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