On-demand pace, if you like that kind of thing, lots of equipment, ruthlessly quick in the corners
Auto gearbox feels inappropriate. Dubious aero. Not actually very light, and for £34k, there are more fun cars on sale
What is it?
Nothing less than the most powerful, fastest Mini ever made. Welcome to the new GP, which answers the question “what would putting more than 300bhp and 300lb ft in a Mini Cooper be like?”
This is also the third Mini GP, and on the face of it, the GP3 follows the treatment prescribed to 2006’s GP1 and GP2 pretty closely: less weight, more power. Thing is, this time there’s a LOT more power, and despite losing its back seats, its rear wiper and wearing the lightest wheels ever fitted to a BMW-era Mini (just 9kg each), it’s not actually that light.
It’s also, for the first time in Mini GP history, fitted with an automatic gearbox and paddleshifters. This is a very serious Mini – one that’s here for lap times and outright speed, and that’s come at the expense of some good old-fashioned fun.
Basically, what we have here is the powertrain from the latest BMW M135i shoved into a Mini body, a 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder motor sending its 302bhp and 332lb ft through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Unlike the BMW, however, there’s no on-demand four-wheel drive. That monumental power output - more than a Mercedes-AMG A35, more than an Audi S3 - all goes through the front tyres, via a limited-slip differential.
The bizarre blade-like wheelarch extensions are fashioned from leftover carbon-fibre from BMW’s ill-fated i3 and i8. So, they’re recycled twice over. They hide a wider track, but provide little in the way of any aero benefit. The enormous rear wing is thick and plasticky, but only carries a tiny little rubber flick to disturb the air flow. Mini is adamant this isn’t a downforce-y car, and makes no claims of the GP weighing more at top speed than it does standing still. Because, we’re told, it’s supposed to feel agile and cheeky, not overly locked-down.
The ride-height drops 10mm lower than a Mini JCW, and on those handsome wheels, with larger brakes squeezed inside them, the GP’s stance is fabulously squat. The suspension is a one-setting passive system, so you can’t toggle between any comfy/hardcore modes. Because a GP is supposed to be hardcore all the time. Otherwise why not buy a standard JCW with back seats?
Speaking of which, at 1,255kg, the GP3 weighs 70kg less than a Mini JCW 3dr with an automatic gearbox. Sounds like a lot, but the GP would be 30kg lighter still if it had a manual – this is a heavy automatic. And it’s actually only 6kg lighter than a Ford Fiesta ST, which seats five at a pinch, and around 25kg lighter than the Toyota GR Yaris, which has four-wheel drive.
So, this is actually quite a hefty two-seat special. It is, however, enormously powerful for its size…
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Strange car, the Mini GP3. It contradicts itself over and over again.
It’s a car with one of the most bonkers road-going body kits ever, but very little aerodynamic effect. It’s got no back seats, lightweight wheels and a deleted wiper, but it’s not very lightweight. The car’s extremely stiff, yet it’s loaded with creature comforts. It’s hugely powerful and fast, but by borrowing a standard BMW gearbox instead of using Mini’s own trademark-excellent manual, it’s frustratingly undramatic to drive. And the handling is completely un-Mini-ish – hyper-polished and professional, grippy and sure-footed.
That’s great if you want to go fast without thinking, but for a run-out special Mini, shouldn’t it offer more than that? We think so. A Mini GP should be a hoot on track, but chasing lap times more than sane-speed giggles feels like the wrong path for the ultimate Cooper to take.
Make no mistake, this is a devastatingly capable hot hatchback, and one that on pure point-to-point pace alone, is a giant killer. But by the same token, it’s also a bit of a speed-obsessed one-trick pony.