The third-generation MINI marks something of a turning point for BMW – it’s the first MINI to share most of its underpinnings with an equivalent BMW model (the future 1 Series), although suitably tuned to convey that uniquely energetic MINI character.
As before, MINI will be available in Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S models and will be priced from £15,300 when it goes on sale in Spring 2014.
It’s powered by a range of turbocharged direct-injection three and four-cylinder petrol engines, including a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit developing 134bhp and 162lb-ft of torque (with 170 lb-ft available on overboost), and 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit with 189bhp and 206lb-ft of torque (with 221 lb-ft on overboost).
Both engines rev to 6,500 rpm and will power the £15,300 Cooper and £18,650 Cooper S models respectively.
A 1.5-litre three-cylinder common-rail direct-injection unit will power the £16,450 Cooper D, producing 114bhp and 199lb-ft of torque and achieving 80.7mpg and 92g/km – some 7 per cent more fuel efficient than its 1.6-litre predecessor.
Each engine comes with a stop-start system, is Euro 6 compliant and sends its power to the front wheels through newly developed manual and automatic gearboxes, but the efficiency gains are more evident in the petrol powered models; the 134bhp Cooper now achieves 62.8mpg with CO2 emissions of 105 g/km, while the 189bhp Cooper S achieves 49.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 133 g/km.
Performance gains are substantial for the mid-range Cooper, with 0 to 62mph falling from 9.1 to 7.9 seconds (7.8 seconds for the automatic). The extra speed in the Cooper S will be far less noticeable with 0 to 62mph in 6.8 seconds, just 0.2 seconds quicker than before (or 6.7 seconds for the automatic).
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models featuring a rev-matching system for downshifts, while two automatic gearboxes will be available including a sports-automatic with steering-wheel mounted paddles, reduced shift times and rev-matching on downshifts.
The new MINI uses BMW’s UKL1 platform, designed to accommodate both front and all-wheel drive and is both larger and lighter than before. The Cooper weighs just 1,085 kg (DIN) while the Cooper D weighs in at 1,135 kg. Even the faster more highly specced Cooper S tips the scales at 1,160 kg.
That’s around the same as Audi’s A1, despite being slightly smaller (13.3cm shorter and 1.3cm narrower) than its competitor from Ingolstadt.
Length has increased to 3,821mm (98mm longer) while wheelbase has increased by 42mm to 2,495mm. It’s also 44mm wider (at 1,727mm) and 7mm taller than before (at 1,414mm) while both front and rear tracks have been increased by 42mm and 34mm respectively.
Boot space has increased in the MINI hatch by 30 per cent (to 211 litres) while cabin space is said to be noticeably larger.
MINI’s new chassis features electrically adjustable dampers with electric control of the damper valves to vary their responsiveness on uneven road surfaces. The optional system features two set-ups – Comfort and Sport – available at the flip of a switch, which activate their own unique characteristic curves.
Inside, the design is evolutionary but edging ever closer to the corporate BMW-look. The circular theme remains for the centre console, with the central display featuring an infotainment screen of up to 8.8 inches which the driver instructs via one of two BMW-style iDrive controllers.
The driver’s main instrumentation (including speedo and rev counter) now sits above the steering column, while the MINI’s quirky window switches have moved from the centre console to the more conventional location in the door trims.
Light switches have migrated to a conventional multi-function control next to the steering wheel, while simple plastic buttons have replaced some of MINI’s unique toggle switches.
The styling remains cute and friendly, with a more upmarket (corporate) feel, even if some of MINI’s more quirky features appear to have been lost in the transition.