Tag Archive | "MINI"

When Cars Were Simple

At the last count there are 8,176 original Minis rolling around on the ruined roads of Britain, whereas its unloved replacement, the Mini Metro – sold by the last vestiges of the Austin Rover disaster – has fared less well with just 3,262 left despite being produced later on.

The Mini continues to cast its spell fifty years on and the latest versions, great though they are, simply can’t match the simplicity and sheer fun of the original. Open the bonnet of the latest model and you will be none the wiser. Open the bonnet of an original Mini and you’ll find it is completely basic. Anyone can fix it.1 When Cars Were Simple

As with everything in life, we have to move forward but not necessarily when that which follows isn’t as good as that which has passed. This is why the ancient wrinkly rock bands of the Sixties and Seventies can still pull huge audiences today. The problem with the Metro was that it wasn’t introduced until 1980 and it arrived too late with too little. Also, it is generally agreed that the build quality was terrible.

This should have been obvious to the crumbling Austin Rover empire. Had they listened they would have heard – way back in 1971 – that a vessel bearing something called a Datsun was approaching our shores. Presumably they though it was one of those exotic new fruits and thought no more about it. They were wrong on so many levels.

Records show that there are thirty four different Austin Mini models remaining on our roads. Some models are the last of their kind; someone is driving around Britain in the last licensed Austin Mini ‘850 Van’ and there are just 3 Mini ‘SPL’ versions left.

Only 3,261 of the badly-built (thanks to the ruinous actions of Red Robbo and the total incompetence and lack of vision of the management) and unloved Austin and Rover Metros are left on the roads with an amazingly high 77 model versions. Some are facing total extinction; there is just one Austin Metro ‘HL’ left and two licensed Rover Metro ‘MG Turbo’ versions remaining, it seems.

BMW has been hugely successful worldwide with the modern massive Mini and there are nearly half a million registered for British roads. One stand-out fact is that there are 206 different modern Mini models registered thanks to the extremes of customisation now available. Some of these personalised cars are going to be hard to sell on the used car market. When the original Mini came out there wasn’t this problem. The choice was, in the beginning, a Mini, a Cooper and a Cooper S – that was it. Simple, effective and a hoot to drive, it remains today the iconic British car and, like the Rolling Stones and others, continues to appeal by doing exactly as it always has done.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

What’s In A Name? The John Cooper Works Mini

Recently Motor Blogger had the chance to drive a fine selection of motors and they all pretty much had one thing in common – quality. Sometimes though, a car will come along which sparks the inner boy. In this case it was the car in the picture – the Mini John Cooper Works Paceman.

As a fan of the Mini from way back my opinion may be rose-tinted,  but I enjoyed my jaunt in this car hugely, grinning like an automotive Cheshire cat. Yes, there are faster and cheaper cars in this sector and in the Mini JCW range but on this occasion we’ll just let the heart rule the head.

The JCW Paceman is a big three door four-seater. We can’t really describe it as being in the hot hatch department because it kind of transcends that common tag. It is absolutely loaded to the roof with standard kit including all the infotainment and safety gear you’d expect.

The version pictured has many choice options fitted as well, including some glorious 19” ‘Cross Spoke Crusher’ alloys but at an additional £1130 you may prefer the standard eighteen inch hoops. In fact, it’s the price that is the only issue for me. The standard JCW Paceman costs nearly £30k OTR. With the twenty-two options on the featured car the cost is an eye-watering £37,580 but that’s still only equivalent to an Evoque.

Power comes from a 215bhp 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbocharger petrol engine. It’s not slow. It can accelerate to 62mph in 6.9 seconds and has a top speed of 140mph. Ride height on this version is 10mm lower than the standard Paceman, making it more fun when negotiating the sort of roads upon which  the Mini excels. The conditions were damp yet we found that the JCW has huge levels of traction thanks to the standard ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. This works brilliantly well and grip was never an issue. ‘Corners on rails’ is how it is usually described.

Mini reckon that this motor will achieve 38.2mpg on the combined figure. Not sure about that but thirty plus should be on the cards though.  Emissions aren’t overly bad at 172g/km; in fact for a performance car I think they’ve done pretty well on this green issue.

Now look, inside every man is a boy burning with testosterone. So just try and stop your inner boy reaching for the sport button once it has been established that by flicking it the engine is tweaked for responsiveness and crucially the soundtrack burbles and crackles, especially on lifting off from the accelerator. The Cheshire Cat is back.

If you select the optional automatic gearbox and you press the magical Sport Button not only will you get the sublime noise but it also quickens up the shift times. The optional six-speed automatic gearbox comes with a Steptronic function and steering wheel shift paddles are available. Thanks to some quality insulation tyre and wind noises are well suppressed allowing the driver to savour the vocal engine. The ride is firm but the seats are comfortable and well bolstered.

Leaving aside the fun aspects of this car, it is also a practical choice. Three passengers can be accommodated although the rear accommodations are a bit tight for full-sized occupants – in which case the JCW Countryman may be the better alternative. The boot can handle 330 litres but with the seats folded this increases to a capacious 1080 litres.

You either like the Mini or you don’t. This Paceman is costly but it’s huge fun and you won’t see that many about. Pretty soon this model will be superseded by the forthcoming 2014 Mini but, if we’re honest, we can’t see how the existing JCW Paceman can be bettered.

Posted in Car ReviewsComments (0)

The Joy Of Special Edition Cars

We all know and love the brilliantly flawed FIAT Cinquecento, badged in the UK as the 500. It’s as Italian as Silvio Berlusconi and probably more reliable. The hot versions are emblazoned with the legend that is Abarth. Well, a while back you could have treated yourself to the Abarth 695 Maserati Edition. If you fancy standing out from the crowd it will cost you a measly £32,000. Apparently the price includes a set of ‘stunning’ Tramontano leather luggage. Have you ever tried to get luggage into a 500?

This follows on from the madness of four years ago when the company announced an equally barking Ferrari Edition and FIAT are not the only company beset with occasional bouts of insanity. You must be aware of the Aston Martin Cygnet, which is simply a tarted up and re-badged Toyota IQ that becomes, in the words of the company, a ‘bespoke luxury commuter car’. Per-lease. It’s actually a cynical ploy to get around EU emission regulations for bringing down manufacturer ‘fleet average’ mpg. Someone’s been buying it. Two years ago MINI got in on the act by announcing the ‘Inspired by Goodwood’ edition for a breathtaking £41,000! Read that number again. Apparently this model was to be made of ‘specially selected materials and precise craftsmanship to guarantee the highest degree of comfort’. At that price I should jolly well think so.

The history of the motor industry is littered with cars such as these; pointless promotions for people with more money than sense. For the price of some of these cars the canny buyer could afford a good new or used car from a prestige maker. For £41k you’re almost into a nearly new Porsche Boxster or M Series BMW. Top of the range models across the board are available at these prices. Surely the idea of small ‘city’ cars is to provide a reasonable urban drive at low cost?

But I’m being unkind. If someone is so mentally unhinged as to think these cars are a good idea, who am I to argue, because there have been some truly terrible examples of special editions down the years. To demonstrate this I give you the ultimate pimp-mobile – the 1979 Cadillac Seville by Gucci! As you can see from the image this fine car also comes with a set of matching luggage and sports the famous ‘Double G’ logo. Groovy.

Yet the Caddy must pale into insignificance compared to the magnificent – and I’m not making it up – 1982 Frank Sinatra Edition Chrysler Imperial. In the hope that some of Frankie’s fame would rub off on the company, they issued this vehicle with a special silver-blue paint job and a leather briefcase full of tapes of recordings by Old Blue Eyes himself.

It didn’t work.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

It Really Is A Mini Adventure! (But You Can’t Have One!)

Here at Motor Blogger we have remarked before on the ever increasing list of Mini variants available to buyers. Barely a month goes by, or so it seems, when another niche version is announced and why not? Well, over at Mini they are clearly not satisfied by their efforts so far and like buses, three more have come along all at once. Sadly they are only concept vehicles and there are no plans to offer them for sale which seems to us to be a right royal crying shame.

Parent company BMW have clearly noticed the popularity of camping, be it for holidays or for festivals, but not for them the flapping canvas tent of old – they’ve gone for the upmarket weekender market with a Clubvan Camper for the lone surfer (or two very friendly surfers), a Cowley Caravan and a Countryman with a tent on top. Genius. Sometimes you just can’t find enough superlatives!

The cars have been developed with the eco-mantra, “maximum touring pleasure with minimal footprint” at the heart of the idea. Nothing Mini has been lost in the conversions so the vehicles still have that unmistakeably Mini character.

The Mini Clubvan is designed to sleep one and has an extendable kitchenette with a stove and ‘fridge. The roof has a glass panel that can be opened for ventilation or to just use to gaze at the night-time firmament. The car has a rack for surfboards, canoes and the like. Imagine being able to say ‘how about coming back to my place’ no matter where you are on the planet!

Mini2 It Really Is A Mini Adventure! (But You Can’t Have One!)The Cowley is a Mini caravan and it is a little piece of design magic. It sleeps two and the rear hatch opens to reveal an alfresco kitchen with twin-ring stove, ‘fridge and a sink. It supposed to be an overnighter but the more hardy individuals to whom personal hygiene is slightly less important than having fun could probably make a week of it. It comes with a solar module to charge the on-board battery and there’s a connection to power the ‘fridge.

The magnificent trio is completed by an ALL4 Countryman Camp upon which you carry your home from home. We are all familiar with collapsible tow tents that are half caravan, well this takes the idea to its Mini conclusion. Picture this scene. It is late and you’ve decided to stop for the night with nowhere to stay except a B&B above a local shop run by an odd couple called Edward and Tubbs. The solution – climb the ladder, raise the tent and settle in for the night. It goes without saying that all the cars come with the usual accessories you’d expect to find, either as standard or as options.

The fact that, as things stand, these concepts are not going to be built is an absolute tragedy. Motor Blogger believes that everyone who has a need for one or other of these (and we number millions) should march down to the local dealer and demand your right to be happy campers.

Mini3 It Really Is A Mini Adventure! (But You Can’t Have One!)

Posted in Auto News, Car ReviewsComments (3)

Why choose a MINI Convertible for your next car

The MINI convertible is one of those cars that drivers can desire with both their heads, and their hearts. Sure, it’s not quite as practical as some four-door cars of the same size, and the MINI’s interior is beaten on space by some. But, it is reasonably well sized and very well laid out, and about as safe and reliable as any in its segment.

The MINI convertible has proven to be a popular choice with contract lease customers, especially now that there are a full range of frugal petrol and diesel engines on offer throughout the range, to help keep taxation costs a little bit lower. Drivers that want to enjoy a little more fun in their driving life and want to feel the blast of the wind through their hair can go for the MINI convertible and have all that fun, without sacrificing the latest in technology, safety and comfort. That’s why the MINI convertible is popular year after year.

Available as a whole host of different model variants, the MINI convertible range really does offer something for everyone who’s a fan of the funky new MINI shape. And judging by the sales figures, that’s almost everybody!

The summer is almost thankfully upon us, and very soon we’ll all be looking with a little touch of jealousy at those who are enjoying the convertible side of motoring life, with the roof down and their favourite tunes up. And if you too are thinking of a convertible car as your next car, then the cheeky MINI convertible is surely worthy of your consideration.

The MINI convertible is a classy-looking drop-top that looks as good with its roof up as it does with its roof down. While convertible cars may not be as practical as their hard-top cousins, on a sunny British summer day, there won’t be many who’ll care for practicalities when driving their drop-top MINI. When the winter comes around again, the MINI convertible’s high quality fabric roof will keep the occupants just as cosy and comfortable as the hatchback car would.

Just in case your new MINI convertible isn’t funky enough, there is a huge range of customisation options available at the time of ordering your brand new car. Everything from new and bigger wheels, special paint colours and comfy new carpet trims, can be ordered to spice up your MINI exactly the way you want it. All of this means that your MINI convertible won’t be the same as the one next door. Hopefully!

Other choices to make for your new MINI convertible will be the engine under its curvy bonnet. From the small and frugal to the big and fast; there is a comprehensive range of the very latest in engine technology to choose from. Petrol or diesel, turbocharged or naturally aspirated; there’s a motor for every budget and every driving style with the latest range of MINI convertible cars. At the very top of the MINI convertible range sits the John Cooper Works, which is inspired by the John Cooper Works team that used to pep up the original range of Minis, back in the 1960s. These days none of the reliability is sacrificed to make the hotter MINIs go much faster, so if you want speed and reliability, you’re in the right place.

Posted in Auto BlogComments (0)

New Mini Paceman Has It All

We should all be used to Mini variants by now. The original Mini was customised by enthusiasts but with the current model there’s no need because, like a variety show, there is something for everyone. This is a good thing. Mini have clearly understood that motorists have taken the Mini to their hearts and all needs are being catered for.

Whatever reason you choose to buy a car – frugal, family sized, hardcore – the company have a version for you but still they keep on coming. This time it is the Paceman and it is a treat for the eyes.

It’s a strict four-seater based on the larger Countryman platform and is the seventh unique member of the family. Essentially it is a three door coupé version of the model on which it’s based. It has a new exterior with a sporty design and sits hunkered down on lowered suspension. There’ll be five versions including the always desirable Cooper S.

As you can see from the image the Paceman is extremely good looking. The design is modern and expressive without being OTT. We like very much the interior, especially the seats. At the front they look comfortable with good lateral support but the real innovation is in the back. There’s no concession to squeezing in an extra body; instead, two individual chairs provide a lounge-like environment, separated by the Mini Centre Rail storage system onto which several (expensive) options can be clipped.

You either like the Mini dashboard and centre consul or you don’t. If you do then this one is better than ever. If you don’t, well, you probably won’t be buying this car anyway. Although only a two (large) door, practicality hasn’t been sacrificed for the sake of form. The rear seats fold down to make the smallish boot capacity of 330 litres expand out to a cavernous 1080 litres. Access to this space is via the large and high-opening tailgate.

Some say that the handling of the big Mini has been compromised by the bulk. That’s not an unfair criticism because this Countryman version isn’t as agile on the road as the standard Mini; this won’t bother most buyers though – it’s still good. There’s an all-wheel-drive option which is fine for stability on snowy roads or grassy terrain but is a long way from being suitable for any mud-plugging. A useful safety feature though.

Power comes from a choice of two petrol and two diesel options linked to six-speed gearboxes. High milers will like the 2.0L diesel with over 60mpg but for the most part the choice of petrol engines and bhp (184 in the ‘S’) will be the motors of choice.

New car buyers are seeking bargains wherever they can but for some reason seem happy to pay the asking price for the Mini. Not the cheapest car on the market the Mini seems to transcend price and the same is sure to be true of the Paceman.

Posted in Auto News, Car ReviewsComments (0)

New Year New World New Cars

One of the best things about seeing ourselves into any new year is that we know Spring is just around the corner and we can look forward to gradually improving weather – or so we hope. Another good thing is the arrival of a new crop of car shows to delight car enthusiasts everywhere; and it all starts in Motor City – Detroit.

It’s inevitable that any American show is going to favour home grown products – like the awesome new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. This may well be the star of the show, resurrecting as it does the Stingray name from 1963, but it is less likely to interest the average UK motorist for whom such cars are just a primordial dream.

Much more interesting, yet probably never available to the UK market, is the Volkswagen CrossBlue concept. This is an SUV for the North American customers and is even bigger than the same company’s Toureg, although it does indicate the ‘face’ of VW SUV’s in the future. It’s a six-seater and would be instant must have for Tony Soprano – if he were still around.

Also at The Detroit Motor Show was a new Mercedes that will make fans of the brand very happy indeed. This car is seriously good looking as you can see from the image, above. It has all the style of the CLS but packed into a vehicle not much bigger than an A-Class. The CLA is part of Mercedes new small car family and is the first compact four-door coupé of its kind; although not for long as BMW will soon launch a 4-Series Coupé , as will Audi with an A3 saloon. More on these two cars shortly.

In keeping with the ‘let’s make them smaller’ trend Honda have shown their new SUV concept to be based on the forthcoming Jazz. It’s called the Urban SUV for now and, if it goes ahead, will rival the Nissan Juke and Renault’s Captur that we featured yesterday.

Mini fans will be delighted with the new John Cooper Works version of the Paceman. This 215bhp pocket rocket comes with four-wheel drive, is lower than the standard Paceman and is augmented by a more aggressive body kit and a rather splendid choice of paint jobs. At a starting point of around £30k however it might find itself price compromised. There are cheaper hot hatch offerings.

Jeep have revamped the Grand Cherokee and added a new and impressive front end which will give UK drivers who hanker for USA styling a bit of a lift. It is suitably butch but in an appealing way. Additionally on show are the new BMW M6 Gran Coupé , the Infiniti Q50 sports saloon and the revised Mercedes E-Class to name but three. World recession there might be but in the motor halls of Detroit – like speaking of the Dark Lord – nobody is mentioning it.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (2)

Mini To The Maxi

In the 1970’s there was a terrible car from the British Leyland stable. It was called the Austin Maxi and was about as sleek and desirable as a Thames refuse barge and about as big. Fans of the Austin Maxi (both of them!) should not be upset about this historical reference. This is a news blog not a critique. BL released this car on the basis that, as they had the hugely successful Mini, they might as well make a big version.

BMW now own the Mini brand and seem to have gone barking mad. So far we’ve had the basic Mini hatch and its Cooper variants. This has been rapidly followed over the last few years by – are you ready? – the Coupé , the Roadster, the Convertible, the Clubman, the Clubvan, the four-door Countryman, the John Cooper Works (the best one) and sundry limited editions. Phew.

Even the very many fans of this car – and demand is huge – would think that these versions would be sufficient, but BMW are having none of it. This iconic British name isn’t done yet. They will, probably just because they can, be launching even more models onto an unsuspecting public until 2016, when presumably the madness will stop.

Prepare to be amazed. They clearly feel there is more mileage to be had from this brand. BMW already sell the Mini in over 100 countries and plan to attack the market with yet more models. First up for next year will be the Paceman (pictured). This is a coupé version of a Countryman powered by the 1.6 litre turbocharged power plant from the JCW. With over two hundred brake horse power this vehicle will be marketed as a Sports Activity Coupé . No, we don’t know what that is either.

Next for the list will be something secretly codenamed F54. Word has it that it will be a five-door on a longer wheelbase designed to compete with cars in the Merc A Class sector. For some reason there will also be a longer variation on the Clubman. This will be a four-door based on the same platform as the F54. The burning question is: why?

The F58, still some two or three years away will be even longer and called, so rumour has it, the Sportvan – some form of people carrier. Last but not least, a year later, a saloon version is mooted. Maybe they’ll call it the Maxi.

Where will it all end? What happens when all car makers get in on the act? How many versions of one car can there be? Thank goodness there isn’t a motor manufacturer called Heinz. Their namesake has already produced 57 varieties!

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)

Topless Mini Soon To Hit The Showrooms

Hot on the heels of the coupé comes the latest in the ever growing list of MINI derivatives. This time it’s a roadster, the sixth unique model in the line-up and it will hit the showrooms next Spring. Although they’ve offered convertible Mini’s before, this is their first two-seater and what a cracker it looks to be. Ever since the first example rolled off the Longbridge/ Cowley production line in 1959 the car has been noted as a fun drive and there’s no reason to think that things have changed with the new model. And being built at Plant Oxford means it can justifiably claim to be a spiritual successor to the traditional British roadsters of old.

Mini claims a useful 240L luggage area with an additional stowage area behind the seats plus a ski hatch. The tailored canvas, soft-top roof has semi-automatic operation for rapid opening and closing up to speeds of 20mph and the company says that it doesn’t affect the car’s practicality in any way. When opened, the roof folds down flat behind the seats, keeping the car’s elegant lines intact. And since the outer skin of the roof faces upwards, there is no need for any additional cover.

Prices appear to start at around £18,000. It will be offered in the usual Cooper variants and, if you’ve got a handy £25k, there will even be a John Cooper Works option. It will be interesting to see how it compares with Mazda’s terrific MX5 for value and performance.

All the usual styling cues are there – including the circular speedo – and the makers claim that the roofline is a sleek 20mm lower than the four-seat convertible for that low-slung appearance. Fuel economy stretches from 38.7mpg to 62.8mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as just 118g/km on the Cooper SD. Even the MINI John Cooper Works Roadster emits only 169g/km. Vital to getting the best from the powerful engines and customary front-wheel drive transmission is MINI’s outstanding chassis technology. It pushes the brand’s hallmark driving fun to the fore, with a ‘go-kart’ feeling that’s agile, precise and stable according to the company. The Roadster has an active rear spoiler in the tailgate. It deploys when the car reaches fifty miles per hour and closes when the speed drops below 37mph. Posers can operate it manually.

As with many new cars today the two-seater comes with electric power steering. It remains to be seen whether or not the familiar handling and feel will be compromised – MINI say not. A sport button is included to alter steering and accelerator responses should you be in the mood. You’d think that we would all be getting fed up with an endless stream of new Mini’s, wouldn’t you, but with a generous list of standard equipment and some great new features it looks very much as if they’ve done it again. Start saving.

Posted in Auto NewsComments (0)