What is it?
One glance says it’s the Mini: successor to the Mini, and the Mini before that. But this is no mere re-skin. The whole underneath is new, sharing rather a lot with the upcoming BMW 2-Series ActiveTourer hatchback (yikes, yes, FWD BMWs are on the way). Engines are all-new too, but the range structure of One, Cooper and Cooper S holds no surprises.
The only bit that may ruffle a few feathers is the new front end, which is a bit flabby. We’re bound to get used to it, though.
There are three-cylinder diesels for the One D and Cooper D, but we have tried only the Cooper and Cooper S petrols so far. The Cooper’s engine is the more interesting, a three-cylinder 1.5-litre job. It’s loaded with all BMW’s tech, and is gutsy (7.9secs to 62mph), keen and interesting on the ears. It’s also a lightweight motor, which helps give the car a terrier-like way of biting into bends. It’s huge fun, but the other story is one of refinement – the ride is hardly big-car cushy, but it doesn’t bash you about.
The Cooper S has a four-cylinder 2.0 turbo version of the same engine family, making a healthy 192bhp. It’s set up a bit more stiffly than the Cooper, but on bumpy roads that means it loses a bit of the cornering fluency, and (possibly because of the heavier engine) the steering is a fraction less sweet. But it’s still a hoot.
On the inside
Again, it’s all-new but the style is really very, very Mini. In other words, the dash and screen graphics are full of design flourishes and all the cabin parts are separate rather than being integrated smoothly together. Anyway, the driving position is excellent, and very distinctive – legs straight forward, upright pillars, shallow screen. Rear room is a little better but remains poor, and the boot is deeper than it was, though if you want practicality in your small car look elsewhere.
As ever you can spend hours on the configurator, but in fact the base Cooper is fairly well equipped for the reasonable price. Only snag is that to add certain juicy options, such as navigation or adjustable dampers, you’re hooked into bigger, more expensive packages. It can be a very sophisticated small car indeed but the price becomes anything but small change.
Despite the fact there are so many of them around, Minis have always resisted depreciation, so they’re cheap to own over time. Go for the optional TLC service package and your costs are further protected. Strangely, even the all-new engines can’t quite haul the Mini to the top of its class for economy (or lowest CO2) but in performance/economy balance they’re very strong.