Our love affair with the Mini Cooper dates back to the days of Sir Alec Issigonis. So, of course, we were delighted when BMW (current owner of the brand) decided to bring Mini to India in 2012. In fact, one of the most fun features that we’ve ever done was when we raced a Mini Cooper S around the Kolhapur karting track against a high-performance Rotax go-kart. More recently, we raced this very car to 100 kilometres against a team of cyclists and a Triumph Daytona 675 at the BIC for our 100th issue. Over the years, every time we’ve got a chance to get in the driver’s seat of a Mini the smiles just never went away. It’s simply that kind of car!
The new Mini Cooper 3-Door is very much the same car, and it retains much of the same retro styling as it did before – which is its best-known characteristic – but it is bigger than before. Some joke that it’s not really that mini anymore – which is true to an extent, but it still retains the character of the original. From the driver’s seat, however – since it’s been packing on the pounds, and it’s also lost hydraulic steering – this version isn’t quite as sharp as before. Don’t get us wrong, though, it’s still plenty of fun from behind the wheel – and, in fact, it is more usable and comfortable than ever before.
In terms of quality, the Mini scores well. The fit-and-finish is better than ever before, and the material quality within the cabin is excellent. The large dials, and the dashboard are also unique to the Mini brand. On the whole, it feels quite sporty and chic. Our test car had the optional high-res 8.8-inch central screen. In fact, many of the other key features – such as the iDrive style infotainment system, sunroof, steering mounted controls and leather upholstery – don’t come as standard. What you do get, without shelling out any extra dough, though, is a sporty cabin with hip-hugging seats. However, because it’s a 3-Door, it didn’t score particularly well in terms of space and convenience. Getting into the back seat isn’t easy – but, once you are able to get in, it’s reasonably comfortable. But only for short drives.
The 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel unit is very nice, and feels quite refined. With just 114bhp, the acceleration is pretty good. And, as you move up the power-band, the engine continues to get smoother – which is pretty impressive for a three-cylinder motor. There seems to be adequate power and torque, and the car can accelerate from 0-100km/h in under 10 seconds. There’s also enough grunt for the car to accelerate past 170km/h quite easily. The ride quality, and, of course, the go-kart style handling is still fantastic – and taking it around the track is exhilarating. More power can, of course, be had in the Cooper S. For this particular model, the X-factor is of course its iconic styling and legendary handling capabilities.
The big drawback here, though, is the price tag. While you get an icon for your money, it comes at quite a price. But when you look at the entire package, the Mini is still a fantastic car and it’ll put a smile on your face every time – and you can’t put a price on that, can you?