Your Turn: Introducing KUMAKART

KUMAKART! - All Photos by Iain Bennett
KUMAKART! – All Photos by Iain Bennett

"Your Turn" is back!

V&R has not always been about Randy Stern, Tyler Lipa and other writers who have contributed to this site. It is about you! Yes, YOU! You got an automotive-related story to tell – tell it here! That simple!

To help bring this segment back is my friend Iain Bennett. I have known this globe-trekking, tech-infused Toronto-based gentleman for 21 years now. I think he was somewhere in Europe at the time working for a company that no longer exists today. How we met was through the Internet – back then it was a new frontier, unrefined as it is today. Today, Bennett adds blogging and producing music to his work adventures.

This piece involved the purchase of a new car for Bennett.

Am I now a switcher? 

No, no I'm not talking about computer operating systems from the 2000s, but I've done somewhat the unthinkable for those who know me and how I prefer my cars.

I've gone from being extremely fuel efficient to, I guess, being just being fuel efficient.

See, I've owned four Toyotas – a 2001 Echo, 2004 Echo, 2009 Prius and a 2012 Prius, and now I own a MINI – A 5-door, 3 cylinder Cooper in Electric Blue, white roof and white racing stripes which we have affectionately named "Stormer the Kumakart".  So MINIAC of me.

My first few cars sipped gas.  They squeezed out every drop of gas I put into the car.  That was important to me early on being a first-time car owner, for environmental considerations and also to contribute reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. 

Why on Earth would someone, like me, switch?

In my mind, I have a list of cars that I have always wanted to own.  This list includes a Toyota Prius (check), a MINI Cooper (check), a BMW 3-Series (first car I ever drove), a Lexus and a Tesla or Nissan Leaf, but fuel economy has actually been first and foremost on the front of my mind. 

I was wowed when I picked up our 2009 and 2012 Prius, the way my gas tank indicator took ages to drop, and the styling which reminded me of the Starship Enterprise.  I could say "Make it go" and it would do what I wanted it. 

kumakart 2

So why did we go with a MINI? 

About 1.5 years ago, Scott had the possibility of a new job that would take him to another city about 45 minutes from Toronto and we needed to consider the possibility of a second car.  We decided at that point to throw away our conventions of always buying Toyota and look at other options which included a Mitsubishi Mirage, a Toyota Corolla and a MINI.  Three widely different cars with considerably different price ranges.

We tried several used MINIs from 2010 and onwards, and we also tried, at the time, the new 2014.  We fell in love with the 2014 and it's BMW-like handling, the engine purred, shifting was smooth.  It was awesome.

That stuck with us.  When the lease came up for renewal on the Prius, it was the choice of pay off the Prius, go with another Toyota or jump ship.  I was eager to see what the 2016 Prius had in store.  While I like the external styling of the Prius which is pretty aggressive looking, one of the things that really sticks in my mind is that the new Prius is a bigger car – half an inch wider and somewhat longer than the 4th generation Prius.  I don't want a bigger car, and the 4th generation Prius is the maximum size in a vehicle that I’d want to go.  On both of the Prii we had, admittedly we both had problems with the turn radius and hitting the back right passenger quadrant on concrete pillars.  Yes, I detest big cars, loath them.

I wanted to find a balance between finding a fun car to drive and gas mileage.

Looking at cars like a 3-series BMW and a Lexus – I'm not about to buy a car that gets 10 L/100km (about 23.25 MPG) or lower fuel economy.  I would also prefer to not have to buy a used car since that is all I would be able to afford in a higher-end brand.

As for a Tesla, it is definitely way out of my price range and our condo association is not willing to introduce power points into our parking spaces.

So MINI it is, satisfying my need for a fun car that somewhat sips fuel. 

Initially friends and coworkers would ask me about it and I'd say "For me, it's a gas guzzler" which, relative to where I came from, it is.  Relative to what they drive, it definitely is a relatively fuel efficient car.  I admit, I was holding my breath the first month as we seemed to drive through tank after tank of gas, by now I think we have stabilized our driving habits and we are used to how the car handles and how to drive it efficiently.

I have opportunities to drive a lot of other cars, with my job – a consultant who regularly travels and rents cars.  In the grand scheme of things, the MINI is not that much of a gas guzzler.  I have learned to drive it efficiently, and given we are towards the end of a cold winter, I actually think it's doing quite well for a car that, is actually a mild hybrid. 

kumakart 3

The MINI does have regenerative braking to power electronics, and it shuts off the car engine when stopped, depending on the engine temperature.  This is what I look for in cars these days, and it shares with BMW’s Efficient Dynamics suite of fuel efficiency technologies. 

It's four months since we picked up the MINI and we have driven over 10,000km and I am still very happy with the choice we made.  I still call our MINI the most ridiculous car we have ever owned. 

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