I’ve driven plenty of MINI cars over the years but the last time I got to spend a week with one was in and around 2010. So to be honest, it’s been a while. I’m not going to go into a history lesson on the background of the MINI, you all know it by now. Things have changed, and all of these changes are for the better. For those hardcore fans of the old MINI, I’ll ask you to accept that my opinion may be different from yours, I’m happy to say that I think the modern MINI is a much more attractive package.
I remember in 2010 not being overly impressed by what was on offer. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a really good car, but I don’t think I fully got it. The interior was quirky, but it wasn’t amazing, the technology was fully up to date, but it was missing a certain pizzazz. But when I sat into the new MINI Cooper D Hatch I instantly fell for it – and now I get it. I understand why current MINI owners worship their little machines.
Inside the MINI Cooper D Hatch I was hit by the superior quality of pretty much everything. It’s clear how the influences of BMW have been bringing more and more quality to this car. It’s no longer the cramped-up space it once was. The leather seats in the car I was driving were extremely comfortable and oozed class. The rear seating area is small, but can still fit two adults (but not for too long if you’re tall!) or two baby seats. The boot is very small – but you’d be a fool to expect more if you’re buying a car of this size.
I’m a big fan of the panoramic roof. It’s nice to let a little bit of light into this car. The dash and round dials are fantastic, and the interactivity with the vehicle is incredibly smart. The big centre dial of the past has been completely updated and the infotainment now sits perfectly inside it.
The SAT NAV is easy to use – you’d be surprised by how complicated some systems can be, and I’m a fan of the START/STOP ignition switch in the vehicle. Another plus is the head-up display, which will allow drivers to keep their eyes firmly on the road. The model I tested contained DAB radio, which always impresses me – now all we need is more investment into quality DAB stations and this will be a real plus for cars into the future.
As part of the infotainment system is a kind of fuel economy game called MINImalism. This is available when you drive in green mode. With this game you achieve stars for driving economically. It shows you a fish in a bowl with very little water in it when you begin, but the more stars you get for driving economically the more water goes into the bowl, which of course keeps the fish inside happy. I didn’t do too badly, receiving five stars for acceleration, five stars for anticipation and four for my gear changes. The problem with this game though is that it can be a distraction from the road. Take for example the gear changes, you must change gear when the car indicates that you should – if you don’t do it in time you lose a star, I found that this lead to me constantly taking my eyes off the road to see when the car thinks I should change gears.
Outside shows a fantastic looking car. Although it’s small, its curves bring a bulkiness which really makes it stand out from the crowd. The front protrudes more and the LED headlights really suit the car.
The 1.5 litre, 3 cylinder engine under the bonnet of the MINI hatch is more than impressive. It produces 116hp and it provides torque at the right time. The engine growls when you want it to and you can really feel it push. The chassis has been improved too, with the suspension now being softer than ever.
Handling is where this car really excels. Bring it around town and it manoeuvres incredibly freely with the steering being extremely precise, but the beauty about it is that when you bring it onto the open road the handling doesn’t disappoint either – a bit of oomph with this machine doesn’t mean that you compromise on handling.
If you’re willing to throw a few extra Euro getting some of the extras available from MINI (price above is for the model I drove with and without the extras) I highly recommend having a look at their adaptive cruise control. This type of technology in any car is impressive and it shows you just how close we are to autonomous driving. By now a lot of you will know what adaptive cruise control is, but for those of you who don’t... in a nutshell it’s incredibly intelligent cruise control, which by using sensors, and some amazing technology, can effectively control your acceleration while driving and keep you at a safe distance from the car in front. If it senses that the car in front is slowing down, the car will slow you down. This technology never ceases to amaze me, and the fact that even more intuitive technologies will be available to us in the future completely intrigues me.
Fuel efficiency is also good in this particular Cooper D. On paper MINI tells us that it can achieve a combined driving fuel economy of 3.5 litres to 100km. Before you ask if that is a real figure, I have to admit that I can’t confirm it. I was too busy enjoying the noises from this MINI to focus on how economically i was driving – but on paper we’re told that this machine has the potential to be extremely economical. Also, it burns just 95 g/km of CO2, which means that at today’s tax rate you should be paying just €180 on road tax per year – good news indeed.
There are a good few cars in the same segment as this MINI, but very few in the same class. I could throw cars like the Fiesta at you as a comparison, but to be honest with you they both demand completely different customers. We’ll be test driving the new Corsa soon enough, but again I reckon that’s a completely different beast. I suppose on paper the nearest to this would be the Audi A1.
The CBG.ie verdict
So, do I like this car? Yes I do. I think you’d be mad not to. There would have been a time in my life when I would have said that the MINI is typically a car for female customers – I was young and foolish. This is a driver’s car. If you like driving and if you like a quality drive, I think you’ll like the MINI Cooper D Hatch.