Blogs: Smart Fortwo vs six-foot three

I’m picking up a Honda Civic and Smart Fortwo today. You might have seen the diminutive Smart cars – they’re small. Assistant Ed Ben is six-foot three so I kept it a secret from him that he’d have the pleasure of squeezing himself into the Smart for the rest of the week. He’s then heading back to Oz for a couple of weeks and he’s going to miss the FPV F6X, FPV GT, HSV Maloo, Honda Accord Mugen and Chrysler Grand Voyager. That’s over 1600hp of motoring joy. I would rub his nose in it, except that he’s bigger than me.

News: Volkswagen Scirocco available to order now in the U.K

volkswagen-scirroco-fq

Customers keen to be among the first to drive away a new Scirocco can officially add their names to the waiting list as the car becomes available to order at Volkswagen Retailers across the UK.  Prices for the new car, which goes on sale on 1 September, have also been announced and start at £20,940 (NZD$54,000) on the road for the launch model, the Scirocco GT 2.0-litre TSI with 200 PS.

The original Scirocco was first seen 34 years ago, and over two generations and 19 years a total of 77,460 Sciroccos were sold in the UK.  Now the new model blows in, with equally distinctive coupe styling, a practical hatchback boot, four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive — yet this is the most technically advanced production coupe that Volkswagen has produced.

All UK models benefit from Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) which operates via a set of four electrically adjustable dampers to alter the car’s suspension, steering and throttle response set-up, and allows the driver to choose the most appropriate setting for the journey.  Normal is the default; Sport adds firmer suspension and sharper responses for twisty roads or track driving; while Comfort offers a smooth and controlled ride best suited to motorway trips.

At launch, all Sciroccos will be powered by a 2.0-litre TSI 200 PS engine with either a six-speed manual or automatic DSG gearbox.  Versions with a DSG ’box will command a premium over their manual counterparts.  The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine — already popular in the Golf GTI — produces 280Nm of torque from 1,700 rpm and allows the Scirocco to achieve a 0 to 100kph time of 7.2 seconds before reaching a top speed of 235kph.  The combined economy figure for the vehicle is 7.6 l/100km, with CO2 emissions of 179 g/km.

Early in 2009 a further two engines will join the Scirocco line-up: a 1.4-litre TSI 160 PS petrol and a 2.0-litre TDI common rail diesel unit with 140 PS and a combined economy of around 5.4 l/100km.  Both will come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.4-litre TSI will also be offered with Volkswagen’s new seven-speed DSG ’box.

Two trim levels will be available — standard Scirocco and Scirocco GT.  The launch engine is only available in combination with GT trim, giving customers a high level of standard specification which includes ABS with ESP, six airbags, touchscreen CD autochanger, climate control, 18-inch ‘Interlagos’ alloy wheels, front foglights and a multifunction steering wheel among a host of other items.  Options are set to include a panoramic tilt sunroof, leather trim and touchscreen satellite navigation.

News: Mazda named ‘Best Carmaker’ in Which? Awards

mazda-best-carmaker-stirling-moss

Mazda has scooped the coveted honour of ‘Best Carmaker’ at the second annual Which? Awards, which recognise the companies and individuals that best serve the interests of consumers.  In the closely-fought battle for the prestigious Best Carmaker award, Mazda edged out the previous winner, Toyota, as well as other runners-up Audi, BMW, Honda, and Lexus.

Racing legend Sir Stirling Moss OBE presented the Best Carmaker award to Mazda’s delighted managing director Rob Lindley at the Which? Awards ceremony, held yesterday at the British Museum.  Hosted by broadcaster Dermot Murnaghan, the event was attended by leading figures from manufacturing, retail and service industries, along with representatives of the Government, trade bodies and regulators.

In a highly complimentary Awards summation, Which? praised Mazda for its: “¦blend of excellent value for money, reliability and innovation.  A major advantage is that nearly all Mazda offerings are interesting to drive.  There’s something for everyone in the Mazda range.

“The Mazda3 (medium cars) and Mazda MX-5 (sports cars) are comfortable Best Buys — the good‘looking Mazda3 stands out from humdrum medium cars. It still looks fresh and stylish, despite being older than many popular rivals.

“For many, the evergreen Mazda MX-5 is the cheapest way into an entertaining sporty runner.  Introduced in 1990, this motoring gem is the world’s bestselling sports car.  The latest version lives up to its billing, with engaging handling, powerful refined engines, and a folding hard-top roof option.

“It’s been a good year for new launches, too — the all-new Mazda2 supermini and Mazda6 family car have impressed us and are sure to become firm favourites with drivers. Each would be a strong contender on a shortlist.The Mazda2 and Mazda6 do well in our road tests and safety-wise, they represent a major step forward for the Japanese carmaker.The Mazda2 scored five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and we expect the Mazda6 to do the same.

Managing Director for Mazda UK Rob Lindley was thrilled to collect the Which? Best Carmaker Award:  “Winning this influential accolade is testimony to the achievements of the entire Mazda team — from designers and product developers to dealers and service personnel.

This year’s 12 categories reflect the breadth of Which? magazine’s research, ranging from domestic appliances and financial products, to cars and broadband providers.

News: Jaguar XJ diesel takes award for best towcar in class

jaguar-xj-diesel-fq

Jaguar has claimed the 2008 Towcar Award for the XJ 2.7 litre Diesel in the 1725-1899kg category.  The award was presented by What Car?, Practical Caravan, and The Camping and Caravanning Club.

The cars were put through their paces for their towing ability and a host of other qualities including driving performance when not towing, practicality, value for money and safety.

The judging panel comprising industry experts, motoring journalists and caravanning enthusiasts were particularly impressed with the way that the XJ performed.  The judges chose the XJ as the winner because: “Stability and ride comfort don’t always go together. Cars with rear suspension that’s firm almost to a fault in normal driving are often the most composed when towing. But the XJ combines unflappable stability with limousine comfort.  The suspension’s alchemy was worth its weight in gold through the lane-change test. The XJ changed direction quickly, gripping hard and holding the intended line. However much the caravan slid behind it, the Jag wouldn’t budge. Data from the ATC shows how much G-force was generated in the van, but the smooth curve of the graph speaks volumes as to how undramatic the Jaguar made this manoeuvre.”

Managing Director of Jaguar in the UK, Geoff Cousins said: “What this award does is demonstrate the breadth of capability of the XJ.  It is already renowned for its all-aluminium body construction, state-of-the-art technologies and outstanding craftsmanship and build quality.  I am delighted we have won this award; it really demonstrates the diverse appeal of the XJ.”

This is the latest in a number of awards for Jaguar’s flagship model.  Most recently, the XJ 2.7 litre Diesel was named Britain’s greenest luxury car in the Environmental Transport Association’s 2008 Car Buyers Guide.  Earlier in the year, the XJ Long Wheelbase was voted ‘Chauffeur Car of the Year’ by Chauffeur Magazine, while What Car?, Auto Trader and Auto Express all voted the XJ ‘Best Luxury Car’ in their various Used Car Awards towards the end of last year.

Since its launch in 2003, the XJ model line-up has been enhanced to include the XJ long wheelbase, the special edition XJR Portfolio, the XJ armoured vehicle and most recently the XJ 08 Model Year, featuring a revised exterior design and significantly upgraded interior.

News: Vauxhall introduces new technology for mid-price cars

vauxhall-insignia-fq

Vauxhall has introduced a dual-function camera that not only reads speed limit and no-overtaking signs and displays them on the instrument panel, but also alerts drivers when they unintentionally veer out of their lane. Known as Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning, the two systems improve driving safety, reduce stress and can even prevent costly speeding tickets.

“These new features follow Vauxhall’s philosophy of enhancing driving excitement by assisting drivers without reducing their level of control,” explains Hans Demant, Managing Director of GME Engineering. “That means the system gives drivers information, but it doesn’t intervene.”

Known as the Front Camera System, the wide-angled, high-resolution camera and processors were jointly developed by Vauxhall/Opel engineers and specialists from supplier Hella. The camera, located between the windscreen and the rear-view mirror, detects road signs and lane markings. It’s not much bigger than a mobile phone, yet can take 30 pictures per second. Two signal processors filter and read the photos.

Depending on light conditions, the Traffic Sign Recognition function begins to repeatedly read signs at 100 metres. It starts by focusing on circular patterns then identifies the numbers inside them via contour comparison. When a match is found in the car’s software, the sign is displayed in the instrument panel; it will even prioritise a no-overtaking sign over a speed limit warning sign.

When the Lane Departure Warning function is turned on, it uses a second signal processor and software to read traffic lanes and record a driver’s normal lane-changing behaviour, taking into account steering input and indicator usage. If any deviation is detected, an audible and visual warning is sent from the instrument panel, preventing hazardous situations, such as a driver falling asleep at the wheel.

The Front Camera System, featuring Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning will be available as an option on the new Insignia, with other Vauxhall models benefiting from the system in future.

Blogs: Knee-jerk reaction over ‘big’ cars

I’m sure in certain areas it’s highly fashionable to have a small car. It’s for ‘the environment’. But it doesn’t seem like it in Herne Bay/Ponsonby, where I drive through every day, dodging the mothers in their big M-Class Mercs and Range Rovers. The newspapers are awash, though, with people trading down their big cars for smaller, more economic machines, which is blatantly ridiculous. The well-to-do already know this, which is part of the reason they have cash.

A basic understanding of economics would say that if you have to sell out of your perfectly good large car and take a $5000 bath, then have to buy a possibly inferior small car just to save $20/week, that it’s going to be a long time and a lot of dissatisfied motoring later before you’ll have paid it back.

Everyone’s trying to sell big cars right now. Dealers won’t trade some of them in, or if they will, they’re offering next to nothing for them. People are predicting the death of the muscle car. GM is thinking of selling off Hummer!

Now, when the masses are stampeding in one direction, the smart money heads in the other. Hummer will most likely be sold to the financially astute Indians – the Amercans ceding control of another valued brand overseas. Hummer will grow once the oil speculators are neutralised and the price returns to sensible levels.

Others will buy one of Holden’s new W427 7-litre hyper muscle cars and sit on it for 20 years until it’s worth a couple of million.

Just like housing is going through the bursting of a bubble, oil’s bubble will burst. But, before then, people will adjust their expectation of what is an acceptable price of fuel. The psychological barrier of the $100 fill will be broken and will become the norm. People will start buying large cars again, just like they do in every other country. I will still have to dodge the large four-wheel drives dropping off kids in Herne Bay and Ponsonby

Mazda: Mazda6 Limited 2008 — Road Test

Mazda Mazda6 my08 fq

I knew I’d have the Mazda6 on my birthday for a couple of months prior. My choice of birthday car wouldn’t usually be a mid-sized, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder hatchback with a reputation as a rep-mobile. No, I want something with tyres like steamrollers, an engine that makes old ladies want to stay indoors and wag their finger at the youth of today, and acceleration like being flung from a trebuchet.

But, while I’ve got older and started to notice that my body is in a state of mild decay, Mazda’s second-generation ‘6 has got quite a bit better. The problem for its competitors is that the first-generation was very good; almost too easy to drive, with sure-footed handling, adequate power, stylish looks and the sense that you knew exactly what it was doing on the road. This new Mazda6 is brilliant¦with one caveat: the automatic gearbox doesn’t do it justice. But, hell, I’ve got the manual Limited hatchback, and my left arm is primed for the slick shifting six-speed ‘box.

The destination was Rotorua. A quick jaunt from Auckland across to the sulphurous and smelly geothermal paradise to soothe my aging bones in the hot springs, have some time away from the computer, and spend some quality time with my other half (who is adamant she comes second to the computer during the week).

Our hotel overlooked the Whakarewarewa thermal area and the famous Pohutu Geyser. Even in the drizzling windy conditions hordes of Japanese tourists clamoured to establish the best tripod positions in front of the bubbling mud pools. A steaming, squelching mud pool with its concentric-ringed vents and conical mud volcanoes perfectly represents the first of Mazda’s Japanese three design motifs it applied to the new Mazda6: yugen (ethereality that is reminiscent of the gracefulness of nature). The other two are rin (dignity of form that communicates calm determination and strength) and seichi (exquisiteness expressed through precise craftsmanship and quality).

Despite all the nature-inspired flowing lines the car manages to be both bolder and more aggressive with its flared wheel arches and angular swept-up shoulder line. Riding on the same 18-inch alloys that the CX-7 wears, it is slightly longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, and has a 50mm longer wheelbase for improved interior room, and driving stability.

Design improvements flow through to the interior where sporty dials complement the leather seats. There’s the real sense that everything is screwed together carefully. It’s also quieter. Mazda quotes a 3dB reduction, down to 35DbA, with less vibration as well.

Driving dynamics are improved over the previous version. Performance is 0.9 seconds faster to 100kph (8.0 seconds), fuel economy has improved to 8.6l/100km, there’s 125kW and 226Nm on tap (3kW and 19Nm more), and it’s the best part of $2,000 cheaper than the equivalent predecessor.

Dynamic stability control, six airbags, ABS, electronic brake assist and active head restraints join a significant reengineering of the Mazda6’s cockpit to improve safety and rigidity (which is improved by 45%).

Because most new cars nowadays are pretty good, it can often come down to the minor imperfections in a car — what are the things that will really annoy you. I’ll assume that the vast majority won’t care that the automatic version loses a bit of the edge — it’s still a good car — and the only thing I can find that’s annoying about the Mazda is that there are no reversing sensors, something I would expect any car in this price bracket to have.

We don’t get the Honda Accord Euro until the end of next week, so I can’t claim that total domination in the segment belongs to Mazda. However, it is better dynamically than the Mondeo — its principal rival produced by part-owner Ford.

You can’t go to Rotorua without doing some extreme sports, and despite the hot pools both of our bodies felt decidedly second-hand at the end of the weekend. We drove back to Auckland in the pouring rain, looking up at the bleak sky through the power sunroof, being thankful that leather seats are comfortable, and the driving position excellent.

Reflecting on my time with the Mazda6 I came to realise that perhaps it was the perfect car for a birthday trip. Passenger comfort and space is top class; it’s quiet and economical on long journeys; and the specification is good for the price, with dual climate control, chunky-sounding 6-disc 240W Bose stereo with auxiliary input, electric leather seats, and cruise control. Unlike Rotorua, there’s nothing really stinky about the Mazda6.

Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the complete Mazda6 range.

Price: from $46,695

What we like

  • Great styling
  • Good Bose stereo
  • Quiet and composed
  • Relatively frugal for a 2.5-litre engine
  • Manual gearbox is fantastic
  • Cheaper than its predecessor

What we don’t like

  • If you must buy the auto ‘box, you’ll find performance is dulled
  • No reversing sensors

Features & Specifications

SEDAN SPORT HATCH WAGON
2.0L GLX 2.5L GSX 2.5L LIMITED 2.5L GSX 2.5L LIMITED 2.0L GLX 2.5L GSX
KEY DIMENSIONS
Overall Length mm 4,755 4,755 4,785
Overall Width mm 1,795 1,795 1,795
Overall Height mm 1,440 1,440 1,490
Overhang — Front/Rear mm 980/1,050 980/1,050 980,1080
Wheelbase mm 2,725 2,725 2,725
Track — Front/Rear mm 1,570/1,570 1,550/1,550 1,570/1,570
Ground Clearance — laden mm 122 122 122
Cargo Volume — rear seats in use (VDA) L 519 510 519
POWERTRAIN
Transmission Availability 6MT/ 5PS. EAT 5SP. EAT 5SP. EAT 5SP. EAT 6MT/ 5SP. EAT 6MT/ 5SP. EAT 5SP. EAT
Engine Type MZR I4 DOHC 16-valve MZR I4 DOHC 16-valve MZR I4 DOHC 16-valve
Displacement cc 1,998 2,488 2,488 1,999 2,488
Fuel Tank Capacity L 64 64 64
Recommended Minimum Fuel Type 91RON 95RON 95RON 91RON 95RON
Fuel Economy — EC Combined (MT/SP.EAT) L/100km 7.7/8.2 -/8.7 -/8.8 -/8.8 7.8/8.5 -/8.9
Emission Standard — Target Euro 4 Euro 4 Euro 4
Emission Output — CO2 Value (MT/SP.EAT) g/km 182/194 206 206 208 208 185/201 211
Maximum Power kW/rpm 108/6,500 125/6,000 125/6,000 108/6,500 125/6,000
Maximum Torque Nm/rpm 184/4,000 226/4,000 226/4,000 184/4,000 226/4,000
Suspension Type – Front/Rear Double Wishbone/ Multi Link Double Wishbone/ Multi Link Double Wishbone/ Multi Link
Brake Type – Front/Rear Ventilated Disc/Solid Disc Ventilated Disc/Solid Disc Ventilated Disc/ Solid Disc
Brake Diameter — Front/Rear mm 299/280 299/280 299/280
Gear Ratios — MT/SP.EAT 1st 3.454/ 3.620 -/3.620 -/3.620 3.454/ 3.620 -/3.620
2nd 1.842/ 1.925 -/1.925 -/1.925 1.842/ 1.925 -/1.925
3rd 1.310/ 1.285 -/1.285 -/1.285 1.310/ 1.285 -/1.285
4th 0.970/ 0.933 -/0.933 -/0.933 0.970/ 0.933 -/0.933
5th 0.795/ 0.692 -/0.692 -/0.692 0.795/ 0.692 -/0.692
6th 0.717/- - - 0.717/- -
Reverse 3.198/ 3.405 -/3.405 -/3.405 3.198/ 3.405 -/3.405
Final 4.388/ 3.863 -/3.863 -/3.863 4.388/ 3.863 -/3.863

Features

SEDAN SPORT HATCH WAGON
2.0L GLX 2.5L GSX 2.5L LIMITED 2.5L GSX 2.5L LIMITED 2.0L GLX 2.5L GSX
Wheel Size 16x6J 17x7J 18×7.5J 17x7J 18×7.5J 16x6J 17x7J
Wheel Type STEEL ALLOY ALLOY ALLOY ALLOY STEEL ALLOY
Tyre Size 205/ 60R16 215/ 50R17 225/ 45R18 215/ 50R17 225/ 45R18 205/ 60R16 215/ 50R17
Full Size Spare Wheel Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Front Fog Lamps - Y Y Y Y - Y
Fixed Intermittent Wipers Y - - - - Y -
Variable Adjustable Wipers - Y Y Y Y - Y
Auto Rain Sensing Front Wipers - - Y - Y - -
Auto On/Off Headlamps - - Y - Y - -
Electronic Sunroof - - Y - Y - -
Dual Exhaust with Chrome Extensions Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Sports Appearance Package (Front and Rear Sports Bumpers, Side Skirts, Rear Spoiler) - - Y - Y - -
Body Coloured Exterior Mirrors Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Body Coloured Exterior Door Handles Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Rear Window Print Antenna Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Power Windows — Front/Rear Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Power Mirrors Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cruise Control Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Manual Air Conditioning Y - - - - Y -
Front Dual Zone Climate Control - Y Y Y Y - Y
Driver Seat Adjust — Slide/Lift/Recline Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Passenger Seat Adjust — Slide/Lift/Recline Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
8-way Powered Driver Seat Adjust - - Y - Y - -
Adjustable Headrests — All Seats Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
MP3-compatible CD Audio Y - - - - Y -
MP3-compatible 6CD Audio - Y Y Y Y - Y
Premium BOSE audio system - - Y - Y - -
Number of Speakers 4 6 8 6 8 4 6
AUX audio connector for MP3 players Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Remote Audio Control - Y Y Y Y - Y
Trip Computer with Speed Alert Warning - Y Y Y Y - Y
Keyless Entry with Retractable Key Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Immobiliser Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Leather Steering Wheel - Y Y Y Y - Y
Cloth Seat Trim Y Y - Y - Y Y
Leather Seat Trim - - Y - Y - -
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Wheel Adjust Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Sunvisor with Vanity Mirror Y - - - - Y -
Sunvisor with Illuminated Vanity Mirror - Y Y Y Y - Y
Lined, Lockable Glove Box Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Illuminated Entry Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
60:40 Rear Seat Split Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Karakuri Seat Release - - - Y Y Y Y
Tonneau Cover - - - Y Y Y Y
Cargo Net - - - - - Y Y
Roof Rails - - - - - Y Y
Roof Moulding for Rails/Carrier Y Y Y Y Y - -
Rear Roof Spoiler - - - - - Y Y
SAFETY
4-Wheel ABS with EBD and EBA Y Y Y
Dynamic Stability Control Limited Models Limited Models Limited Models
Front, Side & Curtain SRS Airbags Y Y Y
3-point Seatbelts — Front/Rear Y Y Y
Front Pretensioners and Load Limiters Y Y Y
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchors Y Y Y
Seatbelt Warning System — Front/Rear Y Y Y
High Mount Stop Lamp Y Y Y
Collapsible Brake Pedal Y Y Y
MAZDACARE
Mazda Genuine Scheduled Servicing (3 years/100,000km) Y Y Y
Mazda Genuine Factory Warranty (3 years, unlimited kilometres) Y Y Y
Mazda On Call Roadside Assistance (3 years, unlimited kilometres) Y Y Y

Words and photos Darren Cottingham


Mini: MINI Cooper Clubman 2008 Review

Mini Clubman Cooper fq 2

The new MINI Cooper Clubman sits outside the Car and SUV offices proudly showing off a stylized two-tone rump with double cargo doors. It’s a very different rear end to the regular MINI. In fact there hasn’t been a rear end since Jennifer Lopez’ that has caused so much talk around this office. However unlike J-Lo’s universally praised study in design excellence, opinion is still divided about the MINI Clubman’s bum.

I believe that you either get the ‘booty’ concept or you don’t. Personally when I first saw photos of the Clubman, I wasn’t taken with the styling, but seeing one in the flesh has made me reconsider to the point that now I think it looks alright. I can imagine the hotter Cooper S Clubman with a loud exhaust and big wheels making speedy deliveries through tight city streets. Awesome.

The interior is a strong point for all MINIs and this one is a nice place to be with a quality feel that seems to pervade all BMW stuff. The leather seats look sporty and are comfortable while the adjustable steering wheel provides a sporty, low driving position. Even the backseat is ok for 180cm+ people, which is partly why BMW decided to stretch this MINI.

The collection of circles that make up the interior is very cool while the ‘mood lighting’ control is interesting as you can change the colour of the lights on the interior door handles and next to the rear view mirror. The interior door handles hinge to the side and you have to pull them backward which is a bit awkward.

‘Funky’ is the adjective used by most who saw the Clubman, though some who saw the ‘Incredibly Mini’ tag on the number plate suggested a less flattering adjective to follow ‘Incredibly’.

We tried the cooking model Cooper Clubman with an 88kw engine and 6-speed automatic transmission.

The engine while feeling a bit lethargic, sounded rorty and really liked to rev and of course we let it. The engine note even sounds a little similar to the original Mini, with a hint of Ford Escort BDA rally car thrown in.

MINI quotes figures of 5.3 and 9.4 l/100km for highway and city driving respectively for the auto though we couldn’t verify this as there’s no trip computer.

The handling hasn’t been affected by the increased length in the Clubman (24cm) and it is still as chuck-able and secure as a regular MINI. It craves curves and rewards the driver with sublime composure on all but the most rutted roads where mid-corner bumps can produce a hint of understeer. The darty front end does give the feel of a big go-kart and grip through 205/45/17 tyres is impressive. Brakes are very good and pull the Clubman up well. Just make sure any loads are secure!

The Clubman definitely still has that sporting MINI DNA and is an absolute hoot to drive on twisty roads. It would be great to try the faster Cooper S Clubman with a manual gearbox.

Less inspiring is the 6-speed automatic transmission which around town with the auto in ‘Drive’ likes to go directly to 6th gear. This combined with the lack of fireworks under the bonnet means it needs to be revved to keep up with traffic. If you flick the gear level to the left to activate ‘sports mode’ things get much better. Paddles behind the steering wheel make for much more effective and satisfying progress although how they work can be a little confusing at first in that left and right do the same thing. Thumb the top of the paddle forward to change down, and pull back to go up. Once you get used to this, though, it is very easy to use — more intuitive in fact than having one paddle for up and one for down – and although the changes aren’t Ferrari-fast they do the job.

The MINI Clubman is different to the regular MINI as it is heavier and a little longer to add backseat space. The ‘Clubman door’ is an interesting concept that, like the Mazda RX-8, swings out after the front door is opened to help rear seat passengers enter and the driver to stash gear in the back. Why it is only on the drivers side I’m not sure, as I wouldn’t use it to let passengers out the drivers side for safety reasons. It seems that it would be better to have the door on both sides.

The double doors at the back are the main feature of the Clubman and are the main criticism of those concerned with the Clubman’s aesthetics. As a functional idea they are good but the space in the boot is ‘handy’ rather than huge. The doors also limit rearward visibility but this is something that you get used to.

It is a great handling car, fantastic fun to drive, easy to park and has a funky interior.
So it all boils down to whether the look of the Clubman appeals to you or not. Like I said at the beginning, you either get the ‘booty’ concept or you don’t.

Price: From $40,900

What we like

  • Rorty engine
  • Great handling
  • Quality interior
  • Sporty driving position

What we don’t like

  • Mood lighting was distracting
  • Standard automatic mode
  • Long list of options can make it expensive
  • Love it/hate it styling

MINI Cooper Clubman

From: Manual $40,900

Automatic $43,900

Specifications

Type (cylinders / valves) In line / 4

Effective Displacement (cm3) 1598

Power output kW (hp) 88 (120) at (rpm) 6000

Max. torque (Nm) @ rpm 160 / 4250

C02 emission -EU (auto) 163 (143)

Exhaust emissions classification (auto) EU4

Performance

Drag coefficient (Cd) 0,34

0-100 km/ h (sec), (auto) (9,8)10,9

Maximum speed in km/h, (auto) 201(195)

Fuel consumption

EU, in town Litres/100km  (Auto) 8,1(9,4)

EU, out of town Litres/100km (Auto) 4,8 (5,3)

Fuel consumption / Range (ltr /100km / km) 6,8 / 590

Technology & Information

3-way catalytic convertor fully controlled, heated lambda sensors

Cornering Brake Control

Power steering, electronic speed related

Manual 6-speed transmission

Dimensions – MINI in Millimetres

Length (mm) 3937

Width (mm) 1683

Height (mm) 1426

Luggage capacities (m3) 0,260 – 0,930 0

Fuel capacity (litres) 40

Safety & Vehicle Protection Features

Electronic vehicle immobilization (EWS IV)

3rd Headrest in rear

Runflat indicator with passive monitoring of all 4 wheels with status indicator light

Crash sensor, to activate hazard warning lights and interior lighting and to unlock doors

Follow me home function

Airbags for driver and front passenger, 6 airbags as standard; 2 front, 2 side and 2 curtain airbags

Electronic Braking Force Distribution control

Pyrotechnic belt buckle tensioners, for automatic belts front

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)

Sports suspension settings

Emergency spare wheel (3 1/2J x 15 tyres (deletion of MINI Mobility system)

Alarm system; for monitoring doors, engine-compartment lid and tailgate, including interior- movement sensor, tilt sensor and siren with emergency power supply

Warning triangle with first-aid kit

Park distance control rear (PDC)

Fog lights integrated into the front bumper

Front passenger airbag deactivation

MINI tlc ( 5 Year / 80,000 kilometre Scheduled Servicing)

Words Ben Dillon, photographs Darren Cottingham