MINI Update! We Drive The New Cooper
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
When BMW reinvented the MINI for the new millennium, they cannot possibly have predicted how successful their efforts would be.
First out of the starting blocks was a 3-door version and despite a raft of different models following over the years, this has remained the stalwart of the range.
For 2018, the MINI has had a makeover to keep it at the top of its game and to fend off the opposition in the form perhaps of the new Ford Fiesta ST and soon to be replaced Audi A1.
External changes are limited to new LED headlamps and a new MINI logo up front. However at the rear things get a little more radical. Once again LED lighting is fitted but with a rather startling Union Flag design. There is the option to decline this patriotic design cue in other markets, but us Brits will have to get used to them.
The rather vibrant Solaris Orange of my test car is one of three new colours available (Emerald Grey and Starlight Blue are the other too).
A new black exterior pack also now makes the options list and I’m told this replaces the chrome-edged grille, head and tail light surrounds with gloss black paint.
Inside is much the same as before (no bad thing), so expect to find a 6.5-inch touchscreen accessed via a BMW-style iDrive control.
The popular Chili Pack costs £2,800 is money well spent for the wealth of extra equipment it provides; sports seats, automatic air conditioning, rain sensors and cruise control are perhaps the highlights. The pack will also bring rewards come resale time.
Fit and finish are excellent, as one would expect from a car from the BMW stable and quality soft-touch materials abound.
Whilst many buyers undoubtedly are attracted to the MINI brand by the way the cars look, it is probably fair to say that most are attracted to the way they drive. I’m therefore pleased to report that the driving experience is as good as ever.
Let’s start with the Cooper’s 136hp 1,499cc three-cylinder petrol engine. Powerful, refined and economical are the headlines as demonstrated by the on-paper figures and proven on the road. The official 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds feels quite believable and top speed is a heady 130mph should you venture to a race track.
The six-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use and there is the option to specify a seven-speed dual-clutch self-shifter.
Up to 52.3mpg is promised and over the course of a week and 500+ miles I averaged a distinctly impressive 46.5mpg. Much of this was on the motorway, but it gives an idea of real world economy available. CO2 emissions are commendably low at just 122g/km, which will make the Cooper extremely attractive for business users.
MINIs have always been renowned for their handling and find a favourite series of bends and the spritely Cooper will shine. Body roll is negligible and grip outstanding, with sharp accurate steering allowing the car to be guided with accuracy. There’s a lot of fun to be had, especially if driving solo.
The downside comes in the form of the MINI’s ride comfort, which with the optional 17” alloy wheels can be somewhat harsh, especially around town. I would also say that the ride was somewhat unsettled at motorway cruising speed. My advice, choose smaller alloy wheels and ignore the run-flat tyre option.
The £375 optional Adaptive Suspension did little to aid comfort, but sharpened the handling still further when required.
Standard fit safety features abound, with a full complement of airbags, stability and traction control systems and Isofix child seat mountings.
The three-door MINI Cooper remains as classless as ever and will appeal to a wide cross-section of buyers. Improved in many areas and with more customisation options, strong sales are likely to continue.
The keen driver will find pleasure piloting a Cooper on a favourite B-road, whilst the more image conscious will revel in the car’s funky appearance and new colour options.
Why not have a play on MINI’s online configurator or better still pop down and see your friendly local dealer?
FAST FACTS (as tested)
MINI Cooper 3-Door Hatch
1,499cc 3-clinder petrol engine (136hp)
0 to 62mph in 7.9 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Combined economy 52.3mph
Emissions 122g/km CO2
6-speed manual gearbox
Price £17,380 before options
Chili pack add £2,800
Navigation Plus Pack add £2,000
Total with options £23,815
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MINI Update! We Drive The New Cooper, 12th June 2018, 6:31 AM