The third version of the Mini Cooper doesn’t change a winning formula
Sometimes midlife facelifts can be severe, certainly more than an eyebrow-raiser. But in this case the Mini updates have been subtle and mostly rather good. Just look at the new taillights. Note the Union Jack motif. Nice of BMW to have thought of that, and we thoroughly approve.
You might wonder if BMW was simply not trying too hard given the lack of any serious redesign, but since the looks remain one of the main selling points you can see why the company is treading carefully.
Mini Cooper 5dr
Engine 3cyls, 1499c, turbocharged petrol
Torque 162lb ft
Gearbox 6-spd manual
Kerb weight 1160kg
Top speed 129mph
Fuel economy 55.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 120g/km
The engine remains the same too. It’s the 134bhp three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine feeding through either the six-speed manual box or a new seven-speed auto. It’s fairly torquey, with 162lb ft arriving from only 1480rpm, lower than you might expect from a supermini with vaguely sporting pretensions. It’s a straightforward engine, giving you decent pep from across the clock, allowing you to indulge in the famous go-kart handling.
The set-up hasn’t changed so it’s still a car with very quick steering and a real urge to change direction instantly. You could argue it’s too quick, but it’s certainly fun when you’re in the mood. It grips, turns and fires in a really enjoyable way although the option of the £375 adaptive suspension fitted to our test car can be a bit detrimental to a comfy ride if dialled up. We’d leave it in its lower setting for comfort or definitely check out the stock passive set-up – which we haven’t tried.
Inside there’s the trademark upright A-pillars which set the scene, and a cabin that still looks like it was designed by the guy who designed the Wurlitzer, but it’s classy and, certainly up front, surprisingly spacious. At the rear it’s more cramped, but this is a supermini not an estate car, so that’s just baked in anyway.
Mini buyers love the design, but they’re also focused on the infotainment system. To that end, you’d need to spend another £2000 to get the Navigation Plus package. That brings in sat nav, real-time traffic info, Apple CarPlay connectivity. Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, will come on board as from this July.
With so many buyers getting into the Mini because of its ‘personality’ it’s no surprise that personalisation is also high on the list. You can get bespoke inserts for wing badges and dashboard, laser-etched sill plates and much more. There’s so much on offer you can play with a trick new online configurator to create your truly unique Mini Cooper.
There are some good alternatives, like the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta, but the chances are prospective purchasers are going to want this because it’s a Mini, not because of its torque curve versus the VW Polo. So the only main alternative is probably the Cooper S, the 189bhp variant that is this and more. Now that might raise both eyebrows.