As mid-product-cycle facelifts go, the exterior updates to the 3rd-generation (New) Mini are minor, although there are notable upgrades to its interior. We headed to the island of Mallorca to drive both the hatch and convertible models.
The Mini model lineup has expanded beyond what anyone ever expected, to the extent that there’s not all that much that’s mini about some of them. The Spanish island of Mallorca was the setting for the launch of the facelifted version of the 2014 release. If ever there were roads made for Minis, they can be found in Mallorca, with its endless hairpins and twisty corners that wind their way over mountains, through tunnels and to the coastline.
Union Jack emblem designed rear lights are the major difference for the new model.
The easiest way to tell that’s it’s the facelifted model is by the Union Jack-inspired taillight clusters. They’re cool additions and ostensibly an attempt to distinguish the cars made by the Oxford-based marque from those made by its German owners. A minor change has also been made to the Mini badge, which is now flatter and more 2-dimensional as opposed to the blob that used to sit on the bonnet. The MiniYours personalisation options are further enhanced with the ability to put a name on the honeycomb plastic adjacent to the side indicators. The list of individual touches you can make goes on forever and carries on inside, where you can choose your own design for the passenger dash mount... ours had a blue Union Jack motif.
The centre armrest now opens up to deliver a wireless charging bay and real-time traffic is available as an option. Finally, the infotainment system is now also Apple CarPlay ready.
Multiple designs can be installed in the passenger dash insert.
In terms of running gear, all engines remain the same, but the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is now optionally available on all models as a choice. The gear lever has been redesigned slightly with the automatic designed to be gripped on the side rather than the previous model, which had a rather ugly square knob on the top of a long shaft.
How it drives: Any noticeable changes?
Having spent a day in both the Cooper S Hatch and Cooper S Convertible, the ragtop variant feels noticeably stiffer than before. Not in terms of ride quality, but body rigidity. Pre-facelift models were prone to bad scuttle shake and windscreen flex at speed, but the new version didn’t exhibit nearly as much movement/"twist" with the roof down. The launch units at our disposal had reasonably well-run-in mileages on them; we assume that they lived pretty hard lives on the island by virtue of being driven with much enthusiasm for a few months. The build integrity, therefore, was admirable.
The Hatch with its solid roof remains the more fun of the 2 versions to blast around the island's serpentine roads. The 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine with its peak outputs of 141 kW and 280 Nm offers the perfect amounts of power and torque when you’re launching from one hairpin to the next.
Sharp, fast steering still make the mini feel different from its hatchback rivals.
The front end darts into corners quite quickly due to the Mini's super fast steering, which can take some getting used to, and can also make the little car seem nervous out on the open roads (where small inputs result in larger movements).
For the best part of a day, we climbed and dropped over the mountains, sewing together switchbacks and straightening out kinks. As the engine hops onto boost there’s a small kick of torque steer, before the 'wheel smooths out and normals steering resumes. It's nothing to be afraid of, just make sure you’re paying attention and holding the wheel, these sorts of forces can be a bit tricky to deal with at the Mini's power levels.
The 6-speed manual is definitely the choice for the enthusiast, I was a critic of the lever and shift action of the previous version, but it appears to be improved both in the way the lever nestles in your hand and the speed at which the synchros... errr... sync. Before it was easy to beat the gearbox and grind your way embarrassingly through the gearbox, things now seem faster, meaning you can attack upshifts and, on the way down, the automatic throttle blip function does the heel-and-toeing for you.
The new gear lever design is easier to grip and thicker than before.
The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, in turn, is slick and brisk and unlikely to disappoint, especially if you commute in traffic. We drove automatic Convertible and when things slowed down along the coastline, it seemed right to just ease back, take the scenery in and let the 'box do the work.
Mini regards itself as a premium brand so the pricing is on the higher side, especially if you consider rivals such as the upcoming Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST are also exciting forthcoming attractions. Mini sells itself on individuality and its cars are bought with the seemingly infinite trim/wheel/roof/bonnet/dash options you can choose from, something you don’t get from the others mentioned above.
The facelifted Mini Hatch, Convertible and 5-door will be available locally from June 2018. They will be covered by 5-year/100 000 km maintenance plans.
One Hatch R302 200
One Hatch auto R323 200
Cooper Hatch R370 300
Cooper Hatch auto R391 300
Cooper S Hatch R430 577
Cooper S Hatch auto R450 186
John Cooper Works Hatch R491 095
John Cooper Works Hatch auto R512 865
One Hatch (5–door) R312 300
One Hatch (5–door) auto R333 300
Cooper Hatch (5–door) R380 400
Cooper Hatch (5–door) auto R401 400
Cooper S Hatch (5–door) R441 057
Cooper S Hatch (5–door) auto R459 780
Cooper Convertible R423 200
Cooper Convertible auto R444 200
Cooper S Convertible R496 836
Cooper S Convertible auto R515 559