The Mini is kind-of-like the Jesus of the car industry, a British icon reborn in the year 2000. And like Jesus, the Mini is now in its third new testament. But this is no re-writing of the Mini Bible by a fundamentalist hypocritical Monk. This is the Mini 3 door hatch. And it’s looking better and youthful than ever. No botox, no skin stretching, just simply Mini. The iconic Issigonis design has been retained, nurtured, and matured. But here’s the deal folks, the Mini is no longer that cute innocent little car you see in a 1960s movie caper. The 2020 Mini is all grown up, a serious proposition with a serious fun factor. Pricing starts from £16,000 for entry-level models. It’s available in four trim levels and two petrol engines split into 4 separate power derivatives. All trim levels are offered with the 1.5-litre turbocharged, 3-cylinder engine which is offered in 101bhp and 134bhp outputs. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine is available in 192bhp or 211 bhp outputs. Diesel engines? what’s diesel?
The 3 door Mini Cooper S on test is priced from £25k, this particular spec bumped up the price to around £28k with various equipment options. Standard equipment includes a sporty body kit, 17-inch alloys, a sports suspension setup, LED headlights, heated door mirrors. Standard interior features, of course, include electric windows, cruise control, cloth sports seats, and a leather steering wheel, DAB Radio, 6.5 infotainment system and of course air-con. Click on this link to see full standard specs.
You can either add options one-by-one or you can go the easy route and choose from a number of packs. The John Cooper Works pack is standard for the Sport level trim (more or less described above) and includes that agressive/assertive body-kit. Navigation isn’t standard, but spending £1,600 gives you the fully-loaded Navigation Plus Pack. Add the comfort Pack for an additional £900 and you suddenly get floor mats, seat height adjustment, front seat heating, an armrest and automatic air/con.
Or why not make your life easy and just go for all six-packs for a fully loaded Mini of your dreams. And if you do you can easily expect to pay up to £30k. But the spending splurge isn’t over just yet because a further £2k of optional extras are on the menu. Not to mention a plethora of paint finishes. Specifying a new Mini can get expensive.
But let’s actually focus on the interior. The 1st and 2nd generation Mini interior felt as if you were sitting in a toy shop. It just felt like a cheap plastic toy from the erstwhile Toys R Us, or Smyths. The third generation feels far better-constructed, with a rock-solid build. The materials are better by a factor of 10, except for out of sight areas like the door bins. But generally speaking, it’s an excellent interior with original design and execution. I like the toggle switch for the starter button. Overall, the buttons and switches feel very well engineered.
What doesn’t feel so good about the Mini Cooper S is the leather steering wheel. More accurately it should be called a hybrid leather steering wheel because the inner-rim is leather for sure but the outer rim is a medium density plastic. You notice it straight away, and it immediately detracts from the experience. but guess what? you can upgrade to the all-Alcantara JWC wheel for £500. And why does one have to manually operate a handbrake in 2020? Nevertheless, the interior is roomy enough, considering it’s small car/hatch with a tiny boot. However, the rear seats are best used for temporary storage. Or an empty packet of crisps.
On the move, the Mini Cooper S is a great drive. The ride and handling is stiff but not uncompromising to make it unbearable for day to day use. But guess what? You can upgrade sports suspension to computer-controlled adaptive suspension which retains the stiffness but loosens the belt around the Mini’s waist. For an extra £900. Actually, that is one option you should go for. The steering is neat and accurate, gives good-enough feedback. Indeed electronic steering systems are slowly becoming more expressive. The Mini athletically darts into and out of corners relaying a sense of surety, secured by an abundance of grip and a sense of well-balanced purpose.
The 2.0-litre petrol 192bhp engine is the only powerplant I would choose. I prefer the usability of a 4-cylinder over a 3-cylinder and of course, you have more power. It’s a fine engine from Mini’s BMW brothers and sisters and when twinned with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox manual labour is automated. As with all modern-day cars, the Copper S has 3 drive modes. these modes are computer-controlled and effectively behave as a rev-limiter. The modes also increase or decrease the weight of the steering and speed-up or slow down gearbox shift patterns.
I mainly use the economy mode for most situations, the gear changes are lazy and the revs are relaxed which is ideal for a long cruise. Mode number 2? no point. Sport mode (number 3) is noticeably more intoxicated. The throttle response is sharper, the gears upshift and downshift that little bit faster, it’s like a dog on methamphetamines. Sport mode is good for those short blasts through twisty country lanes. But not so good if you are on a long motorway cruise because the gear changes are far too restless.
And if you are on a long motorway cruise expect a combined fuel economy of 45mpg. So the Mini Cooper S, it may not be so mini anymore but it is small enough to be a Mini. It’s certainly a premium feeling 3-door small car compared to the cheaper VW Polo, which is more practical and actually has a real boot. But to me, the Mini has way more appeal and will always be my preferred first choice over any other small car.