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First Drive

Road Test: Mini Hatchback 1.5 Cooper 3dr Auto

£17,275 when new
Published: 01 Jun 2002
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • BHP

    136bhp

  • 0-62

    7.8s

  • CO2

    109g/km

  • Max Speed

    130Mph

  • Insurance
    group

    18E

So the saying goes, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The demise of the original Mini fits the former but there's a risk its rebirth could spiral into the latter, especially with this automatic. The styling always makes me feel like I'm sitting in a Sloane Ranger starter kit, but now the world's Crispins and Zaras will be relieved to hear that their previously put upon left hand is finally free to permanently clamp itself around a mobile phone or grande mochaccino while nipping along High Street Ken.

Well, not quite nipping. The CVT automatic gearbox is OK, but in traffic it can feel a bit jerky, and attempting to floor it exposes the sluggish acceleration and kickdown. (It's no surprise that the manual is over two seconds faster at 0-62mph.) In Steptronic mode, it becomes a bit quicker off the mark, but it still lurches slightly with each change.

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This is the irony, of course. Even if you think the Mini's trying too hard to be cool, you still know you're in for a fun drive with the manual version. Inevitably, much of that gets drained out of the automatic. It still handles superbly and grips the road assuredly but you don't get much of a chance to exploit it. And the auto transmission will cost you £980 on top of the starter price for the privilege.

In fact, the optional extras our car had pushed the price up towards a Cooper S version. That said, it's still a better all-round buy than any of the competition. And after all, who'd be seen dead pulling up outside Gordon Ramsay's in a Toyota Yaris?

Robert Bright

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