For it to be beyond categorising it needs to be long and steep enough. We have plenty of steep climbs in SA, but they usually just aren’t long enough to categorise. Jonaskop in the Western Cape is not one of those climbs. At just short of 15km it truly is the longest tar road climb in the Western Cape, with probably only some of the passes in Limpopo / Mpumalanga that are longer.

With a total elevation gain of around 1200m, the average gradient is 7.8% with steepest sections rising up to 16%. It is a monster of a climb. I had seen pictures posted back in July of people riding through the snow there, and since then I have been so desperate to get out there and test myself on such a challenging climb.

 

I had the Renault Kiger for a couple days and with a very short window of good weather I hit the road to go climb this infamous beast.

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The newly launched Renault Kiger is best described as a potent city slicker with a big heart and an adventurous spirit. It was just as comfortable on the gravel roads as it was in the city. As a “B-SUV” it is slightly smaller than an SUV. Basically, the feel of a hatchback but a little more space and a lot more capability when you head off the tar road.

The mountain can be found on just the other side of Villiersdorp. Parking and riding from Villiersdorp (GPX File via the link below) gives you around an 80km ride with 2000m of climbing. This does require some gravel sections to be navigated so if you want to go with a road then it is probably better to park at the gate at the base of the climb.

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The climb starts off really gradually as you climb up along the lower slopes of Jonaskop, the lower slopes are covered with long grass and grazing cattle. It has a wonderful relaxing feel to it, this obviously changes quickly as you climb higher. From the gate there are one or two very short gravel sections but they are pretty rideable, so a road bike with 25mm tyres will have no issue here.

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I was very surprised and impressed with how the Kiger handled itself on the gravel, some of the sections we drove were very loose and rocky, but it took it all in its stride with skipping a beat.

Once the switch backs start after a few kilometres you quickly realise you are starting the tough sections of the climb, the road rises up sharply with some 11 - 14% kickers. With only 6km of the climb done you aren’t even half way. With the mast at the summit of the mountain looming above you in the distance, it reminds you to measure your effort.

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The climb starts at around 400m above sea level and rises to the height of Johannesburg, 1600m above sea level. If you aren’t used to riding at altitude you start to feel the effects of less oxygen around the 1200m mark. This makes the last 400m of elevation gain a bit of a lung buster, especially since some of the steep sections are in the final 2 - 3km of the climb.

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The car has three driving modes, Eco, Normal, and Sport. Sport is a lot of fun to drive as you get all of the power from the 1 litre turbo engine, producing 74kw, which might not sound like a lot but paired with the CVT gearbox the car is really quick off the line and nips around town with the poise and grace of a French painter.

Eventually, though, the mast starts to get closer and closer, giving some motivation to push for the final bit. With one last switchback it is a straight shot to the top and the reward of some incredible views out to both Worcestor and in the other direction, towards Greyton.

 

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It is a fantastic challenge of a climb with most riders taking between 60 - 120 minutes to complete. An Alpine stage right on our doorstep in the Western Cape. If you want to make a weekend of it, there are plenty of great wine farms in the area to visit and a great place to stay over is at the De Villiers Country Lodge with Johannie and Wilhelm Barnard.

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Fuel consumption in Normal and Eco were pretty fantastic as well. Normal got me around 13km per litre average which is very decent for a car a little higher off the ground. Eco mode takes some getting used to, it is very aggressive with how much it downplays the cars throttle response, making it quite slow. This is great for driving around the city or when you are stuck in traffic, but not so much on the open road. The consumption in Normal mode is so good though, so I would only see myself using Eco mode in high traffic situations. The dashboard also changes colour according to whichever mode you are in, which is quite fun!

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The Apple CarPlay connects via wifi which is fantastic, I don’t always want to have to plug the phone in with a cable so this capability is a bit of a game changer for me. A 7-inch touch screen helps you navigate all the AirPlay options you have. If I am being very nitpicky, I would have preferred the screen to be placed a bit deeper into the dashboard, a very small thing but I feel it would help with protecting the screen from reflecting the sun at certain angles. (The car I drove didn’t have tinted windows so I would imagine lightly tinted windows would also solve this pretty easily).

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