New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Reader test: Mini Cooper

2009-02-25 07:56

Ryan de Bruin

Picture this… Every now and again we all fantasize about that dream car that we really get exited about and wish we had parked in our garage. Well, this is my fantasy come true.

In 2008 I become the proud owner of a chili red Mini Cooper - like an anxious father in a maternity ward - I have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

It is as if you have gained a membership into an elite club that only Mini owners can enjoy, some of the benefits may include: onlookers smiling, small children waving, occasional pointing and the all important Big German car driver staring and then gracefully turning his head to the opposite direction when you manage to spot him staring, you tend to get that feeling of “yes, I know its cool, you can look”.

But buying into a little investment such as this has its ups and downs of course.


One of the definite “ups” I have experienced is the utterly superb handling that this little “go-kart” has to offer. You almost get dismayed that Mini did not include a racing helmet when you bought into such a car that instills you with such confidence.

It reminds me of Hollywood movies such as “The Italian Job” where some of the driving scenes almost seem unreal, that is, until you actually drive this car and come to the conclusion that our own Charlize was definitely right with her choice of vehicle in this movie. Having the ability to defy rules of physics around the bends has a bit of an impact on comfort.

Not only does the ride become a bit jarring over rough surfaces but also unsettling. Then again, when you buy into a vehicle such as this, you come to brush off the negative and justify it with the “Feel Happy” factor.


I know this might be wrong to say, but when I look at my car I get the image of a little British Bulldog in my mind, bar the red of course, that is unless you are one of those people that paint their dogs toenails. And this is in fact the best way to describe this little car.

Just like a bulldog it has a short body, stocky shoulders, low centre of gravity and a very appealing face, but this is where the crux of the story comes in.

If you own a bulldog you would know that if you call on them they would lazily jog over to greet his owner, unless you tempt him with a snack that would initiate him to put some urgency behind that lazy jog. To get the best out of the powerplant from the Mini 1.6 cooper you have to “tempt” it to perform.

There isn’t much torque from low down so it does struggle to get off line, especially with the aircon switched on, kind of like a bulldog on a hot day, you have to tempt him more that usual. With 85kw and 150nm of torque this is a little engine with a big heart.


This is where the MINI differentiates itself from any other car in its class. You actually feel the heritage once you get behind the leather covered steering wheel.

The first thing you are faced with is the enormous central speedometer, you actually feel like the “Bobbies” are going to spring up behind you for stealing Big Ben.

There is a quality touch to the cabin that is reassuringly German, with clever little detailing that has been scattered throughout the cabin - the rev counter has a separate housing in front of the driver, the electric windows as well as the central locking are operated via chrome toggle switches, that make you feel like you are doing a pre-safety check in a small aircraft before take off.

It all adds to the “Fun Factor” of this little car. The only issue is space. If you are the fortunate driver or front passenger you should thank your lucky stars. I really recommend that you reserve the back seats for the children or the lazy Bulldog that needs tempting to get in, all in all it is really a tight squeeze back there.

The luggage space, or wait, the shopping bag area, is really meant for, well, little shopping trips or a daily runabout - that is it!!! If you want more space, you have the luxury of folding down the rear seats - then again limiting the vehicle to a 2 seater and only having the boot space of let’s say a Golf 5, otherwise buy a different car.


This particular model is fitted with all the bells and whistles that constitute its’ 4 star NCAP safety rating. My little Bulldog would be proud of this, as he kind of sees himself as the toughest little dog on the block.

Fitted with Four Airbags, ABS, EBD, and one of the stiffest bodyshells in the business, one would think this little car is out to pick a fight.


In a recent spending stint I had the privilege of owning a particular sport car that has three times as much power as the MINI but not even half the character.

On occasion you do really miss having a bit more power, but then again, I miss having my MINI when driving any other car.

This car has it ups and downs but more than makes up for it with the “ear to ear” grin you have when driving it.

If you are a manic depressive this should be a prescription drug, Instant Gratification.

This is really a small car with a BIG BIG heart, like that of my Bulldog that will pick a fight with a much bigger dog. Consider this a pure bred pedigree that is well worth the premium.


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