Opa and Spacio, which is ideal for me?

The Toyota Opa and the Spacio are both good but for the Spacio’s slightly high ground clearance over the Opa, the Spacio comes in handy for our rough road terrain. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA

I am planning to buy my first car and I am very excited but I want to go about it very diligently and carefully so that I do not get disappointed. So in line with that, I am requesting that you compare for me a Toyota Spacio against a Toyota Opa (between 2000 and 2004 models for both) as those are the brands from which I would like to choose) What car is the best of the two, and which is best suited for the roads in Kampala? Which is easier to manoeuvre, maintain as well as obtain spare parts for? I was told the Opa is out of production. Does that make it harder to get its spare parts? And lastly do they have 4WD? Nabukeera L H

The 2001-06 Spacio (Verso) is the second generation based on the Corolla E120 platform (chassis). It offers 1.5 litre (1NZFE) and 1.8 L (1ZZFE) petrol engines. Opa is a Vista Ardeo modified into a hatchback and comes with the 1.8 L (1ZZFE) and 2.0 L (1AZFE) petrol engines. You ought to consider the more popular 1.8 litre petrol engine which is a good balance between fuel economy (12-13 km per litre) and impressive engine power. Both the Spacio and Opa come with the Toyota badge of good quality.

Spacio and Opa share modern comfort and safety features such as: CD audio entertainment, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, ample seating and load space, anti-locking brakes (ABS), SRS (supplementary restraint systems) airbags, three point seat belts. Opa stands out from the crowd with its rectangular carriage like shape which takes a little while to get used to.

Opa is bigger than Spacio and its wider and lower construction allows it better road holding stability. Spacio on the other hand looks more aerodynamic, sporty and attractive. Its steering is more accurate and easier to manoeuvre around Kampala traffic. It is a lady’s favourite. Opa interior design is impressive with the gear shifter positioned near the dashboard to allow front passengers to transfer easier to the rear of the car like a minibus.

The instrument cluster or dashboard display is digital. However, Spacio interior looks more car like with the metallic fascia finish, sizeable five adult seats, driver seat arm rest, stowage for cups and sunglasses with ample rear legroom and load space. Spacio will be a better choice because it has a higher ground clearance and suspension layout suitable for navigating high road humps and upcountry or uneven dirt roads in the city suburb. Maintenance and parts support both new and used is better for the more popular Spacio and when time comes to part ways it is easier to sale it and commands a better resale value. You can get a Spacio with four wheel drive as well.

I recently bought a Toyota Ipsum 2001 model. A few days ago I had the front shock absorbers replaced by my usual mechanic. As soon as the job was done, the car ABS fault light was displayed permanently. The gearshifts became rough and my speedometer does not work. The mechanic says we need a computer diagnosis. What is your opinion?
The symptoms you describe point to a breakdown of the vehicle speed monitoring system. In modern cars like your Ipsum, vehicle speed is monitored via wheel speed sensors positioned to read the splines of an Anti-Locking Brake System (ABS) reluctor ring on each wheel disc. This information is relayed to the ABS modulator (control unit) which processes the information and forwards it to the automatic gearbox and engine computers to aid smooth shifting and engine performance.

The speed information is also forwarded to the instrument cluster computer for display on the odometer. In your case the likely point of breakdown are the front wheel speed sensors which may have been damaged or their circuits interrupted during the front shock absorber repair job. A computer diagnosis will quickly point out which sensor is faulty. Careful inspection can also reveal which sensor is damaged to determine whether it can be repaired or not. New replacement sensors are not readily available but quality used ones are available downtown. That should fix the problem.

I drive an E46 BMW 318 (2000 model) which has had an irritating engine water leak at one of the radiator plastic sides. I have been topping up every morning and evening for the last three weeks. The leak seems to have increased and a friend advised that I use a special Holts solution sold at Game to dissolve in the radiator and stop the leak. Does this option work without side effects on the engine?

The BMW radiator, like all other cars, develops a leak when damaged by corrosion due to delayed coolant service, overheating episodes (as a result of vacuum lock, damaged blower fan, thermostat or water pump) or impacts during accidents. It is true that the Holts radiator repair solution once used after reading instructions can arrest radiator leaks from ‘hair line’ fine cracks.

However, if the crack is big and on the plastic sides of your radiator, that damage may require replacement of the leaking plastic side panel by good radiator manufacturers. Quite often, these efforts are remedial and from your description of the increasing volume of coolant leak you may have to outrightly replace the radiator for peace of mind.

I am planning a trip to the village in a few weeks’ time with my family in our “new” Toyota Prado 3.5 V6 Petrol. I would like some advice on what sort of service I should give it and what checks to make as the service history is in Japanese and it has 97,000km on the clock.

In a situation where you have no service history but the mileage covered on the clock is evident, it would be prudent to stop at a reliable car repair shop and exercise due diligence. You need to check the condition of all fluids and consider renewing them: engine oil, automatic (or manual) gearbox oil, brake fluid, steering fluid, differential oil, transfer case oil and radiator coolant. Most of the long life fluids above should be changed under the Toyota service ii plan before 100,000kms or every two years in the case of radiator coolant. Check or replace all filters: engine oil, fuel and air filters.

Replace the engine timing belt (where if you do not see the T belt replacement mileage sticker) and confirm the condition of your serpentine belts for the steering, alternator and air-conditioning pump.
Check front and rear suspension bushes, link bars and shock absorbers. Replace components found defective. Check all fuel and brake lines for leakage. Confirm normal operation of all electrical equipment and their respective switches.

Check the condition of your tyres and carry out wheel balancing and wheel alignment. Thereafter you will be ready for a long road trip with peace of mind


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