First Impressions: Bimmerfest Drives The New Mini Hardtop
I spent a couple days last week away from the cold and snow, taking in the sights around northern Puerto Rico and enjoying the much warmer temperatures. A place this beautiful made it hard to focus on the task at hand, the real reason I'm down here, Mini's International Press release of the new Mini Hardtop at the Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach.
Being a Mini owner, I was even more excited than usual to take the trip and experience first hand how this new Mini stacks up against the previous generation. I can't think of a better place to test out the new Mini. Tight, twisting roads with lots of elevation change and varying road surfaces and conditions. Random wild dogs were even thrown in to make things even more interesting. While we weren't able to give the Minis a high speed work out, our back road drives gave some definite 'real world' feedback. I think this worked well, since most people won't be running their cars to redline on a normal basis. Well, enough intro, lets have a look at the new Mini.
At first glance, the new Mini still boasts that classic Mini look. However, some key changes have been made to freshen up the looks and feel of the Mini hardtop. The most noticeable changes are at the front, where Mini has incorporated a hexagonal grille, outlined in chrome. On either side of the grill are a set of restyled headlamps that house integrated turn indicators. Now available as an option, to enhance visibility, are LED headlamps with daytime driving light rings and fogs. Fog lamps flank a protruding lower air dam giving the Mini a more intimidating look as it comes up on you. At the rear, the tail lights have grown a bit, and are also available in LED. The lower bumper gets some re-styling like the front and surrounds more of the exhaust. Up on top, the windshield gets a bit more rake completing the hardtop's enhanced sporting looks. I think as a whole, it looks great. However, I do have a small issue with the side profile. The dimensions of the Mini have grown a bit, and that's most noticed ahead of the front wheels. This is where I think the balance gets thrown a bit. The nose is just a bit too long now, something to get used to, no need to dwell.
Just like the exterior, the interior still has that familiar, classic Mini feel. This is where Mini really stepped up their game. Plenty of technology has been added to the car, and materials, fit, finish, all seem high quality throughout. Everything feels good; it's a great place to hang out and have a drive, even a cup of coffee.(or tea if that's your thing) The standard front sport seats are quite comfortable, give excellent support and offer plenty of adjustment for larger drivers/passengers. The rear seats benefit from some re-working, offering comfort and a bit more room. Once in your seat, you can't help but notice the Mini's updated dash. Gone is the central mounting of the speedometer. Now filling the center stage is the Mini's infotainment and communication screen, our test car's being the larger 8.8 inch version. All your vehicle's info, navigation, Mini Connected services, all right there and controlled via Mini Controller in the center console, much like BMW's iDrive Controller. After seeing this in person and using it during the drive, I think it's a much better use of the center dash space. It's hard to let go of the HUGE speedo though. The speedometer now moves next to the rev counter, right in front of the driver. Another key move made by Mini, the relocation of the window switches to the doors! Very exciting, and it's definitely worth noting that Mini has added a little more storage space in the rear for your stuff, due to some pretty trick configurable rear seats and trunk floor. There is more room than you think.
So, with the new Mini you get some fresh looks, a great interior….....but what happens when you hit the start switch and head on down the road? The new Mini didn't really disappoint here either. We got to drive the standard Mini Cooper as well as the Cooper S and both have received new powerplants. The standard Cooper is powered by a 1.5 liter twin-power 3 cylinder that puts down 134 horsepower and will get it to 60 mph in around 7.3 seconds while getting close to 42 mpg. With the Cooper S, you get a bit more go from a 189 horsepower 2.0 liter Twin-Power turbo 4 cylinder. The S is good for a 0-60 time of around 6.4 seconds, with close to 40 mpg. Both cars made short work of the tight and twisty back roads of Arecibo. The combination of short wheel base, wide track and taut suspension kept the Mini well planted in corners. Direction changes were handled with precision and speed. The steering offers a good feel of the road and can be tightened up with a toggle into sport mode, which also improves the throttle response. The go-kart handling is still alive and well with the new Mini, just point it and get on the gas. There is a downside to this though, on rough roads you feel it and there is a bit of road noise. Personally, I like the taut ride, but really, if you are looking for smooth, get a big sedan, because this is a grin inducing, corner carver. Both models were a blast to drive. The big difference is the S having more power on tap out of corners and down the highway. The Cooper S I drove was a 6 speed auto with paddles. It shifted well at lower revs in normal driving mode, but worked much better up in the revs in sport, utilizing the paddles. In comparison, while not being as quick, the base Cooper is more than enough for the average person. The car I drove was a 6 speed manual, and it definitely wasn't a slouch. Rolling on in off gears didn't even hold the Cooper back and to it's credit, that 3 cylinder sounds great. It has a growl that the 4 cylinder just can't produce. So which do you pick then?
Mini offers an array of colors, interior finishes, trims and even wheels to make which ever car you pick, your own. Whether you go for the power of the S, or the slick, understated Cooper, I don't think you can go wrong. Either way, they both give you classic Mini looks, along with that go-kart feel. That's a win-win in my book.
The new Mini Hardtop will arrive in dealerships this spring. US pricing for the base Cooper is $19,950, and the Cooper S comes in at $23,600, not including the $795 destination and handling charge.
See all the pics from the new Mini International Press Launch in Puerto Rico here!
Also check out video of the new Mini Cooper and Cooper S!
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