10 of the most 'meh' special editions Mzansi has ever seen
Everyone likes a car with exclusive credentials: limited-run specimens, including commemorative versions of popular cars, or machines bred for motorsport homologation.
Sometimes a manufacturer just wants to enliven waning interest in a model line, treating it to a mild sprucing up and a jazzy marketing campaign. It can work. In other instances, the result is so underwhelming that you wonder whether they should have even bothered.
Here is a selection of middle-of-the-road special editions that appeared on the SA market.
Renault Modus Moi
Launched: April 2006
When Italian brands use “Superleggera” or “Super Veloce” as suffixes, you know the outcome is likely to be thrilling. Renault added the French word for “me” to their Modus multipurpose vehicle with a limited-edition called the Moi. But let’s face it, no matter how it was spun, the quirky, tall-roofed car was never going to become a by-word for cool.
The Moi (above) was based on the 1.4 Expression and featured colour-coded bumpers, 15-inch alloys and grey leather seats with “Moi” embroidered on the headrests. It was all yours for R129,000. Funny enough, a Renault Modus was my first car. And when it developed a severe oil leak (the last straw in a series of persistent issues) I did think of a French word starting with the letter “M” — it wasn’t Moi, that’s for sure.
Suzuki SX4 Jock Edition
Launched: November 2011
Howzit boet! Lekker hey, my China, you? No man, not that kind of jock.
This Suzuki was launched to coincide with the release of Jock the Hero Dog, an animation film inspired by Jock of the Bushveld, the SA classic authored by Sir James Percy FitzPatrick and published in 1907. So did the Jock edition have a cute canine bobblehead figure on the dashboard? No. Did it have paw prints on the windows? No.
But what you did get for your R232,600 was a set of alloy wheels with a darker finish, a colour-coded roof spoiler and leather-suede combination upholstery. And that’s really it. The rare Jock Edition is probably quite collectible among Suzuki fan circles. We couldn’t even find press imagery — just pictures part of classified listings. So here’s an image of the old SX4 tackling Sani Pass for reference. Picture the charcoal wheels and spoiler.
Audi A1 R18 Le Mans
Launched: February 2014
The German brand thought it would be a swell way to celebrate their heritage in what is arguably the most gruelling circuit race ever, by tacking stickers and a body-kit on their humblest model. Yes, the A1 R18 Le Mans was a purely cosmetic job, one that looked really aftermarket.
Audi brought 100 units to SA, with prices ranging from R262,500 for the 1.6 TDI manual (two-door) and R294,000 for the 1.4T FSI Sportback S-Tronic. That aside, if we’re discussing special versions of the A1, we have to give a mention to the S1 that followed in 2015. Now that really was special.
Isuzu KB Serengeti
Launched: June 2015
“Paying homage to the magical and mystical Serengeti,” was what the Japanese brand aimed to do with this pickup. You can tell that the execution of the idea was a little half-baked by how short the press release was.
Aside from decals on the sides, unique floor mats and alloys lifted from the Chevrolet Trailblazer, there wasn’t much to the Serengeti. Luckily, Isuzu upped the ante at later attempts at special, such as the mean-looking X-Rider line and the mighty AT 35.
Chery J2 Swag
Launched: October 2015
Chery is preparing for a bold resurgence in SA, with a new product range that seems rather promising. But as they say, history has no blank pages. And today we’d like to remind you of a time when Chery sold products like the J2 hatchback — with a Swag edition to boot. The year 2015 wasn’t all that long ago, mind. Look, they tried.
The Swag had 17-inch alloys, a chromed tailpipe and a “leather” interior. But its party piece was its touchscreen infotainment system with navigation. To be fair, the concept was neat: but ultimately, few associated the Chinese brand with terminology of such a hip persuasion. Still, it might have just sparked the idea for the Volkswagen Polo Vivo Mswenko years later.
Opel Corsa 120Y
Launched: March 2019
As far as unceremonious birthday celebrations go, this one takes the cake, all the streamers, as well as those pointy paper hats. You might have thought this Opel had something to do with a Datsun from yesteryear, but no, the 120Y denoted the brand’s age at the time.
And they thought a (mildly) spruced-up Corsa with painted alloys would be the way to go. Really? From a brand with such a storied heritage and loyal following? Even the ardent fans were going to skip this party. In our road test of the vehicle, we said: “The Corsa 120Y is the automotive equivalent of wishing someone a happy birthday on their Facebook timeline by writing ‘HBD’ accompanied by the confetti emoji.”
Nissan Navara Stealth
Launched: May 2019
The year 2019 was a goody for special edition double-cabs. We had the beefy Isuzu D-Max AT 35, Volkswagen dropped the rather orange Amarok V6 Canyon and Ford came to market with the Ranger Raptor — sporting a brilliant suspension system. Not wanting to be left out, Nissan readied their contender for battle. The outcome was the Stealth edition: a regular Navara with orange and black accents. That was it. Sure to go completely unnoticed in the company of the striking set mentioned above. Stealth? They should have called it Incognito.
BMW 330is Edition
Launched: October 2020
One almost felt sorry for the G20 330is Edition. Thing is, you can’t invoke the name of the hallowed 325is and expect everyone to lap up the story just like that. Did the 330is Edition have uprated performance credentials? Nope, the output was exactly the same as a standard 330i. Visually, it offered a bit more, but that was all. The brand also shot itself in the foot with a video that sparked criticism for using a reworked version of Kwesta’s track Spirit, without credit, in addition to promoting an illegal activity (spinning on public roads). You won’t find it on their official YouTube channel any more.
Volkswagen Polo Vivo Mswenko
Launched: September 2020
Mswenko (pronounced m-swe-nkoh) is the isiZulu expression for the slang word “swag”. Remember the Chery J2 Swag referenced earlier? The Mswenko seemed like a nifty effort on paper, but in reality, it falls flat. Aside from the decals, charcoal-hued wheels and interesting seat upholstery, there’s little else to pop your collar over. When the car was launched, some of the responses on social media were telling. “How can you swag without a sunroof and LEDs?” asked one commenter. And truthfully, how can you, in this day and age?
Ford EcoSport Black
Launched: April 2021
The blue oval’s product portfolio in SA is a little stale, let’s be honest. Where are exciting cars like the new Fiesta ST and Puma? No, instead, the brand is reheating ageing offerings like the EcoSport with surplus paint at the factory. As the name suggests, the EcoSport Black is like a regular EcoSport — but with a black twist.
Black alloys, black decals, black side mirrors and a black spare wheel cover. It is based on the 1.5 Ambiente automatic model, so pace is best described as sedate. And the interior is beginning to show its age. Did you know that overseas, Ford offers an EcoSport in ST-Line regalia? Now that would be pretty cool.