A QUANTUM LEAP

SIXTH GENERATION MODEL GROWN IN LENGTH AND COMFY

As things stand, most people in our country are ferried around in Toyota models.

Take the taxi industry for instance, it rests squarely on the wheels of the Ses’Fikile, a variant of the popular Toyota Quantum model.

To try and imagine otherwise would be akin to expecting to find as Eskimo in the Sahara desert.

So dominant is the Ses’Fikile that it’s not uncommon for commuters to look the other way when a different make of a taxi honks for their attention.

Similarly, the majority of taxi drivers are said to prefer to pursue their vocation smugly behind the Ses’Fikile wheel.

It gives loads of respectability to our trade, they say.

And in a cut throat and turbulent taxi industry where consensus is as scarce as an honest politician, it instructive that two-thirds of taxi owners have voted with their wallets in favour of the Ses’Fikile.

It’s a relationship that dates back some 15 years when the Ses’Fikile as part of the Quantum range first hit our shores – although in other countries the Quantum is being referred to as the Hi-Ace.

In our case the Ses’Fikile was a replacement of the erstwhile boxy Hi-Ace which had proved to be a bit claustrophobic and relatively unsafe as a daily commune.

With its wide spaces the Ses’Fikile was an instant hit and in the process has also attracted touring companies as their mode of shuttling their guests around.

Indeed, everything seems to be going all right for Toyota.

But with change being the only constant, time has come for the Quantum range to undergo some facelift as it enters its puberty state.

In this instance, however, the facelift will be minus the Ses’Fikile range which will continue to be built in its current form at Toyota’s Prospecton plant in KwaZulu.

Time has not yet come for the Ses’Fikile (which is ironically an isiZulu word for we have arrived) to visit the hairdresser.

Going under the surgeon’s knife is the Quantum bus and van range which now come with a new engine and fresh features.

The new imported range comprise a 11-seater (long wheelbase) and a 14-seater (super-long-wheelbase) buses, as well as three seat panel vans in LWB and SLWB formats, and a six-seat LWB crew cab.

Interestingly, all models of the sixth-generation Quantum range have only one engine option – the 2,8 litre four-cylinder turbodiesel unit, which is also found in the Hilux bakkie and Fortuner SUV.

In the new Quantum, the 2,8-litre engine will be offered exclusively in a six-speed manual transmission.

Immediately noticeable with the newcomer is its lower front doors, larger front door glass, wider step and a lower belt line.

The lower front door which comes with a wider step allows for easier access, while the larger front door glass and a lower belt line improves visibility and creates a sense of being a master of all what you survey.

Toyota says the newcomer promises improved ride-comfort, quietness and safety.

Enthusiasts can look forward to a raft of user-friendly features which include flip-flop seats, LED lightning, netted seat-back pockets, console boxes and wait for it…up to 16 cup holders.

As for the van version, it featured storage space sufficiently large for “pallets from any country or region”, as Toyota wants us to believe.

An added plus, Toyota says, are the numerous flat-mount surfaces and anchor points will make it easy to modify the vehicle for specialized applications.

At the same time, towing capacity has been increased to a maximum of 2 000 kg.

Again, the standard model has grown in length by a full 570 mm to 5 265 mm, in width by 255 mm to 1 950 mm and in height by 10 mm to 1 990 mm, while its wheelbase has been increased by a whopping 640 mm to 3 210 mm.

No doubt the new offering looks refreshed and pleasing to the eye and promises to continue miles and miles of enjoyable comfort of which the brand is reputed for.

The jury, however, is still out on whether the new offering is stable enough enough unlike its predecessor which seemed to bob and weave in windy circumstances especially at high speed.

Well, Toyota says they have been able to redesign the new Quantum in a semi-bonneted design which includes a stiffer frame, which it says give it a stronger-straight-line performance and greater stability and manoeuvrability.

This is further accentuated by the newly developed MacPherson struts up front and new leaf springs at the rear.

My other gripe is the single engine option on offer.

This one-size fits all philosophy presupposes that though there may be different Toyota customers, they are all endowed the same.

It tends to limit boasting rights, or kanjani?

But what is not up for debate is the strength of the 2,8-litre engine, which propells the Quantum effortlessly whatever the terrain – even when fully laden.

Price is another worrying factor, what with Toyota saying all new Quantum variants will be imported.

And also worried are the other manufacturers as they fathom how the market will react to this new offering from Toyota.

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