Some on this list have been cool for decades and will be cool for decades more. Others might not even be cool by the time you read this. Regardless, these are the ten coolest cars in South Africa as of February 2017.
As cars are loved by those who love them, what’s cool in Boksburg right now might not be as cool in Camps Bay – or the farm roads that lead from Kimberley to the Kalahari. Coolness is a matter of perspective, is it not? So, with that mind, these then are the ten coolest cars in South Africa right now, a list that does as much as it can to include the scope of our people while acknowledging, all too proudly, that it fails dismally.
Regardless, these are the 10 coolest cars that we prefer for our Epic African Road Trips and the cars that we currently think are cool – even if they’re not.
10. Porsche 928, the ugly shape, or “the one next to the cactus”
If you own a craft beer bar in Cape Town city or worse, Parkhurst, you’ve probably photographed your Porsche next to a whiskey flask or a cactus, or a round-spectacled and very attractive hipster girl who you’ve tried to impress with your beard. Ah yes, what’s her name again? Not her, the Porsche, the 928 – the ugliest creation in Porsche’s repertoire, restored proudly by you for your counter narrative, which insists now that ugly cars are cool cars. Maybe they are. Regardless, whether you think the 928 is cool or not, trust me, it is now: Craft beer bars have decided so and we all know that when a bar sells craft beer – hell – we will all pay double the amount for worse beer and the same old hangover because someone said it’s cool and we believed them. As such, if you’re now looking to invest in a cool cheap Porsche, which will be over priced in a decade, this is the one.
9. Ford Escort, the one your gran used to own or "the one they drop to the floor"
The Cortina, Sierra, Fairlane and this the Escort are undergoing a revival. Surprisingly, not amongst nostalgic middle-aged men trying to rediscover their youth but rather amongst their sons who instead, are trying to discover a little bit of themselves in the fathers of yesteryear. Fathers are, after all, the men who taught us that fast Fords are cool and who is Gusheshe to disagree with the dads? Not us. We love them - the dads and the Ford.
8. The small bakkie, the one for the boet, or the “one I need to borrow please”
Any South African list of cool cars must include a small bakkie. It’s disappointing then that there hasn’t been a launch of anything substantial to overshadow Chevy’s most hideous little Utility that replaced the Corsa a few years ago now. Regardless, any oke from Pretoria to Bloem to Bellville who drives a Nissan NP200, a Bantum, a Corsa bakkie or even the ugly Utility itself will remain cool for as long as South Africa remains intact. With his arm out the window and smoking a goit, he’s the only legend you have to know if you want to move house and transport a couch. We love him – and we love his bakkie too.
7. Mercedes G-Class, the 4X4 Mercedes, or “the one that makes Range Rover look kuk”
You know what you think about people who drive Range Rovers? Trust me, if you hate them, you will hate G-class drivers more. If you love them, you will probably love G-class drivers more. If you think that a Range Rover driver is a not a sweet oke, a G-class driver is probably more of a doos or less of a doos depending on view of the world. Regardless, G-Class is just the more extreme and cooler version of the Range Rover, which has, over the past few years, become desirable for the ultra-edgy South African rich. And, as rich people are people too apparently, it deserves its place here, especially dirty ones with roof racks that live life’s safari in and around your city’s old and green suburbs.
6. Toyota Landcruiser, the one for the Afrikaners, or that “khaki one that carries sheep”
The Toyota Landcruiser is as much a South African favourite as nyaope is, and amongst Afrikaner farmers, it remains the cool vehicle of choice from the flat plains of the Free State to the flatter ones of the Northern Cape. Those aware of 4X4 culture will know that Land Rover Defenders, according to Landcruiser lovers, are for Souties who have no understanding of the African bush and the importance of reliability. Hell. I love the Land Cruiser to be honest – in khaki too – but then again I’m just a Soutie myself probably on nyaope.
5. BMW E30, the Box Shape, or “the one they do donuts in”
It will take a miracle to knock this classically cool South African legend out of the top 5. In the South African psyche, the box shape is as popular as the Golf 1 but with a better name and better sound. The screaming straight six of the 323 remains respected and loved at any car show throughout South Africa and for those unable to afford a new shape M3, or for those who, like me, think the new shape is an overpriced sell out, the box shape will remain a chrome dream of Eagle mags, dropped suspensions and donuts for hard working and car loving South African men and women everywhere. It’s a cool South African car and remains in the top 5 out of respect.
4. Jeep Wrangler, the one with the army star, or the “one for the Joburgers”
Now there’s no tuning a Wrangler. Wrangler’s are sick – and were created for those rough outdoors-men who understand that life is a Fourways trip home to Bedfordview, filled with roofless traffic jams, robots and pumping out the tunes. Big wheels are for polishing, pal, 25 inches of it, shiny black, and a 4×4 button and American army star just in case I need to ram my gated suburb. I mean really pal, security should know my face by now. Jeep Wrangler. Adventure living for the Joburgers.
3. Golf 7 GTI, the fast Golf, or the “one that Matric oke got for his first car”
Everything you know about Golf 1 will be what we say about the Golf 7 in 25 years. Regardless, it will be as loved then in South Africa as it is now. Certainly, Golf 5 GTI did much to reinvigorate the GTI brand after a boring and stern looking 4th generation. The five was technically years ahead of the OPC and the ST and was loved for its ninja star wheels and poppity-pop between the gears. Now, on gen 7, its monopoly of the segment has subsided, only somewhat though, partly because of the pot hole outbreak of ’06 (oh hell, there goes the country and my mags all at once!) and the fact that you can get an array of awesome cars for the same money and less. Yes. The 2017 Golf GTI ClubSport S is just shy of 1 million Rand and the entry GTI models are not too far behind. Please read that again and let it sink in when you realise you can get a second hand – but still amazing – Aston Martin Vantage for less.
2. Ford Ranger WildTrak, the one everyone has, or “that orange one with the big wheels”
What was South Africa’s coolest for the last three years now drops to two on our list but still deserves its place here. Whether you like it white with black wheels, or orange with black, or black with black, or silver with black, it is without a doubt the coolest thing Ford has produced in 20 years. Proof is in the sales: The Ranger outsold the Toyota Hilux last year, which as you know, has been the staple bakkie for South Africans black and white before blacks and whites were even allowed to legally mix. The WildTrak is the beefed up version of the standard Ranger proving that most South African men, from coast to bush to bush to coast, not only love their bakkies big, but love their big bakkies to run around and scream how big they are.
Suzuki Jimny, that small 4X4, Or “the one that looks like a little fake Jeep”
From Vredehoek to Greenside, we have all experienced the explosion of the Suzuki Jimny. It’s affordable, bulky yet small, a great 4X4, funky, manoeuvrable, reliable and just looks cool! The Jimny is currently South Africa’s coolest car and will remain so until it is not. As such, it will continue be bought by edgy twenty-and-thirty-somethings who believe they’ve seen something in Africa that the rest of us haven’t: That Africa is a place of endless and epic road trips that deserves to be explored by the people of its soil. That’s us! The Suzuki Jimny was made to get dirty and all you want to do is get dirty in it.