The third version of the Mini Cooper doesnâ€™t change a winning formula
Sometimes midlife facelifts can be severe, certainly more than an eyebrow-raiser. But in this case the Mini updates have been subtle and mostly rather good. Just look at the new taillights. Note the Union Jack motif. Nice of BMW to have thought of that, and we thoroughly approve.
You might wonder if BMW was simply not trying too hard given the lack of any serious redesign, but since the looks remain one of the main selling points you can see why the company is treading carefully.
MiniÂ Cooper 5drÂ
EngineÂ 3cyls, 1499c, turbocharged petrol
TorqueÂ 162lb ft
GearboxÂ 6-spd manual
Kerb weightÂ 1160kg
Top speedÂ 129mph
Fuel economyÂ 55.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 120g/km
The engine remains the same too. Itâ€™s the 134bhp three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine feeding through either the six-speed manual box or a new seven-speed auto. Itâ€™s fairly torquey, with 162lb ft arriving from only 1480rpm, lower than you might expect from a supermini with vaguely sporting pretensions. Itâ€™s a straightforward engine, giving you decent pep from across the clock, allowing you to indulge in the famous go-kart handling.
The set-up hasnâ€™t changed so itâ€™s still a car with very quick steering and a real urge to change direction instantly. You could argue itâ€™s too quick, but itâ€™s certainly fun when youâ€™re in the mood. It grips, turns and fires in a really enjoyable way although the option of the Â£375 adaptive suspension fitted to our test car can be a bit detrimental to a comfy ride if dialled up. Weâ€™d leave it in its lower setting for comfort or definitely check out the stock passive set-up â€“ which we havenâ€™t tried.
Inside thereâ€™s the trademark upright A-pillars which set the scene, and a cabin that still looks like it was designed by the guy who designed the Wurlitzer, but itâ€™s classy and, certainly up front, surprisingly spacious. At the rear itâ€™s more cramped, but this is a supermini not an estate car, so thatâ€™s just baked in anyway.
Mini buyers love the design, but theyâ€™re also focused on the infotainment system. To that end, youâ€™d need to spend another Â£2000 to get the Navigation Plus package. That brings in sat nav, real-time traffic info, Apple CarPlay connectivity. Alexa, Amazonâ€™s voice assistant, will come on board as from this July.
With so many buyers getting into the Mini because of its â€˜personalityâ€™ itâ€™s no surprise that personalisation is also high on the list. You can get bespoke inserts for wing badges and dashboard, laser-etched sill plates and much more. Thereâ€™s so much on offer you can play with a trick new online configurator to create your truly unique Mini Cooper.
There are some good alternatives, like the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta, but the chances are prospective purchasers are going to want this because itâ€™s a Mini, not because of its torque curve versus the VW Polo. So the only main alternative is probably the Cooper S, the 189bhp variant that is this and more. Now that might raise both eyebrows.