BURST­ING WITH FLAVOUR

They may not be to ev­ery­one’s taste, but the mod­ern Mini has a loyal fan base ... and two ex­tra doors

The Northern Star - - MOTORING - GRANT ED­WARDS

Style is the essence of mod­ern Minis. Once the bas­tion of af­ford­able mo­tor­ing, the mar­que has evolved into the ul­ti­mate hip­ster ma­chine. A state­ment rather than pure trans­port, the five-door Mini was in­tro­duced for those re­quir­ing func­tion and not just form, while the Coun­try­man SUV is for grow­ing fam­i­lies. That’s a fair stretch for a brand which used to live up to its name, but Mini now sits in a pre­mium world.

They’re not for ev­ery­one. This Cooper S de­riv­a­tive starts from $41,150 be­fore on-roads, and the op­tions quickly push the price to­ward $50k.

Yet Minis are a pre­mium enigma. Some­how they main­tain value, and re­sale is im­pres­sive. They’re not quite in the realm of a Toy­ota LandCruiser or Prado, but they bat well above the re­tained value av­er­age and are con­sis­tently stronger than a used Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1 Se­ries or Audi A3 ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try val­uer Red Book.

VALUE

Up­dated mid-year, the head­line act was tech­nol­ogy. It seems the tar­get mar­ket want to be con­stantly con­nected, and lat­est vari­ants come with a concierge ser­vice that en­ables con­stant sup­port for just about any­thing. You can re­quest direc­tions from the op­er­a­tor, get restau­rant ad­vice or ask about shop­ping cen­tre open­ing hours all from the con­fines of your Mini.

Other stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes in­dus­try lead­ing wire­less Ap­ple CarPlay (sorry, noth­ing for An­dorid users), 6.5-inch colour touch­screen, six-speaker sound sys­tem with dig­i­tal ra­dio, full Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, key­less start, 17-inch al­loys and com­bi­na­tion cloth-leather seat trim.

Among the new ad­di­tions in this model are LED lights and Union Jack-de­sign tail-lights.

Op­tional ex­tra packs are re­quired for the sought-af­ter in­clu­sions, like key­less en­try, park­ing as­sist, panoramic sun­roof and radar cruise con­trol.

There is cur­rently a lim­ited edi­tion ‘Kens­ing­ton’ avail­able wear­ing a bur­gundy metal­lic, leather in­te­rior trim and big­ger in­fo­tain­ment screen and a lot of cool stuff for $54,150 drive-away.

Like ve­hi­cles from par­ent com­pany BMW, all Minis have con­di­tion-based ser­vic­ing re­quire­ments. So es­sen­tially, the more and harder you drive, the more fre­quent main­te­nance is re­quired.

Ser­vic­ing packs are avail­able, with ‘ba­sic’ cov­er­age cost­ing $1295 for five years with an an­nual check up. The ‘plus’ pack is $3650 and cov­ers more items, like brake pads and discs as well as the clutch disc and plate.

DRIV­ING

This is the Mini sweet-spot.

Sit­ting below the wild John Cooper Works de­riv­a­tives, the Cooper S still packs some zesty punch with a 2.0-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine be­neath the quin­tes­sen­tial skin.

Feel­ing like you’re hov­er­ing just above the bi­tu­men, there is ex­cite­ment when you squeeze the throt­tle trig­ger. Mini trum­pets its go-kart-like dy­nam­ics for good rea­son, with the heavy steer­ing (by lux­ury stan­dards) re­spon­sive and sharp.

Grip­ping won­der­fully to the bi­tu­men, it loves bends more than Don­ald Trump em­braces or­ange.

The trade-off is a firm ride. Cor­ru­ga­tions and sharp bumps like rail­way tracks will cause grit­ted teeth.

Var­i­ous in­ter­nal hues are avail­able to suit your mood, and the cabin re­ally comes alive at night with match­ing am­bi­ent light­ing in the footwells, around the cen­tral dis­play as well as across the dash and doors.

In­te­rior space is tight, and while it’s a five door, leg room is lim­ited in the back.

SAFETY

With a four-star rat­ing, the Mini comes with the ba­sics like sta­bil­ity con­trol, anti-lock brakes, rear park­ing sen­sors and a re­vers­ing cam­era.

At this price the Driver As­sist Pack­age should be stan­dard, which fea­tures city col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing,

high-beam as­sis­tant and speed sign recog­ni­tion.

HEAD SAYS

It’s not the most prac­ti­cal of buys, but it fills the fun fac­tor brief nicely and it shouts style. Ev­ery time I look at you I smile.

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