It’s amazing how much interest the small car continues to generate in our country, despite how much our market has evolved. Budget-priced small hatchbacks work well in India for a number of reasons.
Mini Cooper S
Pics: Nitin Rose
They are cheap to buy and run, and easier to manage in our choking traffic and depleting parking lots. Thankfully, for most of us, modern small cars are getting technologically superior, and they’re increasingly coming loaded with an endless list of creature comforts like climate control, parking sensors, Bluetooth telephony and all things power-operated – from windows to steering to door mirrors.
Almost 50 years ago when the idea was born, Mini was supposed to do the same. Since then, the world has changed and the Mini has changed hands – it now rests with BMW, which is better known for performance-oriented luxury cars. Of course, the Mini was bought with the intention of being an extension of the parent band and it has since done well.
The famed Mini badge now enters India. And being full-imports, technically, the entire range is on sale. While Mini has spawned a whole range of models, let’s get straight to the hero of the pack – the Cooper S hatchback. Inherently, small hatchbacks with powerful engines make for fantastic fun vehicles.
The original Mini was true to its name – it was tiny (Mr Bean’s car anyone?). The new one has grown. Still, there’s more than enough room for two full-size WWE wrestlers in front; the rear seat is mainly to carry their stuff.
There’s a decent size boot as well, which is one upside of this car compared to its convertible version. The design still is a pretty classic one –
get used to lots of attention from the entire age spectrum – from school kids to grandparents. No one can resist a second look.
And if its mere sight isn’t enough, that raspy note from the exhaust will make you freeze.
The 1.6-litre engine churns out 260Nm at a lowly 1600rpm, and as much as 184bhp at 5500rpm, which means it’ll work as a great getaway car the way it was in The Italian Job. With all that attention and all that power, the Mini is a breeze to drive in traffic and on open highway.
It’s like a playful Labrador pup just waiting for your command. Send it scampering in any direction you want with a gentle flick of the steering wheel and the car leaps eagerly. The automatic gearbox is a clever piece of machinery that makes quick shifts possible without much lag, unlike many other automatics around.
Mini doesn’t sell the manual gearbox version in India – good thing too, because you can concentrate on the road ahead and soak in the attention while the engine and transmission fire away under the bonnet.
There is one downside, though. The big low-profile tyres and firm suspension mean ride is harsh and those with weak backs best avoid it. Or rather go to the doctor and get it sorted so you don’t miss out on the Mini Cooper experience.
Of course, at nearly 35 lakh by the time the car hits the road, this is possibly the most expensive ‘small’ car around. The trouble is, once you experience this car, you may start seeing every other small car in a different light. Then again, if you do experience this, there’s a very good chance the Mini Cooper S will inspire you to aim for that much more.
VW Jetta petrol
After the success of the Jetta’s diesel variant, Volkswagen has launched a petrol-powered Jetta.
This has a 1.4-litre turbo engine that puts out 121bhp and 200Nm of torque and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. VW is yet to announce prices, but expect it to be around a lakh lower than the diesel variants.
Bajaj launched the Pulsar’s new avatar, the 200NS. It comes with a KTM Duke-based 200cc engine good for 23bhp and 18Nm. It does a claimed 60kph from standstill in 3.6 seconds and 100kph in 9.8 seconds.
Top speed is rated at 136kph. The 200NS is priced at 96,635 (on-road Mumbai) and is available at all Bajaj showrooms.
Hyosung launched its latest quarter-litre bike, the GT250R in India. After the Kawasaki Ninja 250R, Hyosung’s GT250R is the only bike with a twin-cylinder 250cc engine.
This unit makes 28bhp and 26Nm of torque. This bike looks much like its larger cousin, the GT650R, and will come with features like projector headlamps and two-tone paint job. The GT250R is priced at 2.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
Courtesy: BBC TopGear Magazine India. More information on www.topgear.com
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