It holds onto its value more than almost any other vehicle and is pure fun to drive – these are just two factors that make the MINI such an attractive buy. Add excellent safety and performance and the demand is through the roof.
The goodHandling, styling and value
The badGets pricey with optional packs
MINI Hatchbacks 2018 – first drive
MINI has spruced up its latest hatchback range for 2018 offering extra driver appeal through a raft of new enhancements. There are infotainment upgrades along with class-leading headlights, design tweaks and even the company logo has been given a fresh flat two-dimensional look.
Ever since BMW took over the MINI reins back in 2000, sales have soared and the all-round appeal of the car is still as strong as ever. The latest hatchback line-up was launched in 2014 so four years down the line it was certainly time for a mid-generation freshen up.
And that’s exactly what MINI has delivered. Highlights include new front and rear LED lights, new adaptive headlights with Matrix high beam, a 6.5-inch colour infotainment screen along with multi-function steering wheel, new touchscreen with MINI navigation, Apple CarPlay and wireless smartphone charging, connected services with real time traffic and weather updates plus a Concierge service. There are additional colour options to choose from, the introduction of a 7-speed Steptronic transmission, extra leather trim, plus piano black exterior and alloy wheel designs to give the car a more muscular stance.
A very exciting offer for customers will be the option to really stamp their own individual mark on their cars by having personalised parts 3D printed. These include a section of the dashboard, side scuttles and door sills – so you can have your name printed or choose from a number of bespoke designs. And the parts are very cheap and simple to replace if the car is later sold on to a new owner who prefers more traditional effects.
We visited the MINI Plant Oxford where 1,000 cars are built every day with one rolling off the production line every 67 seconds. Although 80 per cent of these models are exported to 110 countries globally, we Brits still enjoy a very special relationship with the car that is steeped in British heritage.
The latest hatchbacks are on sale now in showrooms priced from £15,905 for the MINI One three-door and rising to £24,435 for the John Cooper Works model. Customers looking for a hatchback MINI can choose from the One, Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper D or JCW versions and there is a choice of diesel or petrol engines and either manual of automatic gearboxes.
When it comes to styling, the latest MINI hatchback is eye-catching without being garish. It looks modern and the additional features are very easy in the eye especially the rear LED lights that have a British Union Jack design along with the front headlights that now have LED daytime running lights and the LED indicators integrated.
We had the opportunity to drive the three and five-door models both in Cooper S grade and they each had their very own individual appeal.
Whatever MINI does to tweak, develop, modernise and upgrade its models one thing is very clear – it needs to remain a driver’s car with all the original karting fun and exhilarating driving dynamics that have been a vital factor since day one.
And, I’m delighted to say, the latest cars have it in spades. MINI believes the three-door models will account for about 55 to 60 per cent of sales with up to 95 per cent of buyers opting for petrol powered cars. So, we took to the road in the MINI Cooper S in three-door guise powered by a 192hp 2.0-litre petrol engine. It could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 6.8 seconds, maxed out at 146mph and, according to official figures, can deliver combined fuel economy of 47.1mpg with carbon emissions of 138g/km.
The car was priced at £21,115 but featured a number of optional packs which bumped the cost up to £28,950. That may seem steep for a MINI, but it was fully loaded with all the optional extras imaginable.
But for MINI fans worldwide, design and performance always top the list of priorities and the MINI Cooper S certainly lives up to high expectations. As always, the road-holding proved ultra grippy meaning the car can be thrown into bends with both enthusiasm and confidence. The direct steering offers oodles of driver feedback and the acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox is rapid with a constant supply of power on tap which helps make very light work of overtaking slower vehicles and farm traffic out on the country lanes.
The driver can select from driving modes called Green, Mid and Sport that alter the car’s ride and handling and also the appearance within the instrument cluster, which as always is dominated by the huge circular dial that houses the touchscreen. The toggle switches, including the red power on/off control, are a welcome reminder of how much fun the Mini is after all these years.
Next up was the MINI Cooper S in five-door body-styling, costing £21,665. Once again the price climbed considerably due to the vast array of options fitted and this one tipped the scales at £28,585. The five-door version boasts very similar performance stats to the three-door model as it features the same powertrain, although it’s a fraction of a second slower to reach 62mph and it’s also slightly thirstier with combined fuel economy of 45.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 141g/km.
But when it comes to the handling, the five-door Cooper S is just as much fun and can be driven with equal enthusiasm. The area where this version excels is the addition of the rear doors, so if you need to carry passengers or have a child seat that you require easy access to, then the five-door is certainly a more practical all-round choice.
The latest on-board technology has brought the 2018 MINI hatchback series bang up to date with its competitors and although we only drove the car in daylight, the Matrix adaptive headlights offer exceptional illumination at night without dazzling oncoming motorists.
And not forgetting the very latest trick in personalisation via 3D printing, it’s clear that the MINI hatch series has moved forward at quite a click without losing an ounce of its thrill factor along the way.
MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works
MINI has a long-established and well-respected reputation for building cars that are fast, furious and fun to drive, but the latest addition to the line-up is a little bit special to say the least.
For the hot hatch John Cooper Works (JCW) model can power from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds with a top speed of 153mph.
But the factor that is guaranteed to turn heads is the 50-75mph acceleration time of just 5.6 seconds –that’s faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera S.
JCW is the performance arm of MINI and has introduced some fabulous models to the range, but this three-door hot hatch really does raise the bar with its 231bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine delivering a whopping 320Nm of torque.
The MINI JCW looks stunning from any approach with its LED headlights, newly designed bumpers, larger air intakes, two-tone 18-inch alloys, new brakes, centrally-positioned twin tailpipes, John Cooper Works badging and the lack of fog lights which have been removed to make way for additional engine coolers.
Step inside and it’s instantly recognisable as a MINI with the circular dials and toggle switches, but once again this particular model offers a little bit more.
There are sports bucket seats which can be heated, a pitch perfect Harman Kardon sound system which is compatible with all modern media devices, automatic air conditioning, Bluetooth, sat nav and a head up display that features the likes of engine RPM, gear indicator and shift light graphics.
The MINI JCW maintains the brand’s original heritage when a reputation was built on go-kart like responses and handling. And these qualities can certainly be explored to full in this latest model.
On the road, the MINI JCW is every bit as responsive as the stats would have you believe and the road-holding is beautifully secure, which means that tight bends can be attacked at pace and in true go-kart fashion conquered with ease.
The acceleration is blisteringly quick and actually feels faster, but the steering is wonderfully precise. Simply point, aim and fire – the MINI does the rest for you.
The six-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox is smooth, slick and very responsive, but you can take extra control with steering wheel-mounted paddles if you wish.
And you can change the driving modes to suit your mood with a choice of three styles – Sport, Mid and Green – with the outside of the large circular instrumentation dial changing colour from green to red accordingly.
However, despite the mind-boggling performance capabilities, this MINI is actually fairly frugal with a combined fuel economy of 49.3mpg and carbon emissions 133g/km.
And so to the price then. It’s a fact the MINI brand is not cheap, but its cars are packed to bursting with premium styling and state-of-the-art technology and this particular model is no exception.
The on-the-road asking price of £24,380 soon increased quite rapidly to £31,945 when a number of optional extras were added.
But at the end of the day you do get what you pay for and what price can you put on a permanent smile!
MINI Cooper D 5-door Hatch 1.5
One thing that MINI always prides itself on is driving dynamics so even when a five-door version of the popular hatchback was introduced, the company still claimed “more doors, same go kart feel” in its marketing campaign.
And to be honest they have got it spot on. For despite being six inches longer than the standard three-door version, the new arrival still possesses all the driving characteristics associated with the brand.
What it does mean however, is that MINI has now extended its appeal to younger families who need to carry children in the back – in all honesty the three-door model was anything but practical to these people.
First impressions are vital and the car still boasts all its instant appeal and there is a choice of 13 vibrant colours along with a whole host of personalisation packs.
The test car, costing £16,780 (£20,845 with options fitted) looked great from any angle with its 17-inch alloys, bonnet stripes, chrome exhaust and sporty lines.
And the interior is typically-MINI, but in a very good way.
There is a circle theme throughout with the main focal point being the centrally-positioned large dial where all vital information is stored and there are techno treats galore to be explored, such as sat nav, Bluetooth, dual zone climate control and a great sound system.
There are three driving modes which alter the cars dynamics and performance and they also light up the outer rim of the large circle accordingly. Eco mode is green and offers low consumption driving fun. The mid mode is yellow and promises typical MINI driving fun and finally Sport mode which is red and claims to deliver maximum go kart feel.
When it comes to space, the MINI five-door can easily carry four adults although getting three grown-ups in the back would be a real squeeze.
The boot is fine for overnight bags or weekly shopping and the 278-litre capacity can be increased to 941 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats flat.
The test car was powered by a 1.5-litre diesel-driven engine and the proof that the larger dimensions have not affected the performance can be found in the performance stats. For this car can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in just 9.4 seconds and tops out at 126mph.
And according to official figures this frugal MINI can deliver combined fuel efficiency of 78.5mpg with carbon emissions of just 97g/km.
Out on the open road, the car handled beautifully and fizzed along country lanes with a seemingly endless supply of power on tap. As one would expect, the road-holding was flawless and that meant tight bends could be attacked with confidence.
Acceleration through the six-speed manual transmission was smooth and responsive and the overall performance was impressive. It’s a car that you can sensible in but still have bags of fun along the way.
I did find that the diesel engine was a little noisy at times, but only when pushed really hard and you can expect to feel the odd bump or two, but that all seems to add to the MINI’s appeal.
All in all, the latest arrival to the MINI family, which costs £600 more than the three-door hatch, is a welcome one.
It opens up the brand to a whole new audience and offers a great alternative to MINI’s only other five-door model – the Countryman which also features all-wheel-drive capabilities.
MINI Cooper S
The MINI brand has certainly progressed in leaps and bounds over the years with cars growing in size, stature and capabilities.
But one model that is still instantly recognisable is the new MINI Cooper S.
It is two inches wider and four inches longer than its predecessor and that means additional space for passengers, and most importantly extra boot space – more than 30 per cent more in fact.
It still oozes MINI charisma from any angle and there’s a raft of personalisation options so buyers can stamp their own identity on the car.
From any approach, it’s hard to take your eyes off the stylish three-door MINI hatchback with stand-out features such as 17-inch alloys, twin centrally-positioned exhaust pipes, LED headlights and daytime running lights, LED fog lights, roof and mirror caps in black and plenty more besides.
The interior can easily accommodate four adults thanks to the increase in space and there are gadgets and techno treats galore to be explored.
The main focal point on the dashboard is the traditional large round central display which was first introduced to its adoring public back in the late 1950s. Inside the dial is an 8.8-inch colour screen.
Creature comforts include a three-spoke multi-functional sports leather steering wheel, start/stop button with keyless entry, a DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, heated seats, MINI head-up display, sat nav, black chequered interior trim and anthracite headlining.
The test car was fitted with a MINI Media Pack costing an extra £1,175 which helps to keep you connected on the move. You can download apps, get live traffic updates, enjoy 3D mapping and all the regular social media activity.
It also features a light ring on the outer circumference of the large dial which changes colour according to the driving mode. For example, green is for eco, mid mode is yellow and sport is red.
And if you were in any doubt about being in sport mode, it will read “Maximum go-kart feel” which is a not-so-subtle hint of what’s to come.
For this latest MINI, powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine, has a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 146mph.
The MINI has a well-respected reputation for its handling and this lively new arrival is no exception. It grips the road like glue and no tight bends will ever pose any real problems.
The acceleration is beautifully responsive and the six-speed manual transmission both smooth and sharp.
You will feel the occasional bump but generally the ride is supreme and there is a mode to suit your every mood.
The car is also packed with a comprehensive list of safety specifications, including anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, hill start assist, six airbags and lots more.
All in all, the new MINI Cooper S is a great car that lives up to its fun, quirky and action-packed billing.
Admittedly, the number of rivals are increasing and the MINI’s price-tag of £24,895 including almost £6k of options, might be a deterrent for some buyers. But one thing is guaranteed – the MINI appeal keeps on growing.
MINI Cooper S London 2012 Edition
MINI struck gold when it introduced a limited edition of its Cooper S model to mark the London 2012 Olympics.That’s because this car – which is aptly limited to 2,012 editions – perfectly epitomizes everything that was great about the games.
Easily recognizable as something a little bit special this MINI certainly makes a very big statement.
The car’s roof carries the Olympic London 2012 logo and the car is available in Chili Red, White Silver or Lightening Blue – there is clearly a patriotic colour theme going on.
And that is just as apparent inside the car too with a London skyline etched onto the black dashboard which features iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the London Eye and Battersea Power Station.
The words “London 1 of 2012” are another subtle reminder that the car is a little bit out of the ordinary.
The black leather sports seats are decorated with red and blue stitching along with striking white piping and the Olympic logo is blazoned across the headrests.
The car is feature-rich with on-board technology, including cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a brilliant sound system, stop/start button, air conditioning and plenty more besides.
The dials are circular in traditional MINI style with larger-than-life readouts that are clear and easy to decipher.
And the comfort levels are very good in the deceptively large cabin which can easily accommodate four adults.
The boot can carry a couple of small cases or the weekly shopping with ease and there are a number of useful storage options throughout the vehicle.
But this car is an Olympic special and as such needs to perform like a champion – thankfully it does!
The 1.6 petrol-driven engine delivers ample sprinting power to take the car from 0 to 62mph in just seven seconds – now that is Usain Bolt-style acceleration. And the car tops out at 142mpg as it works its way through the six-speed manual transmission.
The MINI is just as at ease tackling busy city centre traffic as whizzing along winding country lanes or motorways, but be warned you will feel the odd bump or two. However, that kind of adds to the car’s appeal and fun-factor.
And parking will never be an issue as the MINI can squeeze into the tiniest of spaces.
MINI has packed a comprehensive list of safety features into the car, such as anti-lock brakes, cornering brake control, electronic brakeforce distribution, dynamic stability control, six airbags and much more.
All in all, this special edition MINI is pure gold. Priced at just shy of £21,5k with a few optional extras it is not cheap, but you can’t cut corners if you want to be a winner.