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Mini car reviews: Mini Cooper S & Chevrolet Captiva

2016-10-30 06:00

DOUBLE TEST: Find out what it's like to drive both the Mini Cooper S and Chevrolet Captiva. Image: Wheels24

Melinda Ferguson

Cape Town - When I drove the first Mini Convertible back in 2005, I caught serious feelings.

She was a vibrant orange and was fitted with beautiful, body-hugging seats and a willing engine. She also had good wind protection with her relatively upright windscreen. I was hooked, but, sadly, had to return her after the road test.

Eleven years later, I drove its successor, the Mini Cooper S Convertible Auto. To my surprise, it was as much fun to drive as the old convertible, even though it has matured into a more refined car. Yet, with 141kW of power, 280Nm of torque and a quick-shifting gearbox, this little drop-top is still blisteringly fast.

READ: New Mini Clubman, Convertible arrives in SA

It’s safer, too, and sports the slickest, prettiest infotainment known to humankind. But the biggest improvement was in rear legroom. The first Mini Convertible had none – but its descendent will be able to fit in two pretty tall humans behind each other.

This new Cooper Convertible range, Generation 3, starts at a heady R389 900, without a single optional extra fitted. The car I drove is the top dog, with an eye-watering price of R476 700 – and it had luxury options worth more than R100 000 installed.

So if you want a drop-top Mini, but you’re not prepared to live in it because you’ve sold your home to buy it, what do you do? Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that there are many used Minis for sale. The bad news is that the Prince engine in Generation 2 doesn’t have a reputation for reliability.

This leaves us with two options: buy a recent model that’s still covered under Motorplan* for some time, or buy a first generation (pre-2008), low-kilometre Mini that runs the reliable old Trite engine. Both of these are scarce, and the demand is high, especially for Generation 3.

The motorplan is built in for five years or 100 000km and may be extended to a maximum of seven years or 200 000km. Mini Premium Selection approved used cars come with a minimum of one year or 25 000km Motorplan cover.

Car: Mini Cooper S Convertible Auto
Price: R476 700

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Chevrolet Captiva 2.2D LT

As a young reporter, I once covered a public inquiry into irregular spending at a provincial education department. During a break in the proceedings, a senior colleague pointed out a dull little man who had arrived to hand over documents to the chair.

“He’s a spook,” my colleague whispered and explained that spooks, or spies, are supposed to be invisible.

“A real secret agent wouldn’t look like Denzel Washington or Sean Connery,” he said.

READ: Chevrolet's spruced Captiva SUV in SA

This means James Bond wouldn’t really drive an Aston Martin, Bentley or Lotus because this would simply attract too much attention, and bash the “secret” out of secret service.

I was pondering this as I drove what could be the stealthiest SUV so far made - the unassuming Chevrolet Captiva. It’s simply worlds apart from glitzy A-listers such as the BMW X6, the Jaguar F-Pace or the Hyundai Tucson. No, I don’t think the Captiva is ugly; it’s styling is just forgettable.

But like any good spy, it harbours a few secrets. Most importantly, it hides two decent seats in the luggage bay. They’re easy to deploy and – suddenly – your five-seater is a seven-seater. Then there’s the turbo-diesel engine and six-speed gearbox. It’s a smooth combo that whips up plenty of power without using much fuel.

Another secret is what a good used buy it makes because it’s durable and affordable. What’s more, Chevrolet SA gives its cars five-year/120 000km warranties these days, so if you buy a one-year-old Captiva, you could easily be covered for another four years.

On the General Motors pre-owned website, I saw low-kilometre specimens (with the diesel and thirstier petrol engines) for as little as R150 000, which is not much for a seven-seater SUV.

If you’re in the market for such a vehicle and you don’t need anything flashy, put the Captiva on your short list.

Price: R437 800


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