First reviews, more pictures of the latest, hottest cars
|Mini Cooper S
Everything’s New, Believe It Or Not
As Loveable As Ever, Drives Beautifully, Quality Too
BMW Banks On The Proven Formula
But Extensive Options List Undermines Price Position
“It feels like a turbo-charged limpet”
BARCELONA, Spain - Everything about the new Mini is different, although you’d be hard pressed to see any differences from the old model. The only real giveaway is the yellow indicator light lodged in the new headlight assembly.
The new car is bigger, but lighter than the old one, thanks to the use of new technology. But all this talk of bigger shouldn’t detract from the fact that the Mini is still, er, small. There’s not practical space for normal humans in the rear seats. The boot is pitifully small. Prices are scary high, and if you look rationally at what’s on offer…… but that’s the secret of BMW’s success. It has capitalised on the iconic, loveable, and cute, not to say cult nature of the Mini and made buyers go weak at the knees and spend more money than common sense should allow.
And the Mini is a joy to drive and a welcoming place to be in. The first two new iterations are the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S, which are powered by a new 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine designed with Peugeot. The engine is also in the Peugeot 207, but don’t mention that to BMW. The Cooper engine produces 120 bhp, 126 mph and gets to 62 mph from rest in 9.1 seconds. This does feel on the sluggish side. The turbocharged 175 bhp engine in the S is altogether more responsive (for more details see table below), and sounds terrific with it. Both versions go on sale later this month, in Europe and the U.S.
Mini One next year
The Mini handles to the manner born, with the four-wheels at the corner giving it the famed go-kart handling. It feels like a turbo-charged limpet, at least the “S” does. The old hydraulic steering has been replaced by an electrically assisted system.
“the massive, centrally mounted speedo looks cartoonish and out of place. My first thought was that this was BMW’’s little joke, and they’d rip it off to reveal a sensible one underneath”
On the fantastic mountain roads to the north-west of Barcelona, the Mini would plunge into scary looking corners, only to emerge at the other end unflustered; it’s hard even to make the tyres squeal. The suspension was on the harsh side. On motorways the car is fine. The new 6-speed speed box is terrific, accurate and quick. Build quality is truly premium the doors clunk shut with a meaty kerlunk. The new paint jobs look great.
Performance from the “S” was electrifying and the turbo-charged motor sounds great. BMW eschewed the weighty supercharger from the first generation Mini, and the direct injection engine produces 175 bhp, with an “overboost” system (whatever that is) raising power output at peak revolutions. The standard Mini Cooper though felt as though it lacked poke.
Residuals are amazingly strong.
“Come on” prices
Don’t forget, although this is a beautiful little car, it is a bit short in the utility department. It can only seat two adults comfortably. There’s no room in the boot.
The previous Mini, launched in 2001, looked like the original pumped up on steroids. Inside it had a classy, retro feel to the dashboard with the chrome switches and big dials. I seem to remember likening it to the cockpit of a 1930s DC-3 Dakota airliner.
BMW’s little joke
The rev counter is set behind the steering wheel on the column. I couldn’t see it properly, but when I tried to manoeuvre the steering wheel, it moved too. Maybe there was some subtlety there I was missing. Same with the radio, which seemed impossibly complicated. The switches and controls don’t seem up to the general premium feel of the car.
Tender loving care
It is a little beauty, but a pricey one.
Neil Winton October 24, 2006