What’s in a ‘number plate’?

‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.’

If Shakespeare’s frequently referenced lines from Romeo and Juliet were to be remixed to fit the theme of this post, we would have:

‘What’s in a number plate? That which we call a car

by any other number plate would drive as fast.’

I find it interesting that I had hardly paid any attention to car number plates till late last year. Now, I can’t help but notice the latest plates – they catch my eye like a huge billboard with neon signs! Just the other day, I came across  a certain Nissan Ad Van that immediately caught my eye. It’s not the car itself that drew my attention but the number plate. We’re definitely going to see a ‘KCD’ number plate this May.


KCD number plate series.

A bit of background about the sequence of Kenyan number plates is important. For a detailed breakdown, visit this page. I’ll briefly highlight the various sequences that have been used and their classification generation by generation. Take note, however, that there were other sequences in use before the first generation.

First generation series began in 1938 with KAA 001 till KZZ 999.

Second generation began in 1989 (51 years after the first generation) with KAA 001A till KAZ 999Z.

Third generation began in 2007 (18 years after the second generation) with KBA 001A till KBZ 999Z.

Fourth generation, where we are currently, began last year in 2014 (7 years after the third generation) with KCA 001A – and will run till KCZ 999Z.

Looking at the trends above in terms of how long it takes to move from one generation to the next, my prediction is that the fifth generation series (KDA) will catch up with us 2 years down the line…so expect to start seeing them in 2017 or 2018 latest.

Then again, what does it really matter anyway? A car by any other number plate would still drive the same right?

The thing is, it actually does matter! That’s why we have special plates like GKA and KTWA, diplomatic plates like CD and vanity plates like MUNGA (well, not really!). Human beings have an in-built desire to be unique and that desire is also reflected in our choice of cars, and yes…the number plates we have.

I’m counting down till we get to KCD 001A. I wonder who’s car will get that number plate. Could be mine – who knows!



TGIL…Thank God It’s Labour-Day!

The weekend comes early this week…and a long one at that. For those who may not be in the know, tomorrow we celebrate Labour Day. I, for one, will not be at work. More than anything, I wish I were going to the coast to drive back my Honda to Nairobi, but alas…I have not yet received that long-awaited phone call signifying arrival of the shipment at the Port. For those who’ve read my previous post, you know the game that my wife and I have been playing. Just for the record, the latest number plate I’ve seen is KCC 02*W. My wife is convinced ours will be a KCD. I’m still holding out hope that we’ll make it before KCC 999Z. It would be the coolest thing if we landed that one! Anyway, today I want to share something funny that my bro sent me on WhatsApp. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen it but in case you haven’t, here it is.


Horsepower vs Torque

I will be honest – the difference between horsepower and torque is one that confuses me a bit. I know what it means in terms of a car’s specs, but I would be hard pressed to explain to someone what the terms actually mean, and even more when it comes to differentiating between the two. Therefore, I did some digging around with a view to distilling these two concepts and here’s my attempt at that.

Horsepower (HP) or Brake Horsepower (BHP) is the more widely used term of the two. It’s also, seemingly, the more easily understood term. Every car is said to have x brake horsepower. It is defined as the power needed to move 249 kilograms (kg) 1 foot in 1 second. It is a measurement of work, meaning it’s not just enough for force to be applied, there has to be work; movement should occur.

Torque, on the other hand, is usually given the unit foot-pounds. Torque is turning power. For example, when using a wrench to loosen nuts on a wheel you apply a force. That force is torque. If you had a wrench, 1 foot long and you exerted 400 pounds (approx. 181 kg) directly perpendicular to that wrench, you would have 400 foot-pounds of torque. Have you been in a car and then it suddenly accelerates forward and you’re pushed back? Well, then, congratulations! You’ve felt the power of torque. Unlike horsepower, torque measures force whether or not actual work is done, meaning that if the nuts on the wheel were tightened with (or at) 500 foot-pounds and you only applied 400 foot-pounds, the nuts wouldn’t budge. You will have exerted 400 foot-pounds of torque but no work will have been done because physics defines work as force x distance. No movement, no work!

So what have we learned so far? If I were to explain to my four-year old daughter what the concepts above mean and how they differ, this is what I’d say: Torque is a measure of the pulling power that a car has, while horsepower is a measure that determines speed (how fast a car can go). To borrow a more simplistic distinction, torque determines how fast a car can get to a certain speed while horsepower helps maintain that speed.

What do you think? Feel free to share your opinions on the information (or lack thereof) above.

P.S:- Click on the image above to find a more technical opinion.

April’s Guests; Top Gear

Barely a week old as a newbie blogger, I got the wonderful privilege of being a guest on a blog I really like. I am grateful to Sykes for taking a raw piece with disjointed limbs and making something coherent out of it.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to re-blog it…so take a peek at what drives the driver behind Kenyan Dashboard.

Sykes Things

Late To The Driving Party

I love driving, whether it is high speed racing on Need for Speed (that’s a game, by the way) or actually getting behind the wheel. I even love driving on our Kenyan roads, bad as they are. When it comes to cars and driving, I always feel like I came late to the party…like everyone else my age got a head start. I just got my driving license a few weeks back. I have been anxiously waiting for it for a long time. Almost all my friends got their licenses way before I did. Yes, I had been driving around without a license whenever I got the chance but I couldn’t go too far onto the main road for fear of traffic cops.

I got fed up one time during one of my friend’s wedding. The cars were available and I could drive any one…

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Random thoughts…and the Mazda Verisa.

2231hrs, Saturday, 25th April, 2015

I just saw a KCC 0**V at Ridgeways on Kiambu road and at this point I’m starting to prepare myself for the possibility that when our car arrives, it might be a KCD. My wife and I have been playing a game where we watch out for the latest number plates on the cars around. We’ve been playing our little game from the time the KCC plates were at G and now we’re at V…and still counting. Waiting for more than a month for your car to be shipped from Japan is just torture. If you’re not the patient type, seriously consider purchasing from your preferred dealership locally.

I’ve seen a new car around town that looks absolutely amazing! The Mazda Verisa is a subcompact car exclusively for the Japanese market…so while the rest of the world can only admire from a far, Kenyans have the wonderful opportunity of purchasing it.


Mazda Verisa

I think Mazda has done a pretty good job with this car from a design point of view, especially when you compare it with the Demio. I can’t speak much about performance and fuel economy at this point but I would definitely love a chance to take it for a spin. Speaking of the Mazda Demio, the new model has a nicer shape but I don’t like the fact that it’s now smaller and more feminine…neither do I like the screaming luminous green colour.

The Verisa was launched in 2004 in Japan and is still in its first generation. From the shape you can understand why it is either considered a tall hatchback or a low mini-MPV. The second generation is set to be released in 2011 so expect to see that in the next three years.

By now you must know, whether from my previous posts or other sources, that most cars on Kenyan roads are Japanese imports. If the car is available in Japan then you can be sure that it will be available here. However, for the average Kenyan, don’t expect to see or afford the latest model years. Right now, the only cars allowed into the country are 2008 and newer model years. To keep prices friendly, most will be 2008 models.

Usual suspects: the Yaris…sorry, Vitz!

In my previous post I mentioned that I had, at some point, considered the Toyota Probox and the Passo. I want to take a quick look at some of the other Toyota cars that I consider the usual suspects because you’ve probably seen them a lot on our roads. They’re pretty common…but how much do you really know about them? Let’s begin with the well-known Vitz!

Toyota_Vitz_1st Gen

Toyota Vitz-1st gen.

The Vitz is a sub-compact hatchback that first came out in 1998. The old Vitz you see around is the 1st generation model. Like the Passo, the Vitz is marketed in other regions by different names. Because most of our cars are imports from Japan, the names we know them by are the names used in the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM). Whereas we know it as the Vitz here at home or in Japan, Americans or Europeans for example know the Toyota Yaris or the Echo. Because of that, you may encounter some variations depending on the target market; there are 3 and 5-door hatchback versions, hatchback and saloon versions, 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmission types and the engine sizes range from 1L to 1.3L to 1.5 liters. Take note it shares a platform with the Platz and the Fun Cargo; they were basically cut from the same cloth.

Truth be told I’ve never really liked the Vitz…at least not the first generation. From the size to some of the colours it comes in (pink), it’s a pretty feminine car…and women seem to love it. The Vitz is categorized as a sub-compact and is generally considered efficient when it comes to fuel consumption. The interior is not as small as the outside may suggest but don’t expect too much in the way of space. Overall, good city car…but just not my thing.

Toyota_Vitz_2nd gen

Toyota Vitz-2nd gen.

The second generation Vitz was redesigned and launched in 2005. As far as the new shape is considered, I kind of like it. The new Vitz is what you’re probably seeing around. One of the interesting things about the Vitz, both 1st and 2nd generation, is that the instrument cluster on the dashboard is located at the center and not behind the steering wheel like other conventional cars. This generation model shares a platform with the Belta. it is also marketed as the Daihatsu Charade. You wouldn’t be too wrong if you said the Toyota Belta is a saloon version of the 2nd generation Vitz, just like the Platz is a saloon version of the 1st generation Vitz.

Toyota_Vitz_3rd Gen

Toyota Vitz-3rd gen.

The Toyota Vitz is now in its third generation, which was released in Japan in 2010. In other regions, it was released by the end of 2011. So don’t expect to see it any time soon. The instrument cluster has been repositioned back behind the driver steering wheel. I definitely love the sportier look!!


It’s Toyota country…but I want Honda!

2008 Honda Fit

Under the hood of a 2008 Honda Fit.

Few would dispute the fact that Kenya is Toyota country. When I was considering choices for a car, almost everyone suggested I get a Toyota. The reasons are the same I’ve heard over and over again. The top two are that it’s reliable and parts are easy to come by. True, Toyota is known globally for reliability and parts are easy to come by, whichever corner of the country you may be in. However, I know people who would rather buy any make other than Toyota. They feel Toyota has become too common place; there’s no differentiation. Others rule out Japanese cars altogether. I believe every person should buy the car they’re comfortable driving without having to justify their preferences. I have nothing against Toyota but I’ve come to really like Honda, particularly the Fit.

I first heard about the Honda Fit around 2013. It came highly recommended but I didn’t give it much thought till 2014 when my wife and I seriously began thinking about our first car. One of the biggest challenges we faced was convincing ourselves that a car was necessary. You’d expect this to be a ‘no-brainer’ for someone who loves cars but it is exactly because of that reason, that I needed to be convinced. It’s very easy for someone who really REALLY wants something to make an unnecessary purchase on a whim.

So I started thinking of all the reasons why we needed a car: it would ease trips to our farm (which would help us do agribusiness and earn us some extra income), it would help with transporting produce from our farm, we could hire it out part-time and earn some extra cash, it would really help with family outings and basically just travelling etc. So it would be a worth-while investment. That’s where I went wrong. There are better investments you can make with over half a million shillings (which is the least you would spend on a decent car), without the additional costs of maintenance. I will never forget what my brother told me when I talked to him about it. He had some experience on the matter. He said, ‘Stop trying to justify your purchase as an investment. If you want a car for family use, buy it.’ That was my ‘light-bulb’ moment! I had a wife, a daughter and I wanted a car. Simple as that!!

Believe it or not, one of the first cars I considered was a Probox. You can throw in the Toyota Succeed when you’re talking about the Probox because they are basically twins. I thought it was the most affordable car I could get and I was fine with the fact that my image would have to take a back seat when driving it. In addition, even though I had stopped trying to justify our purchase, I still felt it would offer the best package in case I actually did need to move farm stuff around.

Toyota Probox

Toyota Probox

I can’t say much about it (there really isn’t much to say) but I think it’s a good car. Most have 4-speed automatic transmissions with either 1300 or 1500cc engines, which is adequate power with fairly good fuel consumption. Personally, I don’t mind too much how they look…but that’s just me.

My wife, however, thought different; let’s just say that her standards are higher than mine. Plus, she wasn’t too keen on the idea of drawing any unwanted attention from traffic cops. Add that to the fact that I discovered it wasn’t the most affordable car I could get and it was promptly dismissed. That’s the funny thing with the Probox. You’d expect it to be cheaper considering its basic features and the amount of disdain most people have for it, but it’s not! Blame it on the fact that it’s primarily for commercial use. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between the Toyota Probox and the Succeed, this will shed some light.

The other Toyota I seriously considered was the Passo, which is actually manufactured by Daihatsu Motors. The Passo is Toyota’s entry-level car so I would say with some fair amount of confidence that it is the most affordable Toyota you will find in the market right now. Most have 4-speed automatic transmissions with 1.0L engines but there are some that are 1.3L. There are also 4WD versions.Toyota_Passo_108If you’re going to do more research on the Passo, it’s good to know that it is marketed as the Daihatsu Boon (or Sirion), Perodua Myvi and Subaru Justy. I’ve seen the Daihatsu Boon around Kiambu road but I haven’t seen the Subaru Justy or the Perodua Myvi. If you’re looking for a small, fuel-efficient city car and you don’t mind a slightly feminine looking car, then the Passo is right up your alley.

That’s one of the things you’ll notice when you’re researching on which car to buy. Depending on the make and model, there could be so many variations around that it is imperative to do proper research online but also be observant once you go to the show room. Don’t take the dealers word for it when he tells you the specs of a particular car. Be in the know! I’ll definitely talk more about this when I get to the Honda Fit.

Behind a Kenyan Dashboard!

2008 Honda Fit DashboardFor many driving enthusiasts, few things beat the experience of being behind the wheel. The convenience that driving offers is undeniable and if nothing else, it simply beats walking. For me, I love driving just because I love driving. I’m also into gaming and I almost exclusively only play racing games. I grew up on a steady diet of ‘Need for Speed’, with my personal favourites being ‘Underground 2’, ‘Most Wanted’ and the newer ‘Hot Pursuit.’ Later on, I came across ‘Euro Truck Simulator 2’ and got hooked ever since.

However, this blog is not about gaming; it’s about the motoring experience from a Kenyan perspective. I live in Nairobi and I want to share with you experiences from behind the wheel in Kenya. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a professional racer, I don’t do drifts or drag races, I don’t pimp rides and I don’t have decades worth of driving experience. If you were hoping for practical tips on high-speed racing, tuning your car for drifts or drag races or you only listen to seasoned rally drivers I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to buy a car and would like a bit of direction when doing research, then stick around. If you’re looking to get insights on the cars being driven on Kenyan roads, then you’re in the right place. If you’re learning how to drive and you feel you’re not getting enough from your driving school, you’re not alone…I’ve been there. If you’re a new driver and you’re looking for information on motoring from a Kenyan perspective, then you’re in the right place. If you just love driving and talking about driving, I want to hear from you.

One of the things that drove me to do ‘Behind a Kenyan Dashboard’ was the limited amount of local content available when researching on cars. When you search online for a particular make and model, you will get lots of information, mainly from an American or European context, but very little information from a Kenyan perspective. Considering most cars coming into Kenya are Japanese imports, there’s need for more information on what differences to expect between models from different regions. I appreciate the ones who have made an effort to fill this gap, among them Kenya Motor Industry and the Toyota Kenya Club. Theirs has been a vital resource in this regard. Still, I feel this is an area with vast uncharted territories. I know Kenya is referred to as a Toyota country but what if I want a Honda or a VW? And so begins my journey behind a Kenyan dashboard.