John Cooper was born 17 July, 1923 so there was no better excuse to grab the new Mini Cooper S Hatch SE to see what it could do. When John Cooper and Sir Alec Issigonis sketched out the initial design on a table cloth in 1956, they really hit on what would become an iconic automobile.
From 1964-1967 it went on to win international races, including three wins at Monte Carlo – no small feat for such a little beast. Growing up with the 1969 movie, The Italian Job, the first thing I wanted to do was test its ‘Go Kart’ style abilities, so I hit the hills.
Agile is an understatement. It’s a six-speed manual transmission, 141 kW nimble mover. Louis Warburton from Christchurch Mini had set the Halo lighting to flare as a rev-metre and the entire interior lighting system was very impressive. The 8.8-inch touch screen has a split-screen option, allowing your passenger to use the screen while you use it to focus on the drive. My two sons loved it.
I’m not sure if it was its low centre of gravity or just its incredibly stable power, servotronic speed related steering, but the handling on uphill and downhill corners was stunning, handling everything I threw at it with ease.
These days bespoke versions of the car you want are pretty much stock standard but with the Mini Cooper S, three-door hatch version, I really don’t see the need for adapting the standard. With the air intakes in the bumper and the bonnet, rear apron diffuser, central twin pipe exhausts and custom rear spoiler with the metallic Satellite Grey paint job, 17-inch alloys, there are 15 variations on rims alone, and lounge leather seating, it was just too darn cute.
The interior cabin is simple and stylish with a quality finish. The innovative technology built into the navigation system and the LED headlights driving assistant system were the only things I didn’t spend enough time investigating; I can see they’re great, but I was just having to much fun driving it!
There’s not much difference in room between the three-door and the five-door, so it really comes down to convenience when choosing between the two models. John Cooper’s son, Michael Cooper started the John Cooper Works to maintain the integrity of Mini moving forward and its alliance with BMW means that Mini has a character of its own, with the integrity of solid background engineering.
Looking where the brand is now and how the performance was on my little drive, I really think it has everything right. It’s a fun car, for people who want to have fun driving it
Straight off the bat, the all new Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E Pace are exquisite cars. Both are their respective firm’s first foray into the uber competitive small luxury SUV market, and I was given the opportunity to put them both to the test.
Following the flagship XC90 and mid -range XC60, the all-new smaller XC40 carries Volvo’s fluidic design philosophy to great effect. Styling cues like the LED headlights with Thor’s Hammer-like detailing and reverse L-shaped rear light cluster are totally unique and its square-jawed stance definitely looks the business.
The range is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine with 140kW/300Nm, though the range topping T5’s power is boosted to 180kW/350Nm. The XC40 T5 R-Design featured here comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, a unique R-Design grille, LED headlights, sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, leather and nubuck upholstery, R-Design treatment on steering wheel, pedals and gear selector as well as heated front seats, Harman Kardon premium sound system and a nine-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, digital radio and navigation.
Select Dynamic mode and everything tightens up, which means you have greater throttle response and shaper turn in.
Many cars have a ‘sport’ mode feature of some sort, but with the XC40, it completely transforms the driving experience. In fact, it feels more like a hot hatchback than small SUV, quite an accomplishment in itself. The only trade-off is, thanks to the R-Design package, the ride is not as smooth as it ought to be.
Jaguar E Pace
The Jaguar E-Pace is the baby SUV of Jaguar’s pride, shown brilliantly by the Jaguar cub door mirror courtesy light at night. Its bigger and extremely capable F-Pace sibling has been selling like hotcakes and the new E-Pace could easily repeat this trend on looks alone.
The planted stance and mesh front grille are iconic Jaguar and the rear three quarter mirrors its larger F-Pace counterpart; you would seldom find a better-looking car in this segment. Choose from a range of ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engines, with two petrol and two diesels available.
Inside, Jaguar design attributes have been carried over to great effect. The layout is simple and intuitive, though the use of hard plastics is a tad disappointing. Standard features include Lane Keep Assist, 10-way electric seats, Sat Nav and Bluetooth connectivity, of course.
To drive the E-Pace is very much what you would expect from a Jaguar; comfortable, smooth and intuitive. Steering lacks in feel but still manages to be direct and responsive. Despite the sublime ride, the E-Pace does get a bit roly poly in the bends and feels heavy despite the size. The nine-speed automatic complements the power train well, offering crisp changes from gear to gear, and power delivery as a whole is refined and silky smooth.
In summary, if you choose the Jaguar E-Pace over the Volvo XC40 – bravo. It rides better and is even slightly better looking, but the Volvo would be my pick thanks to marginally better dynamics and a more involved drive. They are marginal differences though, so whichever you pick, you won’t be disappointed.
Flushed with the success from its European Car of the Year winning 3008 soft-roader, Peugeot has decided to revisit that winning formula and give its slightly bigger 5008 the same treatment – and it seems to have pulled it off.
The 5008 boasts more space inside and thanks to two more foldaway rear seats, you have a fully-fledged seven-seater. That said, the new 5008 is pretty much identical in style, whether inside or out, to its slightly smaller 3008 counterpart, and that isn’t exactly a bad thing.
Two levels of trim are on offer, the Allure and sportier looking GT, with prices starting at $47,990 for the Allure discussed here. The 5008 features the same engines as the 3008, with both petrol and diesel available. The 1.6 litre petrol in our test car produces 120kW of grunt and will return a combined fuel figure of 7.3L/100km respectively. Despite being front wheel drive only, the 5008 contains five driving modes, normal, mud, sand, snow and ESP off; all of which tailor the engine’s power output to suit the conditions.
The interior is easily one of the 5008’s best features. I loved it for its quality touches, complemented by futuristic angles and layout. One could easily see James Kirk doing the school run in one of these. All models get an easy to use touch screen infotainment system coupled with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, 3D Sat Nav, Dual Zone Climate Control, Blind Spot Detection and Keyless Start as standard kit, plus the 12 inch HD driver display and its features are clear and concise.
Inside there are oodles of nooks and crannies for storage, including compartments under the rear passenger foot well. Plus, the extra rear seats can be stored away or removed completely, giving you a whopping 780 litres of boot space.
Front and rear, the seats themselves offer plenty of lateral support without sacrificing comfort and the extra length in the wheel base over the 3008, 4641mm, means the 5008 has more space for you to slob out. Head and legroom front and rear is generous even, believe it or not, for the extra seats in the rear.
On the move and with la petite steering wheel in your mitts, you would be forgiven in thinking you were driving a hot hatchback, rather than a seven seater SUV. Steering is nicely weighted and quite responsive, whether in town or on your way to Akaroa, though not what you would normally expect from a car in this class.
It’s on the open road where the 5008 really shines with excellent ride comfort and the eager 1.6 litre petrol engine pulls well. Not the USS Enterprise by any means, but commendable performance for a big car nonetheless.
Though not for everyone, the new 5008 gives you willing engines, superb comfort and tonnes of space for lugging things about. All in all, a well thought-out package which complements its award winning younger sibling perfectly.