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Safe cars: Are there any specific recommendations for Uganda?

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Some Ugandan mechanics consider this Land Cruiser quite safe.PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By  Jude Katende

Posted  Thursday, January 30  2014 at  02:00
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For Bob Mawanda, a mechanic and director at Blue Ocean Motors , a quick survey at most garages is what it may take to reveal the “culprit vehicles”. But this may not be fair enough given that even some considered on the US’s safest list may be found in one or two of our garages given the nature of our terrain and driving styles.

That said, Mawanda thinks Mercedes Benz cars are much better regardless of year of manufacture or model. “They are very stable on the road. When it moves fast, there is a way it “grips” the road better than other cars. Benzes are rarely involved in accidents,” he argues. Mawanda also recommends the Toyota Land Cruiser used by the police force as a safe bet in Uganda. “That hardtop Land Cruiser is quite something,” Mawanda notes.

Peter Kafuma, a mechanic with a passion for Volkswagens especially the Kombis and Beetles says vehicles made in the past (70s, 80s and early 90s) were good but most of them have been replaced with “softer” ones. “The VW Kombis and Land Rovers are all new and look different,” he argues. Kafuma’s main concern is the “weak” body or exterior made these days. Kafuma’s assertion can be linked to car firms wanting to be as economical as possible and yet make cars affordable.

Eliphaz Muwonge, a Mulago based mechanic, who like Kafuma has observed the industry grow, without mincing words says Mercedes Benz and Land Rover are the brands to trust. “In the past, cars were strong and parts were original unlike today. Today, if Kisekka Market closed, people would suffer,” the old man explains. He argues that these days even people who are yet to acquire a car can buy one but because they cannot maintain it well, they blame the car for something they are to blame for. “In the past , original spare parts were readily available. Although there are very many cars today, parts are not original. You get Toyota parts made in Taiwan or Thailand and not Japan,” he observes.

With safety, a lot comes into play. Sometimes how we drive is the issue and not the type of car. Motorcare Uganda’s workshop manager, Leonard Ochakolong says with our reckless taxi drivers, it may be hard to recommend certain cars as “safe”. He however says since he has rarely seen some Toyota Land Cruisers and Mitsubishi Pajeros involved in accidents, he would recommend them.

A car fan with car sales experience, Timothy Nyamayarwo, says tropicalised vehicles from all local dealers of brand new vehicles have cars that are best suited for the market. He adds that all recent car makes should generally be safe given the high safety standards incorporated. “Some cars even have safety features that warn you in advance,” he notes.

About the majority of our cars being the used type, Nyamayarwo says a guarantee on safety is hard. He cautions online buyers that they should always ask the Japanese dealers for an inspection report, servicing rating and if the car wasn’t among those recalled in a particular year. He however recommends a Toyota Corolla AE100 (Kikumi) as good. “People do not understand model codes. They dwell so much on particular models but they forget the codes. But this car (the Kikumi) was good at the time it was made,” he concludes.

jkatende@ug.nationmedia.com