Mini Cooper driven by Double Apex on local soil for a few days. We share our thoughts here.
A few weeks ago we had cause to spend a few days in Johannesburg, and, by the good graces of BMW SA, we spent our time in the Big Smoke behind the wheel of a facelifted Mini Cooper 3 door. The reason this model is still included in the manufacturer’s press vehicle fleet is that the Mini range underwent a mild revision last year. We didn’t get to experience the replacement models at the time, so we grabbed the opportunity to try it out now.
From the outside, the revised Mini models are discernible by a few key elements. Among these is the adoption of LED headlamps with matrix function for the high beam, and restyled LED taillamps are quite noticeable with a distinctive Union Flag motif. The company has also taken the opportunity to introduce a new Mini logo onto its cars. Depending on the model, buyers can also choose from a number of new light-alloy wheel designs. At night Mini logos are projected from under the wing mirrors onto the area below the doors, to help you avoid stepping into anything smelly…
The changes inside mostly relate to connectivity and the infotainment system. Choose one of the optional radio and navigation systems and you’ll be greeted by a touchscreen monitor. There’s also convenient wireless charging for more modern mobile handsets. If you happen to be inside a car fitted with an automatic transmission you’ll glimpse the new style shift lever (as pictured above).
Our loan unit had a multifunction steering wheel and radio with a 6,5-inch colour screen, USB and Bluetooth interface as standard as well as entry-level cloth seats. It was refreshing to drive a press vehicle that was not kitted out with every conceivable extra.
The range of engines available locally remains pretty much unchanged. A (non-S) Cooper is fitted with an inline three-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces a handy 100 kW along with 220 N.m of torque. Most notable of the mechanical updates has been the adoption of an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that is if you prefer not to row the standard six-speed manual.
See the upcoming John Cooper Works GP edition in action here.
On the move
Initially, we weren’t too pleased to see that funky new gear lever between seats. Previous experiences with Mini models have all been with manual-kitted cars. A small car such as the Mini, with ‘driving fun’ as one of its central characteristics, needs three pedals and a snappy manual gearbox… or so we thought.
Much of our time in Gauteng was spent running around between meetings, which invariably meant dealing with lots of traffic. In this scenario we were thankful to let the transmission take over shifting duties while dealing with phones via the car’s Bluetooth telephony.
When returning from dinner visits late at night the roads were much quieter and we did get to chuck the little car around a bit. A three-cylinder engine may seem like a bad idea in car that has grown somewhat over time, but the power served up by the turbocharged motor is enough grunt to have some fun behind the wheel. Thanks to the forced-induction nature of the engine the drop in power from the thin air of Gauteng is hardly noticeable.
It’s also good to note that the sense of connection to the road beneath, direct steering and immediacy of suspension response have been retained in the latest iteration of the Mini. Even the snappy shifts of the transmission don’t leave the driver wanting in that regard.
The new generation of Minis (created under parent company) BMW has brought the brand firmly into the new century. By constantly updating the offering BMW has ensured a future for the small car with a fun-loving attitude. Purists may scoff at the latest models, but the reality is that without the evolutionary process BMW has put in place, the Mini moniker may not even exist today, which would make for a far duller motoring landscape.
Model: Mini Cooper 3 door AT
Price: R403 000
Engine: 1,5-litre turbocharged inline three
Transmission: seven-speed auto, FWD
Max power: 100 kW
Max torque: 220 N.m
Top speed: 210 km/h
0-100 km/h: 7,9 sec
Fuel consumption: 5,3 L/100 km