X1, CX-5, CRV, Skyline or Crown?

Hello Baraza,

I am planning to buy my first car, but I am unable to decide which car to go for. At first I was considering the BMW X1, Mazda CX-5 and HONDA CRV, and then began thinking about the Nissan Skyline and Toyota Crown.

Honda CRV 2.0

A Honda CRV 2.0. 

Photo credit: File | Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Would you kindly give your expert view of these options based on reliability, power maintenance, fuel consumption and any other important issue that I should consider before buying.


Reliability: the BMW is out, closely followed by the Nissan. The Toyota and the Honda battle for supremacy.

Power:well, this depends on what engines the Toyota and the Nissan are slinging. The Crown can be had with anything from a four cylinder to a V8. The Nissan may or may not have a 3.5 litre V6. The rest? Not so much.

Maintenance: the BMW is out, again. The CX-5 is not a sure bet. The CRV is. The Toyota will not surprise you, the Nissan might, the surprise in question not being a good one.

Mazda CX-5

A red metallic 2020 Mazda CX-5.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

Fuel consumption: pick a battle. You either want power or you want economy. You rarely have the opportunity to enjoy both unless you are talking hybrids, which you aren't. That said, economy will mostly boil down to how and where you drive, but let me put it this way: the smaller the engine, the better the economy, but only up to a point. Depending on the body type and mass, small engines can actually be counterproductive and they end up consuming more, paradoxically. Again, that said, the Honda is probably the most economical or the Mazda. Don't place any bets here. 

Other important issues: you are trying to choose between a trio of crossovers and a pair of saloons. Pick one niche based on your needs or your wants, whichever takes priority. Between the two saloons, you can never go wrong with the Toyota. From the list of crossovers, take the Mazda if you like driving and good design, take the Honda if you want to play it safe.

Dear Baraza,

I love your writing style and sometimes your ideas since I don’t agree with everything you write. I read your opinion on Nissan cars a few weeks ago. Now, Mr Baraza, I am in love with the Nissan Patrol V8 and plan to get myself one. Please be very kind and tell me all that I must prepare for when I get her because the decision to forge the union is made and dowry prepared.


Dear Mr Waweru,

Many of us are in love with the V8 Patrol, but you are fortunate enough to consummate your affection. The vehicle is not half bad, the looks may be a bit odd, but this is a solid piece of kit, and for good money too.

Nissan Patrol V8

The Nissan Patrol V8. 

Photo credit: File

As you prepare your dowry, set some funds aside for an oil rig. The V8 Patrol is a very good car but its biggest weakness is the fuel consumption: I tested one some years ago, and as I was driving up the Kinungi escarpment I swear I could see the fuel gauge moving. 5600 CCs spread over eight cylinders are very many, the 400 donkeystrengths they put at your fingertips notwithstanding. The vehicle will burn fuel like a derrick on fire.

Other than that, the vehicle is massive and it is heavy, so configure your driving style accordingly. The infotainment system is from a previous century and... that’s about it. There is very little to complain about as far as the Y62 goes, which makes me wonder why we aren’t buying this car in large numbers. We should. If I get my money right, this just may be the first Nissan I ever own...

Dear Baraza,

I am an enthusiast of your column. I have noticed that the number of Lexus RX cars have increased on the road, the RX270, RX350, and the 450h.

The Lexus RX

A Lexus RX 350. 

Please enlighten me on their robustness, power, stability, fuel consumption, cost of parts. I would like to particularly acquire the RX350 and keep it for quite some time, which means there will come a time when changing most of the suspension parts will become necessary.



Hello Kaka,

If you mention robustness, perhaps you shouldn’t be looking at a Lexus. As far as power goes, the higher the numerical value in the name, the more the power, so the RX450h is definitely superior to the RX270.

Fuel consumption? Go for the weakest car here, which is the RX270. The RX450h is a hybrid which theoretically should make the fuel economy stellar, but for some reason, Lexus hybrids are not as economical as they may seem. They can be surprisingly thirsty.

Cost of parts? The name says it all: Lexus. Yes, it is a Toyota and it uses Toyota parts which are generally inexpensive, but the Lexus-specific hardware will not be cheap. Then, now that you say you are keeping suspension parts in mind, I can’t help but ask: where do you plan to drive this car?

Thanks JM for the very informative and well-presented facts on cars. I have been considering three SUV/Crossovers, the Mazda CX5, Subaru Forester and Toyota Vanguard 2014 or newer, how do they compare in the following departments: Handling, build, comfort, reliability, maintenance and fuel economy? I am moving from a 2003 Toyota Mark 2 Grande, which is serving me very well. Secondly, why is Subaru moving away from turbo chargers and settling for NA 2.0 and 2.5lt? Thirdly, what is the future of symmetrical turbo chargers?



Hi Douglas,

Handling: Subaru

Build: Subaru

Comfort: Mazda, maybe. This is subjective.

Reliability: Toyota

Maintenance: Toyota

Economy: Mazda, maybe

Is Subaru moving away from turbocharging? I have no idea about this. Last I checked they still made turbo cars. Also, symmetrical turbochargers? I have not heard of these either.


I want to know which truck is best between the Mitsubishi Fuso fI and new Isuzu FRR.

Mitsubishi Fuso.

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Isuzu FRR

Isuzu FRR.

Photo credit: File


Just like you, I’d also like to know which truck is better than the other. I know both trucks replace aging hardware and they introduce developmental upgrades such as turbocharging, intercooling, downsizing and lower cylinder counts which should make for good fuel economy, but there has to be one which is better than the other.

I may be biased because I had a Fuso FI for the Great Run, and my film director who was trailing the truck said the performance is otherworldly. Interesting. Also, inconclusive. Once I have a go at both trucks and have a word with my #TruckLife colleagues who deal with these vehicles on the daily, I will have a more definite response.

(Answers to questions nobody asked: in this 9.9-ton GVW truck class, the only new age vehicle I have driven - very briefly - is the new UD, what used to be called Nissan Diesel. It’s called the Croner if you hate letters and numbers, or the MKE180 if you like such designations; and it replaces the noisy, thirsty MKB210. It too suffers from cylinder and capacity castration palliated by turbocharging and intercooling, so you may want to include in your list of 10-ton trucks

Hi Baraza

Thanks for the great work you are doing, it’s good, very good. I’m seeking your advice on two issues:

1) I have a 1995 Toyota Corona (manual) that I have used for the last 15 years. I have traversed with it many parts of Kenya, the odometer reads over 300,000km and counting. I service it religiously when time comes and it has never given me any major problems, just the usual change of shocks, bushes, tie rods, stabilisers, fan belt and timing belt. Lately, I have noted that the exhaust has been emitting more smoke than usual, especially in the morning. Oil top-ups has also increased. My local mechanic, who has been with it for all those years advises me to shop for a secondhand engine and replace the current one. The vehicle is still strong and I would like to keep it, what other enhancements do I need to do to keep it going for longer?

Toyota Corona

A Toyota Corona.

Photo credit: File

2) As a possible replacement to the Corona, I am looking for a Subaru Impreza WRX or STi (manual). I am a great fun of Subarus, especially the older models (Legacy and Impreza) I have a working budget of between Sh700,000 and 1million .

Yours sincerely.

H Mbugua

Hi Mbugua,

Long question, short answers.

1. Like I have advised another reader somewhere within this column, check your valve seals along with the piston rings. If it starts looking like too much work, follow your mechanic’s advice and replace the mill. If you want to keep the vehicle longer, just stay on top of maintenance and don’t flag. At that age and mileage, proper care becomes more and more crucial.

(Answers to questions nobody asked: my BMW clocked 340,000km then stopped counting because of a missing gearbox switch. That was back in 2018. I suspect the car has soared past the 400,000km mark by now, but there is no smoke and the power could never be better. The trick is TLC: tender, loving care.)

2. For that money, just get a WRX. You may or may not get an STi for that outlay, but if you do, perhaps you will be looking at a mechanically unsound vehicle, or something that has been in a crash.

My car is producing a lot of smoke when I start the engine, but after a few kilometres, it is okay, what could be the problem?

Matore Isaya

There is an oil leak coming from the cylinder head. Most likely your valve seals are worn out. When the car is parked, oil leaks into the cylinders through the worn out seals then when the engine is cranked, the leaked oil is combusted, which explains the origin of the smoke. After a few kilometers, the oil that had leaked into the cylinders is all burnt up, which is why there is no more smoke.

Check your valve seals.


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