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CAR CLINIC: Safety crash course

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Before we dive in to this week’s Car Clinic, an update or two from the past seven days:

1. One of my car-selling associates chimed in on the Singapore issue and why their second-hand exports are cheaper than their Japanese equivalents. It turns out that these Singaporeans use their cars and use them hard. My friend used the word “problematic” to describe these imports.

He strongly suspects most of the cheap offers had previously served duty as taxis and had the best years of their lives sucked out of them before being palmed off on thrifty opportunists who thought they could smell a deal cooking. That is rarely the case — the windfall thing — because another word my friend used was “headache”.

Now this is interesting given the fact that last week the vehicle in question was a Subaru Forester, either an SH whose production ended in 2013 or an SJ, which followed immediately after (questioner said 2013 -2015).

I didn’t know people used Foresters as taxis anywhere on earth, but then again as widely travelled as I am, there are still plenty of places I am yet to visit and things I am yet to see. So maybe they use Foresters as taxis in the Pacific Rim; but even if they don’t, a Singaporean Forester going for half the price of similar vehicles from Japan is indicative of lack of promise or guarantee of long life.

I’ll have to ask my reader if he is sure that was not an isolated case — after all, I too have been tempted by a turbocharged Subaru Legacy BP5 WR I found on the internet whose asking price was a meagre Sh150,000. You will not find many such deals, and at that price … well, be ready for anything.

My friend has the professional authority to make such a call since he sells cars anyway, and his explanations hold more water than the humidity theory that was put forth earlier (there is a pun somewhere in that sentence if you look hard enough) so we will go with it for now, but I will still keep this discussion open. Anybody out there with a contribution to make can do so via the usual channels (address provided at the end of this column).

2. The 2018 Suzuki Jimny. Cute little runabout, yes? Immediately after last week’s article was published, I was contacted by one of my buddies at CMC Motors to say the vehicle is coming over after all, in November. He even promised I would get a test drive (yippeee!). Expect prices to range in the region of Sh2.5 million with a raft of financing options available (most probably 20 per cent down payment and the balance spread over 60 monthly instalments). There will be more information on the car as soon as it arrives and I get my hands on it.

We have started preparations for our annual Motoring Press Agency Car Of The Year Award, which we intend to make bigger this year.

Interested dealerships and franchise holders are informed that this is the automotive cattle call for the event and they are free to submit their vehicles for review towards this effort in the foreseeable future; or forever hold their peace should the Volkswagen Polo Vivo walk away with the accolade for the second time on the trot.

We only award that which we interact with; we cannot make an objective judgment call based on a press release.

Our candidates so far are a trio of tasty Toyotas: the Hilux, the Fortuner and the Rush; the Volkswagen Amarok and quite possibly the Suzuki Jimny if CMC does indeed hand one over for review. At the fancy end of the nominations list is the Jaguar E Pace.

There may or may not be a Scania in the line-up, but there is a high possibility of the fresh-off-the-boat 2018 — or is it 2019? — Subaru Forester making an appearance. 2018 is turning out to be a year of surprises, so let’s wait and see who takes the crown. You have been duly informed.

It did not take long for the glee instigated by the knowledge of an upcoming Jimny test to be summarily snuffed out by a news update from the infamous Euro NCAP car analysts.

The same day I revelled in my work going so smoothly, these spoilsports declared the 2018 Jimny patently “unsafe” in a strongly worded PR-destroying press release that was quickly taken up by the media hounds and further sensationalised into near-garbage that would have one believe the Jimny and the Mobius do not differ in any way as far as safety ratings go.

So without participating in the ugly carnage that followed that infamous announcement (there is another pun in here somewhere too), let me digest those figures and break them down for you as objectively as I can, and what these figures really mean based on the edification of Car Clinic in Baltimore a month and a half ago:

The overall score of the Suzuki was three stars out of a possible five. It got an adult protection rating of 73%, with an 84% score for children in the rear seats but pedestrian safety is where it really wet the bed, garnering a mere 52%.

Now, on the surface, these scores don’t seem too bad, especially if you approach them with an academic mind set; but unfortunately that is not how we look at things in the motoring industry, less so from a road traffic injury prevention perspective, which is what led me across the Atlantic two short moons ago.

Many countries are starting to implement minimum safety standards for new cars sellable within their borders.

Many countries are starting to implement minimum safety standards for new cars sellable within their borders. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH

As far as safety ratings go, the requirement is the best or nothing (or as close as you can get), to appropriate a slogan from a leading car manufacturer.

Many countries are starting to implement minimum safety standards for new cars sellable within their borders (NCAP stands for “New Car Assessment Programme”) and the vast majority seems to believe that four stars is a good enough place to start. The Suzuki has only three, which means it doesn’t quite pass.

You could say that the Euro NCAP is one of the most stringent and strictest of all global car assessment programmes, and you’d be right — the Jimny is likely to score much higher on the Chinese NCAP, for instance — but when we delve into the details we begin to see where the breathless hand-wringing reports from the likes of Top Gear come from.

There is insufficient pressure in the driver’s airbag to prevent your head from whacking the steering wheel in a frontal collision, in a phenomenon referred to as “bottoming out”.

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In a recent addition to the test programme — the frontal offset collision — the passenger safety cell (there is some irony) deformed extensively, more so around the door frame.

Dummy readings showed passable protection for the knees and femurs, but the driver’s chest was most prone to damage, specifically by structures in the instrument panel and dashboard.

It doesn’t end there. Protection against whiplash injury was “marginal” for the front seats (but good for the rear seats) and side impact protection did not fare too well either and the report indicated no child restraint safety systems whatsoever: none at all.

I guess this means don’t carry your children in it, ever. And try not to crash too hard in one. Because, whichever way you look at it: people are irrational and emotive and will love that which is lovable, of which this Jimny is one.

I know I do, sight unseen (I really, really want one, based on the video I watched of it). It is not exactly a death trap — people still buy patently less safe cars with zero safety ratings and motorcycles still exist, so what’s the big deal here?

I still cannot wait for November when I get to stretch out the Jimny’s 3-star, whiplash-prone, child-unfriendly pedestrian-killing limbs a little. Watch this space.

Grab a bike, a good electric car doesn’t come cheap

In these days of high fuel prices, I am considering changing from four wheels (bad) to two wheels (good) and preferably electric (best), mostly for urban transportation. What are my options in this pedigree of two-wheel transport solutions as a single guy who doesn’t need to lag around an empty sofa set in a box. Thinking outside the box. Musa Ihiga

You should know by now that I have a healthy aversion to two-wheeled transport forms. To be honest, I’d rather walk; in fact, I do walk 95% of the time, the other 5% constitutes emergencies of the lateness category which then forces me to place my hands at the mercy of a cyclist whose training may have been less than impeccable, if not downright non-existent. These are the times of course where taking my own car would be either impractical or unnecessarily expensive.

That being said: since you make no mention of competitive riding or attempts at setting records, I’d say buy the cheapest bike you can find. I mean, besides engine capacities, there isn’t much to tell bikes apart, is there? More so for people like us who know next to nothing about them.

That’s not true, actually. I know about two-stroke engines and carburettors and reed valves and balancer shafts and sequential transmissions and power-to-weight ratios and a few other things but not enough for me to do a credible comparison test between two buzzing penny-farthings, which is why I have never done a bike review, ever.

I have a truant slave who goes by the name of Bill Mike in the Motoring Press Agency for that. I say buy a bike because the other option is expensive.

There isn’t a realistic electric car on sale that you could call cheap or affordable; those that tick the two boxes are just soul-sucking pieces of junk that will make you lose the will to live.

Besides cost, there is the issue of maintenance: who is going to replace a broken or malfunctioning charging port? What kind of downtime is acceptable to your young bachelor’s life?

It takes a pretty minute to get some usable charge into those electric cars, you know.

Are you ready and willing to import a replacement battery pack once the pre-existing one gets bricked and mulched by an unsteady alternating current off an unreliable grid?

Speaking of battery packs, what will you do with the dead one? How will you dispose of it? That is a looming environmental issue right there that I see nobody in government addressing; an inevitable one that will come up while we are still trying to figure out what to do with all these used imports we keep bringing in year after year.

So, that being said, I will ask Mike The Bike for a few recommendations which I will translate into a readable article (or a watchable video, in this electronic age of non-reading culture) for your consumption. Until he reverts, keep lugging the sofa around …

Feeling pity for your pockets? A BMW is not for you …

You have become the creme de la creme when it comes to anything do with cars. My bugging issue is about the BMW 318i — more precisely the 2002 or 2004 M Sport. Would you recommend it as a first car? What should I consider before owning one?

I am a big fan of manual transmission, but for this model, I am willing to switch to automatic transmission. A friend of mine once raised an issue about its sensors when I inquired about BMWs. I wouldn’t mind you giving extensive advice about the BMW. Sam Nyash

Every time I start writing about BMWs, there is clamour that emanates from certain corners about my “trashing tendencies” of “particular brands”. This kind of noise gets tiresome after some time, despite my writing glowing reviews of their latest products, so here is your answer:

Forget the sensors. Several times I have been told (tearfully) that the exhaust system of an E46 costs well north of six figures; and this is not even applicable to the fire-breathing 343hp M version — that must cost a quarter million or something. More than Sh100,000 for the exhaust … compare that to my own Subaru Legacy (2001) experience that involved a lazy phone call from my mechanic along the lines of “tuma sixteen thousand na M-Pesa tununue exhaust ingine saa hii”.

That is all you need to know. Case closed.

[Disclaimer: I have never shopped for an E46 exhaust myself, since I don’t own one. But having the same number repeated from several unrelated sources means there might be some modicum of truth to it. If there are any dissenting voices out there — or voices that want to sell E46 exhausts at less than a hundred large, feel free to throw your hats in the ring by sending feedback to the address provided below.]



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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