By end of 2016, URA and the Uganda Ministry of Transport estimate Uganda to have more than 4 million cars with most of them concentrated in Kampala.
There are too many rides on the streets today, but there are some you can never go an hour without seeing. They are so common you probably even know the car name and manufacturer.
The most common rides in Uganda
1. Toyota Hiace
You probably know them as “Taxis”, Kenyans call them “Matatus” but the car is a Toyota Hiace especially the DX.
Taxis are Uganda’s most common means of transportation and have been around since the 1980’s. Most of them are 3.0Litre diesel engines and some few new ones 2.0-litre petrol engines.
The older models are mostly used because they are more fuel efficient.
Most taxis are rear-wheel drive and manual transmission. Although the last 2 years have seen an increase in the automatic transmission Hiaces.
Some cool posh versions spreading in are CD, GL, and super GL models. The Super Custom is also a Hiace. A brand new taxi costs more than shs.30million.
2. Toyota Corolla
Who didn’t know the Corolla in Uganda in the 90’s? It was cheap, beautiful, fast and yet used very little fuel.
It was initially owned by the rich in Uganda as a family saloon car but today it is used for special hire cabs and by thieves.
It was rated as the best-selling car worldwide by 1974 and has been one of the best-selling cars in the world since then.
Toyota Corolla has undergone several design changes such as the corsa and post year 2000 versions since then and it has sold more than 40 million vehicles worldwide.
An old Corolla will cost you between shs.2 – 4million today.
3. Toyota Ipsum
The ipsum is ugly today but it had its glory when it first came to Uganda. It was cheap and well sized yet it was an 8-seater plus had enough space to lift huge or heavy cargo at the back.
A teenage session in its times, the perfect beach and party car of society. Toyota Ipsum was a favorite and is commonly spotted on the Ug roads. Campusers love this ride because they can fit all their girlfriends and homies.
Here most Ipsums are 2.0 to 2.4litre petrol engines, however there was a 2.0-litre D-4D turbo diesel engine ipsum abroad.
It was once a fast car, now it is slower than most new entrants, very unstable, prone to accidents and a very big magnet to car part thieves. It is also used a lot as a special hire cab especially in Masaka. A new Ipsum is around shs.20million and old ones can be anywhere between shs.8 – 16million.
4.Toyota Corona/ Premio
Corona has several sub models under it and I’m sure you know most of them especially the Corona “Kibina” and the Premio.
It was a very popular saloon car with a simple design, you know we call most of our sedans or saloons, “my cars” because they were luxury cars with few seats.
The Corona became successful in export markets and was marketed under a number of different nameplates worldwide as Coronas and Carinas.
Its predecessor is the Toyota Premio which has models such as Premio, Premio E, and Premio G but you can call split them into Premio Super, New Model and Kitaala.
Most Premios have 1.6-litre, 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre engines. It is fast, fuel efficient, stable, long lasting and very cheap to repair. A new one will cost you about shs.20million+ and a used one shs.8 – 14million.
5. Toyota Raum
Famously known for its low fuel consumption, the Toyota Raum is a small, 5-seat compact minivan that got popular in Uganda around 2010 especially the 1997 model.
The ride’s name Raum is German for “chamber or room” because of its ability to pack more than 5 people plus stuff in the boot. We manage to pack 10 people in there just to see it’s strain limit, it was a success but it becomes uncomfortable so stick to the 5.
It has 5 doors and a 1.5liter petrol engine with an automatic gear transmission. It is so cheap but also very tiny and too common for those looking to show off, its ugly too.
A good used Raum can cost you a shy shs.8-12million.
6. Toyota Vitz
This tiny beast sips fuel like a classy babe sipping wine, the fuel goes nowhere. It is so efficient it even won Shell Uganda’s 2016 most fuel efficient car road test to and fro Jinja on one tank.
Some call it a “lady’s car” because it is cute, innocent and small but don’t be fooled; the Toyota Vitz has proven to be a favorite among many Ugandan drivers both male and female alike.
The Vitz in Uganda at times have a 3 to 5 door hatchback design with a petrol engine ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 Liters and VVTi Engine. Some rare models have a 1.4 diesel engine.
Most of the automatic Vitz have 4 speeds and look really cute when customized with racing colours and spoilers. The vitz is around the same price as a Raum.
7. Toyota Prado/ Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser is believed by most Ugandans to be the best ride for almost any terrain in Uganda since the 90’s era taking away the reigns of the Land Rover Discovery.
It is a car for the rich, government, NGO’s or companies and is highly respected.
The Land Cruiser Prado has made its way into the hall of fame for its capability to withstand harsh terrain and bad roads, take a minute to picture our slipper muddy, rocky, dusty and pothole filled roads as well as some of the smooth tarmac roads.
The Prado can comb them all, it is a four-wheel drive (4×4) SUV with mostly a 5 doors. Most models come with a full-time 4WD or a gear to change it. Some are 2.8L, 3.0L and 5L Diesel or 2.7L and 3.4L Petrol depending whether it’s a V6 or V8 engine. Land Cruisers are very expensive and can range from shs.40 – shs.200m+
8. Toyota Rav 4
The RAV4 is a compact crossover SUV (sport utility vehicle) and might be the cheapest SUV in Uganda. It is designed for those who want a small, strong, fast 4WD that can also lift enough cargo.
Although not all RAV4s are four-wheel drive, RAV4 stands for “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive”
Most Rav4s in Uganda have 5 doors, 2.0L engine and a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic transmission.
They used to be lady cars, now even men want a piece of them. The old ones don’t look as good as the newer models.
9. Toyota Harrier
Harriers are luxurious SUVs known for their speed and design. They are good and relatively cheaper than other SUVs, you can have one for less than shs.26million.
The Toyota Harrier has been sold since 1997 but Toyota rebranded it as the Lexus RX from 1998.
It was stolen a lot by armed robbers as well as being looted for its expensive spare parts. It is also very notorious for guzzling fuel; it could even get you asking for bail outs.
Despite all this, it is a very good car to have for its comfort and how it can manage a sufficient number of rough terrain.
10. Mitsubishi Pajero
One of the strongest, powerful and also affordable four wheel drives in Uganda makes number 10. The Pajero is a beast when it comes to off-road experience, speed and power.
The Mitsubishi Pajero came with engines like 3.0-liter 12-valve with ECI-Multi electronic fuel injection and a 2.5-liter turbocharged diesel engine with an inter-cooler.
Models from 1991 to 1999 had various upgrades with each coming with a new feature as time went on.
The above mentioned cars aren’t the only common ones in Uganda and we can’t exhaust them all. Other common cars may include the Mitsubishi Fuso, Toyota Noah, Toyota Hilux and Nissan pickups.
The list is made up mostly of Toyota brands due to their less fuel consumption, maintenance costs and because most are cheap. Before 1994, this wasn’t always the case.
If you think there is a car we missed and we should add, please let us know.
Allan Bangirana is a freelance writer for Newslibre & Spur Magazine. He is passionate about tech, games and occasionally writes about entertainment, lifestyle and so much more.