The New MINI review: Third time’s the charm

The 'new' MINI Cooper is now into its third-generation. (Credit: MINI)
The 'new' MINI Cooper is now into its third-generation. (Credit: MINI)

The original MINI was designed to be a compact and affordable city car when it debuted in the Sixties, but when BMW rebooted the formula for the 21st century, MINI evolved into a style icon for the young and young-at-heart. It’s been over a decade since the ‘new’ MINI was launched, but it still remains as relevant as ever for those who see the car as a trendy fashion statement. BMW obviously wants more out of MINI though, and so we have the completely revamped third-generation version of the MINI hatch, which the company reckons is a much more serious motoring proposition than before.

What’s new?

The car has grown in every dimension overall. (Credit: MINI)
The car has grown in every dimension overall. (Credit: MINI)

Despite looking virtually identical to its predecessor, almost everything on the latest MINI is brand new. And we do mean everything. It sits on BMW’s new UKL modular platform, which will see use in a whole host of compact BMWs that you can expect in the near future (such as the upcoming 2 Series Active Tourer, the first ever front-wheel-driven BMW). Effectively, this new MINI heralds a new era for BMW, and one can expect the MINI brand to be even more closely connected to the parent BMW brand in the future, with greater sharing of technologies and product development.

The Cooper model packs a neat little 1.5-litre 136bhp petrol engine. (Credit: MINI)
The Cooper model packs a neat little 1.5-litre 136bhp petrol engine. (Credit: MINI)

There is also a range of new engines, meant to better differentiate between the standard Cooper and the sportier Cooper S models. The former now has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine that produces 136bhp (just missing the cut for it to attain a Category A COE), and the Cooper S has a turbocharged 2.0-litre in-line four with 192bhp.

Interestingly, there IS a variant that does qualify for Cat A, and according to a BMW spokesperson is being seriously considered for Singapore. Unfortunately, the base MINI One, which packs a 102bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol, was not available for test drive during the car’s international launch in Puerto Rico. There are also two diesel versions, the MINI One D with a 95bhp 1.5-litre diesel, and the MINI Cooper D, with the same 1.5-litre turbo diesel powerplant tuned to produce 116bhp, but they are both not currently earmarked for Singapore yet.

The interior has also been reorganised, and the speedo is no longer in the centre. (Credit: MINI)
The interior has also been reorganised, and the speedo is no longer in the centre. (Credit: MINI)

Visually, the new MINI is bigger, and has grown in every dimension. The car is now 98mm longer, 44mm wider and 7mm taller. Crucially, its wheelbase has been lengthened by 28mm, and this addresses the previous car’s criticism of a lack of room for rear passengers. The cabin has also been redesigned, with the speedometer now located at the ‘normal’ spot behind the steering wheel, instead of in the middle of the dashboard like previous versions. It is better equipped too, with features such as a head-up display, LED headlamps and parking assistant now available.

What’s it like to drive?

The MINI’s bigger size means that the car feels more refined and planted than before, with a ride quality that is very much improved over its predecessor. No longer does the car feel crashy over bumps, and the new Dynamic Damper Control system does an extremely impressive job of adapting to the often rough surfaces of Puerto Rico’s roads.

And yet, the MINI still manages to retain its famed go-kart like handling prowess, with the car very much capable of taking on the twisties with confidence. Its steering is also very precise and direct, and imparts a sense of confidence to the driver. You get the sense that the car can take on virtually any corner and come up on top.

The Cooper S has a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with 192bhp. (Credit: MINI)
The Cooper S has a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with 192bhp. (Credit: MINI)

As mentioned earlier, there appears to be greater differentiation between the Cooper and Cooper S models in terms of performance. The base Cooper’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine feels energetic and revvy, very much what you’d expect from a small car, and its nippy behavior would make it absolutely at home in the city. The Cooper S though offers a driving experience that is more akin to a large performance car, combining excellent refinement with brisk pace.

Should I consider one?

Very much so. The new MINI is no longer just a stylish trinket with compromises on practical concerns. Rather, BMW has managed to reinvent the MINI, and it now offers a more impressive and well-rounded package than before. At last, MINI can finally say that it has the substance to back up the style.

The all-new MINI offers a much-improved ride, but without losing its go-kart like handling ability. (Credit: MINI)
The all-new MINI offers a much-improved ride, but without losing its go-kart like handling ability. (Credit: MINI)

NEED TO KNOW: MINI Cooper

Engine 1,499cc, 12V, turbocharged in-line 3

Power 136bhp at 4,500-6,000rpm

Torque 220Nm at 1,250-4,000rpm

Gearbox 6-speed manual

Top Speed 210km/h

0-100kmh 7.9 seconds

Fuel efficiency 4.6L/100km

CO2 105g/km

Price To Be Announced

Availability Second Quarter, 2014

NEED TO KNOW: MINI Cooper S

Engine 1,998cc, 16V, turbocharged in-line 4

Power 192bhp at 4,700-6,000rpm

Torque 280Nm at 1,250-4,750rpm

Gearbox 6-speed automatic

Top Speed 233km/h

0-100kmh 6.7 seconds

Fuel efficiency 5.2L/100km

CO2 122g/km

Price To Be Announced

Availability Second Quarter, 2014

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