In the 1970’s with only three TV channels, BBC1 used to show a film after the 9 o clock news, which is how in my formative years, I had my film education. I was particularly enamoured with Clint Eastwoods Spaghetti Western trilogy. Directed by Sergio Leone, first there was A Fistful of Dollars based on the Japanese film Yojimbo, then For a Few Dollars More & finally my favourite of the three, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. All are classics & to a ten year old boy, the fact that the eponymous hero played by Eastwood is not your typical leading man, really resonated with me.
As this is a MINI review, I expect you’re wondering where I’m going with this ? Well, for the MKI MINI which BMW launched in 2001, read A Fistful of Dollars, a great car which completely invented a whole new car sector, but which lacked both a bit of punch & decent fuel economy. Then in 2007 BMW launched the MKII MINI which is like For a Few Dollars More, with improved engines, handling & fuel economy. Roll on to 2014 & BMW have just launched the MKIII MINI which having spent a week in it recently, is most definitely the best of the bunch & in my analogy is The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, finally bringing together all that was great about the original 1960’s MINI with a modern twist !
Because we are a ‘Fleet’ publication, CCV tested the frugal COOPER D. With claimed fuel returns of 80.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 92g/km, it’s a car that promises to combine the car’s characteristic driving thrills with penny-pinching running costs.Like the rest of the MINI line-up, the Cooper D gets an all-new engine, with the MkII’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder making way for a 1.5 three-cylinder. Despite having a smaller capacity and one less cylinder than before, power output rises from 110 to 114bhp, while torque remains unchanged at 270Nm.
In the new MINI hatch, there is a glowing red starter switch confusingly located( for the first time anyway) in the centre of the dash. Press it with your foot on the clutch & the COOPER D clatters into life. It sounds noisy from the outside, but excellent sound deadening means that inside cabin it’s really quiet. It’s only at high revs that you’ll notice the three-cylinder hum from the engine & even on the motorway it’s surprisingly noise free. It hits 62 mph in 9.2 seconds, but the real thrills come in the mid-range over 1500 revs, where the COOPER D pulls strongly making for effortless overtaking. The steering is light with great feel & this MINI has more grip than ever. Few cars at any price are as agile and engaging as the new MINI. You have the option of three driving modes, Normal & Sport of which Normal is just fine. Selecting Sport mode adds weight to the steering and sharpens the throttle response, but the precise six-speed gearbox and progressive brakes remain unchanged. In fact whichever one you choose you’ll still be smiling when you get home !
All of the delightful MINI idiosyncracies in the interior remain, including the large central dial which now contains MINI’s excellent Navigation System XL, the steering wheel mounted rev counter/speedo & circular interior door handles, air vents, speakers & heating dials. The quality is second to none & with each new MINI the build quality has improved. The list of standard equipment includes the aforementioned MINI SatNav, Bluetooth with hands free function with USB & aux-in, DAB digital tuner,daylight driving lights, MINIMALISM fuel saving technology which includes automatic Stop/Start, Brake Energy Regeneration wit Shift Point Display & Air-Con.
Externally the MkIII is a little larger in length & width than it’s predecessors & has larger front lights.I guess because it’s been so successful & the MINI is a common site on our roads, these small exterior changes are hard to notice, meaning that if you want this MINI to standout from the two which went before, you may be a little disappointed.
Boot capacity has grown, but it’s only to 211 litres, so don’t expect to get your golf clubs in. There is though, a flat floor with a cover making it a teeny weeny bit more practical. Rear passengers will not be shouting from the roof tops, because it’s very cramped in the back, then it is called a MINI.
Interestingly, to tackle the lack of space & access issues associated with the 3 door MINI, BMW have just announced that they are going to launch a 5 door version of the MINI hatch later in 2014, which they expect to appeal to young families & which will according to James Morrison at MINI, be a popular fleet vehicle with 60% of sales going to the business sector. It seems then that MINI have all angles covered with this new MINI fitting in between the 3 door hatch & Clubman.
The basic MINI COOPER D would set you back £16,450. Add any extras & this could creep up to £20,000 which is an awful lot for a car of this size even if it is fantastic to drive & brilliantly designed ! I loved it & can’t wait to see if the 5 door is as good. Clint Eastwood has made plenty of other films in the past 50 years, but in my opinion, he’ll never be better than he was in the Spaghetti Westerns. Similarly, there may be a MINI Paceman, Clubman, Countryman & Coupe, but none will ever be as good as the original 3 door hatch. 4/5.
Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 127mph