CAR CLINIC: The AWD in Subaru is primarily for directional stability


I think your reviews are biased especially on anything that touches on Mazda

Hi JM,

For a long time, I have been an adherent reader of your articles but of late, I’m really concerned with the angle which your reviews have taken.

Your prowess in motoring is laudable but your impartially is clouding your analysis and this is specifically when it comes to Subaru or anything that touches on Mazda.

I have had privilege to own an Impreza, Demio, Honda (Stream, Accord and Fit) and a Toyota Levin and can tell you for each one of them, there is something likable and something dislikeable.

On Subaru, Fuji strength has been on the AWD and the boxer engines which are naturally performance oriented. But on practicality they lose out to Honda.

Do you need an AWD for town use for example? Never forget 80 per cent plus Kenyans buy cars for daily use within mostly town settings.

There is a man who asked you about driving around East Africa with his daughter and he was torn between a Forester and CRV. That analysis was hollow based on your love for Subaru; having driven it.

I challenge you to take CRV I-VTEC 2.45 speed on a Safari to Kisumu and same with Forester. Let us exchange notes while in Kisumu as we examine the wind noise levels in a Forester, the ride quality, comfort, safety, response to driving etc.

So why advice this man on Forester based on AWD and performance alone? Seriously?

Tell me one Honda CRV (97-2005) you have seen broken down and will point you to hundreds of Foresters lying in garages for reasons ranging from gaskets blown to transmission issues.

Is reliability an issue we can debate between Honda and Subaru?

Having said that, I give it up all to Subaru for performance based on ride but is that what your reader is looking for only?

Secondly, on Premacy, Stream and Wish, you mention Skyactiv on Mazda. Why not mention Earth Dreams on Honda? How do they compare?

I expect a more objective analysis like: reliability, performance based on horse power, engine capacity, handling and cornering, ease of maintenance, build quality, practicality, space in litres available especially when third row seats are up, ride quality etc.

So why will you for instance comment on Honda RSZ yet you haven’t driven one? I thought motor enthusiasts do road test and come up with a verdict; otherwise all this information is available online anyway.

My humble submission sir is: strive to remain objective in reviews /analysis and keep your love for Mazda and Subaru on check. Advice objectively since as I said, you have the knowledge but your love for those two are killing it. MK

Hi MK,

I admire your honesty and bravura for stepping up to challenge my views. I like such confidence in people I engage with, not just random accolades in a bid to grab my attention or junk commentary to try and incite a reaction. Well in, sir.

That is the end of the compliments; now the strap comes out. It takes a brilliant mind to sift jest from fact within my penmanship. Such brilliant intellect exists out there because they always get in touch to tell me “we see what you did there”.

It doesn’t matter how many skulls my treatises fly past with little or no effect (or with the wrong effect), all I need is one confirmation that at least somebody out there understood what I was getting at. That suffices for me.

That being said, let us get to the meat of your lengthy correspondence. You claim I lack impartiality as far as those two Japanese brands are concerned. Perhaps I do; perhaps maybe you didn’t look hard enough to read between the lines that I wrote.

All cars have likeables and dislikeables as you said: when I write the likeables, I’m accused of brown-envelope journalism, when I write the dislikeables, I’m accused of a hatchet job; when I do both, there are scum-of-the-earth types roaming out there who have the gall to say I download stuff off the Internet.

It is an interesting position to be in; but not as interesting as the position I’m about to put you in concerning your allegation that Hondas are more practical than Subarus. On what planet does this happen? Show me a Honda, just one, that is more practical than a Subaru. I will wait.

Let us start with AWD; or in Subaru-speak, Symmetrical AWD. Do you need AWD? Maybe, maybe not. There is the adage: “Better have it and not need it; than need it and not have it”.

That AWD is there for a reason and it is to get you out of sticky situations, literally. I don’t know about you but more than once I have found myself in dire need of the AWD system.

If you ever offer to drop somebody home, then ask where they live and after a lengthy route description involving large distances and multiple rights and lefts they say “it’s just next to the road”, that is the moment that you know you need AWD, symmetrical or otherwise, provided it’s functional.

I tried this misplaced chivalry some time back and found myself in muddy circumstances approximately 300% tougher than the Wales Rally GB, wallowing in the miasma of black cotton with revs blaring at 6000, the temperature gauge slowly attaining priapism towards the red, while being observed incredulously by parastatal-paid Prado drivers asking each other “Is he crazy going in there with a Subaru?”

I was not crazy, but I was up to my side mirrors in mud, I kid you not (there is photographic evidence that will not be shared for privacy reasons). I pulled through — expect nothing less from this driver over here.

Did I need AWD? Yes. Is that why I bought a Subaru? Also yes — not that I foresaw my unwitting taxicab services to ungrateful passengers hailing from remote areas, but because I knew sometimes I rush in where goats fear to tread and I need a machine capable enough to get itself out of my poor judgments.

The Mazda I had previously could never handle the kind of arduous tasks I’ve put the Subaru through in three years of ownership. Hold that thought as we move on to your next point:

The road-tripping family man torn between a CRV and a Forester. You say I asked him to get a Fozzie based on “my love for Subaru”, which is erroneous. I don’t love Subaru, I just own one.

Same way I don’t love Peugeot, but I had one in my hands before the Mazda; again the same way I don’t love BMW, but there is an E34 somewhere that is victimised by my helmsmanship.

This kind of unnatural brand attachment where one “loves” a particular marque above all others cannot be healthy and it has led to some rather awkward exchanges in the past where emotion got in the way of fact and some people lost face as a result. That being said, I love Porsche. I think 911s are awesome.

I asked the guy to get a Forester for one very simple reason: it is more robust than the CRV. Road trips, especially those that venture off the straight and narrow, are the bane of multilink suspension the likes of which the CRV sports; the CRV itself being notorious for a rather brittle rear suspension set-up (Hello, E46 people! Remember last week?).

The Subaru on the other hand is more rugged having been developed on the rally stages as an Impreza before this platform was imported into the highly profitable crossover segment of which the Forester is now a cemented denizen thereof.

Subaru Forester.

Subaru Forester. The Subaru is rugged having been developed on the rally stages as an Impreza. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH

You know what? I like your spunk, so I accept your challenge. The next Motoring Press Agency Project will involve a road trip from Nairobi to Kisumu in a Honda CRV and Subaru Forester of the same vintage, if and when I lay hands on both vehicles at the same time.

Ride quality and comfort are the forte of the CRV, no question (Subarus are little gruff), but responsiveness, not so much, depending on which Subaru you are driving.

Once we reach to Kisumu, I will then toss my hat in the ring and select a few choice routes on which we will see how your darling CRV copes. I do not know who we will bill for the suspension repairs, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

You do make a fair point; head gaskets are a major Subaru weakness; and it is not easy to find a broken down CRV. I’ll give you that; however, transmission issues come from vehicles that were abused.

Honda Stream.


In a counterpunch, I’ll ask you to compare the prices of the stabiliser links on a Forester versus the ones on a CRV; and also tell me on which car you are more likely to do frequent replacements if you were, say, to be as adventurous as bringing these vehicles to an end-year Great Run event — the off-road version.

(Note: we have had both CRVs and Foresters in Great Run events; both tarmac and off-road. Both brands survived the gruelling drive but if you will forgive what you perceive as my Subaru bias, we have had someone take his SG9 — that is the tarmac-oriented STi Forester — through Tsavo and into Malindi completely incident-free. You have to give it up for such spunk. You have to.
In light of that, we have the upcoming Great Run — No. 14, baby! — on December 1st. Bring a CRV and you’ll get a free shirt)


Fielder and Axio rate equally

Hallo JM,

I am big fan of locomotives hence your column always catches my eye. Bravo for the good job. Now am torn between Fielder new model ‘estate’ and Axio 2013. Please elaborate more on durability availability of spares fuel consumption and performance taking into consideration I live in Mombasa where cars wear out fast due to salty water. Allan misoi

Hi Allan,

I don’t think I’ve discussed locomotives in this column — except for a cursory mention here and there, and even that is doubtful — so perhaps your fandom stems from Rail & Track magazine, if such exist?

Anyway, we can’t discuss durability when listing disposable cars such as the Fielder and the Axio. The fact that you ask about durability indicates a high probability of you putting them to hard use — or outright abuse and/or misuse — in which case do not expect either of them to last very long.

We can’t discuss availability of spares when listing mass-produced Toyotas such as the Fielder and Axio; cars that were shipped, are shipped and continue to be shipped over here from Japan in their hundreds if not thousands.

Every third Uber taxi is a Fielder and every third Taxify cab is an Axio. There are too many of these things running around for you to ever worry about spares.

The Fielder.


We can’t discuss performance when listing white rice motorised washing machines such as the Fielder and Axio. These are cars built with function in mind, rather than urgency or excitement, which is what performance is all about.

However, there is one exception to this dismissal and that is the Fielder Z. This can be classified as a performance car, somewhat, but it ranks so far down the ladder that other ridiculous fare like the Vitz RS, Fit RS, Stream RSZ and such could easily outrank it.

But at least with a Fielder Z, your Uber ride to the airport means you are less likely to be late for your flight, unlike when you take a regular Fielder. Enough about Ubers.

So there is your answer: get a Fielder Z. It ticks exactly one box, where the rest score zero.

About the salt: I cannot help you much. Both the Fielder and the Axio have the same construction by the same people using the same materials in the same factory, so dip them both in a brine and they will rot away equally fast. They are all equal and unlike George Orwell’s Animal Farm; none is more equal than the other. Apart from the Fielder Z, which is a bit faster.


What Are Your Thoughts

Share with us what you think about this article


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here