As a long time automobile enthusiast I’ve often looked at global auto trends and compared them with the local market here in Kuwait. The most glaring difference is in the area of best sellers in both sedan and Crossover categories. One of these is the Honda CRV. Honda has three SUVs in their portfolio starting with the MRV, the CRV and the HRV and I’ve seen all three vehicles even in Dubai but in Kuwait they don’t appear on the roads as much.
Last week I got an email from my contact at Honda asking if I’d like to take out the 2015 CRV for a spin. It was a great coincidence as one of my colleagues was looking to trade in his 2007 CRV and get the new one. I spent a weekend with the car and here’s my review on it but with a little difference this time.
Up until now I’ve only reviewed the sedans from Honda and this is the first Crossover I’ve received to review. I’m a married man and father of two kids and we’re a single car household so a crossover makes pretty good sense for a family man. I’ve had my own Outlander for 7 years now and it’s perfect for my kind of use.
Whats new in the 2015 CRV? Externally the CRV has undergone changes to the front that brings it more in line with its Honda siblings. The front grill and the headlights have styling elements that’s common in the Honda lineup. The new front is an improvement I must say, I didn’t like previous generation CRV that looked like it was missing something in the front bumper. The rear though is a love it or hate it affair and I’m not a big fan of the bulbous look. It may be functional in terms of increasing load area but looks-wise its not for me.
A couple of weeks ago the local Honda dealer contacted me asking if I wanted to take out the new 2014 Honda City for a test drive. So I picked up the car first thing on a weekend morning and used till noon for some personal errands.
Now the Honda rep informed me that the new 2014 was a radical change from the previous model but I thought it was just the usual marketing jazz. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The 2014 model looks leaner and with each iteration it’s catching up to the design cues of its bigger siblings.
Last week I had contacted Alghanim Honda Kuwait to find out if I could test drive some of the 2013 models and they provided me a brand new Honda City EX to use for the whole weekend. I used it from Thursday evening to Saturday mid-day and covered approximately 200 Kilometers so this post is all about my experience over that time.
First impression: I’m familiar with the Honda City for the past 2 generations when it made its debut in the South East Asian markets and its quite popular in markets such as India. This new 2013 is quite different from the first model and has gotten quite sleeker. From the front it has a small resemblance to the Civic Type R (UK Model) and the rear has a new taillight cluster that sets it apart from the outgoing model.
I know this is a compact entry level sedan but the model I received, which is the EX spec full option model, clearly didn’t feel or look cheap. The model provided by Alghanim Honda Kuwait was a Carnellian Red Pearl and the quality of the paint and exterior finish was quite good.
Since I had the car for the whole weekend I was able to get a good feel of both the interior and exterior of the car. Honda has given a face-lift to the new City and now it has the same design cues in the grill as the rest of the vehicles in Honda’s stable, like the Accord and Odyssey. The front section has the aggressive wedge shape that we’d initially seen on the Civic Type R concept when it made its debut. I took some shots of the car from various angles and it has a pleasing look from the side profile to the rear three quarters.
The Interior too has an ‘upmarket’ feel that lacking in some of the budget sedans today. When I received the vehicle the seat and steering controls were obviously adjusted for the previous driver but it took me only a couple of minutes to adjust the seat and steering to my preferred driving position.
One of the things I like about the Civic and Accord is the driver oriented controls on the dashboard and the same design philosophy is employed in the City. All the controls on the steering and dashboard are easily accessible and takes virtually no time at all to get accustomed to the layout. The instrument console is easy to read and you’re not bombarded with too much information on the central display.
Steering and controls:
The steering wheel is not leather wrapped but covered in a rubbery material that provided adequate grip and allowed for damping of feedback from the road when driving on rough sections. The gearshift knob was covered in a similar material and it felt ok when shifting to Drive and Reverse.
The EX version that I drove featured Audio controls on the left of the steering and Cruise control buttons on the right. It was easy to use and within a short period of driving the car I didn’t have to look at the steering to know what buttons I was pushing. I was also surprised to find out that it also had paddle shifters on the steering.
The car felt nimble and light and it was easy navigating it through narrow roads in Shuwaikh area. The turning radius is around 5 Meters and was a breeze making a quick U-turn. The City has a 1.5 Liter iVTEC engine that is not shy to reach its rev limit and is responsive when you put your foot down on the throttle. The 5 speed automatic gear box has evenly spaced ratios and if driven enthusiastically you can even do 120 easily in the same pace as a larger sedan.
Engine and Transmission:
I took my family to Saravanaa Bhavan on Friday for a weekend brunch and it felt solid and confident on Road #40 towards Fahaheel. I used the cruise control to maintain my speed at 115 and the engine was ticking over at just around the 2500 RPM mark. This VTEC engine redlines somewhere around 6750 RPM so staying at 2.5K on the highway felt relaxed.
On the way back we did experience some very strong crosswinds but the car felt stable and it didn’t take much effort to maintain the car in the lane at high speeds. The City I drove rode on 185 / 55 R16 tires and they felt sure footed on tarmac.
This is one area a few friends commented on and wanted my feedback as there is a general perception that small Japanese cars would have trouble keeping passengers cool in Kuwait’s climate. We spent close to two hours for brunch and all the while the car was parked out in the open parking lot at 40+ degrees heat. On the return journey home I set the A/c to the minimum and blower on full blast. The City does not have rear A/c vents and it took about 5 minutes before my wife and kids felt comfortable in the back seat.
The rear seats have a 60/40 split configuration and also reclines to a certain extent. Leg space is more than enough if you’re less than 6 feet tall and in my family’s case they were comfortable on the long drive to Fahaheel and back. There’s a central armrest with cup holders for the rear passengers which can be stowed away if not required.
Coincidentally a family member was leaving on vacation during the weekend and so I used the City to make the airport run and transport luggage. She had a total of two large trunks and one soft duffel bag and they all fit in the rear of the car. For longer pieces of luggage you can also flip down the rear seats to increase your storage area.
1. Paddle Shift on the Steering wheel
2. FM Stereo with USB and AUX input
3 . Glove box and center console storage
4. Map lights in front for driver and passenger
Maximum power – 118 BHP @ 6600 RPM
Torque – 14.8 Kg/m @ 4800
Body: Monocoque chassis , 4 doors
Engine: 1.5 Liter
Transmission: 5 Speed AT with Manual controls option
For detailed specs you can check this [link]
I had the car for the whole weekend and covered almost 200 Kilometers and by the end of my review I had no doubt in my mind that this car should be strongly considered for a first time buyer or for someone who has a limited budget but wants a quality Japanese car.
I’d like to thank Alghanim Honda Kuwait for providing the test car and for sales inquiries you can contact them directly on the contact information provided below.
Honda Kuwait [website] You can also follow them on [Instagram] and [Twitter] Showroom: Al Rai Safat Alghanim Mall, Al Rai, 4th Ring Road, P O Box:6474, Zip:70458 Shuwaikh Phone: 24964000
This weekend I had some time to kill in the afternoon so I headed out to the drift track on 7th Ring Road to watch some of the cars in action. The drift races organized by Kuwait 1/4 Mile Racing Club and Drift 965 have been a regular event for the past few months and I’ve been following them on Instagram. You can check out their account [here].
This particular weekend was kinda dusty as luck would have it but I did spend about an hour taking some shots and left the place by 7PM. I reckon the races will be held every Friday till the start of Ramadan, from 6 PM to 10 PM.
I was invited to the grand opening of the Geely showroom on 4th Ring Road Al Rai this evening. The event took off with introductions to the KAICO and Geely companies by their respective leaders and a short speech by the Chinese Commercial Attaché to Kuwait, he spoke in fluent Arabic!
There was a small Eastern style dance and then the cars were rolled out one by one starting with the LC Panda, followed by the EC7 and the EC8. The Panda looks really good up close and has decent amount of space inside. It would be funny driving around in town in one. Hope I get one soon for a review.
Last weekend I received the EC7 from the service center to review. I couldn’t have picked a better/worse time to drive to Shuwaikh. It was about 11:30 when I drove out and the heat was mid 40 degrees C and traffic was jam packed on all roads leading out of Shuwaikh. This meant I was crawling at a snail’s pace in blistering heat in a new car that I had no idea about. Fortunately this gave me enough time to adjust the seat and steering a bit more than when I left the service center and I finally found a comfortable setting and by then the air conditioning had reached its peak performance.
For my review of the EC7 I decided to take a different route from what I’d posted about the EC8. This car is targeted towards a young or small family with a entry level budget so I did my testing and planned the review accordingly.
Looks: The styling of the EC7 matches those of the new generation Korean cars and blends in well with the modern sedans. From different angles you do see the influences of the Chevrolet Optra, Hyndai Elantra and from the rear there’s influences from Renault and maybe even the Indian Swift Dezire.
Build: One thing that I’ve noticed consistently with the Geely was that it didn’t feel like what I initially expected from a Chinese car. One example are the doors and the boot lid. Open and close them a couple of times and you’ll get a sense of the solidness of construction. They felt heavy and firm and when closing there was none of that ‘metallic clank’, instead you get a nice solid thunk thats more in the league of a more expensive car. As with the previous car there was sound proofing layers in the boot and hood which makes the interiors noise free.
Interiors: The model I drove was decently equipped and featured upholstered seats, sunroof, CD player and USB inputs. There were also enough storage spaces for loose change, documents, sunglasses and odd bits. The materials used for the dashboard felt a little plasticky but the color combination worked well and gave it a bright look. It reminded me of the Nissan Tida’s interiors. All instrument lights glow in a soft blue which I found to be better than the EC8.
Ride and handling: Being a light car it did feel nimble but on certain roads like #55 it felt too bouncy and didn’t soak up all the bumps on the road. The steering was ‘over-servo’ed as they call it and to me it felt too light. This may be alright for weaker drivers or ladies but I prefer a heaver steering feel.
Power and performance: The EC7 that I drove was a 1.8 16 valve unit developed by Geely and had a CVT transmission similar to my Outlander. The gearbox did an adequate job of moving through the preset ratios but its better to leave in fully automatic mode since the manual mode was not as quick as I preferred. The good news is that it performs very well on highways and you can cruise at the legal speed limit with the engine running around the 2.5K rpm mark. I wish they had a similar setup for the EC8.
Practicality: This should be good news for new buyers since this car is really easy to use in real world conditions, I spent an hour stuck in traffic in Shuwaikh and didn’t feel too frustrated. After that I had to run a couple of errands and parking it was a breeze thanks to the reverse sensors and small turning radius. The boot was also pretty big and accommodated my weekend shopping. Visibility from the front and side windows was good and there weren’t any blind spots for the driver.
Stereo: This is one area that I missed in my previous review. Both the cars have a pretty decent sound setup and by that I mean they sound good at normal volume levels and its uniform throughout the cabin. The CD players accepted mp3 discs and also had an alternate input. The EC8 had an SD card slot and the EC7 has a micro-USB port where you can hook up your USB flash device.
The EC7 has a rating of 5 in the C-NCAP crash tests and you can see the full reports from my previous post.
Now for the scope of improvements.
1. Gear changes could be a little more quicker, especially in manual mode.
2. Buzzer for the reverse sensor is very feeble and hardly audible in noisy traffic
3. USB port could have been the standard size instead of micro-USB (Geely also provides a USB cable with the full size connector)
4. Steering’s hydraulic assistance can be decreased just a little so that steering has a little more weight
Overall I’d say this is going to be a very tempting deal once you hear about the prices they have in mind. Coupled with the lease options and the warranty period this will make for a compelling reason to try this car.
I went by the museum this evening to check out the competition at this year’s event. Looks like yet another tough race with lots of talented entries and great photos. The exhibition is open during usual museum hours; 8-12 and 5-8PM Saturday to Thursday. The people at the museum will provide the ballot papers for the ‘People’s choice awards’ so be sure to cast your vote before you leave. I also took a short video since I had my Flip with me.
I was looking for a place to print my entries for the Vintage Car Museum contest when I remembered a friend of mine, HP, had ordered some large prints from a place in the city. I got the contact details from him and went to their office in Mirqab to get a quote and see a sample of their work.They’re located right near the mosque roundabout, beside Al Mano wa Al Salwa restaurant.
The contest required all work to be submitted on foam boards of thickness between 5 to 10 mm and in 50x70cm size so I ordered three prints in that specification and had it laminated with a matte coat so that it looked neat and protected the print. Overall I was very satisfied with the quality of their work and I’m thinking of having some of my personal photos printed here in large format.
Test driving cars is fun but sitting down and writing a lengthy review is what I dread most but here’s my review on the Emgrand EC8 after a weekend of driving. I covered a total of 245 kilometers in less than 48 hours starting from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon and this gave me a pretty good idea on the car.
Body: Monocoque chassis , 4 doors Engine: The version I drove was the EC820 which means it had a 2.0 inline 4. The top of the range gets a 2.4 inline 4. Transmission: 4 speed automatic with manual option, front wheel drive Seats: 5
First impression: Let me start off by sharing my personal experience. A few of my neighbors saw me in the parking lot on Saturday morning and congratulated me on buying a new Cadillac. They were most surprised to find out that not only was the car not a Cadillac but that it came from the Far East!
I spent a few minutes explaining to them the Geely brand and the Emgrand EC8 and they were impressed by the size and presence of the car. Make no mistake, this is a rather large car, its almost 5 meters long and 2 meters wide and sits a little higher than the average sedan. Click on through to read the full review…
Design: Overall the styling may be a little confusing as you can see hints of the Infiniti M45 from the front side angles, the grill and emblem remind you of the Cadillac and the rear three-quarter view might look like it came from BMW. Somehow all the design cues come together and you get a sedan which looks good in any driveway. I was not surprised when I learned that famous Volvo designer, Peter Horbury, is now leading the designs for Geely. You can read more about it [here]
The doors feel solid and close with a secure feeling that is not present in even some cheaper Japanese cars. The hood and boot have hydraulic dampers on both sides and opening and closing them is very easy and convenient. Overall fit and finish is impressive but I did find the panel gap between the rear bumper and the body near the tail light to be less than perfect.
All around the car you’ll find small touches that makes you feel like you’re driving a much more expensive vehicle. The front headlights look stylish with the combination of Halogen and LED lights and there’s a chrome finish for the fog lamp bezels. The rear light cluster large and the LED brakelights are really bright at night. All four door sills have the Emgrand name engraved on metal plates and are illuminated by their respective door lights when you climb in.
Steering and controls: Climb into the driver seat and you’re greeted by a leather and plastic wrapped steering wheel. The steering felt a little thin for my chubby fingers but I guess it will be ok for some drivers. The version I tested was the mid-range model and didn’t come with steering controls for the radio.
There’s a tiny information screen in between the speedometer and tachometer which shows the average speed, trip data, distance to object while parking, as well as alert messages when you leave the doors or boot open. I did most of my driving in manual mode and there’s a gear indicator next the ‘S’ symbol (I’m guessing it stands for sports mode) when you flick the gear lever into manual.
The control stalks on either side of the steering wheel were easy to operate but the plastic used on the stalks were different from those used elsewhere in the car and felt cheap. They might want to reconsider changing the material.
Driving: The car I received had about 3000Ks on the clock and was properly run in so I didn’t have to be gentle with it. The seats and steering column settings are manual and you can adjust it to get the perfect driving position. The car pulls away cleanly from 0Kms and you can get up to cruising speed in a short time. The 17 inch stylish alloys provide adequate grip and gives you confidence in approaching corners at decent speeds. Body roll for a car this size was very minimal and the occupants are safely bolstered in the seats when making sudden direction changes. When driving alone I felt the suspension could be a little more pliant but when I took my parents for a spin they commented that the ride was soft and they didn’t feel the bumps on the road so I guess backseat passengers will be more comfortable than the driver.
Engine and Transmission: You can imagine the grin on my face when I lifted the hood and saw the familiar diamond star and MIVEC logo on the engine cover. The 2.0 power plant for the EC820 comes from Mitsubishi and so anyone who’s concerned about mechanical reliability and longevity can breathe easy. The transmission is a 4 speed automatic with a manual override option and does a good job of getting the power to the road. Being used to the newer 5 and 6 speed gearboxes I felt that the car could use a taller ratio for the final drive or the addition of a 5th gear.
Under normal driving conditions and with passengers in the back seat the 2.0 engine is capable of transporting you and your family at 120 on the highway. There were times when I felt that I could use a little more power and maybe the top range EC240 would be suitable for me.
Maximum power – 136PS @ 6000
Torque – 18.4 Kg/m @ 4000
1. Fully automatic climate control
2. CD player and SD card input
3. Felt lined sunglasses holder
4. Illuminated glove box and center console storage
5. 12 volt power outlets in the boot and center console and another power outlet/cigarette lighter in the dash
Remote: Key-less entry with lock/unlock and boot release buttons. The key is similar to the new generation key fobs and has a spring loaded metal key for the ignition.
Rear seats: The rear seats are a real treat in this car. Rear passengers get reading lights near the headrests, a sunscreen behind the seats and air conditioning. I took my parents for a spin and their feedback was that the legroom was fantastic and entry and exit out of the back seats was effortless. The back passengers don’t get dedicated temperature controls for the a/c but I had the climate control set to auto at 22c and it kept the insides comfortable while external temperature was 42.
Luggage space: Now this is the part of the review where I’m thinking of going back to stuffing people into the boot to check the luggage space. The total boot space is 540 Liters and you can flip down the rear seats to create even more space for long items. The boot is completely lined with sound deadening material and looks neat. The hazard triangle is attached on the boot lid in German fashion and is easily accessible. There’s a 12 volt power outlet in the boot and you can use it to power the portable cooler or the vacuum cleaner like I do in my Outlander.
Ever since Geely acquired Volvo they have been getting inputs from the Swedish manufacturer on increasing occupant safety and Geely now uses the same technology used by Volvo, which is considered one of the safest cars in the world. The company was kind enough to send me additional links with the test results for the EC7, EC8 and the LC Panda. My area of work involves looking at test results and from the data I’ve seen here there’s no doubt that Geely cars have a competitive safety rating.
1. Engine sounds a tiny bit rough when pushed hard. It’s perfectly silent when you driving in normal traffic or stopped at the lights but after 5000 rpm it gets rough.
2. Felt the lack of an overdrive ratio. Doing 120 on the expressway is fine but if you want to travel at 140+ for long distances a 5th gear with a taller ratio might be a good addition.
3. Information display in the instrument cluster could be a little bigger.
4. Steering wheel thickness could be a little more and overall circumference a little less.
5. The last one is a minor but very frustrating issue, the radio somehow starts with the volume at 10 each time to start the car. Maybe its some setting I have to change or just a problem with the one in my test drive.
Overall I’d like to say that driving the experiencing the Emgrand has changed my perception about Chinese cars and if you’re interested in knowing more I’d recommend making a visit to the Geely showroom. Here’s a short video on the EC8
For sales inquiry and prices contact Mr. Anish on 50634600
I was recently informed by a friend that KAICO was bringing in a new automobile brand, Geely, to Kuwait and I could get to do a review and test drive of their cars. Kuwait Automotive Imports Company are the importers for Mazda, Peugeot and Eicher in Kuwait and we got an appointment to meet with the Brand Manager for Geely, Mr. Rexzcy Williams. I knew nothing much about the brand apart from the fact that they had recently bought the Swedish car company Volvo. We talked for about an hour, going over the specs of the car and the kind of demographic that each model was targeting.
In order for me to do a proper test drive and write a review I wanted to know more about the cars and the company so I did a little research and what I found was very surprising. Geely has been selling their cars in Saudi Arabia and Oman for some time and they have more or less the same model range that we’re going to get. You can see the product line on the Geely website [link]
The cars have also been through Euro NCAP crash tests and they’ve got rather respectable ratings for passenger safety. Here’s a video I found of the EMC7 being tested which got 4 stars out of 5.
You can also find the detailed crash test report on the Euro NCAP website [link]
The parent company Geely Holding Group will be bringing in the LC Panda, The EC7 and the flagship Emgrand EC8 to Kuwait’s shores soon. The car pictured at the beginning of the post is the EC8. I’ve only been following the automobile industry since the 90’s but have seen enough to know that it may not be wise to brush off the Chinese brands as a joke. Japanese and Korean car makers went through the same phases in the 80s and 90s respectively and no one imagined they’d overthrow the Big Three from Detroit, so for now I’ll just keep mum and see what the Chinese have to offer.
I’ve returned the EMC8 after a full weekend of testing and will be posting my review in a couple of days. Keep watching this space for more details.