The religion of subaru owners in Kenya

By Boniface Mithika | May 22nd 2021

If the Subaru is a beauty, then its youngish Kenyan driver is the beast.

You see it in the distance from your rearview mirror, but seconds later, it is impatiently bearing down the stretch, overtaking cars in a flash. Before you know it, he — it is always a “he” — is breathing menacingly down your neck.

He inches the nose to the side and you scream, “Don’t! There is a 10-tonne truck coming your way!” Instead, all you hear is “vroom! Vroom!” and off he goes, charging forward like an Ikolomani fighter bull high on khat, bangi and witchcraft.

You hold your breath and shiver, waiting for the bang that will leave his drink-sodden kidneys spattered on the road, but he darts back into the lane just in time, the truck driver hooting angrily. But his right signal is already winking impatiently. The daredevil waits until the on-coming bus is 10 metres away, then revs and charges forward, engine roaring and farting angrily in the wind.

Either he forgot to wear his diapers, or a dry spell is killing the poor man, you muse. You are, however, so shaken that hours later, you are still wondering whether he got home in one piece or his bloody pieces are lying in the HDU of a city hospital — or the freezer of a cold morgue.

Question is, why?     

Every now and then, videos emerge on social media of young, hot bloodied lads racing along Kenya’s highways, weaving and bobbing dangerously from lane to lane. We have seen them racing alongside miraa vehicles just for fun. To other road users, they are deemed “reckless, ignorant, a nuisance”.  They are thrilled by speed. What thrill it must be, to ram a truck, or wrestle down a tree on the side of the road – at 280kph! 

But Subaru boys, and their girls, love their little blue, aphrodisiac powered motoka. Several motorsports clubs have been formed by young men and women for holding drag races. Subaru is like a religion and apart from sporting events, they have concerts and social gatherings tailor-made for Subaru lovers in Nairobi, like the Subaru Fest.

Laid back rhumba loving Benz drivers hold them in scorn, terming their cars a poor man’s “Porsche” because it has a powerful engine and is a beast on the road. Government doesn’t like them either.

Last year, National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) Director General George Njao singled out Subaru drivers as “notorious” on the roads.

“What is the first thing a student does with his first salary? They buy a car. If you look at the number of fatalities, it’s in the youth category and new cars, the Subarus. These fast cars our young people are driving are creating a problem for us,” Njao said.

Car enthusiast, dealer and rapper Lamaz Span who doubles up as one of the admins for ‘Subaru Boys club’ wasn’t amused.

“First of all I want to say that Subaru boys are not broke. Wanafika bei. Mnataka kijana anunue Probox, kwani anauza miraa?” he asks.

Span argued that whereas he loves some thrill on the road, he is an avid advocate of careful driving and does not condone driving under the influence.

“Let us stop victimising Subaru drivers and painting them in bad light. These boys are living their lives to the fullest. Statistics show that other cars cause more accidents than Subarus. One Subaru causes an accident, everybody yaps for an entire year. Matatus cause accidents on a daily basis and no one speaks. Heck! Even malaria and cholera kill more people than Subarus but we choose to dwell on the wrong thing. I would like to tell all these people tainting Subaru drivers badly to go to hell,” Span spat.

Interestingly, he is right on the data. According to Ronald Bett of The Standard’s fact check desk, most car accidents majorly involve Toyotas followed by Subaru. But the devil is in the detail: KRA data shows that Toyota is the most popular car make in Kenya, accounting for at least 54 per cent of all auto imports, which means Subaru boys, whose cars are a fraction of the motorised population, must be racing like hell to qualify for the silver medal.

The notion among regular motorists is that other than hormones and love for speed, their antics could be fueled by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. How else do you explain the blaring music and the little monsters revving noisily in the dead of the night when normal people are supposed to be dead asleep?   

Columnist Njoki Chege sometime back drew their ire when she termed them “juveniles”.

“What do these juveniles smoke that makes them think that they can race a Mercedes S-Class? Most Blue Subaru owners have a deep sense of insecurity. Little wonder they are ever on a boundless mission to prove a point. They brag about their cars on social media and in bars to anyone who would care to give them audience.

“Why can’t all of you Blue Subaru owners ape the nobility of Mercedes owners, the refinement of BMW owners, the sophistication of Range Rover owners and the chivalry of Porsche owners?” she posed.

It is all about the “Subie rumble”, Dr Chege! Subaru Impreza WRX is famed for its unique loud, ear-splitting and flame throwing turbo charged Subaru Boxer engine. The WRX/STI drivers like to make their cars even louder by installing custom exhaust systems. It’s called the “Subie rumble” and how they love it when the rumble shatters your ear drums.



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