Month: March 2016

Jaguar XE Driven: Is there space for a big four?

The C-segment has been going through a war for many years now. The majority of those years have been ruled by one brand, the BMW 3 Series. During this time, Mercedes’ C-Class has been in competition with the Bavarian dictator and they have always come off second best in terms of driving dynamics and excitement but have always led in terms of comfort. Meanwhile the Audi A4 has always been the conservative’s choice amongst the lot and as a result, has had a specific audience to itself. With technology progressing and cars getting better and better, the distinct differences in cars within this segment have lessened, making brand loyalty the biggest decision maker for the consumer.

All of a sudden, though, a smaller more exclusive brand has entered the war and their offering has narrowed the gap even more. That brand is Jaguar and the new XE is their contender in this segment. After spending a week behind its wheel we were left wondering if the big three may need to make space for a fourth.

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Is it really that good?

Yes, the Jaguar XE is a lovely vehicle. From the way it looks to the way it drives, makes it a very appealing package indeed. Add that to the fact that the nameplate it bears is one that denotes sophistication, class, and luxury. The engine line-up is similar to that of its competitors too, ranging from small 2.0 turbocharged petrol and diesel engines to a brutish 3.0 V6 Supercharged power-plant in the top of the range S model.

We had in our care the 177kW 2.0 i4 Turbo with the R-Sport package, a magnificently beautiful car that is as refined as it is good looking. It’s not all looks with the XE though, the car can manoeuvre its way around bends in a confidence-inspiring way. Dynamically the XE is without a doubt one of the best cars in its segment. It’s comfortable too, our Bavarian friends have often sacrificed comfort for dynamics in their Sports Packages, whereas the XE has a better sense of balance between the two.

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Elephant in the room:

It is a fact that all car prices in South Africa are reaching a point where most of us will have to take up cycling in the future. Being that as it is, the price of the Jaguar XE is its proverbial 6th toe. The car is simply too expensive compared to the competition. We were distracted by its looks and charm but when we eventually looked at the price of the car, we were astonished at the base price of R695 000 for the model we drove. That is the only flaw we have for the car, besides that one would be nit-picking to fault anything else about the car.

So we’ve established that it’s good, but is it good enough to justify the price? It depends on two things. Firstly and most importantly, the depth of your pockets and secondly what you’re personally looking for in a car. It is a fact that the Jag is the most exclusive car to own in the segment, especially since every second car you see is a 3 Series and every third is a C-Class. So if you want to put your keys on the bar counter and feel special, then the XE may sway you quite a bit. At the same time, as we previously mentioned the gap is so narrow and the competition’s cars are great, so the majority of people would rather save some money and buy the competition.

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So is there room for a fourth space in the club? From a volume perspective unfortunately not, the top three will most likely outsell the Jaguar XE purely because of South African brand loyalty. What is nice though is knowing that there are options out there for the consumer and that the German’s products aren’t the only ones that are well built, stylish and exciting. What the Jaguar XE has done is throw a spanner in the works for the segment. It has elements of all the big three mixed with some Jaguar sauce and packaged very well. The result? A gourmet C- Segment car, but like all things gourmet you pay a premium for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Suzuki Vitara meets a Tzaneen road trip.

A different holiday with a different car:

Is it just us, or does it feel like the last three months have gone by quicker than one can say the word  “holiday”? Yes it feels like a mere few weeks ago when the Johannesburg roads were quiet, the Durban roads were congested and the Cape Town roads were riddled with “Vaalies”. Fast forward three months later and we’ve hit another holiday season, one that is even more stressful than the one that precedes it, simply because of time constraints. The Christmas holidays give us enough time and money to spend numerous Rands on plane tickets, accommodation, and car hire. Whereas the Easter holidays are only a few days, there is no salary bonus and the school holidays are much shorter.

So where does this leave one in terms of choosing the right holiday destination? Especially in an unstable economic climate? Well a few months ago, we decided to embark on an alternate weekend getaway plan, one that did not involve the coast and peak season flights. Instead, we opted on a three-hour road trip to the ever so green town of Tzaneen located in the Polokwane region. The car used for this trip? Again we didn’t opt for a luxurious German SUV or a British seven seating vehicle. We got behind the wheel of the newly launched 1.6 litre Suzuki Vitara and proceeded to loaded the boot with the following items: Five sleeping bags, four tog bags (filled with all the necessities), numerous pillows, an espresso maker and of course, a burr grinder.

And off we went:

Now you may think that the 86kW engine of the Vitara would barely cope with a fully loaded boot and five humans, one of them who has not seen a gym in months. Surprisingly on the very straight road to Polokwane, the Vitara comfortably cruised along at legal (and not so legal) speeds. With a car full of humans, the air-conditioner and seating comfort play a vital role on the joy/annoyance levels of the occupants.

In the case of the Vitara, the air-conditioning proved so effective, we had to turn it down in the dead of summer, mind you this was amidst high energy car karaoke. When the endorphins from the chocolate finally abated and drowsiness came into play, our back seat occupants slumbered away like well-fed babies whilst the co-pilot and I chatted away about life, the economy and teenage heart breaks (you know, road trip stuff). Meanwhile the frugal Vitara steadily carried on silently, not disturbing our deep conversation or our dreaming passengers.

After driving a straight road for hours, we finally entered into Polokwane, our destination was now only 70Km’s away. This is where things got interesting because on route to Tzaneen is one the most stunning roads in the country, the Magoebaskloof pass. How would our humble friend do on this twisty road? The first few corners awakened our sleeping passengers, sudden silence filled the vehicle as I tried my best to get the most out of the Vitara without causing car sickness.

How did it do?

Dynamically the Suzuki Vitara does not disappoint one bit, as a compact SUV it’s fun, responsive and playful. The small engine did require a higher gear during the mountain pass and yes I did wish for more power but the car was fully loaded with passengers and luggage. Eventually we arrived at our accommodation for the night, the real test was happening the next day, driving to a camp site which required going through ten kilometres of gravel road.

The next morning our local friends had this look of worry in their eyes. Eventually they tried to convince me to leave the Vitara at our previous nights stop over, simply because they were unsure if the “cute” little car would make it. I reminded them of the lineage of this car and its sibling the Jimny, which has embarrassed many larger SUV’s on the dirt. They agreed and told me it was at my own risk. So off we went, a Toyota Hilux, a Toyota Prado and us in our the Suzuki Vitara in tow. A few kilometres in, my friends remarked at how each time they looked in their rear view mirror, all they saw was a red little car keeping up. Some spots required careful planning, with the bigger cars taking their time.

We simply sang along to our Bluetooth streamed music and gently got over whatever obstacle was in our way, similar to how the Jimny clears most off road obstacles. The thing about these Suzuki’s is that they have size on their side and extremely capable off-road abilities. By the time we reached our camp site, our Toyota Hilux driving friend could only sing the Vitara’s praises and any car person will know how difficult it is to convince a Hilux a driver.

Home time:

A few days later, we were on our way home. Once we reached Johannesburg, only having used a tank and a half of fuel, we all looked proudly at the Vitara. Not only had we not damaged a single thing on the GL+ we drove fitted with the Rugged Package, we all had a comfortable trip to and from our destination. We didn’t spent tons of money, we didn’t travel for long hours and we had lots of fun.

In the current economic climate, many are looking at buying down to save costs. Many are also looking at cutting down on expensive holidays. Stunning areas like Tzaneen and cars like the Suzuki Vitara give us hope that it’s not all doom and gloom. For a few thousand rand one can have a great weekend away. Similarly at a starting price of R239 900, one can get a great looking, capable and reliable compact SUV. If buying down for you means getting into a car like the new Vitara, then all we can say is happy savings.

The New VW Caddy: Test Driven

As we were driving through the Valley of a thousand hills on a beautiful Durban morning, the road ahead swept and as we turned the corner, we noticed the green lush scenery swooshing by.  As we turned into another corner and applied some power, “this Caddy is fun!” we thought. Sorry what, a Volkswagen Caddy being fun? Yes, you read correctly.  It’s not the kind of vehicle you would imagine having fun in on the road, but the Caddy 4 took us by surprise.

Our test run of this vehicle started at King Shaka International Airport with our destination being deep in the Natal Midlands, a beautiful countryside area with some of the best scenery in the country. It’s the type of place you would imagine enjoying a hot hatch or sports car on, due to its twisty roads. The VW Caddy, though, was also very enjoyable. We drove two Caddy’s, the first being a manual 81kW 2.0TDI. Let’s be honest, 81kW is not much power but that  being said, the Caddy 4 did not feel underpowered at all, mainly due to the torque from the turbocharger.

The VW caddy 4 comes under the commercial vehicle range, but it doesn’t really feel like a commercial vehicle. For starters, the interior is clean and crisp, extremely spacious and stylish. The steering wheel felt and looked like something you would find in a passenger car. Most noticeably the large infotainment system finished things off nicely, a very nice cabin indeed.When it comes to handling, one can turn in quickly into a corner and you don’t end up with a heap of body roll. This vehicle has the capacity of carrying eight people and considering all of that, one wouldn’t expect it to handle very well, but it does a good job. The car took the Midlands’ sweeping bends in its stride, it’s safe to say that this is not a boring commercial vehicle at all. Heading back to Durban the following day after a fantastic evening, we had the chance to drive the other more powerful automatic 2.0 TDI. The manual vehicle was good, but we wouldn’t recommend it over the 103kW DSG variant.  The extra 21kW really makes a difference, when cruising and overtaking it gets up to speed that much  faster, making for an easier and more comfortable drive. The DSG gearbox is smooth and precise, sport mode was also perfect for the windy route. You will have to part with an extra R40K for the DSG gearbox, but it’s definitely worth it.

At the end of the day, this is a commercial vehicle and one sees that due to how Volkswagen have made it incredibly easy to remove all the rear seats. A simple pull on a lever and the whole seat system slides out, fantastic if you need to load equipment or you’re going away for the weekend. Adding to the versatility is the option of either a tailgate or twin doors, each come with their own advantages and based on user preferences. The Caddy 4 also features some nifty technology systems, such as driver fatigue systems, reversing camera, advanced infotainment, and our favourite, anti-collision braking. This is a system which applies full braking power after the vehicle has been in an accident, which helps eliminate the chance of a secondary collision. There are various models of  the Caddy ranging from a stripped-down panel-van and Crew bus aimed at the commercial market to the Trendline and Alltrack aimed at the more private user. Longer wheelbase Maxi versions are also available which differentiate themselves by adding a generous 469mm of length.

Overall we enjoyed our experience with new Volkswagen Caddy, we were pleasantly surprised with the comfort levels in the car. The exterior looks fantastic and it really wouldn’t look out of place sitting next to passenger Volkswagens which are more sporty. It looks more like a sibling rather than an ugly cousin and fits into the entire range well. It’s also worth noting that VW South Africa have not been affected by the emissions saga at all so don’t let that discourage you from buying a diesel. The panel vans start at the R230 000 mark, crew buses come in at a similar starting price of R226 000 while the Trendline and Alltrack will cost you around R350 000 depending on specification.

What would your “One Car For Life” be?

Choosing one car for the rest of your life is a daunting exercise.

If you could own any ten cars in the world, what would they be? Most of us car nuts have probably been asked something along those lines before. Maybe even your top five or even top three.

As a lover of cars, you will soon realise that is a tough question. What would you use as a daily drive? Or would you even have a few regular drive vehicles? Will you allow one or two spaces for your other half’s cars of choice? Questions like these will plague your mind; you will mentally scratch out and swap vehicles until finally, you have your own personal golden list.

 

But what if we told you that you could only choose one vehicle for the rest of your life? It could be anything your heart desires but would need to suit your own personal circumstances. This is where it gets tough. If you have kids, then it’s probably best to avoid a two seater. Maybe you spend a couple of hours a day stuck in rush hour traffic, so it would be a good idea to rule out a track ready beast. You would soon miss that soft air-conditioner breeze as the South African sun hit you, and the bucket seat and harness will probably crease your business suit. This is the part where the rational part of your brain comes into play, and you are going to have to make sacrifices you don’t want to make. I love old classics; I am also a massive fan of Japanese tuners, and I adore fire-breathing supercars. Fortunately (or unfortunately, whichever way you see it) I am to be married this year. I love road tripping, exploring, power, speed and comfort. I’ve also got a small soft spot for Dachshunds, which my fiancé has too.

So right now, if I had to go and purchase my “One Car For Life” I would head to the Audi dealership and buy myself an RS6 Avant. You may think this is strange, but I have my reasons:

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Firstly, it has five doors which are something my fiancé would demand. It also saves a lot of hassle when travelling with passengers or future children (maybe). The RS6 has tonnes of space, whether I’m road tripping with five people or going away to photograph landscapes, I don’t need to worry about space for people or gear. I also know my soon to be wife would be relatively safe if she were ever driving this vehicle, something I wouldn’t be so sure about in an 80’s classic with no traction control and ABS. Secondly, the RS6 Avant looks excellent. With many complaining that station waggons have a “mum’s taxi” appeal, this isn’t the case with this car. It also sounds pretty mean and to top it all off; it produces 447kW (600bhp) from a twin turbocharged V8. That’s more than enough performance and power to keep me smiling.

The RS6 Avant would allow me to enjoy everything I love doing without me compromising on a lot, which makes it my O.C.F.L. What would your O.C.F.L be? Let us know via social media and state your case.

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Smug life: Driving the Range Rover Sport

Our week with Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE

If you haven’t yet noticed, many Range Rover owners bear a similar facial expression when they’re in their cars. It’s a difficult look to describe. Is it one that says “I’m better than you?” or “I have more money than you?” Who knows, but it’s definitely an expression that gives off an air of superiority. Why is this the case? Why does almost every Range Rover driver don this mug? We had a recent opportunity to find out when Land Rover South Africa scheduled us to drive the SDV6 variant of the Range Rover Sport.

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The car in question was the SE model, which is slightly less fancier than the HSE in terms of aesthetics and specifications. Despite this, the size of the car still commands a great deal of presence whether it’s parked in a car park or driving on the road. The vehicle we had in our possession also had the air suspension which was a short man’s dream because you can add more centimetres to the ride height, allowing you to peer into the car stopped next to you at the traffic lights and proof read the drivers text message.

The most distinct feature about the Range Rover Sport is how the car drives like a hot knife in butter. It simply glides along whatever road surface it is faced with, accompanied by the slightly audible sound of the diesel V6 engine which produces 215kW.  The silence in the cabin is business class like and like business class, the car allows you to think long and hard about how much more better your driving experience is compared to the hatchback driving alongside you. What adds to this is the seating position created by the armrest that allows for maximum comfort behind the wheel. A simple yet luxurious dashboard with a touch screen infotainment is your interior view.

This is where we feel the facial expression comes from. The car makes you and others feel very aware of the fact that you’re driving over a million rand worth of metal, rubber and leather. They say absolute power corrupts and it was safe to say that we had been corrupted during our week long test drive. Nearing the end of the week, we could feel that our noses were positioned more upwards and our overall demeanour had changed. “How dare that driver think he can cut us off?” “Can he not see our RANGE ROVER coming?” are but a few of the thoughts that featured in our minds. Any opportunity to use the 600Nm was not wasted.

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To say that the Range Rover Sport makes the driver feel good about himself is an understatement. Interestingly this is not due to the car being the absolute best in its segment. Of course it is highly capable but the competition’s products are very capable too. This car has two major things going for it, pedigree and class. For decades the words “Range Rover” have been associated with a specific lifestyle and elegance. Even though the word “Sport” alludes to a racing nature, the V6 diesel is more about sophistication and comfort than anything else. This is why the Range Rover Sport can be seen in many business parks around the world, it’s as much a statement than it is a car.

It’s easy to get caught up in the smug life of driving a Range Rover in the city. If it weren’t for the Land Rover Experience that we attended in the past, we would think that all the suspension settings were there for the drivers ego, which is really not the case. The various on and off road features in the Sport are all functional. Having driven the Range Rover Sport off-road, one really sees what a serious case of multiple personality syndrome the car has. On the one end, it’s wearing a business suit and condescending over other cars in traffic. On the other end, it’s wearing a Khaki shirt and climbing various ascents and descents.

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Considering all of this, assuming the drivers of most Range Rover Sport’s know this, one can understand why the expression is there. It is a fact that the Range Rover is a brilliant car in its segment. It offers space, luxury and performance packaged in a way that is very memorable indeed. It is the gentlemen’s choice in its class.

Price:

R 1,227,400

 

Connect, Stow and Drive.

Is a Tweet, Text or Instagram post worth it?

Cell phones are a part of our lives, they are like a vital organ that we can’t do without. When we work, socialize, gym, go to bed and wake up, our phones are with us. There are also with us when we drive unfortunately. Using a phone whilst driving has been illegal for as long as we can remember, but it doesn’t stop the vast majority of us from texting, Whatsapping, calling or emailing while operating a vehicle. We have all been guilty of this offence at some point.

The chances of a person being caught using a cell phone while driving is very slim and similarly, we may think the chances of a serious accident are also pretty slim. What we may not realize is that 1 out of every 4 accidents are caused because of mobile phone usage. Take note of the true story below:

A delivery worker was driving on a busy highway called the A500 ,which is located in the Midlands area of the UK. While he was travelling in the outside lane at a speed of 60 mph (around 120 kph), the driver failed to notice the traffic ahead slowing down and stopping. Why? He was using his mobile phone. The Outcome? Sadly the delivery van ploughed full speed into a BMW 5 Series that was stopped in the traffic. This then started a “domino effect” and caused the BMW to hit the car in front and the forces killed the driver. The driver was not the only one affected, though, his wife of twenty-four years lost her husband and their two children lost their father.

The driver of the van didn’t wake up that day thinking he would ruin not only his own life but also the life of four other people. All this happened from a simple “mistake”. The van driver was not an evil person, he did not mean to kill anyone but he broke the law, and he had to face the consequences. A split second can change lives on the road and by using your mobile phone whilst driving, you are putting not only yourself but others in danger too.

If you have a Bluetooth system, which is very common in new vehicles today, then please set it up before you start to drive and stow your phone in a place out of sight. This will ensure that you’re not tempted to use it. Emails and messages can wait until you finish your journey and if it’s very urgent, you have the hands free system available to communicate. On long distance journeys, you can make regular stops at a fuel station if you feel the need to check your phone.

Why take the chance of ruining multiples lives for a message, a tweet or an Instagram post? You could be that driver that we spoke about in that story. Nobody wants an outcome like that weighing on their mind for the rest of their life. So please, connect it, stow it and drive safe Motorists

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Audi Q2: Retro Chic design in a fun package.

Audi’s new Q2 promises to bring a wild side to the compact Crossover segment.

Audi has often been dogged for playing it too safe when it comes to the design of its vehicles. The upcoming Audi Q2 unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show seeks to shut the mouths of critics with its radical design. Geometric design elements make for a modern looking compact crossover that has a cute but rugged look to it. The car will also be quite customisable in terms of design, which should keep all the hipster clients happy.

Bold design is not the only thing going for the Q2, various technologies are a key feature for new the car. The much loved Virtual Cockpit will be available as well as Audi’s Presence safety technologies. Part of these safety features is pedestrian detection and vehicle occupant bracing for potential accidents. Other cool media features include a Wifi hotspot and Audi’s Smartphone Interface.

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Engines & Drivetrains:

Surprisingly Audi have not left out the 2.0l TFSI engine for this car despite it being quite compact. The choice of a 1.0l three cylinder engine as well as 1.4l will be available. Diesel engines are also included with a choice of a 1.6l as well as a 2.0l TDI being offered. Customers will have a choice between a permanent all wheel drive version and a front wheel drive setup. The Q2 will also feature a revised dual clutch transmission which promises to be more refined.

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When when when?

Expect to see the Q2 mid-2017 with the market launch happening early next year. With compact SUV crossovers becoming ever so popular, Audi’s little tyke should do well in the South African motoring climate. The words “compact” doesn’t mean the Q2 will be very small in stature, with a 405-litre luggage compartment, the Q2 will have a big enough boot to make the school run possible.

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New Audi A4 Driven.

Audi’s new A4: Magnificently refined.

The launch of the new Audi A4 is very important for the brand since the car is a volume seller in the Audi stable. In the South African automotive landscape, competition is very high within the D-Segment vehicles. The most popular cars in this segment  are made up of what people like to refer to as the “big three” which is BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes’ C-Class and Audi’s A4.

The A4 is the last to be updated between the three as BMW and Mercedes’ models are two to three years old already. Now is the time for Audi’s A4 to shine, after seven years in production, the B8 model is now a thing of the past and the new B9 is here to shake things up. The question is, will it be able to hold its own up against the ever so popular BMW and the ever so classy Mercedes-Benz?  What has changed?

Aesthetics

From the outside looking in, the new Audi A4 keeps very similar lines to the previous model, with the most notable change being in the front and rear end of the car. Sharp clean lines are prominent in the design and the car looks clinically beautiful in the typical Audi understated way. Packaging wise, customers have three options, a standard model, the “Design Line” and the “Sport Line”. The visual differentiators are not large but the handling characteristics of the car change according to the package chosen, with the “Sport Line” having the firmest and most dynamic suspension.

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Engines & Technology

Under the bonnet is where you see the progress made in the new Audi A4. The previous generation featured a 1.8 litre turbocharged engine with 118kW, yet the new entry level is a 1.4 litre turbocharged engine which makes 110kW/250Nm. Due to smarter construction methods and materials,  the new car is lighter than the car it replaces so the power to weight ratio is very similar if not better.

The 2.0 litre turbocharged version remains, this time featuring 140kW/ 320Nm. The figures for both engines may sound very conservative for a car of this class, but the way the car performs in either 1.4l or 2.0l guise tells a totally different story. The power-train is incredibly refined , giving you a very rich experience behind the wheel. The new A4 is also very dynamically intuitive and allows the driver to exploit the cars capabilities as we did around various mountain passes in the Western Cape of South Africa.

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The comfort levels of the new Audi A4 are of the highest standard, add that to the state of the art technology in the car and you soon realise that Audi have outdone themselves with this new A4. The dated nature we had in the old car is gone, this is no mere face-lift, it’s a new car. Sitting inside, one is reminded of the new Q7 in terms of interior design. A fixed infotainment screen was chosen over the pop-up found in the Q7.

A selection of media, vehicle information and optional navigation can be fiddled with through Audi’s MMI infotainment system. The most impressive technological feature in the new A4 has got to be the optional Virtual cockpit which displays various features through the digital dashboard. A personal favourite of ours was the full screen navigation option available on the cockpit which aids driver focus on long journeys. The technological features don’t end there, standard safety technologies include Presence City, secondary collision brake assist and the adjustable restraint system.

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There is no argument that the new Audi A4 is a beautifully designed vehicle which is more efficient and dynamically capable than the car it replaces. No one can question the abilities of this vehicle, the potential problem lies in the perception of the Audi A4 in South Africa. The BMW 3 Series comes with a cult following and so does the Mercedes C-Class. Brand loyalty will be a very big determining factor for the sales on the new A4. The new model is capable enough to gain more market share than the previous car, so it’s simply a case of Audi marketing the car in a more appealing way.

A 2.0 litre diesel derivative is on the way as well as a more powerful 185 kW 2.0 litre turbo, so this will do well to increase the portfolio of the model. The future looks bright for the Audi, the new A4 has set a new standard for the brand in this segment. We look forward to what will be coming in the new future as there more exciting vehicles from on the way from the German stable.

 

Pricing:

  • 1.4 T FSI manual: R441,000
  • 1.4 T FSI S-Tronic: R459,000
  • 1.4 T FSI S Tronic Sport: R492,000
  • 1.4 T FSI S Tronic Design: R488,000
  • 2.0 T FSI S Tronic : R496,000
  • 2.0 T FSI S Tronic Sport: R517,000
  • 2.0 T FSI S Tronic Design: R513,000
  • 2.0 TDI Base S Tronic : R517,000
  • 2.0 TDI S Tronic Sport: R538,000
  • 2.0 TDI S Tronic Design : R534,000

 

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New MINI Convertible and Clubman driven.

New MINI’s added to the range for more fun and practicality

What happens when the roof of the MINI Cooper is cut off and replaced with canvas? Or when the car goes for a butt transplant and comes out with a much bigger rear? We flew down to sunny Cape Town to find out. The two cars in question was the new MINI Cooper convertible as well as the new MINI Clubman.

Already the new MINI is as popular as the car it replaced. The new vehicle definitely has a wider appeal to both men and women, whereas the previous model was generally seen as a “girly” car. We have always loved the MINI, not because of the way it looked but rather the way it felt. It’s always had this sense of “chuckability” that many hatchbacks didn’t. So starting off with the new MINI Convertible, we had to find out if the car still retained the “fizz” with the roof off.

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After an eighteen second wait the roof was down and we could admire the stunning Gordon’s Bay scenery whilst the exhaust pipes of the MINI Convertible S served as a lovely soundtrack. Accelerate for a few seconds and lift off to hear burbles, cracks and pops. Thereafter change up a gear and surprisingly the 6-Speed Steptronic gearbox obliges with ease. 141kW and 250Nm is what propels the Cooper S and despite added weight from reinforcing  the car to handle the lack of a roof, the vehicle still feels as nimble as its hard-headed sibling. Fitted with the JCW body kit, the Cooper S has great visual appeal and a sporty stance, again making it more masculine in appearance.

Enthusiasts always lament the loss of dynamic handling in convertibles versus hard tops, but you would really have to be an F1 racer to notice any real difference in the handling characteristics of the MINI Convertible against the hardtop. Besides, this car is not aimed at the “boy racer”, that’s what the JCW is for. If anything, one could say the drama of having the “wind blowing in your hair” whilst driving through Franschoek pass is more exciting. Colleagues who drove the normal Cooper Convertible also had no ill word to say about the car, in fact they loved the lively nature found in the 100kW 1.5 litre three cylinder engine.

What MINI have done with the convertible is simply give customers a different option. It’s still the same car you would buy three months ago, minus the roof of course. For those looking for a tan or perhaps looking for some attention, why not get yourself the MINI Convertible? We do have lovely weather in South Africa after all.

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Next up was the Clubman. Where the normal cooper sits, the Mini five door sits in the middle and the Clubman sits at the opposite end. This car should be called a Maxi because it feels completely different to the three door variant. Mature is the word to use for the car as it feels like the older brother of the lot. The most noticeable visual change is the rear end, with suicide doors making loading and unloading much easier. For once in a MINI there is an actual boot, one that can actually fit groceries, luggage and even a small dog. Not only is the new Clubman longer than the five door, it’s wider too. The interior is also different with a broader instrument panel creating more space inside the car.

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This time we opted for the standard Clubman, not the S version. Despite a power decrease from the S, the way that little three cylinder engine performs is very good indeed. A Clubman client won’t be disappointed if they opted for the standard version over the S.

All in all, these new additions play very different roles and speak to very different buyers. The cars are equally impressive though with the same connectivity options and technological equipment available in both cars. One nifty option (standard in the S models) is the MINI Driving Modes which give you an option of Green, Mid and Sport mode, which changes the throttle response of the car and the exhaust note (on the S model). If you’re a die-hard Mini fan, they have created a different set of the same car so that you don’t ever have to leave the brand because of circumstance. Before a MINI was just a MINI, now you can have a MINI, a bigger MINI and an even bigger MINI.

Prices:

MINI Clubman: R343 000 (Manual) and R361 000 (Automatic)

MINI Clubman S: R415 000 (Manual)  and R434 500 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible: R368 000 (Manual) and R384 000 (Automatic)

MINI Convertible S: R433 000 (Manual) and R451 000 (Automatic)

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