A CAR FOR ALL SEA­SONS

Hot Press - - DRIVE OF THE YEAR - Words Natasha Murtagh

Wow! I don’t even have to slip be­hind the steer­ing wheel to be hugely im­pressed with the new MINI Cooper 5 Door Hatch. Even at first glance, it looks in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful.

I’m not the only one that feels this way about this won­der­fully dap­per, com­pact car. I take it for a spin, and heads are turn­ing as I whiz around the city (and no, it’s not just me!).

The MINI orig­i­nally hit the streets dur­ing the 1960s, and from the out­set it was spe­cial, cap­tur­ing the col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion. The de­sign was rev­o­lu­tion­ary then. What is ex­tra­or­di­nary is that, with­out depart­ing hugely from that fab ini­tial blue­print, it still feels to­tally cut­ting edge.

I’ve been given a MINI Cooper 5 door Hatch to test drive (it also comes as a Con­vert­ible). This one is in a brand new colour, Emer­ald Grey metal­lic – a stun­ning mushroom shade that looks par­tic­u­larly amaz­ing in the sun­light. It is beau­ti­fully set off by the ‘Pi­ano Black Ex­te­rior pack’ – mean­ing that the sur­rounds of the head­lights, rear lights and ra­di­a­tor grille are all fin­ished in high-gloss black in­stead of chrome.

The MINI has al­ways been known as a safe, se­cure car and this year’s model will bur­nish that rep­u­ta­tion even fur­ther. The wheels on the Cooper sit slightly wider than the body of the car, mak­ing it feel par­tic­u­larly grounded and solid on the road.

As mo­tors go, the MINI Cooper 5 door

Hatch of­fers real value for money, but what’s re­ally sweet is that it has the look of a vastly more ex­pen­sive car.

To add to the vis­ual fun, there’s a wider than ever choice of al­loy wheels, with 17-inch ‘Roulette’ and ‘Pro­pel­ler’ de­signs avail­able for all body vari­ants. There’s also a new ‘Rail’ twotone wheel. In­side, there’s leather trim, as well as innovative in­te­rior surfaces and colour lines.

None of that would make it a must-buy if it didn’t drive well, but it does – and then some. It’s great for city streets, park­ing in tight spa­ces and zip­ping around gen­er­ally. But this lat­est model han­dles longer trips like never be­fore. Take it onto the open road and there’s an im­pres­sive surge of power from the 1.5 litre en­gine: this is the new MINI TwinPower Turbo Tech­nol­ogy kick­ing into ef­fect, mak­ing for a beau­ti­fully smooth, sporty driving ex­pe­ri­ence.

The tech­nol­ogy through­out is state-of-theart. There are now MINI con­nected concierge ser­vices; wire­less smart­phone charg­ing; and first-in-class op­tions like the new anti-daz­zle adap­tive head­lights with Ma­tric high beam.

The new three-spoke steer­ing wheel comes in three dif­fer­ent looks: sports leather; a John Cooper Works leather; or a MINI Yours sports leather. It also fea­tures multi-func­tion but­tons: on the left, the Speed Limit De­vice al­lows you to set a max­i­mum speed; mean­while, the au­dio and com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­trols, on the right, en­sure that you can eas­ily and com­fort­ably change song, vol­ume, chan­nel etc. The stan­dard trim also in­cludes a su­perb au­dio sys­tem, with great speak­ers, a 6.5-inch colour screen in the cen­tral in­stru­ment panel and mo­bile phone in­te­gra­tion via Blue­tooth.

Fi­nally, there’s a 7-speed Step­tronic trans­mis­sion, with dou­ble clutch fit and an elec­tronic se­lec­tor lever. The gear-stick doesn’t move: you sim­ply press a lever on the side to shift be­tween the var­i­ous gears. It all looks very sporty, sexy and tech savvy. And guess what? That’s be­cause it is...

THE VER­DICT

The brand new 2018 MINI still em­bod­ies what made the MINI such a leg­end, as a great, com­pact, ul­tra-stylish Bri­tish car. But this new MINI turns a fine ve­hi­cle, into a truly slick and pow­er­ful ma­chine, which de­liv­ers the most ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy with fresh pizazz. It’s a car for all sea­sons, with a roomy feel and loads of space in the front, the back and the boot. Bet­ter still, its added power and per­for­mance makes it a car for long jour­neys, trav­el­ling to festivals or tak­ing you wher­ever the road leads. A win­ner all the way.

Photography Miguel Ruiz

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