2018 ushers in a more ‘civilised’ MINI

2018-11-22 06:01
The 2018 MINI Cooper five-door hatch is all grown up.PHOTOS: BMW-Motorpresse

The 2018 MINI Cooper five-door hatch is all grown up.PHOTOS: BMW-Motorpresse

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The MINI brand has led a dramatic, some might say tortured, life. Since being born into tough times following the first fuel crisis of 1956, it was shunted from loving homes at Austin and Morris into foster care, onto adoption and finally to spiritual rebirth in the BMW family.

It grew over time, as would be expected of “someone” now pushing sixty years of age. The original three-door buzz-box was 3054 mm long on a wheelbase of 2036 mm, 1397 mm wide and 1346 mm tall. Four tall and skinny teenagers could fit inside. It was cramped but we were all good mates so it was okay. Today’s three-door is 767 mm longer on 459 mm more wheelbase, 330 mm wider and 68 mm taller.

It also grew up, losing its noisy engine, whistling windows, tooth rattling suspension and minimal creature comforts to become almost embarrassingly civilised — as we all do eventually, whether we like it or not, because modern society demands it. You know what we mean — airbags, ABS, ESP, air conditioning, powered everything and the great non-negotiable, connectivity.

We drove a modern, five-door hatchback, in the Cooper state of tune, recently. It is even bigger, 161 mm longer, than the newest three-door and is based on a chassis that’s 72 mm longer. Although MINI’s press office insists that five adults can fit inside (there are three seatbelts back there), we believe that today’s four large teenagers would still need to be really good buddies while travelling together in one. A fifth would have to place his or her feet awkwardly on either side of the tall central console that stretches all the way to the rear seat cushion.

MINI has thankfully abandoned its brief flirtation with “Go Kart-like handling” because it was simply twitchy and unpleasant. The original car, while “interesting”, noisy and even a bit rough to live with, was never unpleasantly skittish.

The 2018 five-door Cooper is a driver’s car with a decently powerful engine – the torque band goes on forever and the kilowatts never quit – and, optionally, a responsive seven-speed dual clutch automatic.

Its steering is pleasantly weighted, it handles well and it turns on a 1959 sixpence. I’d like to say, “on a 1959 tickey” but it needs 11 metres between kerbs and there are some other modern cars that turn tighter than that. But few are quite as civilised, well-bolted together or as connected — as one becomes with “spreading” middle age and advancing years.

The hatchback range, that is to say not Clubman, not Convertible and not Countryman, consists of 15 choices. You get three- or five-door; manual or automatic; 75-kW One at entry level, Cooper and Cooper S models; a 1499 GT and a pair of three-door John Cooper Works devices with 170-kW, two-litre engines.

Prices range from R302 200 to R512 865, placing our test car somewhere in the middle. In true BMW fashion, all are extremely customisable with optional colour lines, packs, wheels and trim items.

Unlike the original Minis, where the only choices were colour and whether you opted for a radio, today’s MINI has moved on and grown up. We like it.

WHAT’S NEW

• LED headlights with self-dipping function for the high beam and LED rear lights in Union Jack design.

• New MINI logo, new body finishes, Piano Black exterior.

• New light alloy wheels.

• Extended range of leather trim, interior surfaces and Colour Lines.

• Unique individualisation with MINI Yours Customised.

• Increased capacity and torque for MINI One.

• Seven-speed double clutch or eight-speed Steptronic transmissions.

• Music system with 6.5-inch colour screen, USB and Bluetooth interface as standard.

• Optional radio and navigation systems with touchscreen monitor.

• Telephony with wireless charging.

• MINI logo projection from driver’s side exterior mirror.

• MINI Connected and MINI Connected XL with new functions.

THE NUMBERS

Basic price — R401 400

Engine — 1499 cc, three-cylinder, 12-valve turbopetrol

Power — 100 kW between 4500 and 6500 rpm

Torque — 220 Nm between 1480 and 4200 rpm

Zero to 100 km/h — 8.1 seconds

Real life fuel consumption — About 8.3 l/100 km

Tank — 40 litres

Luggage — 278 to 941 litres

Warranty and maintenance — five years / 100 000 km

— Supplied

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