• The budget cars took Kenyan market by storm and now epitomise Toyota’s ubiquity
• Conduct of Probox owners breeds perception they suffer from inferiority complex
The Toyota Probox is one of the car models that divides opinions among Kenyans. It has become one of the most common Toyota models on Kenyan roads, and indeed the epitome of the brand's common saying, "The car in front is always a Toyota."
The major reason for being a regular sight on Kenyan roads is its affordability. For as low as Sh350,000 0r Sh500,000, you could be a proud owner of one of these cars, which was first manufactured 19 years ago.
It also boasts a spacious storage compartment and a simple design. The fact that Toyota spare parts are one of the most easily available in the market has also enhanced Probox's image as one of the most common car models in Kenya.
However, these features have sometimes worked to its disadvantage by eliciting negative stereotypes about its use. One of these is that it is the car of choice for plainclothes police officers, who prefer it for picking up suspects.
There have been reports of terror suspects or other criminals being picked up by unknown people in a Probox never to be seen again. Consequently, for many, especially young men, the sight of a group of mean-looking guys driving around in this car often leads to the conclusion they are cops.
Probox owners have sometimes been perceived by some quarters as suffering from an inferiority complex and with a point to prove. This is as a result of their behaviour on Kenyan roads, which appears to aim at making themselves heard.
A search on social media is sure to produce funny memes touching on this car model, including pictures of ridiculous modifications. A case in point is a picture of a Probox modified into a Toyota Prado, considered one of the most opulent models in the Kenyan market.
Subsequently, such tweaks to the physical features of the Probox fuel the notion that their owners are people living in fantasy land. Others consider the Probox owners to be reckless drivers, always trying to push their cars beyond the limit.
A few months ago, a video surfaced on Twitter of a Probox driver trying to outrun a Subaru on Thika Superhighway. The race was already lost the moment the Subaru driver turned on the nitro and whizzed out of sight of his counterpart.
Most of the comments on the video castigated the Probox driver for trying to be something he wasn't and for putting his car through unnecessary torture.
It may not have the speed or aesthetics that some of the car brands have, but its spacious storage compartment makes it one of the most versatile in the Kenyan market.
The Probox is renowned as a cheap alternative for business people who regularly transport their goods, such as Meru miraa traders who use it to ship their wares to various urban centres.
In many rural areas, it is a passenger service vehicle that operates within short distances.
Thus, akin to boda boda motorbikes, the Probox might just be a revolutionary means of transport in Kenya in recent times.
Edited by T Jalio