Some are easy going, others have bumps and potholes at every turn. Like South Africans themselves, the nation's roads all have their own unique personalities. So, which cars are best for handling the idiosyncrasies of each major city centre?
From back-to-back traffic to rocky overpasses and coastal highways, South Africa has it all. That's why driving through each of its major cities, attractions and weather conditions requires a vehicle that's up to the task.
Here, with a few pit stops in our South African Car Guide, are our suggestions for the best cars to drive in each city.
Jozi and its surrounding municipalities are like yuge! And while Joburgers always seem to be in a mad rush, they also spend ages in the car, as our kids remind us every time we head to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, Sandton City or Braamfontein's Neighbourgoods Market. "Are we there yet?" Almost...
Yes, when it comes to activities in The Big Smoke, parks, shopping centres and markets are pretty much it (unless you count driving to Pretoria as an activity). In Joburg you need a spacious car that's built for comfort and long distances. Considering the higher price of petrol inland, fuel efficiency is also paramount.
Considering that many who live in Pretoria drive to Joburg for work each day – or at least they did pre-COVID – long distances and traffic are par for the course in Snor City. On weekends, you might find the locals hiking through the Hennops Trail or Rietvlei Nature Reserve. Famous for the Union Buildings and Voortrekker Monument, the city is also home to the University of Pretoria aka Tukkies, giving it a buzzing student vibe.
Drive... like a student in fuel-efficient hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Polo or the Ford Fiesta; or like a commuter/hiker in the comfort and versatility offered by small SUVs like the Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage, which are also great for negotiating those pesky potholes.
Famed for its wide open roads, sports-mad Bloemfontein is not only home to the Free State Stadium, but also the Loch Logan Waterfront, famously the largest shopping centre in central South Africa. Known to its maatjies as the City of Roses, Bloem is a haven for the green-thumbed among us. Museums and numerous wildlife reserves add to the city's appeal, but its semi-arid climate of hot summers and cold, dry winters can sometimes be hard to handle for softies from the coast.
Drive... like a champion on the open roads in a larger SUV with optimal air-conditioning. We're talking the Audi Q4 or the economical but luxurious Haval H2, which also boasts dual-zone automatic climate control.
With its two (yes, two!) oceans and world-famous mountain, Cape Town has a strong focus on outdoor living. While the wind may sometimes literally knock you off your feet, The Mother City offers a laid-back lifestyle (seriously: have you ever tried to schedule a meeting with your Cape Town colleagues after 2pm on a Friday?). If mountain hikes, beachside cocktails and some of the most scenic drives in the world make you go "Hey, sh'wow!", you've found your paradise.
Drive... something that can withstand sea breezes and treacherous mountain passes. You're looking for a trusty 4x4, especially since the Western Cape also has some of the best 4x4 trails in the country. You can't go wrong with one of South Africa's best-selling vehicles, the Toyota Hilux. Alternatively, the new Range Rover Evoque offers more off-roading features than ever.
Yes, we know they're two different cities. But both of the Eastern Cape's major cities are so friendly, it's not like either of them are going to hold a grudge. (Gqebera, which the locals spell "PE", is literally known as The Friendly City.) Known for their warm people, windy conditions and Blue Flag beaches, these cities are also gateways to some of the province's best game farms and outdoor terrain.
Drive... an SUV or a zippy sports car. We'll explain why. With great off-road adventures and gorgeous coastal conditions, a sports utility vehicle like the Subaru Forester (which is known for its cutting-edge infotainment system) or the Jeep Grand Cherokee is perfect for both urban living and going off the beaten track. Why a sportscar? Because you're in the Detroit of South Africa. Gqebera is home to the storied Aldo Scribante Race Circuit, and the region is the epicentre of South Africa's automotive manufacturing industry... so the locals really do know their cars. An Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Ferrari or Porsche would be right at home here, as would a Ford, Isuzu, Mercedes-Benz or Volkswagen (all of which just happen to have manufacturing plants in the Eastern Cape!).
Durbs By The Sea is one of our fair land's most popular coastal cities, with lush vegetation, killer waves and delicious Bunny Chow. Offering serious sunbathing, swimming and surfing, it's one of SA's hottest holiday destinations, both literally and figuratively. As a coastal city it has lower petrol prices but, on the flipside, there's more potential for rust damage to your car.
Drive... a bakkie. There's space to store your surfboard and it's built to withstand the elements. Consider the economical Nissan NP200, with a built-in rubberised load bed surface, or the GWM Steed 5 Single Cab, a workhorse built for durability and comfort.
Regardless of where the road takes you, it pays to be insured. Make sure you're getting the best cover for your car with our nationally-beloved Car Insurance quote comparison tool.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.