The latest Mini One is a trendy and practical alternative for the style-conscious buyer. But what can you get for about half its list price? Here we look at two boutique hatchbacks that are as fashionable as they are easy to park...
Jarryd’s choice: Fiat 500 0,9 TwinAir
0-100 km/h: 12,72 seconds
Top speed: 173 km/h
Power: 63 kW
Torque: 145 N.m
CO2: 90 g/km
Fuel consumption: 4,68 L/100 km (fuel index)
Casting an even smaller shadow than the Mini, Fiat’s little 500 is a compelling second-hand purchase. Introduced in 2007, the bijou Italian city runabout has shown few signs of ageing (although a new, electric 500 is on its way). The retro bodywork still looks wonderful, kept fresh by the 2016 facelift. The interior is charming and features plenty of neat design flourishes.
The compact interior doesn’t have room for more than four passengers, with the rear seats better suited to young children. The boot measures 152 litres (enough for one medium-sized suitcase) and a fairly useful 544 litres with the seats folded down.
The 0,9-litre TwinAir engine is unique. Utilising just two cylinders, the 875 cm3 turbopetrol engine produces an impressive 63 kW and 145 N.m of torque. This makes for acceptable performance, accompanied by a distinctive thrum. Fuel consumption is decent, too. While Fiat claims the TwinAir uses just 3,80 L/100 km, we managed a more realistic 5,40 litres on our 100 km fuel route.
Automatic gearboxes are becoming an increasingly popular option in small cars, yet, the 500 is better suited to a manual gearbox. Not only is the gearchange slick and responsive, but the five-speed ‘box is able to get the most out of the torquey motor.
The 500 is at home in the city; its dimensions and quick steering allow it to squeeze through even the smallest gaps. While it excels in the side roads and alleyways of a populated metropolis, it is less at home on the long road. This isn’t to say that it can’t do a long-distance journey; the 500 just works better when it’s confined to the city limits.
The Fiat isn’t without its histrionics. The little Italian is prone to trim issues, with door handles that can loosen over time, for example.
Prices start R160 000 for a 2018 Pop Star with 30 000 km on the clock, rising to R175 000 for the Lounge. Try to source a later model with lower mileage to take advantage of the remainder of the three-year maintenance plan.
Space: 4 seats, 152/544 L
Safety: 7 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC
Cost of four tyres: R3 940
Road test: November 2016 (0,9 TwinAir Pop)
Peter’s choice: Opel Adam 1,0T
0-100 km/h: 10,48 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Power: 85 kW
Torque: 170 N.m
CO2: 119 g/km
Fuel consumption: 6,12 L/100 km (fuel index)
The Opel brand has been through some difficult times since the heydays of the 1990s although it has always provided some noteworthy products. One of these was the Adam, named after founder Adam Opel and introduced in 2015.
Knowing that a stylish, customisable package would be needed to take on the likes of the Fiat and Mini, a variety of standard and optional accessories could be specified. Many will have two-tone paintwork with model names such as Jam, Glam and Rocks.
The engine we’ve chosen is an excellent 85 kW 998 cm3, three-cylinder turbo mated with a six-speed manual gearbox. This is a big improvement on the average Opel gearbox and is slick. The result is a smooth and willing powertrain that is great fun to use. Note the entry-level model, simply called “1,4”, is a four-cylinder, naturally aspirated unit with 74 kW. The fuel consumption is excellent but the fuel tank is small at 35 litres.
Our original test car from 2015 was the Glam model which included a roof lining with small lights resembling stars. At no extra cost, this feature could be swapped for a panoramic glass roof. A flagship Rocks version was offered late in 2015 which had a sliding canvas roof section and increased ground clearance. If you’re after more power, there is yet another version: the S uses a four-pot 1,4-litre turbo engine producing 110 kW and 220 N.m of torque.
Ride quality is good – better with sub-18-inch wheels – and the steering has two weighting settings but remains rather lifeless. The boot is perhaps the only letdown of the Adam. At 136 litres, it is not ideal for a family (even the Fiat 500’s is bigger) and the spare wheel is a space-saver. The three-year/60 000 km service plan will be on its way out although you may be able to benefit from the last of these before deciding what your future maintenance options are. Parts prices are very keen, too. The 1,0-litre engine uses a camchain so there should be no major expenses there.
Space: 4 seats, 136/544 L
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC
Cost of four tyres: R7 860
Road test: April 2015 (1,0T Glam)