pink-rimmed glasses, and stares with an intensity that is amplified by her light blue eyes.

“I started doing a lot of charity work, because I felt like I’m just sitting here and I’m not contributing to anything. I could die and society would be better off because there’s one less person breathing the air and drinking the water. Even if it doesn’t change anything I want to go to bed knowing that I tried.”

Mongie is one of the head linguists at the University of Stellenbosch’s (US) linguistics department. She finished her PhD in 2013, and completed her whole undergraduate and postgraduate career at SU as well.

She specialises in queer linguistics, a new movement that essentially combines queer theory with language studies. Mongie sees herself as a strong ally and an activist for the LGBTQI+ community.

She recently completed a study of the portrayal of the gay liberation movement in South African news media. In it, she drew on 30 years’ worth of data, from 1976 until 2006.

Mongie says there are very few academic studies done on this specific movement.

“There isn’t a lot of knowledge about the South African gay liberation movement. Most of what’s been written is non-academic in nature,” she says, “so they’re more like first-hand ethnographic accounts of people that were part of the movement.”

She says she wanted to contribute to a constructive conversation of sex and gender in South Africa. “They’re such contested issues and I really wanted to investigate how the role of the culture of apartheid played in homophobia and heteronormativity.

“I felt there was a link between the racial oppression and the sexual oppression, but I actually wanted to find some kind of proof of that connection.”

She shuffles some papers in front of her and then adjusts her pink, striped scarf. She admits that pink is obviously her favourite colour.

In terms of her attitude towards gender and sexuality, Mongie says she has always been a progressive person in relation to the rest of South Africa.

“I’ve always been puzzled by homophobia and gender binaries. It really came from a place of wanting to understand how something like homophobia develops both individually and societally,” she says.

“I wanted to understand what the origin of it is, because I felt like that was an important part of trying to address the rampant homophobia in our country.

“South Africa is interesting, because we have one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, yet we have one of the highest rates of homophobic murder and rape in the world.

“So there’s a really strong disconnect between the values of the constitution and the values by which actual South Africans live their lives,” she adds.

“A lot of places look at South Africa as the best place in Africa, the most liberal. In terms of the law, we are, but even that law isn’t enforced in this country, never mind what people do beyond the law.

“It was really interesting to me how we got into this position of having a constitution that doesn’t really represent the values of the majority of South Africans, it was something I felt I needed to look at,” she says.

“I’m a linguist, so my data is language. The thing that I can use to gain insight into homophobia, heteronormativity, the role of apartheid, etc. was actual media reports in which people made arguments for and against the acceptance of alternative forms of gender and sexuality.”

Mongie says she had to collect 30 years’ worth of data for her PhD study and initially thought that the archive would be available electronically. She soon found out that it wasn’t.

“I had to go to the archives in Cape Town and sit with each literal copy of the City Press and the Mail & Guardian from 1976 until 2006, and physically page through it, photocopy the articles and then do a step-by-step linguistic analysis on it.

“The actual physical data collection process was very taxing. It took nine months and it cost me about R30 000 since you have to pay for lithographs that have to be printed,” she says.

“It was a very labour-intensive process, but I still prefer that to working with humans, because I feel like they are quite unreliable and unpredictable.”

Mongie says she “really dislikes” humans and prefers the company of animals instead. She briefly mentions that she has five pets at home; three dogs and two cats.

“There are all sorts of variables that are added to a study when you work with humans, so I prefer not to, that’s why I’d rather work with linguistic data,” she smiles.

The process of analysis was quite easy, says Mongie, since that is guided by linguistic theories. She says the hardest part was essentially obtaining the data because it entailed reading through every single newspaper.

“We were looking for slight references to sexuality and not only for articles about homosexuality. I was looking for slight comments on gender, non-conformity etc.

“So I ended up physically reading 30 years’ worth of two newspapers. It was cool because I felt like I lived through the history of South Africa by going through that process,” she says.

“Things that I previously only heard about, I felt like I experienced it, because I read the reports as they unfolded. I read the letters people wrote in response to the reports, so it was really an interesting way to gain insight into a history I missed since I was just born too late.

“It was labour-intensive, but it was actually an enriching experience. I feel like a better South African now, because I know so much more about our country’s history.”

Interestingly, Mongie also looked at Huisgenoot and Drum magazine’s data from the same period even though it didn’t make it into her PhD study. She smiles and says that that was very interesting since the content was more tabloid-style.

“There you find much less filtered, unedited, and raw kind of conversations. It was difficult to read racist, homophobic, and misogynistic stuff, and to think that was how the world used to be. But I think it really made me understand where all these different sentiments came from,” she says.

Mongie says she chose 30 years because 1976 is seen by a lot of people as the start of the end of apartheid.

“They see the Soweto riots as the turning point where black mobilisation really began. I wanted to cover those 30 years until 2006, which is when gay marriage was legalised in South Africa.

“The amount of data that came out of it was just so overwhelming. I had almost 800 newspaper articles, letters, and stories just from the two newspapers. For a meaningful analysis, you have to write about three to five pages on one item,” she says.

“The ultimate goal of critical discourse analysis of queer linguistics is to challenge the unconstructive ways in which we talk about topics like race, gender, and sexuality. Thus gaining insight so that you can challenge and produce a more productive way of talking about these things.”

Mongie says critical discourse analysis is a social agenda. It wants to improve society in some way.

“That’s part of the weakness of critical discourse analysis, that people accuse us of being subjective and over-political, and too strongly positioned in our research. While we think that’s the strength of what we do.”

She says her findings surprised her, since they went against her original hypothesis in a rather big way.

“My main hypothesis was that there was going to be a strong link between religion and homophobia. There was, but there was almost an equally strong link between religion and tolerance or acceptance,” she says.

“If you look at the first 10 years of my data, it’s very homophobic and very religiously motivated, but over time a lot of religious people started adopting religious arguments that promoted the acceptance and inclusion of the LGBT community.

“That was a very big surprise to me, I was expecting religious homophobia to run all the way through and at a point it didn’t, it turned. If you quantify my data at the end, almost half of it is religious tolerance and the other half religious intolerance. It was definitely not something I was expecting,” she says.

Mongie says it made her feel better about religion. “I’m not a religious person and I always felt like religion is very harmful. But after seeing this data, it made me see the good side of religion and the tolerant side of Christianity. It was nice to see and I was pleasantly surprised.”

Regarding future studies, Mongie says she’s definitely interested in the same kind of studies, thus still in queer linguistics.

“I think I’m going to move on from newspapers to something more subjective like tabloids or even online comments. I’m contemplating using the comments as data, to look how people construct and deconstruct these different issues and then make meaning out of them.

“What’s interesting about comment sections is that people argue with and attack each other. Where instead of attacking the person’s opinion they attack personally. It’s a completely different discursive dynamic that is present there that I haven’t looked at before,” she says.

Mongie says LGBTIQ+ students and staff can approach her and share their experiences, since she seeks to help in any way possible.

“I take part in a lot of discussions across campus. I’m very involved with the equality unit and with LLL. Anytime someone has a gay talk on campus, I’m there, whether I’m talking or not. I really try to bring those findings from my PhD and make them useful to a normal person.”

The media landscape is an unfair playground

I always find it interesting when two children fight. They come up with the most bizarre accusations before it either ends in a fist fight or tears.

Here I of course refer to Caxton-owned Moneyweb and Media24’s Fin24 as the children and their copyright case the actual fight.

The allegations started back in September 2013 when Moneyweb first accused Fin24 of copyright infringement. In May 2015, they took Fin24 to court, but the final ruling was only made later on.

Now I don’t always enjoy children fighting, unless it’s for a good cause, that is.

What Moneyweb’s accusations highlighted was that our country’s Copyright Act is ancient. 1978-ancient. That’s 38 years ago for those too lazy to do the math. The internet didn’t even exist back then! Yet these two online news agencies had to adhere to old-school print laws.

Maybe that is why the South African media, especially online, sat up and took notice in May when the Moneyweb versus Fin24 case finally received the conclusive ruling.

But what led to last year’s court case? Basically Moneyweb alleged that Fin24 unlawfully aggregated seven of its articles and wanted them removed from their website.

According to Moneyweb these articles all contained content that was original and created at great expense to the company. To Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk, this was a massive violation and termed it “systematic plagiarism on an industrial scale”.

At this point I like to imagine one child calling out the other for cheating in a game of hide-and-seek. They bring in an adult to make the ruling and, to the crying child’s dismay, the other one gets off scot-free.

But let’s return to the real world, shall we? Moneyweb probably thought they were going to win their case, seeing as our country still adheres to the abovementioned old-school ‘print’ Copyright Act, the one from 1978.

However, that’s not what happened. The South Gauteng High Court ruled Moneyweb’s claims as “extravagant” and that Fin24 only committed copyright infringement on one of the articles in question.

And Moneyweb’s originality claim? Well, in terms of originality, the Copyright Act states that an article needs to prove its ingenuity and uniqueness in order to qualify for protection.

Moneyweb failed to prove that four of their articles were completely original, leaving a red-faced Van Niekerk.

Next, Judge Daniel Berger found that only three of their articles were actually original enough to warrant any interest. Extravagant, for sure.

What’s noteworthy though, is that Berger found that two of the original articles were adequately aggregated by Fin24, where they didn’t duplicate sizeable chunks from the primary copy.

Though, according to Berger, the previously mentioned naughty article was almost identical to the original. It’s rather disappointing that only one article was declared plagiarised. You can only imagine Moneyweb’s frustration.

But this memorable court case reached its crescendo with a specific ruling by Judge Berger. A ruling that will undoubtedly change the South African online media landscape and its view on copyright infringement.

He ruled that if a website used a hyperlink in its article to refer back to the original one, it would count as adequate and satisfactory in terms of citing the source.

I suppose this was the coup de grâce in Moneyweb’s case. This ruling effectively told them that they could do nothing about Fin24’s aggregation and then slammed the door in their face.

But not before billing them, of course. Moneyweb has to pay 70% of Media24’s legal costs. Now that was the last nail in the coffin.

Returning, if I may, to the playroom fight analogy, we find the child who cried foul-play did not get the justice they craved but instead got detention.

Perhaps they got detention for not being a team player, not willing to share and wanting all the glory for themselves.

Media24’s chief executive Esmaré Weideman spoke a lot of truth in her response to the ruling. She pointed out that finding and reporting of stories that are of interest to the public should not be monopolised.

“It would lead to the illogical result where the first reporter can monopolise a news story and prevent another reporter from re-reporting the story’s core elements,” said Weideman. Kind of like this article.

Her point that such a move would destroy a lot of careers is a valid one. If we all had to find our own original story every time, the media industry would come to a standstill.

What emerged as a playground fight enlightened us to the fact that our Copyright Act is ancient and is begging for an update. It also highlighted what procedures online media need to take in the future, and most importantly, that life is not fair.

Why do modern cars all look alike?

Looking at cars while driving in heavy traffic might often cause a feeling of déjà vu.

Most modern vehicles tend to look more and more similar and there are a number of explanations for this resemblance.

“It is to a large degree dictated by safety,” said Hannes Oosthuizen, former editor of Car Magazine.

Because of recent governmental regulations, automakers are required to adhere to pedestrian safety regulations (PSR).

This means that the front-end of cars needed to evolve into a flatter and wider shape as to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision. This flat, wide shape helps to distribute the energy delivered to the human body as widely as possible.

“When it comes to aerodynamics, the designers and engineers have found ways to work around this, which is why you can now again have quite edgy cars with an upright grille or noses that still perform very well in wind tunnel testing,” said Oosthuizen.

New regulations also force cars to be more fuel efficient and to produce less carbon dioxide (CO2). This is achieved by designing more streamline and aerodynamic models, as this reduces drag.

So then, when a car has a wide and flat front-end, it needs a raised rear-end which ultimately gives the car a more aerodynamic, wedge-like shape. The Honda CR-Z is a good example of this.

Another explanation is that most of the big names in the industry own several other brands.

Volkswagen owns Audi, Bentley, and Porsche. General Motors makes Chevrolets, Cadillacs and Opels. Ferrari, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo are all owned by Fiat. These automakers often share successful design features among the different brands in their stable, contributing to the similarities across the different brands.

The VW Touareg, Audi Q7, and Porsche Cayenne prove this point.

“Brand identity is a stronger driving force than ever before, and that’s why the companies work so hard to develop brand design languages,” said Oosthuizen.

These individual brands want their customers and the general public to recognise their product when they see it on the streets. They employ the generic ‘family-face’ across all their models as a way to stand out from the rest, but sometimes all end up looking the same.

“The result is that most BMWs look the same and most Audis look identical.”

With passenger- and pedestrian safety, fuel efficiency and lowered CO2-levels expected to remain top priorities for the foreseeable future, no ground-breaking designs are expected to appear any time soon.

Five student wheels worth considering

You’re a Stellies student and you’re considering a new car, you want to stand out but not break the bank. This year offers some enticing new models and below is a list that is both budget-friendly, yet still trendsetting.

The cars listed here are all priced below the crucial R200k price bracket, which makes them worth considering whether you’re a student or a working city-slicker.

They were mainly chosen based on price, as this is a big deciding factor. Features of the car were also considered as well as safety and reliability.

In alphabetical order, they are;

  • Citroen C1 – This boutique city-car is fresh off the boat and features funky styling; like the split headlights, LED-accents and tinted-glass boot lid. It’s also the most fuel-efficient car in this list. If you decide on the priciest model, the Airscape, you’ll get a folding fabric roof – neat! The C1 comes standard with a 7-inch touch-screen as well as six airbags.

“I like that my [C1] can accelerate fast, but the air-conditioner’s circulation is quite bad,” says Christine Collett, a final-year BA Social Work student.

  • Fiat Panda – Often ignored because of its prettier sister, the Fiat 500, the Panda is cheaper and definitely more spacious. With five doors instead of three, you can easily pack in more friends. Its tiny engine means it’s very fuel-efficient. The Panda comes standard with all the tech any student demands, including an adorable name.

“I love that [the Panda] is cute and reliable, never had a problem with it,” says Claire Atkinson, a final-year B.Com student.

  • Honda Brio – The Brio offers a punchy engine and reliability your dad would be proud of. Featuring the most powerful engine in this list, the Brio offers pace for not a lot of dosh. It’s also offered with the essential tech, making it a sensible buy. Just pick the black interior and not the fading beige colour that comes as standard.

“It’s so [fuel] efficient and really has power for its size, I love it,” says Clarice Coetzee, a BA Politics student, about her Brio.

  • Smart ForFour – Having just gone on sale in South Africa, this Smart is a must-have for any respectable trendsetter. With its two-tone paint-work it’s sure to turn more than a few heads. Surprisingly affordable, this city runabout is rear-engined as well as rear-wheel drive, like some sports cars. Pick the priciest model and you get niceties like touch-screen infotainment, cruise control and LED accents in the headlights.
  • Suzuki Celerio – This Japanese tot comes with all the toys you need; six airbags, electronic stability programme [ESP], Bluetooth, electric windows, etc. The boxy shape of the Celerio means it’s got lots of space inside – loading up your mates won’t be a hassle.

“The boot is nice and big, but [the Celerio] struggles when it’s fully loaded,” says Antoinette Mills, a Stellenbosch resident.

According to the National Association of Automotive Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), the December 2015 sales figure for these five cars combined was only 302 units. Which is only 0.9% of the entire passenger car sales figure for the same period.

Ellen Agnew – The girl behind the art degree

Ellen Agnew is the Irish dancing queen who doesn’t want to be tamed.

She appears over a dune in this vast desert and walks towards us. Ellen smiles and her eyes reflect this. They’re green, and she has freckles on her cheeks. She runs her right hand through her long, curly brown hair.

Like Ellen, her hair refuses to be controlled. Notice her nails; long and dark like Lana’s. “I’m obsessed with Lana del Rey,” she says looking down at them. Her makeup is minimal; red lips and mascara – classic.

Ellen is the second child, with an older brother, of an Irish father and a South African mother. The Irish genes shine through in her appearance and it’s easy to convince people of her heritage.

She was born on 28 May 1993 in Johannesburg, though they relocated to Stellenbosch after four years. Ellen and her brother, Jack, both attended Rhenish Primary school. They spent some of their childhood in the lush farms located in the idyllic Stellenbosch valley, playing in the orchards and skipping stones in the river.

In 2005 they relocated to Dubai. It is here where her love of Middle Eastern culture all started. She was educated in subjects such as Islamic Studies and Arabic.

Ellen’s father is an architect, which is why Dubai was the best location to be. He still resides in the United Arab Emirates, while her mother lives in Stellenbosch.

“They haven’t lived in the same house in almost 10 years,” said Ellen, “Yet they’re still married.”

She returned to Stellenbosch two years later along with her mother and brother. The siblings attended Somerset College and completed their high school education there.

The Artsy Child

“Ellen’s artistic spirit showed itself early on, when she insisted on painting an angel’s face blue at the pottery studio,” said her mother, Jenni. At the age of five, Ellen already had a strong will. Wanting to put her own twist on things and creating pieces that no other child even thought about.

Fashion is wearable art. Which is why Ellen’s dress sense is “unique”, according to her mother. The platform shoes, patterned dress and knitted top could be seen as hipster in Stellenbosch, but coming to know Ellen one realises she has created her own style.

You can see she’s an artist when you look at her hands. The way she holds her pen – or even a cigarette – it’s an elegant, graceful act. Those dark nails complement her excellent charcoal drawings.  The way she draws is an effortless performance, with the visage appearing out of the light-coloured haze of the paper.

What few people know is that Ellen is a talented Irish dancer, having done Irish dancing for close to 15 years.

“I’ll have to practise before I can show you though,” she says.

She took part in numerous competitions, travelling around South Africa as well as to Ireland for world championships. Not only did the Irish genes make their appearance in dance, but they found expressions in other talents as well.

“It’s been fantastic to be part of Ellen’s Irish-/-Highland dancing years, wonderful memories and experiences along the way,” says Jenni, her genuine pride is evident.

Ellen wanted to study dance but it broke her heart before she reached varsity. She doesn’t want to go into detail and you have to respect her choice of silence.

She eventually studied fine arts for four years at Stellenbosch University, which included her honours degree. Ellen majored in visual studies and English literature.

“They complemented each other because we could apply the concepts we learned in English to the work we were doing in Visuals.”

Ellen sees the complex connections between concepts and exploits them to her better understanding. According to Ellen, she ties together complicated political issues and visual art to create pieces that, “demonstrate that we’re not passive when we view […] presentational images of the media or representational images of artwork.”

Because of this political mind set, Ellen got accepted to do her master’s degree in Political Communication at the University of Cape Town. She decided to rather do an Honours degree in Journalism at Stellenbosch.

The Wild Quiet Child

“Ellen always seems to find herself on the fun and risky side of life. Which has its good and bad qualities,” says Alex, her best friend. “Though after long social encounters her favourite thing to do is curl up on the couch with her Jack Russels, while catching up on her current affairs.”

Ellen loves to read and some of her favourite books include The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Crime and Punishment and In Cold Blood. Her mother adds that both Ellen and Jack have a passion for books and reading. Once one sees Ellen’s ‘previously read’ list, you realise this is one well-read journalist-in-the-making.

“She can be firm, argumentative and sometimes impatient,” says Jenni.

Ellen confirms this. “I’m not a patient person, especially not with technology.” She looks at her phone and concedes that, yes, this device hasn’t betrayed her yet.

The wild child appears, says Ellen, when people tell her what to do. She sits back on her couch. “I’m kind of struggling in this class,” she admits. Last year during her Fine Arts degree, she didn’t have to report to anyone. She could stroll in and out of the Visual Arts Department whenever she wanted. She laughs. “It was great, you know.”

The Well-Travelled Child

“Europe all looks the same, except for the southern part.”

Ellen has travelled through a few countries in Europe, including Ireland, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain. With a great interest in American literature, like the Beat Generation authors, Jack Kerouac, and American modernist poets, Ellen aspires to travel through America and try to find a connection with these great art figures. She’s a free spirit, which is a cliché, but one that is true. An artist that is restrained, is not an artist.

 

Ellen is many things to many people; a daughter, a sister, a best friend, an artist.

“With a continuously surprising personality, Ellen will never to be predictable, and will always be centre stage on any of the possible ‘platforms’ she decides to brave,” says Alex Edmayr.