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Mini Cooper & Honda Crosstour

| July 1, 2010

MINI

When the British Mini car company was purchased by BMW, the car received the full Teutonic engineering treatment. That meant transforming the iconic car from an ultra-light micro vehicle with sliding side windows and 13-inch wheels to something more substantial, all the while retaining its unique “‘Mini’ness.”

As impossible a task as that might seem, they have actually succeeded quite well. The current vehicle, which looks very small, is actually 18 inches longer and more than 1,000 pounds heavier than the original British version.

The nostalgia factor is clearly evident in these cars. There are tons of intricate styling elements crammed into a very small space, making the car interesting and unique. In addition to all of the visual appeal and functionality, this is a great car. It has found new value in these days of less-is-more. Not only is it still small, nimble and fun, it’s also solid and very efficient.

The current slate of Minis are available in three body styles—hardtop, convertible and wagon; and in three trim levels—Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. The Cooper is equipped with a modern 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine good for 118 horsepower. It’s solid and economical and available with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Cooper S has a turbocharged version of the same engine, outputting a substantial 172 and transforming it from a commuter car to a really fun, sporty car. The John Cooper Works versions have 208 horsepower, which is giddy fun in a 2,500-pound car.

I recently took a 500-mile road trip in a Cooper S and had an enjoyable drive. The handling is razor accurate and the car tracks very straight on the freeway. You can’t be bothered by high revs in a small car like this, but adding a turbocharger to the car adds tremendous flexibility to the driving experience.

I averaged 35.6 miles per gallon at 70 miles per hour, which is very respectable.

For a vehicle with such a small footprint, the interior is pretty roomy. The front seating area is larger than you would expect, but the rear is smaller. The Clubman has a useful cargo area where many things can be placed. The convertibles have a unique solid frame structure that allows drivers to open the front part of the roof, making it similar to a sun roof. The entire soft top folds into a rear storage area with the press of a button.

With a starting price of a little more than $18,000, you can own a responsible small car that is both fuel efficient and lots of fun.

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honda crosstour

The Audi TT delivers a high level of satisfying sportiness as interpreted by Audi, a German luxury automobile manufacturer. The TT is a small two-seater that’s definitely fun to drive in a high class elegant way.

There are two body styles that the TT offers. The coupe has the best performance creds simply because of its rigid body structure, but the roadster/convertible’s near immediate access to top- down driving is really hard to resist.

The styling on the TT is both striking and elegant. One glance communicates what the car is all about. It’s sporty, it’s fun but it’s also festooned with up-scale design details and cues. There are many interesting and entertaining elements to this car. Everything from the brushed metal fuel filler cap to the dual looped functional roll bars sets this car apart.

The interior is also a study in design. The steering wheel’s race car-like flat bottom is actually very nice feeling. The Bose audio system is optimized for top- down driving. The optional baseball-glove leather interior is truly unique. It’s like sitting in a giant catcher’s mitt and yes it is comfortable.

Our test TT Roadster was the base model, Quattro all-wheel drive, S-Tronic transmission and Prestige trim level with the ball-glove interior. With the convertible top up, the car offered a very comfortable driving experience. With the press of a button, the power top folded into its storage space and the open air party begins.

The base model TT is powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine good for 200 horsepower. This is a high efficiency direct injection motor that also yields an EPA highway economy rating of 29 miles per gallon. Audi has a leading edge 6-speed S-Tronic transmission, which is an automatically shifting manual transmission. It uses dry clutches like a manual transmission rather than a torque converter, but the shifting is done either automatically or with paddle shifters. There is no clutch pedal. The result is very efficient transmission with no slippage and excellent fuel economy.

The TTS is the performance variant of the TT. It is more athletic and its turbocharged 2.0 liter engine produces 265 horsepower and can rocket the car to 60 miles an hour in a mere 5.1 seconds. Amazingly, it also gets the coveted 29 mpg fuel economy rating.

The TT is both fun and elegant. With its efficient power train and miserly consumption, it’s guilt-free sporting at its best.

Visit www.MyCarData.com for more information on these models.


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