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Very cool toddler electric car despite the unnecessarily large price tag!
Great for your toddler to be just like Mummy or Daddy as this actually
looks like the real thing and not a child's toy. Build quality is great
compared with other cheaper electric cars on the market - feels very
robust. However, if you do have an accident, as our son did, it is very
difficult to get hold of any spare/replacement parts. The battery life is
adequate for a play session and it is easy enough for a two year old to get
the hang of how to drive it. My main criticism is that the seating space is
not large enough to accommodate an average 4 year old which is the perfect
age for driving one of these cars. Also, it doesn't have some of the fun
features you can find on other electric cars such as an MP3 player. All in
all, I would recommend it only if you have a small toddler who is going to
get a lot of use out of it given the price.
The car is approximately 1m long and 0.6m wide and comes with a charger. It should remain charged for approximately 1 hour but I would say that ours lasts slightly less than this although I have never actually timed it. The car is on sale at some toy shops for £259 but is frequently on sale at half of this price and can be found online for around £120.
Last Christmas, we'd bought a couple of 'big ticket' items for our oldest son so my husband felt it was only fair to buy an expensive main present for our four year old son too. All of my kids go absolutely wild in the outdoor toys aisle in Toys R Us, so we decided that a battery powered sit in car would be a guaranteed hit. We settled on this realistic looking Mini Cooper car, partly because it looked so much fun but also because it was 'half price' - bringing the price down from £259.99 to a much more acceptable £129.99. The car is Avigo branded, which is exclusive to Toys R Us, and still available now at this supposedly 'discounted' price.
We picked the car up in store and, as the toy comes in parts ready for home assembly, so we were able to fit the large box in the back of a Toyota Corolla without difficulty, although it can also be ordered online for free home delivery. Assembly took a little longer than my husband had anticipated, taking a good hour for him to put together if not longer, so this is something that Santa needs to prepare well in advance of Christmas morning. Part of the problem proved to be connecting the wheels and then attaching the rather flimsy mirrors - my husband resorted to super glue in the end. The car also comes with a number of stickers which all need to be carefully positioned and applied, although these little details go towards producing a finished product that is very authentic looking and will delight any fans of the genuine Mini Cooper - both children and adults!
Once assembled, this is a very large car so consideration needs to be given to discreet storage if being given as a surprise present and then longer term storage afterwards. It was a bit of a struggle manoeuvring the bulky completed car into the loft, out of the way of prying eyes! We hadn't really given this enough thought and the car doesn't really fit in our 'under the stairs' cupboard so has to live in the shed which isn't ideal for a toy that has electrical elements. Fortunately, the large 6v battery that this uses can be detached and stored inside the house, along with its charger, for safety.
My, then, four year old was initially delighted with his new car and found it perfectly proportioned for him to clamber aboard straight away! We had the foresight to charge the battery fully before Christmas morning, as the battery takes a good twelve hours to charge which then results in up to an hour's worth of play, although my son tends to lose interest before the battery actually runs out. Charging this fun car is a major barrier to how frequently this toy will actually be played with, particularly in light of the rather unpredictable British weather, as it involves a degree of planning and preparation in anticipation of a nice, dry day. This isn't a toy that can just be played with spontaneously whenever the sun shines, unless you have a rather large expanse of indoor space to accommodate this large car.
The recommended age limit of the car is from three years old and upwards, up to a maximum weight limit of 35kg. I do feel the minimum age is pretty accurate as the car does require the child to be able to physically keep their foot on the pedal and actually steer the car using the steering wheel, which a younger child would probably struggle to do. The car has either a forward motion or reverse, selected via the realistic looking' gear' lever, and quite a large turning circle, so a certain amount of co-ordination and control is required on the part of the driver! My four year old initially found the combination of steering, remembering to keep his foot on the pedal and avoiding any obstacles to be a bit of a challenge! Fortunately, this car is very, very slow and goes at a slow walking pace, meaning that a parent can easily keep up with the car and avert any major accidents. The car is weighty and sturdy enough to mean that it won't tip over and the slow speed ensures that it can never go out of control and suddenly pick up speed, even when going downhill.
The main difficulty that my son has is simply remembering to keep his foot down, resulting in quite a juddery journey as he constantly jolts to a stop and restarts. The drive itself is fairly smooth (apart from the issues with my son's driving) and the wheels cope well with both smooth and rough surfaces outside. There is no brake included but the car stops completely as soon as the pressure is released from the pedal so the risks are minimal. Likewise, there is no harness or safety fastening included, beyond a rather ineffective 'mock' seat belt that goes around the child's waist. This certainly wouldn't offer any support or protection if the child did have any kind of collision or accident but, given the speeds involved, that is pretty unlikely.
At the upper age limit, I'd imagine most children would outgrow this by around six years old, as the seating area is relatively tight. My five year old is small for his age and still has ample room to manoeuvre but a larger child might find the space a little restrictive and also find the speed of the car a little too frustrating! There isn't enough room inside for more than one child to sit at the same time, which is a little disappointing as my son would love to take his little brother out for a spin, so we do have a few arguments about turn taking.
As it is, my two year old simply loves clambering in and out of the car (the car door doesn't open) and enjoys having one of his older brothers helping him to move the car. He also loves the fun sound effects - a brrmming noise and horn sound- which are operated independently of the car battery by pressing buttons on the steeing wheel. I still wouldn't be tempted to purchase one of these for a child as young as two, however, as my little one's legs are nowhere near long enough for him to reach the foot pedal and he certainly doesn't have the co-ordination to control the steering as yet.
I'm also not convinced that the build quality of the car is robust enough to withstand regular play by a child below the recommended minimum age. The plastic panels feel quite thin and flimsy and will bend easily and the wing mirrors have both snapped off, despite the super glue used initially. As it is, the fact that the car has not been more seriously damaged by my boys is probably due to the lack of play, thanks to a miserable wet British Summer, rather than testament to the car's durability.
If you are seriously considering buying a battery powered car as a present, I'd bear in mind how much (or how little) this will realistically be played with, given the length of time the battery needs to be charged up before each use. This particular model is worth considering, if only for its attractive and authentic design, but I would exercise caution about viewing the supposedly discounted price as a bargain. The offer price is its real worth and I certainly wouldn't recommend paying any more for this Mini, given the relatively flimsy nature of the materials. In all honesty, with the benefit of hindsight, I probably wouldn't have bought this sit in car. Whilst there is no major issue with either form or function, I don't feel this has been particularly good value for money in terms of 'pay per play' so can only give a fairly half hearted recommendation to other parents.