Friday 15 November 2019

Beefed up MINI is big on fun

The new MINI Cooper range has been revamped inside and out, writes Geraldine Herbert

STOP THE TRAFFIC: You won’t go unnoticed in the MINI Cooper S in Volcanic Orange
STOP THE TRAFFIC: You won’t go unnoticed in the MINI Cooper S in Volcanic Orange

Geraldine Herbert

IT MAY look pretty much like the old model but looks are deceptive and this new MINI has been completely revised from bumper to bumper and inside and out.

It is also bigger, longer by 98mm and 44mm wider than its predecessor but while purists may scoff at its expanding waistline, it is still shorter than rivals such as the Audi A1, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. A larger oval-shaped grille now dominates the front of the car flanked by new headlights and overall the bigger proportions give it a more muscular and masculine look

Inside it is brimming with technology to satisfy even the most ardent tech lover. While the cabin quality is much improved, it is also far more spacious, with better head, leg and shoulder room, especially in the rear seats where it's finally possible to carry some full-sized friends in the back. Luggage space is over 30 per cent more at 211 litres. There is an adjustable boot floor and a more useful 60/40 split replaces the original 50/50.

Ergonomics have never been MINI's strong point but changes such as moving the electric window switches from the dash to the door armrests and relocating the speedometer to the driver's eyeline certainly improves things. The traditional giant speedometer now houses a large centre console.

Under the bonnet, the new range reveals more radical changes and for the first time, the MINI comes with three new BMW engines. Powering the MINI Cooper is a three-cylinder petrol engine with a peak output of 134bhp while the Cooper S is powered by a four-cylinder petrol engine which develops 189bhp. The Cooper D Hatch comes with a 1.5 three-cylinder diesel engine.

At the launch, we had an opportunity to test drive two new versions, the petrol powered Cooper S and the diesel Cooper D. With 116bhp and 270Nms of torque, it is fast enough to be fun and with a CO2 figure of just 92g/km and a claimed 80mpg on the combined cycle it's not hard to see why this will be the big seller.

From its inception, MINI has been about the driving experience. Flip the new toggle switch starter and as it pulses red on ignition, we discover there is nothing dull about the Cooper D. Built on a platform that will also underpin a new generation of BMW models, the MINI is now even more comfortable. The chunky steering feels good but is slightly more detached than before. That said, our Cooper is remarkably able. On the road it is torquey and lively to drive and the diesel grumble is barely audible.

The Cooper S, the current flagship of the line-up, is remarkably smooth in its acceleration and noticeably quieter than the previous model. Low and flat, this four-seater really stays planted on curvy roads. The gearbox shifts quickly and responds smoothly and while the 0-100 time of 6.8 seconds is not a ripping speed, it is thrilling enough when accompanied by a distinctive engine note.

Prices for the new MINI start at €20,500.The Cooper D is priced from €23,830 and the Cooper S from €28,030. It comes with an array of wardrobe options, including decorative trims for the roof to new colour lines.

The MINI remains a properly engaging drive but now offers a surprising amount of interior space with fuel-sipping economy. Still classic enough to suit MINI fans, there is just enough technology and personalisation options to appeal to a new audience. The Cooper D ticks the emissions and economy boxes but the Cooper S is the one for sheer fun. But be warned, opt for the Volcanic Orange paint work and you won't go unnoticed, by anyone.

Sunday Independent

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