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In the fourth iteration of Eurokars Habitat's MINI Getaway, we join over 30 MINI owners in their latest road trip to Redang Island, Malaysia.

20 Aug 2019

When it comes to road trips, I'm always more for the journey than the destination. Even better if the road trip was done in a fast car. So when Eurokars Habitat organised this MINI Getaway road trip, I was pleased enough that I'd be doing over 1,700km in the latest MINI John Cooper Works (JCW).

This is the fourth such MINI Getaway, and there are over 30 MINI owners who were on this road trip to Redang Island, Malaysia.

The go-kart goes touring

We got a John Cooper Works for the MINI Getaway, which pushes out a healthy 228bhp and 320Nm of torque out of its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine
The JCW sounds like a good car for such a task. Plenty of power and, in this facelift model, an eight-speed transmission. Getting to highway speeds and cruising comfortably on the right lane is easy work. But in its cute, perky proportions is where we raised some eyebrows, even with MINI owners themselves.

So compared to the some 40 MINIs (including support vehicles) we drove up with, our three-door JCW was quite unique. There were three of us, me included.

By our first breakfast stop at Yong Peng, the concern for our well-being was apparent. "Not cramped?" says one driver from our convoy - he and his wife have done the MINI Getaway three times so far.

As much as space seemed satisfactory, we were only less than an hour in from what would be a 12-hour drive to Terengganu. Plenty of time to figure out if you can in fact do a road trip with three in a three-door MINI.

B-road bombin'

There were three convoys to suit varying levels of pace for different types of drivers, so no one got left behind
We got back on the road after breakfast. I was already settling in to the idea of a nice, fast highway drive.

Despite the JCW's obvious corner carving abilities, I assumed we wouldn't be doing any winding B-roads.

A convoy is easier to manage on long and straight highways, anyway. 

So imagine my delight when we turned into Federal Route 1.

A long and winding B-road, Route 1 stretches from Johor Bahru in the South, all the way to Alor Setar in the North. Plus, out of three convoy groups, this was apparently the 'fastest' group, with JCW and Cooper S owners. They've all done the Getaway at least once.

And at this point, it was indeed a getaway as the pace doubled up. MINIs dotted the sweeping roads, quickly finding safe gaps in traffic to overtake. You have to thank the inherent pint-sized proportions of MINIs for such abilities.

MINIs took over the B-roads in rural Malaysia, spirited runs included
The convoy was certainly having fun. I know I was, enough to miss out an instruction over the walkie-talkie to meet at the next petrol station. So as the convoy waited, I ended up at our lunch spot first. Whoops.

It's not a race, it's a road trip!

How the JCW moves with such gusto is quite unlike many cars of today. The short wheelbase coupled with even shorter overhangs give it that tight and responsive go-kart characteristic.

It's so joyful behind the wheel, yet still civilised enough when the going gets tough. And tougher it did. After lunch, the convoy completed the rest of the journey mainly on the East Coast Expressway (E8) onwards to Marang, where we would hop on a speed boat to Redang Island.

It's a lovely stretch of highway, no doubt. But quite unlike the North-South Highway we're all used to, E8 is incredibly bumpy, with significant dips and cracks on the road, testing the very limits of suspension bump stops. But the JCW managed to swallow it all without a problem - at significant speed, too.

We made it!

Taaras Beach & Spa Resort is nestled on the beautiful island of Redang, surrounded by crystal clear waters
Upon arriving at Taaras Beach & Spa Resort on Redang Island by speedboat, I was rather impressed with the JCW.

Yes, all three of us made it out alive, limbs still intact. With a little bit of liberty in seat adjustment, you can in fact seat three rather cozily in the JCW. With the good journey sorted, I was surprised by the destination.

I'm not a fan of beach resorts. So-called tranquil, clear beaches and palm trees are usually tarnished by the troves of tourists and the over-commercialisation of it all.

Beach chair rentals with millions of individuals in Billabong shorts squeezing with you on the beach? No thank you.

But Taaras is nothing of the sort. It is a quiet, private sanctuary by the beach, with incredible crystal clear waters. It is a proper place to rest and relax since we just ended a 12-hour drive. As Taaras proved to be an exception for beach resorts in my book, it is expected that there are activities that revolve around the tranquil waters that surround it.

One of the attractions at Taaras is a snorkelling experience, where you can hang out with sea turtles
Perhaps the reason why beach resorts were never my thing is my disinterest in spending any amount of time in bodies of water. Hence, I politely declined an offer to go snorkelling. But as I write this, I'm regretting it a little bit.

The calm, clear waters around Taaras are home to about eight sea turtles under the care of the resort's own marine conservation unit. From the safe constraints of the boat I was in, you can see them swimming about in the clear waters.

Hanging out with sea turtles weren't the only activities at Taaras, either. Some MINI owners went on a short trek through the rainforest, others headed out in boats to fish. Or you could do what I did - laze in a beach chair with a coconut in hand.

Headin' back home

With two nights spent at Taaras and sumptuous dinner by the beach (of course), we headed down to Kuala Lumpur the next day. Some went on a durian hunt at night around the city, I decided to have an early night's rest for the drive the next day.

This wasn't the first Getaway for many MINI owners on this trip, and they are obviously deeply passionate about the brand and their cars
I had a bit of time to think on the drive back. Some of the best holidays that I’ve done revolved around a pretty good drive. Call me a simpleton or a fanboy, but I like the idea of driving a lot. A perfect holiday would be one where the drive is priority, and the destination is just a layover to rest.

With the MINI JCW, it is as good as it gets. But in this MINI Getaway, I realised there's more to just cars. Sometimes, stretching out the car's legs to get to somewhere where you can in fact, stretch out your own legs in complete tranquillity might just be the perfect idea for a holiday.

And speaking of legs, yes, our limbs were still very much intact when we arrived back in Singapore. Who said you can't do a road trip with three in a three-door MINI?

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