The new MINI might look similar to the last one, but it’s actually all-new, including exterior, interior, chassis and powertrains, and the new 3-cylinder diesel version can manage 80.7mpg.
The MINI has always been one of our favourite cars as it combines a fun driving experience with fun design and good efficiency. However there were a few areas for improvement, most notably in refinement, and the new MINI aims to address such issues.
At first sight the new MINI doesn’t look hugely different from the previous version. However the entire car is in fact all new. This includes the body, the chassis, the engines, the gearboxes, and the interior. All this adds up to more advances under the surface than you might expect.
The overall appearance on both the outside and inside has been designed to retain the fun and iconic image of a MINI. But on the inside in particular much progress has been made to improve what was there previously. The large central speedo has gone, and has moved to a more conventional speedo in front of the driver. It’s been replaced in the centre console by an ‘infomedia’ screen displaying information such as navigation and audio.
It may sound like a small thing, but the electric window switches have moved from the centre console to the much more intuitive location of the door trim – hooray! There’s now also a cool-looking starter switch in the centre console, combined with no requirement to insert a key into the dashboard to start the car.
Perhaps the most significant change in the interior is the quality of the materials. From the inside, the new MINI feels like a much more premium proposition than the previous model.
The new MINI also gains more boot space, and a slight increase in rear legroom, although life is still crammed in the rear seats. It still retains its title of the shortest car in its class.
In terms of powertrains, the Cooper D has a 114 bhp three-cylinder engine and the Cooper S has a 189 bhp four-cylinder engine. Both cars that were tested had 6-speed manual transmissions, although a six-speed automatic is also available.
People are likely to buy a MINI because of the fun driving experience and the fun personality. The new MINI doesn’t disappoint in these areas.
On the launch in Mallorca we tried the Cooper D (red car in the photos) and the Cooper S (orange car in the photos). The Cooper S is the sort of advance that you would expect. Helped by its direct and responsive steering, it certainly retains the (somewhat clichéd) ‘go-kart handling’. The mountain roads in Mallorca were often slippery, and even if pushed beyond the grip of its tyres, the MINI was controllable, demonstrating the advantage of its wheel-at-each-corner chassis and newly-developed suspension.
With its four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine, the Cooper S has good performance, especially for mid-range overtaking – very useful to get past the hundreds of cyclists on the rare short sections of straight road in the mountains. The Cooper S also makes a great noise, creating its own blip on the throttle when changing down in order to match the revs, and with a popping exhaust on the over-run.
However the main area of improvement is with refinement – in many aspects of the driving experience. The powertrain certainly feels smoother, but it’s the ride that’s the big news – as well as exhibiting handling without much roll, the ride is now much more comfortable, and this should help to broaden the appeal of the Cooper S as an ownership proposition.
All well and good then with the Cooper S – the sort of progress that you would expect. But it’s the Cooper D where the big surprise comes – in place of the previous four-cylinder diesel engine, there’s now a three-cylinder diesel. A few years ago you would have expected a three-cylinder diesel to have all the refinement of an ageing tractor engine. So it’s all the more shocking to drive off in the Cooper D and experience a smooth, refined, flexible and very quiet engine. Only when you push the car very hard at high revs does the engine note become somewhat strained.
Even the old issue of the diesel version of a car being heavier than the petrol version and spoiling the handling doesn’t apply any more, as the Cooper D with its three-cylinder engine is actually lighter than the Cooper S.
In both cars you get the choice between Green, ‘Mid’, and Sport drive settings (an extra cost option). You can also specify variable dampers, at an extra cost, to provide more variation in the ride between comfort and sport.
The Cooper S came with a head-up display. This projects information such as speed and satnav instructions onto a piece of plastic in front of the driver. It’s not quite as elegant a solution as that in the BMW 3 Series which projects information directly onto the windscreen, but it’s still a very good system nevertheless.
An interesting feature of the new MINI interior is the surround of the central screen, which glows in different colours in response to various actions ranging from your driving style to the volume of the stereo.
The official combined economy figure of the Cooper D is 80.7mpg, which is very impressive. During the launch we actually had the opportunity to test the real-life economy on a 50 mile motorway and A-road route run, when the Cooper D returned an indicated 65mpg, primarily between 60 and 70mph. In ‘green’ driving mode, the car can decouple the powertrain to allow ‘coasting’ which enhances economy.
As you might expect, the economy of the Cooper S has also improved, to 49.6mpg. Of equal note is a vast improvement in the economy and emissions of the automatic transmissions compared to the last model – the outgoing MINI Cooper D Automatic Hatch emitted 135g/km CO2, with the new MINI Cooper D Hatch producing 98g/km CO2, a reduction of 38% against the outgoing model.
Interestingly, the manual transmission results in better economy than the automatic in the Cooper D, but the automatic is more economical than the manual in the Cooper S.
Note that, as with all cars, the economy and emissions worsen with larger alloys, when the figures for the Cooper D change to 78.5mpg and 95g/km CO2.
There was no Cooper available to test on the launch, however it features a similar three-cylinder petrol engine to that in the forthcoming BMW i8, and it can manage 62.8mpg. For most MINI owners who don’t do lots of long distance driving and who want a good balance between performance and economy, the Cooper is likely to be the main option to consider.
The MINI Cooper D starts from £16,450. The Cooper S costs from £18,650. There’s also the Cooper with its 134bhp three-cylinder petrol engine which starts from £15,300. There’s the six-speed manual transmission as tested, as well as an automatic option, and there’s also a new six-speed sports automatic transmission.
MINI Connected is also available which offers extensive integration of smartphones inside the car, enabling the use of internet-based services in the areas of infotainment, communication and driver experience.
As you would expect with a MINI, a huge amount of options are available.
The new MINI retains the good points of its predecessor, and improves on the areas of weakness. With each successive generation of a car, you would expect refinement to improve, and this is certainly the case with the new MINI, which is more refined to drive and it offers a higher quality interior environment. The Cooper S becomes a more rounded car, which should hopefully appeal to a broader range of people who might have felt that they couldn’t live with the somewhat firm ride of the last model. The Cooper D becomes even more refined compared to the last model, with an engine that is extremely quiet under normal driving, and it’s also able to achieve an impressive official fuel economy figure of 80mpg. The new MINI gains a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.