16 Jan 2019

Mini Cooper hatch 2019 review

New Mini Cooper harks back to the original
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While far more plump than the original British pop icon, the third-generation Mini is no less the fashion statement and as relevant as ever.

In fact, the rising popularity of the Mini Countryman SUV would suggest that bigger is better no matter where you've come from. So, this five-door Cooper is perhaps one of the most trendy family friendly light cars there is before stepping up (literally) into something bigger.

Vehicle Style: Small car

Price: $29,900 plus on-road costs

Engine/trans: 110kW/220Nm 1.5-litre petrol 3cyl | six-speed manual

Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.5 l/100km Tested: 6.6 l/100km

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OVERVIEW

Under the stewardship of current-owner BMW, the Mini is firmly into its third-generation, free of many kinks and far removed in appearance from its Germanic over bearer.

If anything, this updated Cooper is more British than it has ever been, tastefully embedding its original homeland flag all over in a facelift that focuses on a modernised appearance and added comfort inside. Look to the rear and the Union Jack crosses the taillights, highlighted by LEDs when the brake pedal is pressed in a proud display of Royal Britannia. Pretty, but a cost-option for this base model Mini.

The price of entry remains under $30K, starting at $29,900 plus on-road costs for the three-door Cooper that rises $2150 for the five-door you see on test (and a whopping $40,900 for the convertible) complete with entry-spec six-speed manual transmission. A new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available at an additional $2500 which eclipses the older six-speed auto in all manner but is not as much fun (or cheap) as the stick shift unit.

Further up the model hierarchy the Cooper S and John Cooper Works add extra performance and equipment but at steep $10,000 increments.

That said, the Cooper is light-on for gear, equipped as standard with 16-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, cloth trim interior and a 6.5-inch infotainment display with DAB+, Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and satellite navigation.

This test model benefits from the $2500 cost-option Active pack, bringing AEB, forward collision warning, automatic high beam, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and those Union Jack taillights.

Some features such as dual-zone climate control and AEB should be expected to come as standard at this price-point and also considering that the Mini Cooper slots into the market as a premium compact hatchback.

THE INTERIOR

Standard Equipment: Keyless entry with push-button start, climate control, fabric trim manually-adjustable front seats, automatic on/off headlights/wipers, electric windows

Infotainment: 6.5-inch colour screen with Bluetooth and USB input, Apple app connectivity, 4g connectivity, digital radio, satellite navigation

Options Fitted: $2500 Active pack

Cargo Volume: 278 litres

Despite gripes with the thin equipment list it is a well-constructed car that really feels unique (and exciting) among dated and bland looking rivalry. Some of the older design elements such as the circular centre console and gauges have carried over but with the benefit of refinement and nicer integration than before.

The 6.5-inch infotainment screen is mounted inside the largest centre circle that’s a focal point over the usual rectangular tablet screen plonked on the dash. And in this iteration, it’s faster to use and slicker than ever, with BMW imparting its clever wireless Apple CarPlay technology to the British marque. (And, unlike with the Bavarian builder, it’s free!)

Added to this is 4G mobile connectivity that brings live traffic updates, personal concierge assistant and emergency SOS ability - available via an optional yearly subscription service.

Beyond the central infotainment hub is ambient lighting around the cabin, again somewhat trickled down from the bigger Beemers, and two surprisingly comfortable seats given the Mini has a narrow cabin and relatively small pews. The driver’s seat has a little more movement available than the passenger, and together with the steering wheel adjustment and centre armrest thrown up (if driving with the manual shifter, which is also too close to the cup holders), it has a nice sporty small hatch feel.

In the back, the rear-seat occupants are better looked after than with the three-door body style, thanks to added doors and a 72mm longer wheelbase that increases legroom. The boot also gains a bit of space, growing from the smaller hatch’s 211-litres to 278L.

ON THE ROAD

Engine: 110kW/220Nm 1.5-litre petrol 3cyl

Transmission: six-speed manual, FWD

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension.

Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes

Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering

Mini by name and mini by nature, the engine in Cooper trim is a small 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol unit that roars louder than it is.

Thrummy and enthusiastic up the rev range, it accelerates with bravado and feels like the perfect accompaniment to urban running and eager driving – even if the 110kW/220Nm is short for herbs when really having a go.

Claimed acceleration is 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds and it’s up over 5000rpm that it begins to feel flat. However, it’s zippy in traffic and fun everywhere else, with a claimed 5.5L/100km on the government combined cycle (we achieved 6.6L/100km over the week) that makes it a rational choice for the frugal. And the more affordable manual transmission is a sweet ‘box even if a chore in traffic, adding a better feeling of connection to the car than the convenience of an automatic (which is a slick unit at that).

The five-door’s longer wheelbase also adds to this bigger Mini’s appeal, with not only better rear-seat space but a slightly more settled ride, retaining communicative steering and a rapid change in movement when provoked that invigorate its sharp small-car dynamics.

Cruising around town, the Cooper sits low among the high-riding SUV crowd, but vision is good and it picks up parking space scraps that are simply too tight for relative giants.

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: Not tested.

Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Servicing: Capped-price servicing is available for the first five years/80,000km of ownership when pre-paid.

Basic pre-pay packages start at $1295 and include fluids, spark plugs, filters and a vehicle check, while a pre-pay plus scheme adds consumables such as brake discs and pads, the clutch and windscreen wiper rubbers which costs from $3604.

Service intervals are determined by sensors that monitor the car’s health.

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

The Audi A1 is now in its second-generation but is yet to arrive in Australia (expected second-quarter 2019). The first-gen is in run out but showing its age with drab interior presentation and ride that has been overhauled in the new model.

The Abarth 595 is the real Italian job in this segment but like the A1 is showing its age. It brings a rorty spirit that can be rewarding to drive but is not as supple around town.

The Renault Clio R.S is again a sportier proposition at the same price point. It’s a fun car on twisty roads but isn’t without its own quirks, leaving the Mini to feel most polished overall if a touch less zesty.

 

  • Audi A1
  • Abarth 595
  • Renault Clio R.S

 

TMR VERDICT 

Sometimes the sweet spot sits at the entry-point, and the Mini Cooper is evidence you don’t have to splash a lot of cash to get what you want. Provided sharp performance and a bevvy equipment isn’t on the list, this base grade Cooper is an all-round charmer.

 

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