By: Justin Jacobs
CHARACTER; that’s the word that many throw around when referring to a MINI. For years, the MINI brand has offered modern-retro motoring and I rather enjoy getting behind the wheel of a MINI product for this very reason.
The Oxford-based car manufacturer recently updated its offering. Initially, I wasn’t sure what had been changed but closer inspection revealed several cool updates.
Upfront, the MINI features refreshed front-end styling, LED indicators, gloss-black detailing and new alloy wheel designs. Customers also have a choice of three new colours, as well as the option to order a multitone roof finish, which will be unique in each application.
At the rear, the Union Jack-themed LED tail lights are a standard feature across the range. Styling is subjective and, if I’m honest, I don’t like the pronounced black element around the front grille, however many onlookers did. The updates might be subtle but they have given the car a refreshing look.
The most noticeable interior update is the LED lighting feature on the large round centrepiece. There is also a new multifunction steering wheel with haptic feedback buttons and a new, larger 8.8-inch infotainment touch screen with new-look software, a 5.0-inch digitised instrument cluster and updated ambient lighting.
MINI has also introduced equipment packages, making the personalisation of the products less complicated. The packages are divided into networking, operation, driver assistance and comfort categories. There are also specific interior and exterior packages to differentiate your MINI.
We sampled two engine offerings – the 1.5 turbocharged 3-cylinder found in the standard Cooper, which I sampled in three-door guise, and the 2.0-litre turbocharged motor found in the S model which was in a five-door hatch.
The hatch model delivers 141kW and 280Nm and makes use of a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The combination is potent and allows for a spirited driving experience with a 0-100km/h time of around 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 235km/h.
The standard Cooper produces 100kW and 220Nm, also in combination with a dual-clutch automatic transmission. It offers something different, reasonable value, solid performance and good fuel consumption. Sure, it's not the fastest but the motor is eager and you can exploit all its performance. The fun factor is accessible and the car encourages you to throw it around. The Cooper S does the same but it just seems a bit serious at times, the Cooper feels more pure in its delivery.
Our trip saw us meander from Randburg to the Union Buildings in Pretoria and then to the open roads around the Cradle of Humankind. The Cooper and the Cooper S returned a fun-to-drive experience.
However, our days of petrol exploitation are nearing an end and MINI has an alternative called the Cooper SE. We didn't get to drive it but I hope to remedy that soon. The SE offers more than 200km of electric range from its 32.6 kWh battery system and produces 135kW and 270Nm, sending its power to the front wheels.
The updated MINI retains its outstanding character which is what we have come to love about it over the years. It remains funky, fresh and fun-to-drive. It is an icon in its own right and now more refined than ever.
MINI Hatch One 3-door – R420 000
MINI Hatch Cooper 3-door – R469 500
MINI Hatch Cooper S 3-door – R530 400
MINI Hatch John Cooper Works – R615 000
MINI Hatch One 5-door – R430 000
MINI Hatch Cooper 5-door – R479 500
MINI Hatch Cooper S 5-door – R540 000
MINI Convertible Cooper – R533 000
MINI Convertible Cooper S – R614 000