REVAMPED MINI HATCH: UPDATED TECH AND STILL GREAT TO DRIVE
Mini has revamped its hatch and convertible range for 2018, with more personalisation and premium appeal. Tom Wiltshire heads to Mallorca to try it out.
UPDATED MINI HATCH
WHAT IS IT? This is the facelifted and fettled version of the wildly popular Mk3 Mini. Having occupied a position in the UK’S bestselling cars charts on and off for many years, the Mini has a dedicated and choosy fan base that loves its pastiche of retro design elements, perky engines and sporty driving dynamics.
With a brand-new Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford’s Fiesta ST on its tail, the high-performance sibling that I tested, the Cooper S model, has its work cut out for it.
WHAT’S NEW? The only way this new Mini could shout about its British heritage more is if the horn played ‘Jerusalem’. The latest car is absolutely covered in Union Jacks, with the new LED taillights the boldest implementation of this. Elsewhere, changes are relatively small. UK cars now get full LED headlights as standard, with an unbroken ring of LEDS functioning as daytime running lights.
Mini’s new, simpler logo features throughout, and inside there are a few tech upgrades. Personalisation has been ramped up too, with the Mini Yours program giving buyers unprecedented levels of control over what their car looks like.
WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET? The entry-level 1.2-litre engine has been replaced by a detuned version of the Cooper’s 1.5-litre unit. The rest of the range is identical in power, though fuel economy has improved. Our Cooper S model produced a hefty 189bhp. Despite the Mini weighing a fairly porky 1,265 kilos, performance is sprightly, with 0-60mph despatched in 6.6 seconds. Top speed sits at 146mph.
The engine has plenty of lowdown grunt, but doesn’t encourage you to rev it hard. The best progress is to be made in the mid-range, thanks to that turbocharged torque. All Minis get an excellent six-speed manual ‘ box as standard, with rev-match technology in ‘Sport’ mode.
Most automatic models are fitted with a new seven-speed DCT transmission, which is smooth to shift but seemed too happy to change down unnecessarily. Hot JCW and Cooper SD models feature an eight-speed torque converter ‘ box instead.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Mini Cooper S sticks to the road like glue in hard cornering – Mini says it handles ‘ like a go-kart’ and has been trading on this since the brand was reborn in 2001. It’s fantastically entertaining on a twisty road, and the relatively stiff suspension ensures the car remains flat. The steering is nicely weighted – albeit slightly too heavy in ‘Sport’ mode, and offers bags of feedback.
It’s not a match for really hardcore hot hatches such as the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport, but it walks all over the likes of the Audi S1 or Volkswagen Polo GTI. That stiff suspension does mean the ride isn’t ideal for longer journeys, though. The Mini doesn’t exactly crash into bumps and potholes – it sort of bounces over them instead, courtesy of its short wheelbase. sticking point, as its retro design hinders usability to a point. It’s characterful, but buttons and switches are scattered about the cabin. The small gauge cluster is hard to read, while the central infotainment display looks a bit lost within its vast surround.
Lighting is another sticking point, with an irritating strip in the centre console and a gaudily lit panel in front of the passenger clashing with the rest of the cabin backlighting. Space for rear passengers and luggage isn’t great, but this won’t matter to most buyers – there’s plenty of room in the front, with comfortable and easily adjustable seats. Five-door models fix this up to a point. with engine spec, but most buyers will opt for the ‘Chili Pack’ of options.
This adds rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, different alloy wheels, improved upholstery and sports seats. Personalisation is vast and varied, and with the Mini Yours Pack, it’s possible to have 12 Union Jacks adorning your car. Please don’t specify all of them, though.