The weekend of Ultra had arrived, myself and 3 mates decided that we would make a road trip out of it and drive up for the biggest music festival on the continent. Being the only media representative from KZN I figured we had to do it in style, so I rang up the guys at SMG Rocks Umhlanga to see if they could assist and they came through with flying colours!
On the day of departure I rocked down to their dealership which is situated in the eye catching corner of 21 Lighthouse Drive, Beacon Rock in Umhlanga, it's kind of hard to miss, especially when they have an actual Mini stuck to the wall! It was my second visit to the dealership, my first was rather different as I was invited to the Mini Roadster launch and we visited the construction site of what was to become this awesome, one of a kind showroom in South Africa. I say one of a kind because SMG Rocks is the first exclusive Mini dealership in the whole of South Africa, every other Mini showroom is attached to another car dealer, mainly their sister company BMW.
When you walk into the place, you immediately realize this isn't your normal car showroom, bright colours, funky lights and cool Mini memorabilia adorn the space with a variety of the Mini models on the showroom floor for display. The place spells one thing and that is FUN! Which fits the description of the car perfectly. At the front reception desk, once can find the original Mini, the car that started it all. It's quite amazing to see how it has evolved from that into what it is now, one can say it "grew up".
I was greeted by Clairice, the lady that made this all happen, she handed over the keys to my very own Mini for the weekend. Seeing that we were 4 in total, SMG Rocks sponsored us the new 5 door hatch Cooper S. Having already driven the Cooper at the official launch late last year, I was keen to get behind the wheel of the S and see what it had to offer. The car, although small does pack a mighty punch with its 2 litre, twin scroll engine pushing out 141kW and 280Nm of torque, enough to match some hot hatches. The cars design keeps to Mini's philosophy and looks great, even with the additional two doors, the car still looks proportional and is a looker of note.
After a quick cappuccino from the Vida E in the showroom... (yes, they have their very on Vida Cafe in store, how awesome???) It was time to hit the road. My biggest concern was the size of the boot, yes boys are known for packing light but times have changed and guys trends too, so gone of the days of one t-shirt lasting us the whole weekend. Suffice to say there was more than adequate space in the Mini 5 door's trunk, and with the added storage cabin below, it made things very handy when packing. Once loaded, and with a full tank of fuel, it was time to hit the open road to Johannesburg.
The first thing you realize when driving a Mini is how easy it is to drive, it's hard to put into words the sense of joy it brings to you while even performing the most mundane task like going to the shop to buy bread and milk. With its low center of gravity, short wheel base, small turning circle, ultra responsive steering, coupled with that beast of the engine under the hood, it really does feel you're driving a go-kart. Tackling the twisty high speed bends of Inchanga and Cato Ridge was loads of fun but once on the road to Pietermaritzberg we had to behave since those average speed camera's would be keeping an eye on us all the way to Johannesburg.
It wasn't a major issue though as I got to test out the cruise control feature, which is dead simple to use. The controls are located conveniently on the steering wheel, simply activate it, set you're speed, take your foot off the pedal and enjoy the ride. Someone in front of you slows down? No need to tap the break, just decrease the speed using the controls again, you can decrease or increase speeds intricately by a 1kph or click down harder for 10kph variants. This made the drive to Harrismith a breeze as it is hard on your foot to keep the vehicle speed at 80 while navigating your way through Van Reenen's Pass, especially when you have such a punchy engine under the hood.
Having driven many previous generation Mini's, because of the size and the amount you push the car, it did tend to be on the thirsty side, surprisingly at the half way point on the journey, the only thing that needed filling up was our belly's! The Cooper S range still showed that we could do 291km's with only 280km needed to go, one tank would suffice. The average fuel consumption was sitting on 6.7l per 100km which is damn impressive for a 2 liter engine and a car that's packing weight with a full boot and 4 adults.
On the road again and now deep in the Free State, where the only radio station one can pick up is OFM, it was time to make use of the bluetooth audio streaming function of the Mini. Simply sync your phones bluetooth with the car and not only make hands free calls from your phone but also enjoy your music being played on the 6 speaker sound system. Having compiled a special "Ultra 2015 playlist", it was the perfect way to get amped for the even the next day.
As fate would have it, we'd reach the City of Gold, right in peak time traffic, this made me very grateful to have an automatic transmission. Plus with the scorching temperature, the dual climate control aircon made things comfortable for all of us in the car. Getting around the streets of Jozi with the Mini was a blast and we also got a lot of heads turning and the attention of other Mini drivers seeing that the 5 door is still new to our roads. It certainly made an impression in the Media and Staff parking lot at Ultra, with some of the organisers wanting to take a closer look at the car whenever I went back to get stuff out of it during the event.
After partying the night away at Ultra for almost 12 hours, with very sore legs and lack of sleep it was time to head back to Durban. The trip again was made so much better with the Mini, the car just kept on surprising us. Many asked if it was comfortable for the four us, and we always got bemused looks when we told them, the car is small but its spacious! None of us were cramped or bothered and the fuel consumption got better on the drive down as most of it was downhill driving.
It was a sad goodbye when I had to return her to the dealership on the Monday morning but having spent the whole weekend with it and doing just over a 1000km's, it was an awesome experience for us all. The people down at SMG made the trip all that more special with their excellent service, it's no wonder they picked up top honors at this years Mini awards, with them winning top volume sales in South Africa for the Mini Countryman, Paceman, Cooper and Cooper S hatch. Kirsten Hickey, a sales agent at the dealership also received 3rd runner up for sales agent of the year and Ian Greig received runner up for manager of the year. Every Mini owner I know only speaks in high regard of them and it's no wonder they getting the credit they deserve. So next time you're in the market for a new car, pop by to SMG Rocks and give the one of the many Mini's a test drive, I'm sure you'll be in for a surprise.
Location: 21 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga Rocks, Beacon Rock Building
Facebook: SMG Rocks