Three’s a crowd

Fa­mil­iar yet fresh next-gen Mini has a triple-cylin­der party starter

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story - NEIL DOWLING

COULD it be that BMW fi­nally has found the essence of the orig­i­nal 1950s Mini?

“All-new” yet look­ing iden­ti­cal, the third gen­er­a­tion of the new Mini fo­cuses on econ­omy, af­ford­abil­ity and — if you pick the right model — sim­plic­ity. It gets a three­cylin­der en­gine op­tion, in­creased cabin room, a build­ing-block se­ries of me­dia con­nec­tiv­ity and the po­ten­tial for re­duced prices.

Mini is yet to nail down spec­i­fi­ca­tions and prices for the April launch but the signs are that BMW is pre­pared to pay for mar­ket share. Mini, like BMW, faces a dou­ble-front as­sault from long­stand­ing ri­vals as well as from wannabe mod­els pre­vi­ously oc­cu­py­ing cheaper mar­ket tiers. Volk­swa­gen’s Car of the Year-win­ning Golf MkVII and the Benz A‒Class are two com­pacts tak­ing money from po­ten­tial Mini buy­ers.

Ini­tially Aus­tralia gets three ver­sions — Cooper, Cooper S and Cooper D — with other vari­ants to fol­low in­clud­ing the top‒shelf per­for­mance model, the 180kW John Cooper Works. There is no talk of ex­pand­ing Mini’s string of vari­ants so the range will re­main the hatch­back and coupes, plus long-wheel­base Coun­try­man and its de­riv­a­tives.

Up to 20 mod­els will be built on the two Mini plat­forms and about half will wear BMW badges. The first BMW, the po­lar­is­ing 2 Se­ries Ac­tive Sports Tourer, will be here be­fore the year is out.

VALUE

Ex­pect the fea­tures list to ex­pand and some pric­ing to fall.

Op­tion pack­ages will abound. The “fun’’ as­pect of mar­ket­ing the brand continues.

Cars shown at launch in­cluded some painted in Bri­tish flags (done be­fore when BMW launched the first gen­er­a­tion in 2000) to in­di­cate the ex­tent of owner cus­tomi­sa­tion, cre­ativ­ity or sim­ply crook taste.

DE­SIGN

Yes, it looks the same. BMW and Mini share the new 44mm and height by 7mm — in­cre­men­tal but not neg­li­gi­ble.

At 211L, boot ca­pac­ity falls far short of more prac­ti­cal ri­vals. The dash­board has the speedo and tachome­ter di­rectly ahead of the driver with the sig­na­ture cen­tre dial now con­tain­ing a colour dis­play for ve­hi­cle man­age­ment, au­dio, sat­nav and con­nec­tiv­ity tasks.

Cabin room is well up on the old model and four adults can fit. The two‒door de­sign can make rear seat ac­cess awk­ward but then this isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the pick of cars for multi‒pas­sen­ger rides. The dash­board is far cleaner than be­fore but still re­quires a lot of

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