THE COOPER FOR THE CAFE RUN Mini main­tains the niche ap­peal with a concierge and yet more cus­tom op­tions

The Northern Star - - MOTORING -

Find­ing the next hip cafe to ful­fil smashed av­o­cado hunger pangs has be­come eas­ier for Mini buy­ers. The fash­ion-con­scious, brand-savvy crew can tap into the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to call Mini’s concierge ser­vice to get restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions and di­rec­tions … or to as­sist with any other co­nun­drum faced on the move.

In the event of an ac­ci­dent, the tech will call emer­gency ser­vices via func­tion­al­ity adopted from its BMW brethren.

The swag of tech up­dates to the Mini three­door, five-door and con­vert­ible range come with price in­creases of $200 to $1900.

A man­ual Mini three-door will now cost $29,900 be­fore on-roads, with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion adding $2500.

Cus­tom op­tions in­clude in­di­vid­u­alised door­sills and pud­dle lights that project a name, sig­na­ture or logo on to the ground in the dark. Own­ers can go fur­ther be­spoke with a cus­tomised dash cover or side “scut­tles” send­ing a per­sonal mes­sage.

The de­signs are sent to Ger­many to be cre­ated and when fit­ted will cost be­tween $80 for pro­jec­tion light­ing and $460 for door­sills.

Mini cus­tomers don’t mind go­ing beyond the norm and are happy with the sig­na­ture styling, says Mini prod­uct plan­ner Daniel Sil­ver­wood, which partly ex­plains why there are no sheet metal changes.

The brand aims for in­creased street pres­ence, with Cooper S and John Cooper Works de­riv­a­tives gain­ing LED lights and Union Jack-de­sign tail-lights — also avail­able in the Ac­tive pack on base mod­els for $2500.

Sil­ver­wood says the brand main­tains its ap­peal to a niche au­di­ence and makes a virtue of last year’s sales tally of about 4000.

“This year be­ing a lit­tle in front of that, it still feels like a club,” he says. “I don’t think we would want it any other way.

“We see a lot of fo­cus on per­son­al­i­sa­tion, which is why there is such a va­ri­ety of fea­tures.”

This midlife up­date aims to de­liver more of what the Mini-set looks for — a state­ment ride

that’s not from the more es­tab­lished pre­mium brands, such as a 1 Se­ries from par­ent com­pany BMW, or a Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

That ac­counts for very few Mi­nis sell­ing for the $30K base price.

“All the dif­fer­ent pieces cre­ate the story,” Sil­ver­wood says. “Con­nec­tiv­ity res­onates strongly with the life­style of our cus­tomers. It’s im­por­tant we make (the tech) clear to fol­low and in­clude as much as we can as stan­dard.”

At odds with that ap­proach, the new 6.5-inch colour touch­screen runs Ap­ple CarPlay — but there’s noth­ing for An­droid Auto users yet. Wire­less phone charg­ing is stan­dard on Cooper S, JCW and Cooper Con­vert­ible.

There are five new colours on the palette, ex­tra two-tone al­loy wheel choices and, no sur­prise, con­trast­ing colour roof and strip­ing op­tions. En­gines get lighter in­ter­nals but out­puts are un­changed.

The Cooper gear­boxes are six-speed man­ual or seven-speed dual-clutch auto (the lat­ter up­graded from a six-speed) and the Cooper S gets a seven-speed “sports tuned” auto.

ON THE ROAD

Per­for­mance matches the trade­mark sporty looks — lit­tle, if any­thing, has changed on the bi­tu­men. The go-kart han­dling, en­gag­ing and de­light­ful, main­tains the fun fac­tor.

High­way travel is rel­a­tively quiet and smooth but coarse bi­tu­men turns up the vol­ume on road noise. Sharp bumps, pot­holes or rail lines are felt through the com­pact cabin.

Due to poor sales of diesels, the en­gine op­tion is no longer avail­able in three-door, five­door, con­vert­ible or wagon vari­ants. Only the Coun­try­man SUV has an oil-burner.

Buy­ers have to part with $2500 for an Ac­tive pack to get the lat­est safety kit, with for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, adap­tive cruise con­trol and city emer­gency brak­ing.

In a base model tested with ex­tras, the price rock­eted to $47,000-plus. Ouch.

No mat­ter which Mini you buy, there is one as­sur­ance — strong re­sale value. Mi­nis trump BMWs, Ben­zes and Audis, keep­ing the cash for the next smashed avo brunch.

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