Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bucket Seat: Mini Cooper Hatch

I sit here with mixed emotions trying to put into words what this past week has been like, while there is some drama to this story, this isn't a soppy love story and it is very much a review of a car I've driven, I swear! Then again, when driving a Mini, it is a very emotionally charged experirnce for the driver, being behind the wheel of one excites every aspect of ones sense and it just brings out pure 100% concentrated joy. Yes many might not take the car seriously because of its size and the gimmicks, or as I like to call them, "party tricks" that come along with it but when people talk about an X factor, Mini's definitely come with them.

Dubbed "The New Original", I was sent the 2014 Cooper Hatch to drive around with for a week. I was a bit disappointed to see I was not allocated its bigger brother, the Cooper S but with a 1.5l twin turbo enginer under the hood, this wasn't a slouch. From the get go it makes you fully aware of that as the high revving engine maximises the use of its lower gears, with 2nd gear mnaginging up to 120kph just before read lining. try doing that with your hot hatch!  The tiny chasis along with the short wheel makes the entire driving experience almost go kart like, the deep tone in the exhaust has been retained and make for good driving music if you don't fancy having the radio on. 

The thing I've come to realise with Mini, is that every one of their models is unique, there's always something in there that's different to what one is used to in a car. For example, the Start/ Stop buttong is now a flick switch located in the center consol below the climate control A/C and it glows red when the clutch is pushed in, remnescent of a fighter jet switch to ignite its engine. 

I made mention in my tweets that although the interior is pretty similar to the previous models, the subtle changes they made make a big difference. The speedometer is now located behind the steering wheel and has a neat fuel gauge to the side of it. where one normally found the big round retro style speedometer is now an 8.8" info screen. Wrapped around the info screen is an interactive LED visual aid display where by you can either select your favourite colour or use it interactively with the cars navigation, aircon or even as a rev counter!

Mini Connect comes with an updated version of of the software and they'velistened to me and given it a decent controller! It is very, if not exactly like the one you would find in a BMW which makes things very easy to use! The user interface is fairly the same with some added extras like the "Excitement Analyser" which assists the driver in taking bends at the right speed and efficient gear changing. One thing annoyed me was the center arm rest which you want down while driving but came in the way of the controller. 

I had the opportunity to take the car on a long distance trip through the heart of KZN, having quite a stiff suspension very low ground clearnace I was skeptical about the ride quality. Also travelling in the midst of winter to some of the coldest parts of the country without the luxury of heated seats was also a daunting aspect but everything that concerned me was for no reason. The cabin, even with the frameless coupe style doors retain that airlock which keeps it warm even with the temperature reading at 0 degrees on the outside. The ride it self was probably just the same as any other car but probably better because of the amount of fun you have while driving it. Going over speed bumps was tricky but surpsringly on the short stretch of dirty road I had to go through, the car was stable as a 4x4, now I know how they cruised to a Dakar victory earlier this year!

The 1.5l twin turbo engine doesnt spit out astonishing figures, 136bhp and 100kw doesnt flutter ones eyelids but combine that with the overall package with the short wheel base, sharp turning circle and grip for days, it makes the Mini one hell of a beast to drive with on the road. Consumption isn't too bad either, with me managing an average of 7.7ltr per 100km during my time with the car.

If you had to glance at the new Cooper, you probably wouldn't realise its different to its predescessor. Again, subtle but big differences in the design, the car itself is a bit bigger and wider, the tail lights have grown and the front headlight have gone back to a single buld configuration. The bulkiness and chrome detailing make the car stand out for it size and with the dramatic paint work and stripes it ensures that it is a head turner. 

The car came with the sliding panoramic glass sun roof which in my opinion is a must with the car and I for one am not a fan of it. Besides the extra light coming into the cabin, it makes it seem that the top half the car floats. Other extras include a various set of rims to chose from and the of course the multiple colour combinations for your paint. The car also came with the 6 disc DVD shuttle in the cubby which for me is a waste of time and space since the bluetooth audio streaming is the preffered method for everyone to listen to music in their cars now.

Whilst the car is small and the rear passenger seats has barely enough space for midgets, the boot, well you can't really comment on the space because it would take up too much room. No really, it's blody tiny, your gym bag and laptop case will fill it! The extra storage compartment below is nice for storing things that you don't want flying about like the first aid and tyre repair kit that come with the vehicle. 

At the end of the day, you going to have to ask yourself the question before you decide on purchasing a mini, "are you a Mini driver?". Take away the egotistical, questioning ones self about their manhood and really think if this car is what you need. Its pricey but for me, a single guy that travels quite a bit alone whether it be long distances or a short trip to work, it really is an ideal car. It has everything you need in it and it has that solid build quality that many in its size do note have. After doing 960km in it, I grew quite attached to the car and as I said at the beginning, it became quite emotional, mainly because on the last day of having it, the car was a victim of crime with the passenger side window being smashed luckily nothing was taken but it ruined the image of this car that you can just sit and stare at.

  • 1.5 litre, 3 cylinder twin turbo charged engine
  • 6 speed manual gear box
  • 100kW
  • 136bhp 
  • 220Nm torque
  • Consumption: 4.6ltr/ 100km (claimed)
  • Top Speed: 210kph
  • 0-100kph: 7.9 seconds 
  • Price: R296 000 (excluding extras)

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