MINI: 2014 Cooper S hatch quick drive

September 16th, 2014 by Richard Edwards

At the same time as I had the keys to the latest Mini Cooper S in my pocket, I happened upon a documentary from Britain’s BBC as to why the German automotive industry was so much better than their own.

Among a number of obvious reasons – vehicle quality, labour relations, arrogant management – was that the Germans work heavily to develop, and then protect, their brands.

And that work is clearly evident in the history of the Mini. BMW have managed to take what was an iconic small vehicle decades ago, and turn it into a brand, which in the space of a decade has become so strong that they can stick it to a range of vehicles with little but come round headlights and cutesy styling nods to the past.

Continue reading “MINI: 2014 Cooper S hatch quick drive” »

MINI: 2014 Cooper Hatch review

August 19th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

The Mini is 55 years old, being first produced in 1959. 55 years is the same amount of time as the longest serving UK prisoner, serial killer John Straffen, had served when he died in 2007. However, this Mini initially slayed its competition, was killed off in 2000 and then was reborn into a not-quite-so-mini Mini in 2001 under BMW’s ownership where it has continued to be popular, although arguably less iconic. Continue reading “MINI: 2014 Cooper Hatch review” »

Mini Cooper S Paceman 2013 Review

November 22nd, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

With seven Mini model lines available there’s plenty of choice, whether you want classic, small and nimble, or something with more space, like this new Paceman.

mini-cooper-s-paceman-rear-quarterDespite the Mini’s oxymoronic proportions (it’s not exactly ‘mini’ and adds almost 180kg over a standard Mini Cooper S), it delivers a relatively peppy 7.5 seconds to 100kph, which is half a second slower. You get the same 135kW, 240Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. Fuel economy is OK for a petrol car with Mini quoting 6.1l/100km combined, 5.4l/100km extra-urban and 7.5l/100km urban. Those figures are for the 6-speed manual, which we tested; if you go for the automatic, it’s more thirsty.

The Paceman’s boot is where you get the main advantage over the standard Mini. It has 330 litres of space with the seats up (over twice as much as a Mini) and 1080 litres with the seats down, versus 680 in a Mini. The Paceman’s fuel tank is three litres less than a Mini at 47 litres.

mini-cooper-s-paceman-rear-seatsThe seats don’t fold fully flat in the rear. There are only two of them, too, and you won’t be transporting basketball players in comfort. You get to the rear seats via the front doors and sliding the front seats forward. The front seats don’t return to the place they were when you moved them forward, though, so you will end up making adjustments each time. Between the seats are two cup holders.

mini-cooper-s-paceman-front-interiorMy drive to Piha on Auckland’s west coast quickly taught me that you have plenty of overtaking power, and excellent cornering ability, but the Paceman has quite an active drive when the roads are bumpy; it demands to be controlled because of the firmer suspension and sharp steering. You’ll feel like you need two hands on the wheel if the road is narrow and undulating because it feels fidgety on its large 18-inch alloys with 225/45R18 run-flat tyres, and the steering is very light. If you take command, though, it delivers a fairly engaging drive with an almost sports car-like feel at times. This is helped by an excellent driving position, supportive bucket seats and the fact that the suspension has been lowered 10mm to create a lower centre of gravity. Continue reading “Mini Cooper S Paceman 2013 Review” »

Mini Cooper Baker Street 2012 Review

March 27th, 2013 by darren

Mini-Cooper-Baker-Street-fq

Whether it’s Sherlock Holmes or Gerry Rafferty, most of you will have heard of the real-life Baker Street, in London. Mini isn’t shy about releasing special themed editions of its cars and with this one you get an enormous amount of extra equipment and bling (around $10-12,000 worth) over a standard Mini Cooper, but for less than four grand more – a total price of $39,900.

Mini-Cooper-Baker-Street-rqThe Baker Street comes with satellite navigation, 16-inch black alloys, Baker Street trim and Bluetooth and USB functionality. You get the same Continue reading “Mini Cooper Baker Street 2012 Review” »

A Uniquely British Affair

July 31st, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Oh Danny Boyle, a knight, a knighthood’s calling! Well if you are to believe the good folk of the English town of Bury – where the Oscar winning director and architect of the Olympic opening ceremony hails from – it certainly won’t be long before one of their own is summoned to Buck house for a bit of ceremonial sword waving. Although from a quick poll of my co-workers, it seems that Mr. Boyle’s epic production didn’t strike a chord with everyone.

Kiwis, South Africans, Indians, Fijians and Samoans alike confessed they were left in a state of bewilderment by the transition from country bumpkins, through the industrial revolution, a manic party of modern music and an intense celebration of the National Health Service. Where was the sport? Where was the story of our growth from mother earth? There wasn’t even a big red bus for crying out loud.

All of which misses the point by a country mile, because what Boyle offered was perhaps a better insight into the mentality of the British than the world has ever seen.

The national public relations department has hardly been doing the old country proud of late, portraying a land of gypsy weddings, drunken yobbos and the bloody Chawners. God Save the Queen? God help her would surely be more appropriate; trapped on that isle of alcoholic, bludging, wasters. You would be forgiven for thinking the only culture that could be found in dear old Blighty was in the yoghurt.

Keep Calm and Carry OnBut that is to miss the point. For every tracksuit-clad teenage mother of eight or herd of scavenging pikeys there are hundreds – thousands possibly – who still place great esteem on the values that made the nation great. Jam and Jerusalem. Cricket on the village green. Keep Calm and Carry On. People who take a quiet pride in the fact that the world today runs on the engineering genius of Brunel, still dances to the tunes of Lennon and McCartney and entertains itself with sports first dreamed of in that green and pleasant land.

Boyle played to this magnificently. And despite the smattering of comic turns and self-deprecating humour, it was a celebration of Britain for the British. And for the rest of the world, an education.

But perhaps there are some who have already been educated. I suspect that unique combination of eccentricity, creativity and technical nous will be strangely familiar to anyone who has experienced the ‘joys’ of owning a British car. And I don’t mean an American car designed for the British market – Ford Capri owners take note – but something truly British, designed on the back of a fag packet and built in a factory run by Trade Unions or simply a glorified shed.

Be it something mainstream like the Mini or Morris Minor, a working tool like the Land Rover or an out-and-out work of lunacy such as any TVR or Ultima you care to mention, there is that wonderfully hedonistic mix of engineering resourcefulness, character and uncertainty as to whether a catastrophic electrical fault will render the whole thing useless at a very important moment. And they can all point to providing a platform of technology, performance, fun and inspiration from which the rest of the world has taken up the baton and run.

For a country that has to deal with its recent cultural contributions including dwarf-tossing rugby teams, Simon Cowell and a fat Lancastrian TV freak show, it should be wonderfully reassuring to be reminded that the strains of national influence can be seen in so much of what makes the world great today.

So while the rest of the world may have been left flummoxed by a very British Olympic opening ceremony, it should come as no surprise that the locals have taken it – and its creator – to their hearts. Oh Danny Boyle, oh Danny Boyle, they love you so.

Mini Roadster officially revealed

October 31st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mini is continuing to expand its model family. The latest addition to the range is the Mini Roadster, this convertible variant is the sixth model in the brand’s current line-up and the first open-top two-seater in its history.

The two-seater features a manually-opening soft-top roof and plenty of unique packaging to appeal to Mini fans. As you’d expect it offers the high-handling abilities expected of a Mini and broad scope for individualisation.

The three-box body structure has a stepped rear end and a sweeping roadster look thanks to heavily raked A-pillars and a waistline rising up slightly along the length of the body towards the flat rear end. The Roadster sits 20 millimetres lower than the standard Mini Convertible.

The Roadster pushing its handling credentials with a bespoke chassis set-up, low centre of gravity, torsionally rigid body and optimised aerodynamic properties. Electronic tech includes Electric Power Steering and DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) as standard, DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) with EDLC (Electronic Differential Lock Control) optional. There’s also roll-over bars in polished stainless steel and an active rear spoiler that extends automatically at 80 km/h. Continue reading “Mini Roadster officially revealed” »

Big Is Good. If It’s Small

October 29th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

As the advertising gurus working on behalf of Mitre 10 Mega are keen to remind us, big is good. And in many aspects of life, the grand certainly does tend to eclipse the diminutive. Not too many headlines are made about people celebrating small lottery wins, Hollywood blockbusters are rarely made about the lives of small-time celebrities and in the entire history of the internet the number of spam e-mails featuring promises of a reduced gentleman’s department totals precisely zero.

So you would imagine the boys and girls at Audi would have been delighted this week when the 10,000,000th example of the 80/A4 model rolled off the production line at their Ingolstadt plant. But seeing as the celebration largely consisted of making a grunt from the shop floor hold up a hastily assembled sign up in front of the vehicle which took them through the milestone – which, despite being the sporty S4 version, was essentially no different to any of the others – it seems not.

A sign of the times

I would like to think that thanks to their inherently sensible Teutonic nature, the four-ringed wonders had actually worked out that their ‘achievement’ was really nothing much to shout about; after all, despite some badge familiarity, they hadn’t made ten million of the same car.

Any claim that the current S4 is in some way linked to the original 80 which clunked and whirred its way out of the factory in 1966 is nothing short of ridiculous. The performance, safety and comfort are so many leagues apart, that the only real connection between the two is that they perform the same basic function. And that is like BAE Systems celebrating a billion Challenger Tanks because they’ve counted all the horses and elephants that served as heavy weaponry in wars before technology came along. Continue reading “Big Is Good. If It’s Small” »

Mini Cooper D 2011 Review

July 8th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Back in 1959 when the first batch of Minis rolled off the production line few assumptions followed the unique vehicle. Back then it would have been slightly fanciful to assume that over fifty years later this diminutive model would be still going strong. But to think that in 2011 there would be a diesel-powered Mini that needs less than four litres of fuel to cover 100km, well that would have seemed unbelievable. Mini’s latest Cooper D can do exactly that, but achieving an exceptionally low fuel economy figure isn’t always enough. Present day buyers want fuel frugality as well as more traditional desires like comfort, style and dynamic ability. Can the updated Mini Diesel deliver in full? Car and SUV took a spin in the 2011 Cooper D to see if the future has arrived.

Cosmetically the Mini hatch shape hasn’t been severely restyled since BMW first created the ‘new’ Mini back in 2001. There have been a number of modest tweaks and the 2011 facelift continues that tradition with some subtle changes inside and out. The front end is modernised with a new bumper arrangement that has a broad lower air intake and recessed fog lamps. Use of chrome trim on the air intake adds visual width and further chrome work on the grille and surrounding the headlights dresses it up nicely. At the back there’s new LED taillights and a replacement rear bumper. Continue reading “Mini Cooper D 2011 Review” »

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