<< earlier review later review >>
Reviews homepage -> MINI reviews
| First Drive | Munich, Germany | Updated MINI range |
Jack Carfrae - 4 Aug 2010
It's freshen-up time for the MINI. The hatchback, Clubman and the Convertible have all received a very mild restyle and the diesel engines have been reworked for the usual eco-friendly reasons.
New gadgets, colour schemes and alloy wheel designs are on the cards, too. They're not huge changes, but they're sure to be enough to keep reeling the punters in.
In the Metal
There are a number of alterations to the exterior of each MINI, but they're very minor indeed. Each model has slightly more defined front driving lamps and either a black cross piece (Cooper) or an additional air intake (Cooper S) on the lower grille. All versions have a mildly reshaped front bumper and the Cooper S gets a honeycomb mesh upper grille.
It's much the same at the rear, with a slightly smoother bumper and a more defined section around the horizontal reversing light and fog lamp. Clubmans also get a new rear apron and every MINI has redesigned tail light clusters - they're the same shape as before, but the LEDs are configured differently to optimise signalling according to MINI. A selection of new alloy wheels, paint schemes and interior trims are now available, too.
What you get for your Money
Prices for the diesel models start at £14,175 for the MINI One D and top out at £17,925 for the Cooper D Convertible. The Clubman diesels sit in the middle of those two between £15,000 and £17,000. Next to rivals, the MINIs aren't cheap, but they never have been, and that's not likely to put buyers off. The outgoing MINI Cooper D was £15,160 and the new version will set you back £15,730, which is a good indicator of the price increases across the board.
A handful of new options are now on the list, including adaptive headlights, black headlamp reflectors and MINI Connected, which allows you to hook up your iPhone to the car via a slot inside the centre armrest and listen to online radio stations via the Web Radio function. It's all rather clever.
The new stuff is limited to cosmetic changes, the aforementioned gadgets and the diesel engines, so as far as ride and handing goes, it's the same as always. Crisp, responsive steering with an accelerator pedal to match, both of which firm up considerably when you engage Sport mode, which is done by pushing a small button in front of the gear stick. The chassis and suspension are firm and communicative, but the ride is never uncomfortable in any version.
MINI is no longer relying on a PSA Peugeot/Citroen engine for its diesel engines, so the new oil burners are essentially reworked versions of the 2.0-litre unit that you'll find throughout BMW's range in the 1, 3 and 5 Series. For the MINI, it's been reduced to 1.6 litres and various weight saving measures such as lighter pistons have been employed. The turbocharger has also been redesigned in the name of efficiency and special oils help to reduce friction inside the engine.
It's available with two power outputs: 89- and 111bhp. The former has no more or less power than its predecessor and is available in the MINI One D only, but the 111bhp engine (for the Cooper D) has an extra 2bhp and 22lb.ft of torque (199lb.ft in total). The difference in performance between new and old is so small that it's not worth mentioning.
As with the styling changes, you'd need to try a new and an outgoing version in succession to really notice the differences, but the latest diesel engines are certainly smooth, refined and very quiet - even in the Convertible. Acceleration is very progressive for an oil burner too. The usual slug of torque that most diesels are renowned for isn't there in the MINI - it's as comfortable and responsive at very low revs as it is mid-range, so it almost drives like a petrol model. The tailpipe actually sounds pretty fruity on start-up as well.
Economy gains from the new engines are miniscule, but the big deal is emissions, as both the One D and the Cooper D now emit just 99g/km of CO2, so they're road tax free. Unfortunately that doesn't translate to the Convertible and the Clubman, which emit 105- and 103g/km respectively, but £20 a year is unlikely to break the bank.
This is also the first time that the second generation MINI Convertible (the R57) has been offered as a diesel, so you can have your cake and eat it.
Blink and you'll miss the latest array of changes. The lack of road tax on the hatchback will be a big draw for many buyers, but the new MINIs hardly outshine their predecessors.
MINI has played its cards right and added a little extra appeal to a car that's already highly in demand. It's one of a very small number of cars that is attractive to fans of driving and trendy folk alike. That shows no signs of changing and the MINI's cast iron residual values and rock bottom running costs can only help matters.