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The Top Gear car review:Mini Hatch
For:Strong engine, impressive refinement, high-class cabin, seemingly endless personalisation
Against:Rear-seat/boot space remains a joke, chassis lacks ultimate playfulness, standard Union Flag rear lights
What is it?
This is the modern Mini Mk3, revitalised with a facelift and sundry other tweaks for 2018 and beyond. Now, set your ‘non-British ideas of what Britishness is’ alert mode to Defcon 3, because Mini has ramped up the kitsch factor of its iconic hatchback. It’s a wonder you don’t get a free bulldog with every car purchased.
For example, you’ve now got to have Union Jack rear lights on your Mini hatch. It’s a bit much, isn’t it? Especially in this Brexit-dominated era, when passionate defence of our national identity can lead others to think you’re either anti-EU or just thoroughly xenophobic. Fair play to Mini, it has been meticulously correct in ensuring the split, illuminated emblem is the ‘correct’ way up (which caused a few issues in the US, where asymmetric rear lights are not usually permitted) and we have no doubt some folk will utterly adore this feature – but we’re also of the opinion that many will find it somewhat… challenging. Especially outside the UK, where they’re an option. Wonder what take up will be like in France?
It doesn’t stop there. Buyers can have an illuminated Union Flag on the passenger-side dashboard, too, if they select the new Interior Style Piano Black cabin. This is part of the extensive Mini Yours Customised offering, which means buyers can have truly individual parts inside and out, bearing their favourite designs or even their name. Our car’s side scuttle plates suggested it was either named or belonged to someone called ‘Philip’. Of course.
But look past all the astonishing personalisation and what you have here are some minor technical amendments that apply only to the 3-Door, 5-Door and Convertible family of cars. The newer Clubman and Countryman models are, as yet, unaffected by these updates, as are the hottest John Cooper Works (JCW) variants. So, the One entry version now has a 7lb ft torquier 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, instead of a PSA-sourced 1.2, while there are ring-shaped LED headlights that can have a matrix main-beam function as an option. Changes to the switchgear and displays inside, new body and interior colours and some attractive, fresh designs of 17-inch alloy wheel round out the alterations.
Finally, the One, Cooper, Cooper S and Cooper D models have a new, optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as a self-shifting alternative to the standard-fit six-speed manual. This system goes under the Steptronic banner, which is confusing, because the Cooper SD has an eight-speed torque-converter automatic as standard, which is called, erm, Steptronic. Either unit is controlled by a new electronic selector lever, with a large oblong top. Make of this what you will.
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 latest BMW 2-Series Active Tourer people carrier (yikes, yes, FWD BMWs are now upon us). Engines are all-new too, but the range structure of One, Cooper, Cooper S and Cooper SD holds no surprises.
There’s a 5-door option now, with a stretch to the body and more space in the back than you’d ever expect. Mini becomes a roomy supermini? Why, almost.