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VW Citi Golf vs. Toyota Tazz

Battle of the Titans

Vehicle used:
Volkswagen Citi Golf Life 1.6i & Toyota Tazz 160
Model year: 2000
Odometre reading: Both under 5000km
Engine:
Tazz: 1587ccm in-line 4 cylinder, DOHC-16 Valve engine
79kw @ 6000rpm
140Nm @ 4400rpm
0-100km/h: 11sec.
v.max: 175km/h
Citi: 1595ccm in-line 4 cylinder, SOHC-8 Valve engine
74kw @ 5500rpm
140Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 9.5sec.
v.max: 180km/h

It's the battle of the titans. Good vs. Evil. The classic tale of two established competitors going head to head or rather, bumper to bumper. My two most recent victims are no stranger to the town of Stellenbosch, you will see more Citis or Tazz' around town than oak trees. And it's for good reasons: both cars represent older models that have been spruced up and rejuvinated, with an irrestistibly generous price tag. Perfect food for students.

Unfortunately, I couldn't drive both cars on the same day, as the Tazz was privately owned. I did, however, make totally objective notes and also let myself be chauferred around by the vehicles' respective owners/salespeople to get a different point of view.

I started with the Tazz and had to concentrate really hard not to listen to its proud owner who tried to intimidate me with horror stories about Golfie. The VW saleslady was far less verbally abusive towards her competition, but she seemed to be holding back. I'm sure she sticks needles into defenseless little Tazz dolls when she gets home.

My homework before the test drives made things abundently clear: The Tazz posesses 2 camshafts and 16 valves, double the amounts of the Citi Golf. However, once I got to drive the magnificent golden Citi, it seemed like I had done someone else's homework or none at all. While the Tazz hugs the road nicely and is more forgiving in the suspension department, the Golf seemed the more eager and willing car. To confirm my doubts, I went back to Tazz and gave it another shot, but this only confirmed the Citi's advantage in the performance bracket. The 1.6 Life has a super-responsive accellerator, revs freely, and happily clocks up 6000+ ticks on the tach.
Uncharacteristic for a 16 valve, the Tazz seems to struggle beyond 5000rpm, a feit which the owner dismissed as “unnecessary and only for emergency use”!?! Naturally, he added that a VW engine would blow up if you tried to do more than 4000rpm.

Right. So if you buy either one of these, you become a blood brother and lifetime member of the marque and swear under oath to devote your life to belitteling and insulting the competition? The VW showroom manager dropped 2 grand off the price when I mentioned the words “Tazz”, “Toyota” and “spiffy little automobile” (not entirely in that order).

Back to the test, and the aforementioned suspension advantage of the Tazz went flying out the window when I braved the fast lane on the N2 last weekend. The car doesn't enjoy side winds or gusts and seemed to get a little light-footed beyond 120km/h. Which, of course, I only did once! The Tazz climbed happily up to 140, althought this perticular example accompanied the whole exercise with a rather annoying gearbox whine. After 140, you're left to your own devices, and this was my impression in both directions of the N2, so the wind couldn't have accounted for anything. Faster cornering isn't one of the Tazz' strengths either, as it produces a considerable amount of body roll and post-corner instability in the form of a few counter-tilts. The back end seems awfully nervous too, and served to reminds me that a motorcar is not to be played with or pushed to the limit.

The Citi's engine made me smile right up to 5th gear, when the performance takes a plunge. The N1 proved wind-ridden as well, but the Golfie seemed less worried about it than the Tazz. However, the Golf doesn't hug the road as nicely, and also starts making lift-off attempts at higher speeds. Fast cornering is superb, the Golfie stays true to its line and only mid-corner bumps throw it off track. Once again, a little nudge by the laws of physics to take it slower.

In terms of handling, the Tazz has a smoother ride but becomes increasingly wooshy and hard to control at speed, while the Golf seems less refined at normal driving speeds and also fights high speeds. The Tazz looses out in performance and occasionally even requires you to drop a gear as not to loose speed up an incline.

As for the sound systems, I'll have to give that one a miss as the Tazz owner promptly fitted two dozen loudspeakers and three paycheques worth of amplifiers to his car when it had 7km on the clock. Maybe that accounts for the lack in performance...

Let's stick to the streets of Stellenbosch for a while, where you couldn't go over 60 if you tried (I know this cop on Merriman…). The Citi seems to be half the size of the Tazz, although both cars were a pleasure to drive around our beaut of a town on the two sunny days. When do they finally fit sunroofs to these cars? Why can only bankiers, lawyers and druglords enjoy sunroofs in the BM's and Mercs? They “work” all day and can't enjoy the thing anyway!

OK, but back on the blacktop the Citi's steering seemed a trifle stiffer and harder, with the Tazz' steering wheel a few notches wider in diametre and thinner in rim size. The Citi takes some time getting used to, that lively and responsive accelerator can prompt a few unwanted wheelspins and valve bounces while you're getting used to the clutch. Advantage: Tazz. Get behind the wheel of the Tazz and you'll think you were born and raised right in the front seat. The driving position is perfect, as are the pedals, steering wheel and gearlever. (see also 'Corolla Rxi review') The Tazz needs less effort to get going and will gladly forgive imperfect throttle/clutch combinations. Further more, the brakes and additional weight of the car were more inspiring than the Citi's, which, when firmly pressed, seem to throw the car off balance. (Note: even if they agree to it, never try this WITH a salesperson)

As for safety, it can be argued that the Tazz is the newer automobile, and I definitely thought the like. It seems bigger and put together better, if two Vega Stealth subwoofers the size of dinner plates can't blow it apart, I certainly don't know what will. The Golf was more fun to drive, it responds better, but it also requires a bit more effort to dart around town with.

One advantage of the Citi Golf I was sure of before I even got into the cars: its lights. The dual headlights turn highways and byways into the FNB Stadium during a football match. Tazz' lights can't be complained about but don't measure up to the Citi, the standard in this class.

Talking of standards, and the fact that these vehicles have a concept history of 30 years, will we ever see ABS brakes and Airbags make their way into these cars? Together, the Conquest/Tazz and Citi range of cars make up nearly half the car sales each month, wouldn't it be a wise idea to fit these vehicles with more safety equipment? Just a thought...

Aaaaand lastly, once you've tortured your beloved Tazz or Citi into near oblivion and it requires the compulsary and direly needed service, you'll get off lighter at the local Toyota dealer. It's not Shoprite, but the amount charged for spare parts and labour can sometimes amount to nearly half of the costs it would take to keep your Citi alive and kicking.

Let's put it into blatently obvious Stellenbosch-related (and completely fictionous) scenarios:
The Tazz would be your better option to hop over the speed bumps with.
The Citi will get past the Pickfords Lorry faster on the N7.
Aim to sit in the Citi when you put the two cars in a race.
Get back into the Tazz when you need to stop again.
Tazz will swallow a bit more luggage when travelling.
Citi will carry it with less fuss and less resulting power loss.
When denting/bumping/scratching/servicing/refurbishing your Citi, abondon it and steal a Tazz.

My choice? I'd go for the Citi, because it comes with more features, like mag rims, funky dials, aluminium fittings and a better standard sound system. I'd choose the Tazz for it's “normal” roadholding and ease of use though.

Rivals:
Ford Fiesta Flair
Opel Corsa
Peugeot 306

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