Friday 22 September 2017

MINI more on the way as new hatch works old magic

Eddie Cunningham Motoring Editor

ALREADY the talk is about a 5dr MINI and an estate and . . .

Sources I spoke with at the launch of the 3dr hatch this week were suggesting there would be quite a few derivatives. And there will be a super-green sub-90g/km engine.

But for now we have the 3dr hatch. It goes on sale next spring and will cost just €135 more than the existing one. Prices start from €22,530.

It is unmistakably MINI. Why go mad and change the shape? A bit of me wanted it to be more 'different' (big headlights, roof colour contrast, hexagonal front grille and rear lights are evolutionary).

The new car was unveiled on what would have been the 107th birthday of its creator Alec Issigonis, a man who liked to break moulds.

CABIN

But because this doesn't visually do so, there was more focus on the inside. The 'Big Ben' central display (screen within it up to 8.8ins depending on model) is still there but thankfully less garish because it is more an interactive screen for all sorts of things and infotainment – worked by a choice of two iDrive-style controllers.

It delegates information on revs, speed etc to a binnacle behind the steering wheel in the driver's eye-line.

The front is much nicer as a result – the cabin generally benefits from better-quality materials.

And, at last, the buttons for the electric windows are on the doors where you'd expect them – not in the centre of a bewildering row of others in the middle.

These are the important things for most people. And the drive, of course, but we'll have to wait a bit longer to see how the heavily re-worked suspension gets on.

Despite the evolutionary nature of the looks, it is built on a new BMW-engineered platform called UKL1. This will be the base for the MINI and a wave of new front-wheel-drive BMWs.

It is very much a 'connected' car with online-based services such as web radio, use of social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Glympse, RSS news feeds and entertainment elements such as AUPEO!, Stitcher, Napster and TuneIn.

They claim it can take four (front seat bases 23mm longer) and their luggage because there's a bit more room in the cabin. Frankly it is a marginal call. The rear seats could only accommodate smaller children if I was driving – that's my verdict after sitting in while chatting to a senior BMW executive at the Oxford launch. The rear bench can be split 60/40.

This will have a near endless list of add-ons. A John Cooper Works rear spoiler, decorative trims for roof, mirrors, seat upholstery and bonnet strips predicted to be the most popular.

At its heart are three new engines – two petrols and a diesel (see panel). A 6spd manual gearbox is standard but there's a 6spd automatic.

Boot space is up 30pc to 211 litres (no spare wheel – inflating kit).

All three engines have much better fuel economy and lower emissions (see panel).

Standard equipment includes several airbags, front/rear ISOFIX, electric mirrors, air-con, front fogs, MINI radio including aux-in, USB interface and Bluetooth.

Options include head-up-display, two-zone auto air con, heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, windscreen heating and Harman Kardon hi-fi speaker system.

More than 2.5 million MINIs have been sold since the 'new-era' began in 2001. One-in-six cars made by BMW is a MINI.

It is an extraordinary story of revolution and evolution. And, as I said at the start, there's lots more to come.

Irish Independent

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