Ask the Mechanic


I have been driving a Toyota Prado J120 Series. It is a 2700CC Petrol 2007 Model. It could be due to hard economic times, but the consumption has become a bother. I have done an average consumption for normal town runs (usual city traffic) and it comes to about 5km/per litre. Is this normal? Also, there is this thing I am hearing about ex-Singapore Mercedes and ex-Japan. What are the risks of acquiring an ex-Singapore? Are they all manufactured in Germany? Your response will be appreciated.

Njomo JM

Hi Njomo,  Five kilometres for the 2.7-liter Prado is not normal. However, I have experienced just such a thing in the exact same make and model of vehicle in an adventure I narrated lightly within these pages. Without digressing, let us just say the problem with the car I had was it was long overdue for service, and once the service was done, normalcy resumed. What  is normalcy? Expect 10km per litre on average, or slightly more if you are something special behind the wheel, but eight-10 km per litre for town driving should be just about fair for that vehicle. Check the air filter and the spark plugs, these are notorious for inflating consumption out of the blue. A fresh swig of synthetic will be a nice touch as well... Ex-Singapore vehicles are infamous for being very attractive and very highly specced lemons just waiting to bankrupt an unwise motorists who does not take this column seriously. The problem with ex-Singapore vehicles is they do not undergo any kind of pre-importation scrutiny, so those people will sell you anything, and I do mean anything; where “anything” in this case is “a German car that saw no maintenance in its lifetime”.

Japan is the exact opposite: they are fastidious, meticulous and sticklers for protocol, and their inspection process is stricter than the curfew hours at a convent. They check the cars thoroughly and award them grades out of five, with five being pristine and zero being “send this junk to the crusher immediately, it shall not be exported”. You get exactly what it says on the sheet, while with a Singapore import, you are gambling with your money.

Not all Mercs are manufactured in Germany. Mercedes-AMG/Daimler/whoever owns the three-pointed star have factories all over the world that specialise in different models. Some are made in Germany, some are made in Austria, some are made in the US... Now I will not bother going through the entire line-up of Benz models and where each car is assembled because the internet can do it for you. Use it.


In terms of fuel consumption, rough road capabilities, agility and comfort. Or should I just hunt down the Forester?

Hi , I have discussed the Murano a few times, to the chagrin of a few Murano owners known to me; so that should tell you the tone those discussions took. The Murano will not be winning any awards here. And neither will the CX7.

When it came out, it looked like a ground-hugging missile and it went like one too. Up to that point I do not think anyone offered a turbocharged crossover at that price point, and Mazda swept in, blowing the competition out of the water. However, they blew themselves out of the water as well because the CX7 was not very reliable and the fuel consumption was a bit unfriendly.

The Murano uses the same 3.5 V6 as the Fairlady coupé while the CX7 opts for a turbo’ed 2.3 four. The Murano is the toothy, chunky embarrassment of a mall crawler while the CX7 helps suburban dads rediscover their Subaru-driving days of youth with sheer firepower and responsiveness. There are patterns here, if you noticed.

So now, fuel consumption; both are thirsty and will be even thirstier if you exploit their pretensions at performance. You will not like what awaits you here.

Rough road capabilities: again, you are barking up the wrong tree. Neither does rough roads particularly well; the Mazda, your best bet is the BT50 pickup which belongs in a whole other argument, not this one.

Agility; definitely the Mazda. Its sharpness and responsiveness belies its size and seating capacity. The CX7 moves and feels like the RX8 from which it borrowed its inspiration from. The Murano feels exactly like it looks; like a toothy, chunky embarrassment of a mall crawler.

Comfort; well, this depends on what you like; the ambience or the sensations. In terms of ambience, the Mazda edges forward because the Murano’s interior was made by someone without a single grain of taste in his entire being. However, the Mazda’s dynamic sharpness points at sporting tendencies, and sports have never been comfortable no matter how entertaining. The Murano takes this one because of that heft and the fact that it was designed for (and by) plus-sized Californians with delicate constitutions means that it does not quite tackle road imperfections as much as it crushes them underfoot using sheer heft.

You may want to hunt down the Forester. Depending on which one you choose, the CX7 may be faster and it has seven seats, but it is defunct. Yes, the CX7 died off; what we have now is something called a CX9 that I strongly implore you to give a shot. You will be pleasantly surprised. The Murano? Buy this if all the excitement has gone out of your life and you sincerely believe you have done all you were ever destined to do on God’s green earth, so now your daily routine is a slog through a repetitive schedule to the point that all the days run into each other and your calendar is calibrated using your children’s’ opening and closing days at school.


Carrying goods in a personal car without relevant commercial insurance will put you on a collision course with the police. Worse still, this may send you to your maker in an instant if the load is not well harnessed and an accident occurs .

R. Mwangi

Hello Mwangi,

Week in, week out, I chant the same mantra; use a car for the task it was designed for, but I always get rejoinders in return along the lines of: my money, my car, I will do as I please.

That is why we have people asking about taking Premios off road and why we have images on social media of people ferrying Napier grass in 200 Series Landcruisers and selling water melons out the backs and trunks of Land Rover Discovery 4s and Mercedes-Benz W211s.

What to do, except allow one’s face to meet one’s palm? This laissez-faire attitude keeps me fed.

I had a wagon, but I never carried anything I should not have in it. I am choosy about my cargo, human or otherwise. Car manufacturers are specific about what can and cannot be ferried in their products, but I am yet to read an owner’s manual referring to funeral services.

If (or when) I build cars, I would keep all references to death at a minimum in my owner’s manual as well. It is not a good look marketing your vehicle as a hearse.

Then we have government for whom the less said, the better, I would like to live to see tomorrow, thank you very much.

They may or may not have statutes in place concerning how to shift bodies from the scene, but my active imagination cannot help but create scenarios whereby the feds pull you over in a traffic stop, take a peek in your car and discover the body lying prone in your cargo bay.

But the buck stops with the insurance company. They really need to be stricter on matters concerning their clients; what they can and cannot transport, and if they can, how to transport it.

I would love to be a fly on the wall in the room where a client who has been paying religiously all his life tries to explain away the fact that the police report states the vehicle had two occupants, there were no fatalities but one of the passengers is dead anyway - and why or how they were dead before the incident. It should make for stimulating conversation.

- Adapted from Nation

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