Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, FRS, RD designed the first Mini released 1959.

Alec Issigonis wanted an affordable city car that could take a family and all their stuff, and it was tiny. Sales were slow until pop stars and royalty made it a 60’s icon. It had to be cheap to run, fun to drive, and easy to park.

After a veritable cavalcade of owners, the brand landed with its current custodian, BMW in the year 2000, and that’s a good thing.

Although the shape hasn’t changed much, Mini is all grown up. It can no longer be called affordable, and like all European cars, comes with a vast range of personalization options. Like all Euro options, they are pricey.

Highlights for the midlife Mini update is the dumping of the Diesel in most models, and the addition of Mini Connected, LED lighting, and the touch screen navigation system with CarPlay/Android Auto.

Everything about Mini is funky, including the website and the really cool phone app.

Outside:

Nothing much has changed on the outside.

To top it all off, there is a new Mini logo which looks like the old one to me.

For $1,200, you can option your JCW with Luxury Lapis Blue or Rebel Green.

Mini has in crammed even more good stuff into the new models. Most obvious on the outside is LED lighting. Look at the sensational Union Jack tail lights that celebrate all that is British.

The LED lighting system includes DTRLs and fully adaptive automatic high beam. This is optional on the entry level Cooper, and standard on Cooper S and JCW. For anyone who hasn’t experienced adaptive LED headlights, it can come as a revelation.

It lights the road ahead with force of 10 suns, while always keeping other traffic in dimmed pool so as not to Dazzle them.

Inside:

Inside, Mini continues the quirkiness

There is a 6 speed manual, a 7 speed double clutch auto, and an 8 speed auto depending on the model. The range of engines includes a 100kw 3 cylinder turbo, and 141kw and 170kw 4 cylinder turbo. There is still a diesel in Countryman for that touch of bucolic verisimilitude.

We reviewed Countryman earlier in the year.

All models have Mini Connected which uses an inbuilt 4G Sim. The network provides traffic information, tele services, and via your smart phone, remote connectivity. You can even plan a trip which will suggest departure times based on traffic flow.

Remote features include car location, fuel level displays. It also allows the driver to lock and unlock the car, flash the lights, and pre-condition the vehicle from anywhere you have cell service.

The concierge will even suggest dinner locations, but I’m not sure I want nanny watching me that closely.

The range starts at $29,900 for the 3 door Cooper and tops out at $59,900 for the JCW Countryman All-4.

The central stack once contained the speedo in the style of the 60’s classic. Thankfully that nonsense has gone by the way and now houses MINI’s touch screen infotainment system.

Hallelujah Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now standard across the range.

Seats are firm even in the base model, as is the ride and handling.

The cabin is unique and eschews sameness which has permiated car design in recent years. In trying to be different, most cars feel the same. MINI on the other hand, is different.

Exterior

It comes in a 3, 5 door hatch, a convertible, a Clubman, and a Countryman.

There are 3 trim levels: Cooper, Cooper S, and John Cooper Works. The latter is meant to be a track focused go-quick, jet powered roller skate. John Cooper was responsible for adding the Go-quick bits to the classic 60’s car too.

Headlights now feature circular DTRLs (day time running lights), something not possible on the previous model. Technology has allowed one continuous line of light encircling the new LED headlights.

Tail lights have come in for a really special treatment. Each tail light forms one half of the Union Jack, the symbol of British pride. It is a simple but oh-so-effective touch that adds a touch of Bond to your daily drive.

The Mini logo has had a subtle makeover too. It has been simplified with 3 lines either side of the central Mini roundel.

Interior

Subtle changes are mainly confined to technology.

“Mini Connected” brings an array of services via a call centre shared with BMW. You can ask for the concierge to recommend a café nearby, then send the directions to your SatNav. We will bring a story on the later.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto can be used via USB but also has the option of wireless connection. This is something I haven’t seen in other brands. Importantly the

Seating is comfortable and snug. Regardless of the fact that Mini has grown over the years, it is still a small city car. It just so happens it is as comfortable on the open road.

Mini has smart entry/start so the key stays in your pocket. Stating the engine via the toggle is a neat feature I’ve always liked.

Features

MINI Cooper Hatch range, standard inclusions:

  • Turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine generating 100kW and
  • 220Nm
  • Six-speed manual transmission (optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission)
  • Six airbags
  • Auto stop/start function

Keyless engine start

  • 16-inch light-alloy road wheels with 195/55/R16 tyres
  • USB and 12v front console connections
  • Six-speaker HiFi system
  • 5-inch touchscreen display with navigation system and real-time traffic

information

  • Reversing camera with guidance lines
  • Handsfree Bluetooth with call and music streaming
  • Digital Radio tuner
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay preparation
  • MINI Connected
  • Remote Services – via MINI Connected App
  • Teleservices
  • Emergency call button integrated in headliner
  • ‘Firework’ cloth upholstery
  • Air-conditioning
  • Auto headlights
  • Rain sensing wipers
  • Heated exterior mirrors and washer jets
  • Rear park distance control
  • Dynamic Stability Control with Dynamic Traction Control
  • Electronic Brake Force Distribution
  • Integrated owner’s manual, accessed via touchscreen

The Cooper S adds additional key features, including:

  • Turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine generating 141kW and 280Nm
  • Optional seven-speed sports-tuned dual-clutch transmission
  • 17-inch light alloy road wheels with 205/45/R17 tyres
  • MINI Driving Modes
  • Bluetooth with wireless phone charging, USB audio interface and front arm rest

with secondary USB port

  • Sports seats for driver and front passenger
  • Cloth/leather combination upholstery in Diamond Carbon Black
  • ‘Black Chequered’ interior surfaces

Dual-zone climate control

  • Dual central tailpipes
  • LED Headlights with front LED fog lights with ‘Union Jack’ tail lights
  • MINI Excitement

 

JCW adds

  • turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine generating
  • 170kW and 320Nm
  • Optional eight-speed sports automatic transmission
  • 18-inch light alloy road wheels with 205/40/R18 tyres
  • Adaptive Suspension with Comfort and Sport modes
  • Run-flat safety tyres
  • 8-inch high-definition touchscreen with large screen navigation system and

real-time traffic information

  • 12-speaker harman/kardon premium HiFi
  • Head-Up Display with specific John Cooper Works content, including engine

revs, gear indicator and shift point display

  • JCW-specific exterior and interior features
  • Cloth/Dinamica upholstery in double stripe Carbon Black
  • Anthracite headliner
  • Front and rear Park Distance Control with Park Assist function

Options:

Opting for the 3 door or 5 door Hatch, the following packages are available:

ACTIVE – for Cooper

  • Driver Assistant Package, a camera based system including forward collision

warning, city collision mitigation, high beam assistant and speed limit information

  • Wireless phone charging with second USB port and front armrest
  • MINI Excitement Package
  • Clear indicator lenses
  • Dual-zone Automatic climate control
  • LED Headlights with ‘Union Jack’ style LED tail lights

CHILI – for Cooper

  • Includes ACTIVE package contents, plus:
  • Cloth/Leather Diamond upholstery, Carbon Black
  • 17-inch light alloy wheels
  • MINI Driving Modes

MULTIMEDIA PRO – for Cooper and Cooper S

  • 8-inch high-resolution touch screen with voice recognition
  • 12-speaker harman/kardon HiFi system
  • Head Up Display
  • MINI Find Mate with two Bluetooth item tags

CLIMATE

  • Panorama electric glass roof
  • Seat heating for driver and front passenger
  • Sun protection glazing

CONVENIENCE

  • Comfort Access and AlarmPark Assist with front and rear Park Distance Control
  • Mirror Package with anti-dazzle function for driver’s exterior and rear view
  • Concierge Services

CONTROL

  • Camera based adaptive cruise control Driver Assistant Package, a camera based system including forward collision
  • warning, city collision mitigation, high beam assistant and speed limit

information

  • Tyre pressure monitoringAdaptive matrix LED Headlights
  • Anti-dazzle rear view mirror

JCW STYLE – for Cooper S

  • Specific 17-inch ‘track spoke’ light alloy wheels in BlackAdaptive suspension
  • JCW Aerodynamics Package
  • Colour coded side sills
  • ‘Black Line’ headlight and tail light trim surrounds
  • JCW Sports Seats in cloth/Dinamica
  • JCW door sill finishers
  • Anthracite roof lining
  • Stainless steel sports pedals

For the convertible range, packages include:

CHILI – for Cooper

  • Cloth/Leather Diamond upholstery, Carbon Black
  • 17-inch light alloy wheels
  • LED headlights, including LED driving lights and fog lights
  • MINI Driving Modes
  • Driver Assistant Package

MULTIMEDIA PRO – for Cooper and Cooper S

  • 8-inch high-resolution touch screen with voice recognition
  • 12-speaker harman/kardon HiFi system
  • Head Up Display
  • MINI Find Mate with two Bluetooth item tags

CONVENIENCE

  • Comfort Access and AlarmPark Assist with front and rear Park Distance Control
  • Mirror Package with anti-dazzle function for driver’s exterior and rear view
  • Concierge Services

CONTROL

  • Camera based adaptive cruise control
  • Driver Assistant Package, a camera based system including forward collision
  • warning, city collision mitigation, high beam assistant and speed limit
  • information
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Adaptive matrix LED Headlights
  • Anti-dazzle rear view mirror

ALWAYS OPEN

  • Heated seats
  • Comfort Access
  • Wind deflector

JCW STYLE – for Cooper S

  • Specific 17-inch ‘track spoke’ light alloy wheels in Black
  • Adaptive suspension
  • JCW Aerodynamics Package
  • Colour coded side sills
  • ‘Black Line’ headlight and tail light trim surrounds
  • JCW Sports Seats in cloth/Dinamica
  • JCW door sill finishers
  • Stainless steel sports pedals

 

Driving

 

Three engines provide a range of power options depending on the buyer’s needs and budget. A manual will always be my choice but the slick 8 speed auto is a thing to behold. We have seen it in Mini and BMW before so the tired and tested formula proves to be as much a winner in the updated range.

New to the range is a DCT (dual Clutch Transmission) for JCW. It brings snappier changes especially when in the sportiest driving mode. You can use paddle shifters if you wish, but the logic programme is so clever that shifting-em-yourself seems pointless.

Steering feels as direct as electric power steering can feel. As you turn the wheel, the car goes exactly where you point it without hesitation. You feel more like you’re in a Crazy Mouse ride as direction changes like a cat on carpet.

Head Up Display now projects onto the windscreen instead of the tacky plexiglass pop-up panel.

 

Mini has dropped the slow selling diesel from the convertible, 3 door, and 5 door cars. For the moment, the diesel can still be had in the Countryman.

Ride feels slightly improved. Mini has always tended to the firm side and the JCW continues this theme. Cooper and Cooper S models are slightly more supple. Run flat tyres tend to a firmer ride anyway. They have lost none of the roller-skate feeling that has always endeared them so much to their owners, and that is a good thing.

JCW spits and pops as it moves through gears and backs off the accelerator. The sound track adds a touch of “cool” to your trip to the shops. Rev matching makes rapid downshifts less of a frantic experience.

Using the touch screen while driving lacks the haptic feedback you get from real buttons but you quickly get used to where your menus take you. It is safer to use voice control via Siri though.

 

Safety

  • 4 star

See above for the full list of features and safety.

Good Bits

  • Handsome looks
  • Fun and funky cabin design
  • Excellent handling

Not So Good Bits

  • Extensive range of costly options
  • price
  • rear seat cramped

Summary

Mini is, and always has been, a personal favourite. You wouldn’t buy Mini on figures alone though. It is a car that is more than the sum of its parts. It is an lifestyle vehicle that imbues its owner with an aura pf personality.

The list of attributes is a long one, and the list of options even longer. You could add 10 grand in options if you really tried. Mini tried a de-featured model stripped of the expensive bits, and buyers said no. This means a Mini buyer wants quality fittings, added tech, and all the modern safety features found in cheaper cars, and are prepared to pay for it.

Ever since taking ownership, the BMW Group has used Mini as the entry level into premium driving. This is far from the concept of the 60’s car, but the 60’s car would never sell now. Buyers demand comfort, safety, and connectivity, and Mini has all of that.

Handling is brilliant even on rougher roads. Mini has lost none of its personality over the years and this is perhaps why the shape has changed little since the 60’s. it feels like a capering kid goat as it scampers in and out of traffic. It is playful and eager.

This may come as a surprise, but Mini is also the perfect car for a couple to take that road trip in style. The boot isn’t huge but with the back seat down you get a ton of gear in. We managed a couple of overnight bags, some coats, scarves, and a backpack without putting the seats down. We put the seats down anyway so the parcel shelf covering the cargo hold sat flat.

Either way, Mini is as happy in town as it is in the country.

I’d be happy to buy Mini with my own money.

3 door Hatch

  • MINI Cooper $29,900
  • MINI Cooper S $39,900
  • MINI JCW $49,900

5 door Hatch

  • MINI Cooper $31,150
  • MINI Cooper S $41,150

Convertible

  • MINI Cooper $40,900
  • MINI Cooper S $47,900
  • MINI JCW $57,900

Clubman

  • MINI Cooper $37,900
  • MINI Cooper S $45,900
  • MINI JCW All4 $56,900

MINI

Countryman

  • MINI Cooper $41,900
  • MINI Cooper D $45,900
  • MINI Cooper S $48,900
  • MINI Cooper SD All4 $53,900
  • MINI JCW All4 $59,900

Facts and Figures

Price: from $29.990

Engine:

1.5 turbo petrol 3cyl, 100kw/220Nm

2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl, 141kw/280Nm

2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl, 170kw/320Nm

Transmission: 6 speed manual, 8 speed auto, 7 speed DCT auto

Safety: 4 star

Origin: UK

Warranty: 3yr/unlimited km

Alan Rating 8/10