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Driven: Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S

Driven February 2014

Driven: Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S

Just as we get done with our cracking 6th TopGear Magazine India awards function, we beeline to Puerto Rico to drive the new avatar of the Mini Cooper and the car that took away TG’s Car Of The Year trophy just last year – the Mini Cooper S.

So what's exactly 'new' in the new Mini? Well, every single thing actually. It might look very familiar, but it’s not the same. If you get yourself a measuring tape, you’ll realise that the new Mini has grown a full 10cm in length and 4cm in width. But despite the increased dimensions, the overall height of the car remains the same. And this, the company says, is done to cope up with the ever increasing safety standards in Europe.

At first, the new Mini might not look as cute as its predecessor, but it does retain the signature styling language that Mini is famous for since 1959. In its latest form, it looks a bit more mature; even grown up, actually. The headlamps get circular daytime lamps running through its circumference, which admittedly looks neat.

The other big change in the next-gen Mini is the new family of engines that will be powering it. It boasts the all-new three-cylinder turbo petrol engine that everyone has been going gaga about – the same block that you’d find in the new BMW i8. But here, it’s heavily altered and comes in a completely different tune. The turbocharger too has been specially designed to suit this car. Speaking of which, BMW engineers tell us that it’s placed closer to the engine block to reduce the delay and hence the lag that it might have.

The result? It pulls cleanly right from 1,250rpm right till 6,500rpm. Three cylinder engines inherently are noisier and give out more vibrations. But the one in Mini Cooper is unlike any of those. It’s smooth, refined and sounds pretty decent for a three pot.

This engine displaces 1.5 litres and churns out 136bhp and 220Nm of torque. The car that we drove came with a six-speed manual gearbox – it’s slick and has super-short throws. With that combination, it hits 100kph in 7.9 seconds (claimed).

Under the hood of the Mini Cooper S, you get a 2-litre four-pot mill unlike the 1.6 that you found in its predecessor. This one too is turbocharged and produces a whopping 192bhp and 280Nm. The one that we drove came with a Sport Auto gearbox – a six-speed auto with paddle shifters that sends the power to the front wheels. A result of all that power is the Cooper S cracking a ton in a mere 6.8 seconds (claimed).

One of the other key areas that were worked on in the new Mini is the suspension. The older Mini was notorious for giving your back a hard time. To solve that problem, the engineers have worked on making the suspension setup more pliant and easy on your back. But having said that, it’s still quite stiff and you do – pretty easily, actually – feel the undulations on the roads (Yes, Puerto Rico too has bad roads too). But it’s not as bad as the previous one.

If the thought ‘all that is fine, but is this one too as chuckable as the earlier one?’ comes to your mind, you’ll have to bear with this clichéd answer – it changes direction like a fly. No, seriously, it does. The steering is direct and has excellent feedback. And there’s barely any noticeable body roll. It’s simply fabulous, this.

Inside, things are still very funky. It still gets a dinner dish as a centre console. But this dinner dish now doubles up as a rev meter apart from housing the screen for all your infotainment needs. The speedo now sits right above the steering – where it should have been in the first place. Apart from that, there are still several toggle switches to do several things and lot of new toys to play with.

This Mini gets features that no Mini has ever got – it gets park assist, reverse cam, head-up display and every other thing that you’d find a BMW.

One down side to the new Mini, apart from stiff ride, is the price. This one too is going to cost you north of Rs 25 lakh. But the Mini has to go beyond the realms of economy and practicality, no?

The numbers
Cooper: 3-cyl, 1.5-litre turbo petrol, 136bhp, 220Nm, 6M, FWD, 0-100kph: 7.9 seconds
Cooper S:  4-cyl, 2-litre turbo petrol, 192bhp, 280Nm, 6A, FWD, 0-100kph: 6.8 seconds

The price
Rs 25-30 lakh (on-road)

The verdict
The new Mini is an improvement over the last one is terms of refinement, power and ride quality. It still remains to be the best handling hatchback. It now gets more features too.

Agasti Kaulgi

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