MINI remains one of the most comparatively modest numbers. The upside While still restricted on interior space successful sales stories in recent automotive history being the first to recognise that nostalgia sells.
But, let’s start by dispelling just one of its modern myths: the MINI re-launched in 2001 has NEVER enjoyed ‘go-kart’ handling. And anyone who tells you it has, either never drove the old ‘proper’ Mini or is suffering late-stage Alzheimer’s!
This legendary quality began and ended with the original Alex Issigonis designed model which, in truth, had a chassis not much bigger than a real-life go-kart. The new MINI designed by Frank Stephenson was, in its original guise, possibly the sharpest handling car in class thanks to a radical steering geometry but, since the model has grown to be comfortably larger in wheelbase and width than the Mk3 VW Golf of the 1990s, it no longer enjoys that status and some of its rivals can boast much sharper and livelier handling.
However, just how many MINIs get sold to boy racers? Not many according to MINI’s own projections which put the more sensible One and Cooper D as the main sellers while the Cooper S is expected to sell in comparatively modest numbers. The upside to all this is that the bigger car (longer, wider and higher) makes for a much more practical corporate user-chooser proposition.
This is one for those where image is vital, like rocking up to a business dinner as if you’ve just come from an everso private rehearsal session with the Kings of Leon or the Rolling Stones.
Fashion is the beating heart of the MINI’s persona and is reflected both in the cutesy bodywork where oversize front and rear lights visually reduce the car’s larger proportions and the interior which retains much of the funky ‘60s inspired look of the original. That said, the iconic big central speedo is now a super practical infotainment display providing everything from car set-up, onboard computer data, Bluetooth handsfree connectivity and GPS navigation.
I was fortunate enough to drive the new Cooper D back from its launch in Mallorca this spring and was particularly impressed by how practical the bigger car is now. That’s because, despite looks that clearly follow those of past models, the car is completely new from the tyres up sharing no parts with any previous editions.
than in many of its competitors, the cabin is noticeably roomier than on previous models with a little more legroom for the occasional rear passenger and a more practical 60:40 split of folding rear seats to swell a boot space of 211-litres to a half decent 731-litres of carrying capacity.
The build quality also more closely reflects the modern car’s family signature as a member of the BMW stable, feeling very familiar to any owner of the German marque.
Yet the MINI is still a lively mover and rewards the spirited driver with a satisfying turn of corner speed. Here the selectable driver modes of Sport, Mid or Green actually do reflect a noticeable change in engine and chassis feel offering a dynamic drive for the beautiful twisting roads of the Pyrenees backed by distance comfort and economy for the long haul home. That said, the average fuel consumption of the TwinPower three cylinder 1.5-litre diesel engine, was slightly disappointing at 49mpg and also a bit clattery when cold but it makes up for this in urgency and plenty of performance by providing 114 brake horsepower and a 0- 60mph sprint time of 9.2 seconds.
This MINI has more technical gadgets that any previous model and the easy of connectivity is very impressive. The range- topping package of MINI Connected XL further enhances phone integration with the ability to plan a journey on your phone and have it automatically downloaded to the car’s navigation system when you get in. It will also have a ‘find my car’ function for busy car parks or mornings after. Naturally, the MINI has never been the cheapest car in its sector and, with the Cooper D starting at £16,450, there are certainly better value options around. However, from a company user-chooser’s point of view, with a company car tax rating of just 14% the MINI makes a compelling argument to be on the wish list.
So, while some anorak fans of the old Mini may bemoan the swelling proportions of the new car, the latest MINI makes the best excuse most could want to marry a rocker-chic image with real world practicality.
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Engine: 1.5-litre turbo
Top Speed: 127mph