Small, sporty, fun and stole the hearts of millions if not billions worldwide is what I like to call the Mini phenomenon. Since its reincarnation the Mini has been growing not only in size but in number of models as well. The latest version of the famous Cooper has all the ingredients that made Mini famous, with a touch of BMW magic.
The new Cooper has grown up – that’s the easiest way for me to describe what has changed in the new car. Not only has the exterior size increased, but so too have the headlights and taillights. This gives the car a new, grown-up look. The larger grill and redesigned front air intake keeps up with the Mini look. The optional Xenon lights have circular LED lights, adding a touch of sophistication.
Inside the space has also grown, making it a lot more practical than its predecessors. The cabin feels airy and spacious. The rear leg room has also improved making it possible for adults to sit in the back seats for about an hour or two before they need to take a stretch. The biggest change on the inside is the movement of the ever famous gigantic speedometer from the centre of the dashboard to a small dial just behind the steering wheel. The centre dial is still there, but it now houses the infotainment screen. Now a normal vehicle would stop there, but in keeping with Mini’s fun element there is a LED light that surrounds the centre display. The colour of this light can be changed along with the lights in the door panels. This was not enough for the Mini designers, they went even further to add a unique feature to the Mini. The centre surround light doubles as a rev counter, as you accelerate, a white light moves along the dial in line with the rev range that you are at. It also shows the volume control and temperature chosen. This definitely adds a quirky fun element to the car. The final individual element of this car is the stop-start button to start the vehicle: this is situated in the centre console just below the infotainment system. Once you enter the car and the key is located, a light surrounding this button flashes like a heartbeat. Just depress the clutch and press the button and the car comes to life.
If all this change was not enough, the engines too have changed, and now all the Coopers have turbo-charged motors. This is in keeping with what BMW have done with their line-up. This new power plant is a 1,5-litre twin turbo. This unit produces ample torque from almost idle all the way through to the red line and this is in the base Cooper model. On the road the car drives effortlessly and is a lot of fun to drive. The one big drawback for me is the auto stop-start coupled with the manual gearbox: this really does not work. There were times on the test that the car stalled thanks to a traffic light turning to green as the car just came to a stop. So as you try to accelerate, the stop-start decides that the car has to switch off. Thankfully there is a button that can be used to deactivate this feature. Once this was done the car drove without skipping a beat.
Overall the new Mini is definitely a step forward in the comfort and technology department, but I think that all this refinements have lost a bit of the original Mini charm, as now you have a vehicle that is almost practical including a larger boot and that drives very well except for the rather firm seats. The one thing that has not changed in this new incarnation of Mini is the go-kart drive that makes Mini so loved.
1,5 l / Three-cylinder
7,9 s (claimed)
Average 4,6 l /100 km
From R296 000
The “00” branding in the Peugeot stable has become synonymous with comfortable and practical vehicles and the all-new 2008 is no exception.
In the old days this would have been a mix between a station wagon and a hatchback. Thanks to some ingenuity it is now uniquely different. This ingenuity includes a raised ride height and plastic protection for the bottom section of the vehicle. There are also neat lines and the raised rear section of the roofline which is camouflaged by the roof racks. All this together make this more of an urban SUV.
This same concept is carried through to the interior. The seats are sporty looking in semi leather, and the material used has a silver mesh that reflects the light. This gives the impression of silver seats inserts. The dashboard layout is unique in that there appears to be three sections to it. The first is the top rear section that is flat and finished in a matt plastic. Then there is the middle section that is covered in a carbon fibre-look material, and finally the front section which houses the infotainment screen and has a high-gloss finish. The driver’s cluster is also set back with the carbon fibre section flowing between the cluster and the steering wheel. This gives a sense of airiness and space.
The chucky steering wheel and gear shift give a sense of solidity to the drive of the vehicle. The gearshift is also easy to use, except for the confusion of it being a six speed and trying to go from fifth gear into reverse. Thankfully the syncro does not allow for it, but it does leave the car in neutral until you select the correct gear.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive. The rear seats are rather upright and the rear head rests need to be lifted for adults to sit comfortably. There is ample leg and head room for almost any sized passenger. The roof has an interesting design inside that looks almost like flow lines during the day, and at night certain sections illuminate giving the effect of claw marks on the roof. The driver’s condole has blue lighting surrounds that add to the sporty feel inside.
The luggage compartment is squared off and has a flat floor making it very useful to use and load. The rear seats also fold making a full-length flat-load area.
The 1,6-litre engine had sufficient pep for the size of the car. It is not meant to burn the tarmac but rather transport you in comfort. There is a knob between the rather unique hand brake and the gear shift. This allows you to choose between, road, sand, mud, snow and no traction control. This adds to the overall SUV feel of the vehicle.
Overall I cannot fault the car. However, the test vehicle came with a green kit. This added stripes on the bottom section of the vehicle sides which was finished off with a yellow/green neon stripe. Then there were rather bold yellow/green neon mirror caps and stripes on the roof racks. The same theme followed into the interior. The rearview mirror, the doors’ pull handles and a section around the gearshift were all covered in the same yellow/green neon colour. This is not something that I fancied, but some people loved it.
If there is a big positive on this car, it is the standard features, including dual USB ports in the front of the vehicle, Bluetooth connectivity, and touchscreen navigation. This is definitely raising the bar for small to middle-class vehicles.
This is Peugeot’s attempt at making a funky mom’s taxi with an elevated ride height, and it has achieved just that. ❐
1,6 l /
Average 5,9 l /100 km
Author: Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ