If you have a pulse you already love the MINI. The retro hatchback always raises a smile. The BMW owned, Oxford built iconic British brand has a cheeky appeal that mimics the original car despite its drastic engineering differences. I must stop referring to it as new MINI as production of the reimagined front wheel drive car began 20 years ago – I know we’re getting old! We’re testing a refreshed three-door MINI in Cooper Sport guise this week to see if it still delivers driving fun.
The MINI is relatively huge next to a 1959 10 foot long original. The three-door hatchback is the smallest MINI you can buy. Under BMW ownership the first car from the brand was a hoot to drive and somehow captured much of the essence of the tiny car. Razor sharp steering and responsiveness were key characteristics. MINI has expanded its range over the years with relative success with its Countryman SUV and four-door MINI that both use larger platforms. MINI Clubman (we like a lot), the Roaster and Paceman were less successful. This proves you cannot stray too far from your core and so the three door MINi, the MIINI Convertible and the 184hp MINI Electric – all mini MINIs have proven their worth. MINI has announced it will make electric-only MINIs from the early 2030s and let’s hope it stays true to providing fun little cars that have personality.
The MINI three-door starts from €23,325. The three main models are: MINI ONE, Cooper and Cooper S (102hp/136hp/178hp). Under-powered MINIs allow for a cheaper access point but are quite dreary to drive compared to modern hybrids that frequently can out accelerate at urban speeds – MINIs should always be nippy, eager and quick. Economic market forces led MINI to models with less power and better fuel consumption like the MINI ONE and we also saw the introduction of the D for diesel (feel free to scream!) that were easy to live with but less fun than any MINI should be. The SD did deliver a bit of low end urge but enthusiasts had to seek out a Cooper S or JCW (John Cooper Works) version for real giggles.
Our 1.5 litre petrol powered MINI ‘Cooper Sport’ model is on sale in Ireland and starts at €27,904 and with its optional Island Blue paint, comfort pack, multitude roof and darkened rear glass weighs in at €31,349. Standard to this edition is the ‘MINI John Cooper Works Pack’ that adds sporty design features. LED headlights are standard and come with the British Union flag inspired taillights… don’t get me started! And yes I have asked about Irish Tricolour lights but they like the tricolour paint option for the roof are not in any plans.
Inside there is a chunky multifunction steering wheel, a newly designed centre instrument display with added features, plus there is a new driver’s display (5 inch black panel). The dash looks fresher and gains new air vents. The passenger seat features a height adjuster. The comfort pack adds: comfort access, a front centre armrest (that gets in the way), storage pack, heated front seats and auto air conditioning.
Our petrol powered car delivers an average fuel consumption figure of 5.6 l/100km and relatively low emissions of 129g/km CO2 (€200 annual motor tax). The rise of quick accelerating EVs and hybrids means that the once impressive acceleration of a Mini Cooper is less of a talking point. Thankfully the driving dynamic is still fun. MINIs have a unique driving position that is both novel, involving and fun for short periods. If you’re a motorway commuter the MINI can be quite tiresome – I can’t believe I said that, but its true. The MINI brand is evolving and I’m excited to see what is coming in the next decade with full electrification.