- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
Hmmm, the MINI One. I knew the old Mini really well, when I was 18, me and my brother stripped the engine from his 1967 Morris Mini Mk2 and rebuild it. We loved that car, it was really his car but I admit I was jealous. Sure it had its faults but this was seat of your pants motoring, 30 mph felt like 90mph and it would handle like it was on rails. It was cheap accessible motoring fun if you were on a budget. For me, it wasn't the Italian Job that gave it kudos, it was a fabled race between a Ferrari and a Monte Carlo Cooper works Mini. The Mini couldn't beat the Ferrari in a straight line but it did easily on the twists and turns of the Turin proving tracks. The Mini won. Enzo Ferrari was reported to say 'If it wasn't so ugly, I'd give up making cars for good.' Now we have the new Mini, designed by an American, a Latin American engine, built with German money and a German car company by British car workers after one hell of a argument and the near demise of Britain's last car manufacturer. And my girlfriend likes it too. So I told her it was a blot on the Mini name but she was having none of it, she doesn't even like the film the Italian Job but the new MINI looks cute in red apparently. I must admit, it has a certain retro charm but none of the innovation that led to so many imitators from the original Mini. Do I drive it? Yes I have put on a few hundred or so miles when we've taken her car for a weekend away and she didn't feel like driving home. Typical ;) Well, it was a good job it was a weekend away as the boot is tiny. The original boot wasn't great either but this Mini is much larger. It easily breaks Mini design credo 1, no car should be longer than 10 feet. This is. It's not really much smaller than a Ford Focus, my sister's boyfriend has one of those and it has a much bigger boot. So, I'm sat in this car, I'm 5' 10'
;' and it is relatively comfortable to sit in. The pedals are shifted to the left a bit and so is the wheel from dead centre of my body. In typical small car fashion the pdeals are quite tiny, they will not suit broad feet. I clipped the brake pedal putting my foot down on the clutch. The seats are somewhat adjustable but the lumber support is awful. The dash is retro Mini, big central dial. This was done to save money in the original not a design feature, this is pointless and I wasn't use to it. The rest of the switches were good and the fogs were well labelled for example. Because of the speedo and as it is noiser inside than I am used to I could drive it on revs alone. Incidentally, the dash is the only part of the car design by a Brit. Rover inherited the rest of the car design from Munich after much bitter recrimination about the engineering and the subsequent BMW straitjacket placed on them as a result. The engine is lively enough but then it should be, this is a 1.6L lump! developing an so-so 90bhp but it's noisy to make progress and requires some nifty electronics to manage economy (more later) It is nippy enough to propel the Mini quickly and I have to say this is the most fun you will get as close to the original, the suspension has obviously be given a lot of though, it is pliant when needed but has enough stiffness to handle tight bends at speed. I must admit to a big smile reapplying power coming out of a chevroned turn as I slingshot it out of the bend. But then, this thing has a version of BMW's Z-axle at the rear, the one thing BMW have done is place most of the weight of the car over the front wheels offering about a 60:40 split. It's a good job, it really feels like a heavy car. The handling is great though and the power steering is very clever to, only switched on when needed (like parking). The stereo isn't bad either but the BMW bumf said 'it was engineered specifically for the
MINI's interior acoustics'. This means liberal use of speakers in a small area. If you've ever driven a new MINI with the stereo switched off, you'll know why. The road roar off the tyres is quite loud as is wind noise at speed. As this is regarded as 'white' noise, it is easily muffled by some well positioned speakers ;) But it's the rest of it, for the size of it, it is cramped when this thing has the same wheelbase as a Landrover Discovery. You will not get two adults in the back without a 'can we stop to stretch our legs?' after an hour. All in all, yes it is fun to sling it about a bit but at over £10,000 and in the practicality stakes against performance I'd rather have seen her go for a few grand more, a secondhand Lotus Elise. But that's my preference and they are hard to find in red apparently. She's had it eight months, put 4,000 miles on it and its been recalled twice and also in the garage as well. Remember the smart electronics unit I mentioned? Somehow and don't ask me how, this thing got wet and it fused, no go at all and a two week wait for a repair. Luckily she'd taken the care package and it was under warranty but wet electrics!!!???. Maybe somethings don't change and this is something closer to the original Mini. Other than that, this is style over content. If anyone bought the Mini Cooper and paid the four grand premium, did you know apart from the trim changes, the only difference in performance is a remapped ECU chip, available to a Mini One as a retrofit for £400. Like I say style over content and I know another car that everyone went 'Ahhh! Isn't it cute?' about..... The revised Beetle. Thing is, would you be seen dead in one of those now? That to me is where the new Mini will end up. Shame really but that's BMW's problem not mine.
This is about my second mortgage with First Direct. My original mortgage was a fixed rate and as the fixed rate period was due to expire I had been thinking about a new mortgage and also shopping around for a good deal. I must admit the Virgin One account looked very good value for money. I liked the idea of linking savings and mortgage together to lower interest repayments and maybe pay it off early. I'd not really been shopping around too much nor had I really given it much thought when my phone rang a few days later......... It was First Direct. They'd noticed it too. So I mentioned the Virgin One account, this kind of honesty perversely they encourage, I've been with them for eight years. The guy at the end of the phone asked me a few questions, I could hear the typing of keys over the phone and then agreed that it would suit me after looking into my accounts (I hold two current accounts, a VISA card and an ISA) with First Direct and said that as I do manage to save some of my income (don't ask me how) then it would be a good proposition. Then he mentioned at the time of writing whilst the Virgin One interest rate was 5.2%, First Direct's was 4.75% and I wouldn't have to go thorough the process of closing/opening accounts etc, etc. It was called the Smart Mortgage and he gave me a quote for lumping it all together. Phew ! That was quite a saving. Now I was interested...... A First Direct Smart Mortgage works in the same principle as a Virgin One account. You nominate the accounts you hold to all contribute to the Smart Mortgage, you can open as many accounts as you like to manage your money (think of them as pots). The mortgage debt is offset against all these accounts containing a positive balance and any savings accounts you hold with them. You pay interest daily (a big plus for any First direct mortgage). The result is even on my current repayment on a SmartMortgage, I could repa
y my mortgage a nd consolidated loans 2 years earlier.... Now I was really interested. This guy had called me to save me money ! So I asked for the bumf to read and considered it. I like to think I have some financial savvy and the only difference I could find is the Virgin One account gives you a credit card at the 5.2% rate, the Smart Mortgage doesn't. I really didn't mind that as I don't like credit cards and only use them for emergencies. You can draw against the allotted mortgage limit (70% value of your home) as a loan by calling them for approval. The repayment date is even flexible. The mortgage repayment must be before your 65th birthday. Basically, you get 4.75% on your savings, mortgage and also any other debt you might want to consolidate including HP for a car or credit cards. If you hold some savings, the amount is considered as equity against the mortgage capital and therefore lowering your interest repayment. Because of this, the 4.75% interest paid on savings is therefore tax free !!!! Overpayments are allowed with no restriction including lump sum payments as and when you have spare cash. There is no penalty for early repayment nor leaving the mortgage for another competitor even after 1 month of starting it. Payment holidays are allowed as well. The only drawbacks are it is a variable rate but guaranteed never to be 1% more than the Bank of England base rate and ISAs cannot be included in the list of nominated accounts. It was all presented in clear and simple language, it was common sense and for someone totally uninterested in finance, it was easy to understand. This is the one thing I love about First Direct, sure they exist to make a profit but they never use the small print to catch you out. They know they are good, they even encourage you to shop around. End of the day, they offer the right products, great service, easy to understand advice and they will call you back
at YOUR convienienc e, not theirs. Most of the work is done over the phone, even pre-filling out forms for you to reduce the hassle to you to a minimum. It was £195 to arrange, for that all the legal work is done for you, you have to fill out an arrangement form and an agreement form. Not difficult and I hate form filling. The rest is left to them. The fee even includes a valuation and you get a copy of that to keep. It takes 6-8 weeks, utterly painless, they write to you to keep you informed and you can call one person (they leave their name, number and their working hours) if you want to know what is happening. This is how banking should be. This mortgage is going to save me a small fortune, everything is managed by the on-line banking software. I've been with First Direct for over eight years now and they really are fantastic, everything done over the phone or net, always courteous and friendly staff. Another First Direct winning product.
I got one of these for £60 when I upgraded my mobile phone. So knowing nothing about DVD players, I bought it, figuring if it was no good I could take it back. I was really surprised by it. Excellent picture quality and playback, it comes with a DTS decoder built in and a zoom facility that you normally only find on more expensive players. It also has a soft-hack to make it multi-region which is very simple to find ;) and do. All in all for £60, it's a steal. The player is slim, sleek and doesn't look so inexpensive. The remote is a bit small and the button fiddly though. The firmware isn't great either but if I can work it without having to read the manual it can't be all bad. Recommended.
I've owned two of these, the first was a company car, the next, a secondhand purchase. Basically, this is a Honda Accord. Rover's part of their collabouration was in presentation and packaging something that as a Japanese company, Honda didn't know much about. Rover did make some changes to the car itself, the rear wings are the biggest difference. The last 600 I owned was 623GSi Auto, a secondhand bargain, ex company with a full Rover service history. Having owned two, I can honestly say the only thing of real expense that went wrong was a holed radiator as the air intakes to cool the radiation aren't meshed and a stone hit it off the road. That was £170. In the four years I had the two of them that was it. The 2L and 2.3L are twin cam and it had a belt change which I was surprised came to less than £250. As for ride, the GSi is a lot better than the other incarnations, they stiffened the chassis used different dampers and improved the suspension geometry. As a result it felt more direct and less likely to jump about on less than good roads. On a motorway, this car is a absolute cruiser, there is plenty of power available but being a Japanese engine, the power is shifted more to the higher rev bands of 4,500+ making maximum progress quite a noisy affair. It is a nice roar though, the kickdown on the auto was slightly stodgy but it didn't take long to get used to it. Top revs at 6,250. Basically 25 in 1st, 70 in 2nd, about 95 in 3rd and .... in 4th, I'm not saying ;) One thing I will say about the auto is they had a reputation of going through brake pads every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. They were cheap and easy to replace though. The engine was the well known and bombproof H23, a bit of a timewarp as Honda wouldn't let Rover use the 2.2 VVC engine for the 600. They feared it would steal Accord sales. As for the interior, it was all leather, the car was Oxford Blue with the Beige lea
ther, it was durable, easy to clean and smelt great !. The driver seat was fully adjustable and it had electric everything, as I said it all worked. For some unknown reason to me, the car had a sunroof and air-con, still it made summer days more enjoyable. I guess it would look a bit dated now but it was utterly functional and the switch made sense. The only one that had an odd placing was the hazard warning light switch was the furthest one away from the steering wheel. It had twin airbags as well, the brakes were good too, discs all round. As for running costs, the auto box was a penalty but I knew that when I bought it. Floor it and you will see an 8 sec 0-60 and a resultant lowish mpg. I think I managed between 25-29 mpg depending on driving style. The boot was cavernous and even carried a full sized spare. All in all, it was a nice secondhand buy and totally reliable, I put over 35,000 miles on the last one and took my first one over 85,000 miles with only tyres, brake pads etc required. I would have liked to get a 2L turbo which was a sub 7 secs Q car but in the end went for the new 75 instead.
What's a early-thirties man doing with an "old-man's" car ? More importantly, why did he spend his own readies rather than company money on a Rover 75 just over a year ago? Simple, this car has style and it has class and this is the return to where Rover used to be before even I was a twinkle in my mum and dad's eyes. I've always admired the company and unlike many people, I've taken the trouble to read up on them rather than rely on what the man in the pub says. Rover based the 75 on the first post-war car it made called the P4 75, hence the styling cues from an era where Rover made well-engineered cars using the most modern technology available. Rover in the next thirty years made cars loved by royalty (The Queen had a Rover P5 that she drove herself) and government, again, the P5 was the personal favourite of no less than four Prime Ministers. Rover even dabbled with jet engines entering a car in Le Mans. Rover invented the Sports Saloon with the V8 Powered P6. Unfortunately most people remember them for strikes and dodgy cars made in the late Seventies than any other reason. So why a 75? It dares to be different and it provokes something unusual about modern cars, an opinion. Cars are not homogenous lumps of metal, sadly all too prevalent in today's mediocre, same looking cars. With a 75, you love them or hate them. Ironically perhaps, they are somewhat exclusive, BMWs are quite common in comparison. For me, the 75 isn't a copy of a Jag, it is a real Rover, back to the same values of the real Rover company not the renamed BL of the 1970s. The Rover 75 design project was tabled before the Jaguar S-type. The S-type is a car I've driven as well as a pool car and I'll make the comparisons as I go along. After two test drives, a 2L and 2.5L I went for the Connoisseur 2.5 V6 which I bought from a very helpful dealership and I wanted to buy British. Firstly
, the exterior styling, the quarter view is perhaps it's most impressing aspect, it looks solid, statesmanlike. In terms of design, the people that designed it love cars, they understand what makes a car look good. The lines flow from front to back and it has gentle curves. Initially when it was released it looked odd to the other cars being made at the time. Over time, this car has really grown on me, when I came to buy one I was already hooked. Simply put, it is beautiful. No wonder the Italians voted it 'Most beautiful car in the world' in it's year of release, now that's a compliment. Everything is in the right place, from the four front headlights to the inobstrusive parking aid sensors. It doesn't look aggressive but it has a steely purpose. The Jag looks like a Jag but in all honesty the boot on the S-type really looks like afterthought. Next, the interior. This is where the Rover wins hands down over all the cars in this sector and like many car journalists there are many that agree that the interior would not look out of place in a Bentley. They have used wood veneer and leather to great effect. The ergonomics are brilliant and it just looks right. My friends were sceptical when I said I was getting a 75 but after ferrying a few of them around they were won over without the need for me to extol the virtues of it. I'm asked if I'm driving to a party and if I can give them a lift, biccering has been known to break out. The seats are very comfortable, supportive and the driver seat is completely adjustable, the gadget are fantastic, easy to use and all well positioned. Simply, premium cars around the £20,000 have little in the way of an 'interior'. With the Rover, you get the full works, leather, climate control, great stereo, electric everything right up to the incredible Sat-Nav pack. The only quibble is there isn't so much room in the back but compared to two of my friends 3-serie
s BMWs (Coupe and Convertible) is it on a par for rear legroom. The stereo is a 12 speaker Alpine unit and it is fantastic, the only gripe is the autochanger in the glovebox. As for visibility, the rear window is quite small and the high sides do make it harder than some other cars to see around you, however unlike some cars, the doorposts are not so thick to inhibit your perpherial vision. You also can't see much of the rear boot so if you are going to get a 75 make sure it has the parking sensors. After the interior, the engine. This is one smooth lump, it is there when you need it and i t will happily cruise for hours with no intrusive sound in the cab. It is too easy to cruise along without realising on the motorway that you are exceeding the limit. Economy is on a par with other 2.5 litres and 30mpg is the norm. The gearbox is precise and the travel isn't too bad either to select the right gear or depress the clutch. Compared to the Jag, the Rover engine is smoother, the gearbox is much more precise. The drivetrain is better than the Jag put comparisons are a little unfair, the S-type is rear wheel drive, the 75 front. The 75 engine is smoother and gives a fantastic 'burble' at higher revs and it is capable if pushed, maximum torque at about 4,000 rpm means that progress is possible without too much noise. Handling, well, this is not a sports saloon, if you want one of the those, there are plenty around including the MG variant of the 75. The 75 soaks up the bumps without any scuttle shake or any discomfort, this is one very solid car, it looks it and it is it. It can be pressed if needed and the body roll isn't so bad as you make you feel unsafe, there is some understeer but that is an acceptable way of telling you that you are pushing the car up to its normal envelope. In terms of safety features it only missed the 5-star NCap rating because it doesn't offer side airbags as standard.
Lastly, this is the one thing that everyone asks me about, reliability and build quality. Well, earlier models had a few glitches resulting a recall. Mine already had the suspension springs replaced owning to cold weather causing fatigue (not likely in damp Britain). Compared to the MINI for example, it's three to the Mini, two to the 75. Bearing in mind the 75 had been available for twice as long. My own car has had nothing go wrong, no niggles, nothing to disappoint me. The switchgear feel sturdy and well made, the trim has stayed put, the shutlines are precise and the doors slam with that quality 'thunk'. This is one very well screwed together car, it is quality. It's high rating in the JD Power surveys only confirms this. I love it and I've put 11,000 miles on it and I really look forward to driving it everyday. This car has soul, you put on the miles and it's a pleasure and easy to drive. You arrive where you are with none of the discomfort of stiff legs. On one drive, a booze cruise to Calais, it was a doodle. Parking it up just outside Calais for a coffee prior to our shopping excursion it drew many admiring glances from the normally partisan French. That to me, says it all.