Mid-life makeover

Mini’s new fea­turepacked mod­els will cost you more, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

EX­TRA fea­tures and a more ef­fi­cient diesel en­gine are claimed to jus­tify a ‘‘mod­est’’ price hike on the up­dated Mini range. Ac­cord­ing to Mini Aus­tralia prod­uct plan­ning man­ager Sue McCarthy, the price in­creases have been kept to a ‘‘min­i­mum’’ of $400 for Cooper and JCW and $600 for the Cooper S, while the diesel is up $1000.

‘‘We un­der­stand there are a lot more com­peti­tors in the mar­ket but more com­peti­tors stim­u­late mar­ket de­mand in that seg­ment,’’ she says.

‘‘We don’t view that as a neg­a­tive thing. It keeps peo­ple on their toes and pro­motes com­pe­ti­tion.’’

Mini’s re­sponse to the com­pe­ti­tion has been to in­crease the level of stan­dard fea­tures to the mid-life model, rather than drop prices.

Cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Piers Scott points out that they sell very few ba­sic Minis.

‘‘So by build­ing more value, we can jus­tify a mod­est price up­lift­ing,’’ he says.

Scott says the cos­metic changes are sub­tle but the up­graded technology is ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant’’.

‘‘There is now more Mini: more cus­tomi­sa­tion, more ef­fi­ciency and more technology,’’ he says.

‘‘All changes are driven from talk­ing to our cus­tomers. If we don’t do some­thing right we hear from our cus­tomers straight away.’’

Value

EX­TRA stan­dard fea­tures in­clude rain-sens­ing wipers, auto head­lights, Blue­tooth (Blue­tooth mu­sic stream­ing is an op­tional ex­tra), USB in­put, fog lights and velour floor mats.

Mini claims that for the ex­tra $400 for the Cooper and JCW and $1000 more for the diesel you get $1450 of ex­tra fea­tures.

Op­tions in­clude a $750 ‘‘ra­dio vis­ual boost’’ up­graded au­dio sys­tem with LCD screen, joy­stick con­trol and on-board com­puter, and an up­dated $1900 ‘‘busi­ness nav­i­ga­tion’’ sys­tem, pre­vi­ously $2900.

Mini has also added sev­eral op­tional fea­ture pack­ages.

The $1125 city pack­age adds park dis­tance con­trol, alarm and auto dip­ping in­te­rior and ex­te­rior mir­rors.

The light­house pack­age adds adap­tive xenon head­lights and clear in­di­ca­tor lens and costs $700-$1600, depend­ing on the model.

The $970 body pack­age on the Cabrio adds a wind de­flec­tor, heated seats and a timer that tells you how long you’ve had the top down.

There is also a cargo pack­age that adds roof rails and a flat-load com­part­ment floor for $825.

The pop­u­lar $3900 Chilli pack­age is re­tained, but with re­vised con­tent.

All these ex­tras, along with the wide choice of trims, up­hol­stery, wheels and ex­te­rior colours and strip­ing give the Mini ex­tended in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties which, to a Mini owner, are in­valu­able.

Technology

THE big change in technology is the big­ger BMW-de­rived 1.6-litre diesel en­gine that re­places the 1.4.

It has 82kW of power and a 30Nm torque in­crease to 270Nm. Emis­sions of CO are down to an im­pres­sive 99g/km, and fuel econ­omy is down 0.1 litres/100km to 3.8.

It comes with a six-speed man­ual gear­box with auto start/stop func­tion, gearshift in­di­ca­tor to en­cour­age fru­gal driv­ing, brake en­ergy re­gen­er­a­tion and eco­nom­i­cal elec­tric power steer­ing.

An au­to­matic gear­box for the diesel will not ar­rive un­til the Mini gets the BMW 2.0-litre diesel from the 120d and 320d. It be­gins pro­duc­tion in March and should ar­rive in June.

The en­gine will have the same out­put as the cur­rent 1.6-litre unit but with dif­fer­ent torque char­ac­ter­is­tics.

It will be mated to the six-speed ZF au­to­matic trans­mis­sion but will not in­clude auto stop-start technology.

The first BMW group prod­uct with auto stop-start will be the new X3.

The Cooper and Cooper S petrol en­gines had tech­ni­cal up­grades ear­lier this year that lifted power 2kW (7kW for S) with a slight de­crease in emis­sions, plus bet­ter econ­omy and ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures.

For the first time, Mini gets op­tional adap­tive head­lights which turn with the steer­ing wheel to il­lu­mi­nate a corner. They are only avail­able with the light­house pack­age.

Style

DE­SPITE the ve­hi­cle be­ing 99mm longer, all pro­por­tions are re­tained and ex­te­rior de­sign changes are so sub­tle, few will no­tice them.

They in­clude more pro­nounced fog lights, ex­tra air ducts in the Cooper S, LED tail­lights and a higher Cooper bon­net to match the Cooper D and meet strict Euro­pean pedes­trian safety reg­u­la­tions.

The most sig­nif­i­cant changes to de­sign are in­side.

Though the gen­eral lay­out with tog­gles and large dish­plate speedo re­main, there is more qual­ity in the trim lev­els and feel.

McCarthy says the in­te­rior has a ‘‘qui­eter ap­pear­ance’’ with more use of dark tones.

Driv­ing

TO DRIVE home Mini’s famed gokart han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics, which are unal­tered with the mid-life up- dates, Mini launched the new mod­els with a mo­torkhana in an air­port han­gar at Avalon near Gee­long.

The sur­faces shifted from painted con­crete to as­phalt to a con­crete apron giv­ing a feel for the high lev­els of grip, the nim­ble change of di­rec­tion and the ex­tra feel pro­vided by the ‘‘sport’’ but­ton, which sharp­ens the steer­ing and throt­tle re­sponse.

Out on the road, the Mini feels as pre­cise and en­gag­ing as al­ways. With no changes to the me­chan­ics, the drive down the Great Ocean Road was pure fun.

Even the new diesel felt lit­tle dif­fer­ent to the old one, with the same out­put and han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The real test of the changes was in the op­er­a­tion of the au­dio sys­tem, which now has the con­fus­ing vol­ume and tun­ing knob re­placed with a more user-friendly ar­range­ment.

Ver­dict

EX­TRA cus­tomi­sa­tion may con­fuse some buy­ers, but typ­i­cal Mini own­ers highly value the abil­ity to make their Mini as close to unique as you can get with a mass-pro­duced ve­hi­cle.

New stan­dard: the Club­man . . . there is now more cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions and im­proved technology in the Mini.

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