Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bucket Seat: Mini Convertible & Clubman - First Impressions

The temperature was a steamy 24 degrees at 9am last Friday in Cape Town, very little cloud and bright sunshine forecasted for the rest of the day, perfect weather for driving around the fairest Cape in a convertible, preferably with a hot blonde next to me. Fortunately enough for me, I was in town to drive the all new Mini convertible and my driving partner for the day was the gorgeous blonde Katie Hart of Ari & Me Blog. Having ticked all the right boxes for my day, it was time to hit the road. The Mini convertible like the hatch is offered in two engine variants, the 1.5 litre TwinPower Turbo Cooper and the 2 litre TwinPower Turbo Cooper S, as most car launches go, it was a race to get to the Cooper S models but truth be told, I wasn't that bothered seeing that we would be driving around with the roof down, so cruising rather that speeding.

The convertible is everything like the hatch, only difference is the roof opens and closes, and with this the boot space is decreased...a lot. To be fair to it, it was a decent space that accomodated a suitcase and my back pack with room for a packet of chips or so. Driving the car, it felt every bit like the hatch, it was nippy, and even with the added weight to the roof, the engine never felt like it had to work over time when you smashed the pedal to the floor. One thing I've grown to love abou the Mini is it's low center of gravity and its sharp turning. It really gives you that go-kart feel when you're behind the wheel and driving with it on the R44 to Hermanus was simply a joy, with the roof down taking in the scenery and smells of the ocean really was a highlight of the launch. After encountering some road works we had to take a short cut to the lunch stop in Stellenbosch, this meant heading up back the N2 and down Sir Lowry's pass. With sport mode engaged, the rev's got louder and longer and the car became more loose. It left a lot of the other cars on the road in the dust. 

Overall first impressions on the convertible was good, during the press briefing at lunch, we learnt about the colours and styling that will be available in it, so that the prospective buyer can individualize their car to their taste. The launch colour which is a light blue/ turquoise colour is quite eye catching and goes well with the creme white interior. There is even the option of you have the Union Jack printed on the fabric roof. 

After a lovely lunch at Cavali Wine and Stud Farm it was time to swop cars, this time I did race to get the Cooper S variant of the Mini Clubman. Now many question the Clubman's place in the Mini line up but as I learnt during the day that the Clubman does have heritage in the Mini family long before the Germans decided to take over the company. The Clubman in essence is really a Mini 5 Door with a longer boot and fancy suicide style doors for the boot, so it does essentially make this a 6 door car. I like the look and feel about this car, gives it that more mature style to the car. Even the finishing and options available for the Clubman has this more grown up sense to it. 

The route back took us through the famous Viljoen's pass and Franschhoek Pass but unfortunately I didn't get to drive that part of the journey, due to time delays and my passengers flight time my part of the journey involved a speedy trip down the N1 to try and get her to the airport without missing her flight. It almost felt like a Top Gear challenge, normally on launches we are not meant to be using the in car navigation but it was time to break some rules and with the destination entered it was time to beat the clock during rush hour traffic mind you. Again, sport mode engaged and even with the bigger chassis this Cooper S was relentless, high revving and fast acceleration is what it was made for, and with it's sharp turning, bobbing through the clueless Cape Town traffic was a breeze and quite fun. We did get some angry remarks from some drivers but hey, if you're going to do 80kph on the fast lane in a 120kph zone, I am going to flash you to move over. 

Got to the airport at 17:02pm, enough time for my passenger to check in and wait for her flight. It's a pity I only drove the car for 30 odd minutes as I really enjoyed it. I will have to wait for the test unit to come to Durban for me to get a real feel for the car. What was quite noticeable was the 8-speed auto gear box that comes with the Cooper S model only, it has paddle shifts as well but it works so well with the engine, that it would have been a shame if it didn't have it.


Mini Clubman:
Cooper, 6-speed manual: R343,000
Cooper, 6-speed automatic with steptronic: R361,000
Cooper S, 6-speed manual: R415,000
Cooper S, 8-speed automatic: R434,500

Mini Covertible
Cooper, 6-speed manual: R368,000
Cooper, 6-speed automatic with steptronic: R384,900
Cooper S, 6-speed manual: R433,000
Cooper S, 8-speed automatic: R451,000

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