Category: Fuel Efficient

2016 Renault Megane

After 20 years, the fourth generation of Megane has arrived in South Africa. The 2016 Megane looks aggressive, I like it.

Four models will be released, the first of these is the Dynamique model featuring a 1.6 litre 84 kW engine with a 5-speed manual box, no option for auto here. Moving up in the range we have two GT-LINE models, both powered by a 97kw 1.2 Litre turbocharged engine. The difference being the choice of a 7-speed dual clutch automatic box or a classic 6-speed manual.

Headlining the Megane act is the GT model producing a meaty 151kw from its 1.6 litre turbocharged engine.  The GT comes with some features exclusive to its model such as the MULTI-SENSE handling feature and full LED headlight technology. Other items include leather seats,18” alloy wheels, an electronic parking brake to take away all the fun and paddle shifts.

High-end technologies on this vehicle include 4CONTROL chassis which is the only vehicle in its segment to feature this. 4CONTROL works by turning the rear wheels slightly when cornering, this small movement has a big effect on road holding and performance. I’m sure this is going to be a fun car to drive.

Another great feature is MULTI-SENSE, this enables individual users to modify many aspects of the vehicle from driving dynamics such as accelerator mapping, gearbox mapping and steering response just to name a few. The classic pre-sets like Comfort, Eco and sport are also available.

The new Megane looks fantastic and has some exciting and personal driver based features. We will soon have our hands on one and will be able to bring you an in-depth review.

 

Pricing is as follows :

Renault Megane Dynamique – R 279 900

Renault Megane GT-LINE :

– Manual: R 339 900

– Auto: R 354 900

Renault Megane GT – R 449 900

 

megane_031_880x500

megane_049_880x500

megane_060_880x500

Renault Kadjar EDC

Renault recently held the second launch for the Kadjar, so clearly something important had changed. This was indeed the case, and the aforementioned importance was the addition of the EDC (Efficient Double Clutch) gearbox to the Kadjar range. Wooooow.

Touted as offering the efficiency and responsiveness of a manual gearbox, yet the convenience and comfort of an automatic, the EDC gearbox is Renault’s foray into the world of the double clutch and has now been dropped into the Kadjar. Mated with an array of either petrol or diesel engines, the Kadjar EDC is the value for money proposition that the Kadjar has always been, but now with added appeal for those who dislike shifting the cogs themselves. Impressive build quality, striking looks (especially in Flame Red) and economical engines across the range make for an enticing package.

The range starts at R364 000 for the 96kW TCe Expression with the cheapest EDC model being the 93kW TCe Dynamique Auto at R399 900. If it’s a frugal frenchie you’re after, the 81kW dCi Auto is the Kadjar for you, priced at R414 900.

In conclusion, the Kadjar brings French flair to the ever-growing Crossover segment which its twin, the Nissan Qashqai invented back in the noughties. With a slightly more desirable name than Nissan’s Kumquat (only just) and added pizaz, the Kadjar is a pleasant and welcomed glimpse into the future of Renault, now with an auto, and we like it!

kadjar-6-433727 renault-kadjar_0120-1 kadjar-1-433722 kadjar-3-433724

Volvo’s new XC90 T8 Hybrid: A moving paradox.

Electric Drive: New Volvo T8 Hybrid Driven.

The 4×4 is the one car that has always been hailed as the big bad wolf in the industry. This is because cars of this nature normally use large fuel guzzling engines. Times have changed recently though and Volvo has helped shape the change, by using one of the largest cars in the market. Since the launch of the all new XC90, the public’s reception of this car has been nothing but good. Awards such as the Wesbank COTY 2016 and the Cars.co.za “Best Premium SUV” award proves this, as well as numerous other international awards.

The use of 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol and diesel engines in such a large car is one of the most important features of the XC90. These small engines have drastically improved the fuel consumption of the range. Now to be even more efficient, Volvo have thrown in an 9 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack to their powerful 235kW petrol engine. As a result, a combined power output of 300kW from both engines gives the car immense power and a claimed fuel economy figure of 2.1 litres/ 100km! (Sounds crazy right?) Realistically, we achieved around 5.5 litres/ 100kms but that was toggling through all the modes and driving in the city. Even at that figure, that is a remarkable number to achieve in a seven seating SUV.

Regarding aesthetics and design, the T8 keeps the same look and feel that its siblings have. It’s available in Momentum, Inscription and R-Design Package. What is standard in the T8, apart from other things is a sunroof and a crystal gear knob (fancy right?).

volvo-xc90-t8-twin-engine-10_880x500

How does is drive?

Silently. When the car is in “Pure” mode, you can hear the passengers swallow, which may be disturbing but quite amazing too. The car is still as comfortable as any other XC90, the only difference is that it’s much quieter. You can travel up to 43km in full electric mode and when you put the car in “Hybrid” mode, you get a combination of both petrol and electric power. If you’re in a hurry and you’re fully charged, you’ll be happy to know that in “Power” mode you can use all 300kW to get going quickly. Even in “beast mode”, the T8 maintains a level of civility and sophistication through smooth power delivery.

When you’ve hit a load shedding situation and you’ve run out of electric power, you can charge up at home to give your car life again. The good news is that if you do travel longer than the 43km electric range, you do have internal combustion to get you home.

volvo-xc90-t8-twin-engine-08_880x500

What does the future hold?

Cars like these are very important to the industry, because they represent the future. Obviously as systems progress, this technology will keep getting better and more affordable to the general public. Soon we’ll even be able to go further with hybrid cars and it’s nice to see that Volvo are once again at the forefront of the change. That being said, other companies like BMW now offer a competitor, such as the X5 40e. This car uses a similar setup and we’re sure that it’s only a matter of time until other brands join the club. The T8 XC90 is still as good, still as pretty and still as elegant as it’s always been, only now it’s more efficient. It’s awesome to see the biggest car use the least amount of fuel, it’s a moving paradox.

Prices: 

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Momentum                     R1 053 400

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription                         R1 092 100

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design                            R1 117 700

volvo-xc90-t8-twin-engine-09_880x500

Blind date with the new Opel Astra.

Blind dates aren’t always a bad thing: Driving the new Opel Astra

We’ve all been here before; “She’s great!”, “He’s wonderful”, “You’ll love her” are all the cliché phrases used when you’re being set up with the “perfect” person. Only this time for us, it wasn’t a person we were being set up with, but rather a car. The phrase used to get our attention was “European Car of the Year 2016”, a phrase that almost forced us to like the new Opel Astra. Well before we declared our undying love for the car based on a title, we needed to consider a few things. First of all, we’re not in Europe, we’re in South Africa, a country that has the a different motoring outlook to other parts of the world. We don’t have great public transport here, which means that for us, cars aren’t just about features and options. The way a car makes us feel and the way it makes us appeal to others is a big factor for our consumers. Hence why in the segment that the Astra operates in, Volkswagen has dominated for a very long time.

South Africa’s love affair with VW stems from the early days of the Citi Golf and it has grown stronger over the years, so much so that for many people, driving a Golf is an accomplishment, especially for a young buyer. So the new Astra is up against a car that is more than a car, but rather an item of aspiration. Okay, enough about Volkswagen, let’s talk about the reason why this article has being written, the new Opel Astra.

astra-16t-sport-43

 

Is it really that good?

The long and short of it is yes, the car is not only good, it’s great.  It does more than any other car in its segment from a technology point of view. For instance, where have you heard of a large hatchback that has lane keeping assist? The new Astra has it. Where have you seen a car in this segment that features Matrix headlights that can switch off specific sections of the lights, so as to not blind oncoming cars? The Astra has it. The car is even able to tell you your following distance in seconds between you and the car in front of you. It’s sheer brilliance. The rest of the stuff is pretty cool too but not completely new. Nowadays you can expect a touch screen infotainment system and Bluetooth in cars like these, fortunately the Intellilink system in the Astra has that too. What the new Astra does also have is the very cool Apple CarPlay system, which allows you to operate your cell phone apps via the infotainment system.

astra-14t-enjoy-21_880x500

 

What makes the new Astra good is that it’s new, completely new. As a result, the car is years ahead of its competitors in terms of technology and safety. This is an exciting car because it has birthed a new generation of smarter and more efficient hatchbacks. Speaking of efficiency, the new Astra uses a 1.0litre three-cylinder engine as its entry level model. This engine produces 77kW/170Nm but provides enough poke for city drivers who will spend most of their time stopping and starting again. Next up is a 1.4 turbocharged engine which produces 110kW/230Nm. We’ve sampled the same engine in the Adam S and Corsa Sport. In the Astra, it makes for a balanced power-train for a car of its size. The daddy for now is a new 1.6 turbocharged engine that makes 147kW/300Nm. This engine is great but we honestly think in the real world, the 1.4 is the one to go for as you get good poke at a good price, whereas the R407 000 price tag for the 1.6 turbo may be a bit rich for some.

Well, is it a keeper?

Driving the new Astra is what would determine if the hype is really true and we’re happy to report that the car really is good behind the wheel. A shaving of weight from the old car has helped  create a balanced car that can easily be driven eagerly by anyone whilst still maintaining a comfortable ride. A 400km trek from East London to Port Elizabeth was enjoyable and at times even exciting. Following a fleet of Astra’s for a long period of time was even a pleasing visual experience since the car has some fine lines on it.

astra-16t-sport-41

 

The question is do you take the new Astra to meet your parents? Well, as mentioned, if your folks wanted you to marry a smart, good looking person with a good family history, then the new Opel Astra would make for a good fit. Now it’s a matter of seeing how the competition will respond to this car, especially since consumers now expect more and more from smaller cars. All the best to the manufacturers, for us as consumers though, it’s a good time to be alive.

 

Model Price
1.0T Essentia R 254 000
1.0T Enjoy R 284 300
1.4T Enjoy MT R 328 000
1.4T Enjoy AT R 338 000
1.4T Sport MT R 354 000
1.4T Sport AT R 374 000
1.6T Sport MT R 387 000
1.6T Sport PLUS MT R 407 000

 

 

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.

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.

audi_q2_9

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.

1150774_a161028_large

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.

audiq2_3

 

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.

23_audi-a4_880x500

20_audi-a4_880x500

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.

31_audi-a4_880x500

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.

26_audi-a4_880x500

 

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

 

11_audi-a4_880x500

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.

p90209296_highres_mini-cooper-s-conver

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.

p90209232_highres_mini-cooper-s-conver

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.

p90206992_highres_mini-cooper-s-clubma

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)

p90206996_highres_mini-cooper-s-clubma

A Swift week: Suzuki family test.

What if you had to drive a Suzuki for the rest of your life?

 for fast food. But let’s for a moment use our imagination and picture a world where we only had one brand of cars to choose from. Imagine for some inexplicable reason, Japan ruled the world and the only cars they produced were Suzuki Swifts. We at TheMotorist had to imagine such a world for a week, when Suzuki decided to involve us in their “family test”. This entailed us driving a different model Swift every two days and the final one for the weekend.

Monday to Wednesday: Swift 1.2 GL Dzire.

The Swift Dzire is an interesting car. We won’t call the boot section ugly, we’ll rather say it’s functional. What you sacrifice in looks, you gain in practicality. This vehicle comes in handy in our “Suzuki Swift only” alternate universe because the start of the week is when most people decide to do some shopping, this where the extra boot space of the Dzire comes in handy.

suzuki_0011

Besides the added space, the Dzire shares the same interior as its hatchback siblings. Which means a nice and neat dashboard is included, as well as features such as Bluetooth radio, CD and USB input. Electric windows and remote central locking are features this model was equipped with too.

The small 1.2 litre engine in the Dzire is extremely frugal on fuel, which makes it an even more appealing package for those needing some extra space. Priced at R 145 900 for the entry level GA variant, many small cars will battle to give you all that for that price.

Wednesday to Friday: Swift 1.4 GLS Hatchback.

Now this is a good looking little car. This vehicle has the right combination of cute in it not to feel too feminine or too masculine. What you lose in boot space over the Dzire, you gain in visual appeal. Interestingly the 1.4 GLS, apart from having a more powerful engine, is very taught on the road which gives you a great feeling of nimbleness behind the wheel. It’s no super hatch but it makes for some good fun around corners because you can chuck it around and feel safe at the same time.

suzuki_0008

Again despite more enthusiastic driving, the 1.4 GLS was also very good on fuel, a feature which seems to be a recurring theme amongst the models. The comfort levels of the GLS are great and the LED lights on the exterior, as well as the larger wheels make this car a great package for an up and coming young person who wants something trendy to commute with everyday.

Friday to Sunday: Swift 1.6 Sport.  

Remember the 1.4 GLS we were discussing right now? Now take that car, give it some steroids and a caffeine addiction, then you get the Swift Sport. Suzuki South Africa planned this week well, because the Sport is a car that does well in the weekend atmosphere. During the week, you have work and errands so your time is limited, whereas on the weekend you have more time to be silly. The Sport is a car that brings out the silly in most people, it’s an involving car therefore it makes you work for your fun. When you’ve worked hard enough, you appreciate what the essence of the car is about.

suzuki_0016

The car is all about feeling and revving that 1.6 litre engine all the way to 7100 rpm is a good feeling. The size of the car also has much to do with the experience it provides. Since it’s small and low and light on its feet, it can do things bigger cars can’t. It’s like a mouse. Mice aren’t the fastest creatures out there, but because they’re small and nimble, they can fit in many little nooks and crannies. Similarly, the Swift Sport allows you to explore every inch of its rev happy engine. The suspension setup also allows you to do things you shouldn’t do, and just when you think you’ve gone too far, you come out thinking “how did I make that gap?” or “how did I make that corner?”. For R253 900, you get a great deal of fun for the price you pay.

So at the end of the week we can say that an alternate world of just Suzuki Swifts wouldn’t be a terrible thing. The question is, in the real world if we had to choose one car from the models we tested, which one would it be? As practical as the Dzire is, we’re too vain to turn a blind eye to that boot. The natural choice then would be to pick the Sport, but truthfully no one drives like a hooligan all the time and even if you did, Jacob Zuma’s laws and traffic wouldn’t allow it. So as a result, the most logical choice would be to opt for the 1.4 GLS, and at R 212 900, it’s also very well priced too.

suzuki_0006