On BMW's new platform, the third generation MINI is dynamic, civilised and well built. The new five-door adds useful interior space for rear passengers and luggage. Add the sweet 1.5 diesel and it is both fun and economical too.
- Pleasing diesel
- 5 door less attractive than 3 door
- Slightly notchy gear change
- Some cosmetic options won?t retain value at resale
The third generation MINI is longer and wider than earlier models. While the proportional elegance may have lessened slightly with a stretched, heavier-looking nose and more bulbous rear light clusters, it has certainly advanced. Broadening the appeal of the range, MINI has added a five-door model. Its body is lengthened by 161mm and the extra doors significantly aid access to the rear. Importantly, there is an additional 72mm between the axles to allow critical extra legroom at the back.
MINI has maintained a very distinct interior design which is both unique and surprisingly usable. The software for the main display interface will be familiar to BMW drivers in terms of complex nested menus. It isn't the simplest but regular drivers will become familiar with use. MINI has really gone to town with the sensory side of the car, with its distinctive, stylised facia and innovative use of modern lighting. Clearly taking Blackpool's illuminations as its inspiration, the door handles cycle through the colours of the rainbow, as does the main screen bezel (although the latter can be switched off or set merely to change colour according to speed). It certainly feels a world away from the first BMW MINI model of 2001, with precise build quality and not a creak or rattle anywhere (the early ones were known for their squeaking rear seat backs). There are still a few styling cues from the original 1959 Mini, notably the fairly upright windscreen and curvaceous front wings, visible from the driver's seat. It is immensely pleasing to be able to see the gentle hump of the bonnet, too: so rare on new cars.
Our test car has the 1.5 litre diesel engine. Like most MINI engines, it is a three-cylinder with characterful thrum and it's free-revving, too. While happy pulling away from low revs, its quietness and smoothness encourage exploration up to the red line. The One D offers slightly better economy at the expense of power; the 116 PS Cooper D here is a great compromise, sneaking 0-62 mph under 10 seconds yet still sitting in tax band A.
The MINI's size makes it a great all-rounder. Not too much bigger than a ?proper' city car it is nimble about town yet it is quiet and relaxed, so happy gobbling up the miles at motorway speeds. It is also an engaging drive and while on test, we couldn't resist a wintry blast across Snake Pass in the Peak district, where it performed admirably while merely sipping from the fuel tank. As a driver's car, we'd suggest the gear change is slightly notchy, but we are being picky now: it is a very fine and direct drive indeed.
In terms of specification, the Cooper D comes packed with equipment, although there's no sat-nav as standard. Those two extra doors add £600 to the price and there's a negligible performance/economy trade-off, however this will barely be noticed in the real world. MINI's huge range of customisation options will ensure buyers can tailor their cars as desired but remember that few of the styling items will retain their value at resale time.
As with any name resurrected from the past, heated debates around what an authentic MINI should look, sound or feel like may roll on indefinitely but this generation is the most technically advanced and refined of them all and a pleasure to drive.
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