Friday, 25 September 2009


One of Renault’s most important models is now available for sale in the South African market. The Renault Mégane hatch was launched on a rainy Gauteng weekday and rain in African culture is good luck. Renault will be counting on that as it takes the next stab at the mid-hatch segment currently dominated by Volkswagen, Mazda and Toyota.

Mégane III ditches the kinky drop-chop rear end which I really liked in favour of a more conventional rounded behind. I suppose since we are in Africa that is also acceptable. It’s sensual and stylish, easily the sexiest car in its segment.

"The debut of New Mégane represents a bold and important step-change in Renault South Africa's new model renaissance on the local market," explains Renault South Africa Managing Director, Xavier Gobille. "It establishes new benchmarks across all spheres, encompassing eye-catching styling matched to leading-edge ergonomics, technology, performance and handling, as well as active and passive safety and environmental efficiency. All of these elements make it the most convincing Renault model yet to take on the crucial C-segment in SA.”

Improvements over the outgoing car include an upgraded chassis and new more direct steering action which I experienced during a run that lasted about 100km. Comfortable and sporty the Mégane III has grown up sowewhat. So grown up that it even let go of the aero-inspired handbrake which I really adored. A sad shame. Nothing wrong with the new one though, conventional and it works just as well.

Packed with the latest and greatest interior features like Bluetooth connectivity, the Carminat TomTom navigation system and the optional custom 3D Sound by Arkamys audio system, the Mégane is a place to enjoy your driving as well as to entertain yourself at the same time. Others on the menu include automatic dual-zone climate control, an MP3-compatible sound system, cruise control, and rain and light sensors.

The range will consist of four engine choices. At launch only two are available, which are the 1.9 dCi turbo diesel and the 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol. Starting with the petrol we see that it produces 83kW of power at a high 6000rpm and its maximum torque of 151Nm comes in at 4250rpm. Like the rest of the range it’s mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox to help it achieve claimed fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100km and C02 emissions of 163g/km.

While it’s disappointing that Renault has not moved up to 2.0-litres on the diesel side (to match rivals) the mill does make good power and torque. It has 96kW developed at 3750rpm and 300Nm of torque from 1750rpm. Smooth it is but performance-competitive it’s probably not. Average fuel consumption is an exceptional 5.1 litres per 100km while C02 emissions average 134g/km.

Come January 2009 and we’ll have the new 1.4 TCe in the line-up as well. Power for that is 96kW and torque is 190Nm; 2.0-litre performance from a 1.4 engine. I hope South Africans wake up to the downsizing of engines (but without the expected loss of power) and realise that this is the future.

Having said four engines and only mentioning three, you’re probably wondering which the fourth one is. Renault fans will immediately know about the RenaultSport range which is topped by the RenaultSport Mégane and powered by a GTI-whipping 184kW 2.0-litre engine. Mzansi will also get this car in 2010.

Safety is taken care of by things like the six airbags and side impact sensors. By the way, the car has been awarded 37 out of a possible 37 points during the EuroNCAP safety tests. That means it got 100% score which is a testament to its safety credentials.

Renault South Africa will sell the new Mégane with a 3-year/100 000km warranty and a 5-year/100 000km service plan.

Renault Mégane III Pricing
1.6 16v Dynamique (R215 000)
1.9dCi Dynamique (R257 000)
1.4 TCe (R245 000 - available January 2010)


Renault South Africa is keeping its word by launching the new Mégane Coupé in the country. The car is based on the new Mégane and was derived from the Mégane Coupé Concept unveiled at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show.

"New Mégane Coupé represents the state of the art, from the use of cutting edge all-digital technology as part of its design and development process, through to the sporting pedigree of its styling and driving characteristics," explains Renault SA Managing Director, Xavier Gobille. "It serves as an important image builder for Renault in South Africa, and will undoubtedly appeal to discerning motorists who demand uncompromising quality, contemporary style and a focus on pure driving enjoyment."

I was quite taken by the car’s looks; the sleek front grille, coupe silhouette, smooth lines and those Alfa-esque rear lights point to something that means business. Unfortunately the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre was not inspired during our drive. Sure it makes 83kW at 6000rpm and its 151Nm of torque peaks at 4250rpm but in Gauteng altitude reality bites. Its 6-speed manual gearbox is quite notchy at first but gets more accommodating with repeated use. Renault claims an average fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100km on the Euro cycle and a C02 emissions figure of 163g/km.

Renault’s new 1.4 TCe petrol with 96kW and 190Nm will join the range early next year (but our sources say it will be in the country as early as November this year). I’ll say I’m quite glad about that; Renault has been lacking a mass-appeal turbo there at the lower end of the market.

Handling is solid and sporting which makes up for the lack of ooze. The chassis is stiff enough thanks to stiffer springs and dampers, a 30mm lower front roll centre height and a 12mm lower centre of gravity.

The features list is also quite long and includes the integrated Carminat TomTom navigation system. Another excellent piece of kit is the 3D Sound by Arkamys which has remapped the car’s sound system for the better. Usable ports include the USB hole for inserting music.

Sex appeal doesn’t mean unsafe though. The Coupé comes standard with 6 airbags, a Pelvis Restraint Cushion (PRC) anti-submarining airbag on both front seats, twin side-impact sensors, dual seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters and new-generation head restraints. Of course ABS and Emergency Brake Assist are standard, while Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with understeer control is available as an option. All this and more give the Mégane Coupé a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, same as all other current Renaults.

Renault Mégane Coupé Pricing
1.6 16v Dynamique (R220 000)
1.4 TCe (R245 000 - available January 2010)



SUZUKI SAYS: The Suzuki Grand Vitara sports utility vehicle (SUV) has received high praise from two authoritative motoring magazines in Australia.

Considered the toughest 4x4 vehicle judges Down Under, the 4x4 experts from 4x4 Australia and Overlander 4WD magazines both recently honoured the Grand Vitara by naming it Australia’s best compact SUV – for the second year running.

The Grand Vitara took the best compact SUV honours despite a highly competitive field of contenders, including the VW Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan X-Trail, Jeep Wrangler, Subaru Forester, and Honda CR-V.

Key attributes of the Grand Vitara singled out by the judges included the low-range transfer case, rugged ladder-frame chassis and all-independent suspension, which allowed the Suzuki to traverse a 4x4 test route few other compact SUVs were able to complete.

The evaluation teams also praised the Grand Vitara for its comfortable seating, precise steering and value-added pricing.

While the award went to the diesel-powered Grand Vitara DDiS – a derivative not offered in South Africa –Overland 4WD magazine team also acknowledged the excellence of the petrol models, identifying both the 2.4 four-cylinder and the 3.2-litre V6 as the diesel’s closest rivals.

The Australian success of the Grand Vitara is mirrored by the local reaction to Suzuki’s compact SUV. The vehicle has received high praise since being launched in SA in September last year, and demand remains strong, despite the economic downturn.

The locally available Grand Vitara range is offered with a choice of two petrol engines: a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, and the flagship 3.2-litre V6. The 2.4 model can be ordered with a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic gearbox, while the V6 range-topper is only offered with an auto transmission.

High specification levels, comprehensive safety features and class-leading all-terrain capability are further hallmarks of the Grand Vitara line-up.

The Grand Vitara range is offered with a comprehensive warranty and service plan, and is available through Suzuki’s growing national dealer network, which currently consists of 23 outlets.


While the name Figo sounds like a football star, Ford is not playing around when it comes to the future of its small-car segment. The company flew CEO Alan Mulally to India where he announced that the Ford Figo would be built in Chennai, India to compete with other small cars. The plant would also export the Figo to other regions, possibly including South Africa.

"Our exciting new Ford Figo shows how serious we are about India," Mulally said in a statement. "It reflects our commitment to compete with great products in all segments of this car market. We are confident the Ford Figo will be a product that Indian consumers really want and value."

The car, based on the old Fiesta, would fall below the current Fiesta and represent value for customers. Its segment includes the Renault Sandero and the Tata Indica.


Ford of North America has announced the planned introduction of an EcoBoost engine for its F150 trucks. EcoBoost is the new turbo technology employed by Ford for a range of its upper-class models and will soon be experienced in smaller cars as well.

No details were given but the EcoBoost most likely to make the F150 cut is the 3.5-litre V6 which should offer more low-down torque for the purposes of trucks applications. Under normal circumstances the V6 does 261kW (355hp) and 475Nm between 1500rpm and 5250rpm which is quite ideal for a pickup truck. The power will probably have to be detuned though.


Land Rover will debut a vehicle based on the LRX Concept car some time in 2010 and begin selling it in 2011. That’s the official word from Gaydon, Warwickshire.

“The production of a small Range Rover model is excellent news for our employees, dealers and customers,” Phil Popham, managing director of Land Rover said. “It is a demonstration of our commitment to investing for the future, to continue to deliver relevant vehicles for our customers, with the outstanding breadth of capability for which we are world-renowned.”

The LRX is expected to join the Range Rover range which currently includes the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport models. Judging from the fact that it will be available in over 100 countries globally, this is not a niche product at all.

Engines were not officially announced but I reckon one or two from sister Jaguar will make their way in, including the 5.0-litre V8 and the 3.0-litre twin turbo diesel.

First unveiled as a concept in Detroit in 2008, the LRX then made its way to international motor fairs and even appeared at the 2008 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS).


CarAndDriver reports that the Aston Martin V12 Vantage will be sold in the US in a limited edition of 1000 units over its one-year lifespan. Moreover the 4-door Rapide may also be headed for North America. Its biggest competitor is the Porsche Panamera and that is certainly going Stateside.

The V12 Vantage is powered by a 6.0-litre V12 engine worth 380kW (517hp) and 570Nm of torque. Its makers say it will run from 0 – 100km/h (0 – 62mph) in just 4.2 seconds and top off at 305km/h (190mph). Very quick indeed.

More news from Aston Martin is that the small Toyota IQ-based Cygnet will be launched in the first quarter of 2010. The small Cygnet (smaller even than a Mazda2 or a Toyota Yaris) is set to an interesting addition to the AM family since the brand has never been in that segment of the market before. Realistically speaking it won’t cost anything near its perceived rivals either.

Then the One-77, AM’s most exclusive car ever, has apparently already sold 50 units of its planned 77. Even before its launch.

I don’t know which of these Aston Martin cars is coming to Mzansi; I suspect the Cygnet more than the One-77.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


The Hennessey HPE700 Camaro (MY 2010) has begun its production run. According to its makers the car has the same LS9 V8 engine from the ZR1 but has been tweaked to push out 515kW (700hp) and torque of 972Nm. That’s real American muscle right there.

Hennessey will be showing the HPE700 Camaro at SEMA 2009 whereafter interested parties can place their US$119,500 (R891 000). Better hurry though; only 36 are to be made annually and 13 have already been ordered.


HONDA SAYS: Today, at Grove Fuel Cell Symposium, Honda received the prestigious Grove Medal in recognition of the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle. The FCX Clarity is a practical car with room for four people and luggage and it is ready for use on the road. Significantly, it has 2-3 times better fuel economy than its petrol equivalent and 1.5 times that of a petrol-electric hybrid. In addition to this excellent fuel economy the FCX Clarity produces no harmful gases, its only emission is water.

The award was accepted by Yuji Kawaguchi, Managing Director of Honda R&D Ltd. On accepting the award he commented; "We are honoured to accept this medal. At Honda we believe that the automobile holds the potential for limitless dreams and excitement in the future. The FCX Clarity represents the beginning of that future. We hope you will continue to look to Honda with anticipation and we will continue to strive to become a company that society wants to exist. "

Honda was chosen for the award by the Grove Symposium Steering Committee. Each individual Committee member proposes one or more possible candidates for the Medal. They must write a supporting case detailing the scientific breakthrough and innovation of the particular development and its importance for the fuel cell industry. They also consider other developments or breakthroughs carried out by the individual or company and their ongoing commitment to fuel cells.

The candidates are then discussed in turn in the following Committee meeting and a vote is taken. A clear majority is required to award the medal. Honda's FCX Clarity scored very highly in all categories.

The Grove Committee made the following comments regarding Honda’s achievement: "Honda's commitment to fuel cells has been evident for a long time. The FCX Clarity shows not only scientific breakthrough but also styling that has captured the public imagination, and Honda's move to small-scale automated production marks a watershed in the introduction of fuel cell vehicles. The Grove Committee was unanimous in its choice and is delighted to present this year's medal to Honda."


I’ve known about the Chevrolet Cruze for about two years now. Internationally it’s been around for just over a year and in South Africa it’s been about two months. Sorry to tell you about it this late but I only got my hands on it at the launch yesterday.

Having eyeballed left-hand-drive versions it was quite a pleasure to finally meet one eye to eye. I liked the pictures, especially the interior but I fell for the real thing. Admittedly I hadn’t expected miracles; after all, Chevy pulled out of the country during the days of apartheid and upon their return they gave us the Optra. Apparently while not a lot of motor media are fond of the Optra (I’m gobsmacked), it sells quite well and gives its owners endless pleasure.

Mind you the Cruze is set at a higher level. Its dimensions are 4.5m long, 1.8m wide and 1.5m high, making it a true family car with a spacious interior. The main development centres involved in its engineering are in South Korea, Australia, the US and Germany. It is the first General Motors car to use the new Delta II platform which now houses vehicles like the Astra. One Volt will also use same platform.

My feeling is the Cruze is headed in the direction of success with the correct powertrain setup. The two engine derivatives available in Mzansi for now are the 1.6-litre and the 1.8-litre. There is a 2-litre turbo diesel coming in late 2009 or in early 2010.

The 16V DOHC 1.6-litre comes in two trim levels, L and LS with different specification levels. Maximum power is 80kW at 6400 and peak torque is 150Nm at 4000. Our drive in the Durban/ Pietermaritzburg areas exposed this motor as being on the weaker side, so hopes lay thick on the more preppy 1.8-litre to redeem things. So it did. While the two are clearly not for robot-to-robot dicing, the 1.8 does provide brave acceleration and good in-gear performance. Its power and torque figures are as follows: 104kW at 6200rpm and 176Nm at 3800rpm. Trim levels for the 1.8 are the LS and the LT. All four models, except for the 1.8 LT, come fitted standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox. Said LT has a new 6-speed automatic which works really well for the fuel-saver.

Driver position is highly adjustable with the seat and the steering wheel able to set up to anyone’s taste and comfort. While on the steering wheel, I found it quite entertaining with loads of grip and sports appeal. You do just want to drive.

If you’ve ever laid your eyes on the Opel Insignia then you’d know what a stunning mid-sized car that is, inside and out. No wonder it was voted European Car of the Year. Sadly General Motors South Africa has no plans to sell that excellent-looking car here. Anyways the Cruze takes after it in its interior styling. The kinky V shapes seem to converge on the centre console where knobs and other controls are located. Its surfaces are smooth and feel solid, frankly something not recently associated with Chevys. Will let you know just how well-built (or not) the Cruze is when it’s done its time as our long-term car for the next six months or year.

Features included as standard across the range are power steering, a tilting steering wheel, colour coded bumpers, power windows all around, air conditioning (climate control in the LT), three airbags, an immobiliser, a radio/ CD player and an on-board trip computer.

The Cruze runs on 6.5Jx16/205/60R16 with 205/60R16-92V tyres in standard garb while the range-topping 1.8 LT gets 7Jx17/215/50R17 with 215/50R17-91V tyres.

All models come with a 3 year/60 000km maintenance plan, a 5 year/120 000km warranty and 15 000km service intervals.

Cruze goes on sale immediately at prices said to be competitive with its nearest segment rivals.

Chevrolet Cruze Pricing
Cruze 1.6 L (R174 192)
Cruze 1.6 LS (R186 126)
Cruze 1.8 LS (R204 133)
Cruze 1.8 LT auto (R244 440)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

M5s vs RS 4s vs C 63s vs SRT 8s vs MORE AT KAYALAMI!

The international Superstars circuit racing series for V8-engined production cars will make its first appearance outside Europe when it comes to Kyalami in Gauteng on December 12 and 13 and not in November as originally planned.  Tickets will go on sale at Computicket outlets countrywide from Thursday, October 1.  Prices range from R80 (general access) to R180 (Gold Plus grandstand) on Saturday and R100 to R400 on Sunday.  Special weekend packages (Saturday and Sunday) priced from R150 (general access) to R500 (Gold Plus) are available.

Superstars is in its sixth year and one of the fastest growing international saloon car series with strong backing by a number of manufacturers of luxury, high-performance four-door saloon cars.  These include BMW (550i, M5 and M3), Audi (RS 4), Jaguar (S-type R), Chrysler (300C SRT8), Chevrolet (CR8), Cadillac (CTS-V) and Mercedes (C 63 AMG).  The regulations allow for four-door V8-engined production cars with a capacity between 3.0 and 7.0 litres.  

“This is the first time this series be staged outside Europe and we are thrilled to be able to host these exciting cars in Gauteng,” said Stephen Watson, CEO of the Gauteng Motorsport Company.  “Motor sport fans, particularly those who love the big sound and big performance of highly tuned V8s, for the first time presented in the kind of luxury cars that many aspire to own, can look forward to a family-oriented weekend to remember.”

There will be races on both Saturday and Sunday as well as supporting events featuring some of South Africa’s top circuit racing categories and drivers.  Kyalami will be the finale of the nine-round series that started in Imola in Italy in April.  The next round is at Mugello in Italy on Saturday (September 27).

Currently leading the championship after six rounds is former Formula One driver Gianni Morbidelli in a ROAL Motorsport BMW M3 with 151 points.  Second and third, on 126 and 114 points respectively, are Stefano Gabellini (CAAL Racing BMW 550i) and former F1 driver Pierluigi Martini (Zakspeed Chrysler 300C SRT8).

STORY COURTESY OF: Peter Burroughes Communications

Monday, 21 September 2009


It was another great motor sport weekend for Johannesburg’s Cronje brothers, Gavin and Mark.  While Gavin, 30, and Belgian co-driver Nico Verdonck were dominating the sixth and final round of the Formula Le Mans Cup for prototype sports cars at Magny-Cours in France, Mark, 31, and co-driver Robert Paisley won the seventh and penultimate round of the Sasol national rally championship in the Western Cape.
Gavin and Verdonck, who clinched the inaugural FLM Cup at Silverstone in England the previous weekend, won two of the three races that made up round six in France in their DAMS entry, taking their tally for the series to a remarkable nine victories in 12 races.

Starting from the front row of the grid in race one, Cronje took the lead on the first lap and was still in front when he handed over to Verdonck. The Belgian went on to win after a heated battle with the Applewood/LD Autosport car of David Zollinger/Damien Toulemonde.  Third was the Boutsen Energy Racing combination of Lionel Robert and Dominique Kraihamer.

Cronje showed his mastery of both dry and wet conditions in race two, leading from pole position until he traded seats with Verdonck, who again went on to win.  Toulemonde and Zollinger were again a close second, with Johan-Boris Scheier and Gary Chalandon (Boutsen Energy Racing) third.

The track was dry for the third and final race of the final round.  Verdonck led at the end of lap one, but on lap 18 the champions’ car suffered its first failure of the season and stopped on the circuit with a broken fuel pump.  After four laps behind the safety car the race resumed and Valle Makela and Mathias Beche (Hope Pole Vision Racing) went on to take the final win of the season.  

Gavin Cronje: “It was a disappointing end to a great season, but I’m very happy with our performance throughout.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of prototype sports car racing and hope that next year we can put it to good use in the Le Mans Series and the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
The new monotype (one make) formula, which is aimed at drivers and teams wanting to get started in prototype sports car racing before graduating to the longer endurance races, features a carbon fibre monocoque sports car penned by ORECA and powered by a 6.2-litre V8 engine from General Motors that delivers 321kW (430bhp) and 630Nm of torque.

Cronje, Rotax Max world karting champion in 2001 and a former rookie driver in South Africa’s entry in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, is the reigning domestic Formula Volkswagen champion.

STORY COURTESY OF: Peter Burroughes Communications


My 7-hour stint at the fabled Kayalami race track last month seemed to fly past as though it was only a 7-minute jab. They do say time flies when you’re having fun and that’s exactly what happened when we were invited by Audi South Africa as part of their 100 Year Celebrations. Of course this had already begun a couple of weeks before at the Roy Hesketh track where we got to play in the brand new S4.

The Kayalami excursion began with a technical briefing by the guys at the 4Rings Audi Driving Experience. Often as car journos we tend to think we know it all and from the quiz thrown upon us by the instructor we actually don’t. Yes I do confess, but that’s what the course does; it teaches you. So we spent a good part of an hour going over theory about such things as quattro AWD, steering angles, under steer, counter-steer and so on. For some like myself it was all revision (there I go again) but others were quite new to such words.

Having “learnt” all this we took to the dry tarmac and worked our way through, first the S4 and then the S5 Coupe. Since Roy Hesketh I’ve had a decent appreciation for the supercharged sedan and Kayalami proved to be an even more fun experience. The S5 is still a funky noise-maker and 5 of those things lined up on a straight beats any orchestra you can think of.

You’ve probably already read about the R8 V10 that presented itself to me on that day. The car required its own post-lunch briefing from 4Rings which didn’t take too long. Most of it was peppered with warnings like “drive safely” and “this is a beast” anyway. I dare say company founder August Horch would probably have dreamt about the R8 V10 or a similar car in his brand’s future since he was such a racing fanatic himself.

While Horch may not have known it at the time, the year 1909 was a big one of him. It would in fact, turn out to be the most important of his life as he established the company which would soon be called Audi that year. Although the Audi brand itself didn’t come into play until much later, various times it was used alongside other family names like Auto Union, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The word Audi is Latin for “hark” or Horch in German.

Here’s an interesting bit you might not have heard before: at some point (between 1959 and 1964) Audi was owned by Daimler-Benz, makers of Mercedes-Benz cars.

Mzansi’s history with Audi began in 1968 when Volkswagen SA in cooperation with Audi owner Auto Union GmbH, began producing the Super 90 at the Uitenhage plant.

Although a car like the Quattro or ur-Quattro was quite recognisable in the country, it wasn’t until the 100 and the 500 series Audis that Mzansi began taking the brand more seriously.

Since then it’s grown quite considerably and has become one of the top-three premium brands, just as it is in most other markets around the world. In fact the current Audi crop of sports cars was the best-selling in its class in 2008.

Happy centenary Audi. May we see another.


As quick as it looks?
Quicker. We test at Gauteng altitudes which means we were probably not making 155kW at 6000rpm at all times. Second thing is by the time we could get going – thanks to some equipment challenges – the air temperature was already reaching 20 degrees Celcius. Thirdly because of other circumstances we could only use 93 unleaded petrol. All these factors contributed to the 0 – 100km/h time you see on the spec sheet but I’m convinced the John Cooper Works can dip into the mid 6s, perhaps even 6.6 seconds under the right conditions. Remember that MINI claims 6.5 so all in all 6.8 seconds it wasn’t a bad effort at all, I reckon.

That makes it quicker than the new GTI
Indeed it is. The two share a kiloWatt figure of 155 but the GTI is also heavier so naturally you’d expect it to bow down to this car when it comes to sprinting.

And the rest of the drive?
Surprisingly comfortable for such a stiff-tuned performance car. Front wheel drive is fine for the car when in cruise mode but many another time you do feel some torque steer, especially on uneven surfaces. Therefore the DSC button is advisably left on for the novice. The John Cooper Works has a very short threshold of tolerance when it comes to fuel consumption. Keep it steady and you’ll hardly visit the petrol station but prod regularly with the right foot and soon your name will be printed on the “best customers” list.

Is the interior changed a lot?
Not quite. Apart from the aluminium pedals and some John Cooper Works badging everything is still very much MINI. Nothing is over-the-top in styling terms; the minimalist approach has been taken. What’s really cool is the sound emanating from the rear when starting up the engine. There’s definitely more than just a hint of performance from the initial growl and you sense purpose in its intentions. The little twister on the centre console made it easy to navigate through the infotainment system as well as the navigation. I’m still against the speedometer being at the centre of the dashboard; as entertaining as it might be for some passengers, the driver is the person responsible for the car’s speed and should have first and main access to the information.

Otherwise the gear changes are engaging thanks to the short-throw ‘box and its big head. The steering wheel is thick and beefy, just the way I demand it.

As solid as the MINI JCW feels, some of the plastics utilised can get a bit much. A friend of mine has a Cooper S with over 130 000km on it. No issues have come up regarding these plastics (dashboard switches, steering wheel controls, door handles etc) so I guess they are quite durable regardless.

How much utility is in this car?
Not much I’m afraid. Boot space is enough to fit about two backpacks, while the rear seats are made for very short people or small children. I’ll be quite happy to see the arrival of the MINI Coupe and Roadster which don’t pretend to be family hatchbacks.

Who buys a MINI John Cooper Works?
Someone looking for an exceptional premium road performer, but with no qualms about space. Motorists seeking a thrill-a-minute in a daring package have nowhere to look in this price bracket.

ENGINE: 1.6-litre straight four, turbo
POWER: 155kW / 211hp at 6000rpm; 260Nm between 1850rpm and 5600rpm
0 – 100KM/H: 6.8 seconds
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual
TOP SPEED: 238km/h
FUEL AVERAGE: 10.2 l/100km
CO2 e: 165 g/km
WHEELS AND TYRES: Cross Spoke Challenge wheel 7Jx17” 205/45 R17 with runflat tyres


*PRICE RIVALS: Audi A4 1.8T Multitronic, Audi A3 2.0T FSI, Volvo C30 T5 Geartronic, BMW 320i Start Auto, Jeep Wrangler 3.8 Sahara 2-door Auto, Ford Focus 2.5 ST 5-door, Dodge Journey 2.7 RT Auto, Honda CR-V 2.0i RVSi, Mitsubishi Triton 3.2 Di-DC 4x4 D-Cab, Renault Koleos Dynamique 2.5 4x4, Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TSi, Mazda6 2.5 Individual

OPTIONS ADDED: Leather seats (14 000), xenon headlights (R7 000), Bluetooth interface (R4 200), black bonnet stripes (R850), 6-CD changer (R4 400), professional navigation (R24 700)


*A price rival falls within R20 000 or so of the subject’s price on either side of its price spectrum for cars over R350 000, R10 000 for cars of between R250 000 and R350 000 and R5 000 for cars below R250 000.

*Pictures taken using a NOKIA 6210 Navigator