One glance at the third generation of the reborn Mini Cooper and you know what you’re looking at. Where other modern interpretations of classic vehicles have come across as little more than a pastiche, the Mini has always remained true to the design of the original.
It all starts with the chrome grille, which instantly apes that of the 1959 original Mini. Either side of this are large round headlights, which contain daytime running light rings and sit in cut-outs in the bonnet. The windscreen is almost vertical – after all, the Mini is more about style than efficiency – which gives a decent view out.
The flat side and frameless windows shout ‘Mini’, and at the rear there’s a tailgate (the original car had a drop-down boot opening) that’s flanked by a couple of multi-use taillights. In later cars, these are styled like Union flags in case you weren’t aware of the Mini’s British heritage.
One glance at the third generation of the reborn Mini Cooper and you know what you’re looking at.
What’s it like to drive?
Driving the Mini Cooper is a lot like playing with an eager, obedient puppy. It somehow manages to fill every drive with a feeling of joy and of getting caught up in the moment.
The turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine pulls strongly away from rest. Earlier models also had a 1.5-litre diesel available, which isn’t as much fun but is quiet and economical on the motorway.
All Minis have firm, short-travel suspension and quick steering that echoes go-kart rides. No kart has ever been as comfortable as the Mini. Quick steering also makes the Mini Cooper incisive in town and parking is amazingly easy.
Driving the Mini Cooper is a lot like playing with an eager, obedient puppy.
As with the outside, the interior of the Mini is instantly recognisable as one of the British firm’s offerings. There’s a circular theme throughout, so circular vents abound on the dashboard for a start.
Ahead of the driver is a sporty 3-spoke steering wheel and on top of the dashboard ahead of it sits and instrument pod. This contains speed, revs, fuel level, coolant temperature and driving information. In the centre of the dashboard sits a huge round instrument panel reminiscent of the speedometer in the first Mini (and earlier generations of the reborn Mini).
This infotainment centre contains the sat-nav system where one is fitted, plus the Bluetooth set-up and the audio system.
Below this sit the dials for the air-conditioning system, and at the bottom is a row of toggle-type switches that you simply need to flick. The glass area is comparatively huge, so seeing out of the car is very easy indeed, helped by thin pillars. Every Mini also exudes a feeling of quality, so the stuff you touch regularly, such as the door releases, indicator stalks, even the gearshift action, feel classy and smooth.
The Mini Cooper is a low-driving car, so you’ll need to be fairly nimble to get into and out of it. Once you’re in there, though, there’s a fair amount of space up front.
There’s a huge amount of legroom up front so you can really enjoy the legs-out driving position. You sit quite low in the car, too, so there’s a surprising amount of headroom.
Things are a bit tighter in the back, where there’s less space than you’ll find in the Audi A1. Getting in and out of the back seat can be tricky. There is a 5-door version of the Mini Cooper, which is a bit longer and much easier to get into the back of. It also has a bigger boot, which is a welcome addition for families – standard Minis aren’t known for their boot space.
Running costs and reliability
The Mini Cooper shouldn’t prove expensive to run – the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine is punchy and managed an official average of 52.3mpg, which is strong for a feisty petrol hatch. If diesel is your preference, then the 1.5 model can manage an average of 74.3mpg.
The Mini Cooper is pretty safe and earned a 4-star rating from crash test experts Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2014. It was marked down slightly because it has an automatic braking system only as an option, not standard. The same applies to lane-departure warning.
What cinch loves
The Mini Cooper is one of those rare cars that appeals to people of all ages. It doesn’t matter if you had the original back in your youth or are a new driver and want something that’s fun and compact as a first or second car. The Mini Cooper appeals to both. Young girl around town? Sorted. Sporty middle-aged dad? Perfect for you, sir. It’s also a car you can buy for your child, safe in the knowledge that it’s fun but not too quick and it won’t cost a heap to run.