We celebrate 10 cars manufactured on home soil

10 cars built in South Africa.
10 cars built in South Africa.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

As Heritage Month draws to a close, we thought it would be fitting to remind ourselves that we have many reasons to celebrate the local automotive production sector.

Last week we assembled 10 cars that are built locally – either from the ground-up or knock-down kit format. Yes, there are more, but limited parking (and page) space meant a cap on the contestants.

Of course, some are more accomplished than others, but since the reason for this feature is to pay homage to home-grown, the hard-line, critical hat can take a breather for a short while.

Here they are, from cheapest to most expensive.

NISSAN NP 200

BUILT IN: ROSSLYN, GAUTENG

PRICED FROM: R189,100

A real darling of small enterprises, the Japanese pickup has the sub-one-ton category all to itself. In case we forgot, the brand has quite an enviable heritage in the light commercial vehicle sphere, thanks to the dainty 1400 Champ (and all its precursors) from yesteryear. The NP 200 continues to account for healthy portions of Nissan new model sales.

BAIC X25

BUILT IN: COEGA, EASTERN CAPE

PRICED FROM: R219,900

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? The BAIC X25 is probably not going to win any beauty contests, speed contests or luxury contests. Or any contests involving any serious metric of any kind. But, it is a start. Built in the Friendly City, the Chinese newcomer comes on the back of a substantial local investment. Perhaps we can expect a more improved product offensive from BAIC as things evolve.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO

BUILT IN: UITENHAGE, EASTERN CAPE

PRICED FROM: R280,800

Polo Vivo drivers get a bad rap. Not without good reason, of course, if you have ever bothered to observe some of the antics to which those fellow road users are partial. On the other hand, if you pedal a regular, sixth-generation Polo, those stigmas seem to stick a bit less. The latest instalment of the popular B-segment hatch is well-regarded, aping the bigger Golf in certain respects. Seen here is the most potent (and priciest) example of the breed, the GTI.

HYUNDAI H-100

BUILT IN: BENONI, GAUTENG

PRICED FROM: R286,900

From the East Rand of Johannesburg hails a rudimentary, tough-as-nails truck loved by all manner of business sectors. Climbing up and into the cabin of the small truck was an event in itself, having never piloted such a thing before. Noisy and permanently followed by eau de diesel, this Hyundai was a stark reminder that commercial vehicles are entirely removed from the insulated realm of passenger cars. It gets the job done, though.

MAHINDRA PIK-UP (D/C)

BUILT IN: DURBAN, KWAZULU-NATAL

PRICED FROM: R316,499

Take a drive out to the mining backwaters of the North West and you could turn Mahindra-spotting into a game. Well, that is slightly unfair, because the workhorse models from the firm are popular sights beyond the province also known for platinum. The sturdy Pik-Up has forged a sound reputation for reliability and ruggedness. That it looks so ugly and brutish probably adds to the appeal of a no-frills steed.

FORD RANGER (D/C)

BUILT IN: SILVERTON, GAUTENG

PRICED FROM: R381,200

While a certain Japanese arch-nemesis has long dominated proceedings, Ford and its Ranger have done a commendable job of playing catch-up in the last decade. The current Ranger is more car-like than ever (perhaps even more car-like than all its peers) and is competitively-priced too – consider that it undercuts its equivalent double-cab competitors by a good margin.  

TOYOTA HILUX (D/C)

BUILT IN: DURBAN, KWAZULU-NATAL

PRICED FROM: R426,000

South Africans’ love affair with the bakkie genre – and the Toyota Hilux – needs no elaboration. It seems like a relationship whose fervour is unwavering, because the model, decades into its existence, remains a top-selling staple for the brand on a monthly basis. That is unlikely to change.

ISUZU D-MAX (D/C)

BUILT IN: STRUANDALE, EASTERN CAPE

PRICED FROM: R457,500

Switching from the famed KB-Series handle to the title of D-Max has not diminished the perception of the iconic pickup from Isuzu. The brand remains a byword for toughness and this is still properly exemplified by the current iteration of its most popular, long-standing model. The new version, which was co-developed with Mazda, will also roll off the Struandale production line.

MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS

BUILT IN: EAST LONDON, EASTERN CAPE

PRICED FROM: R696,360

The W201, which became the C-Class, was the original junior of the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio – before the A-Class and its sibling compacts arrived. It made three-pointed star ownership accessible to more and helped the brand expand its footprint. The East London plant has been involved with the story right from the start. A disclaimer, however: the facility only builds the saloon model. The coupé pictured here is German-made and was the only C-Class representative we could access. Rather excitingly, the East London operation also assembles the Mercedes-AMG derivatives.

BMW X3

BUILT IN: ROSSLYN, GAUTENG

PRICED FROM: R731,100

Perhaps it is telling that, after decades of building the 3-Series at its Tshwane plant, BMW switched up the production line to produce the current generation X3 instead. We all know customer demands are changing, and that appetites are continuing to shift from traditional saloons to crossovers and sport-utility vehicles.


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