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Mini Cooper


The ever-popular Mini hatch has undergone a few changes in its latest version...

Prepare yourself; Mini isn’t the one trick pony it once was. We now have a four metre, four-door, four wheel drive Mini Countryman, a Mini sports coupe pitched at the Audi TT market will follow before long, and if that’s not that out there enough, check out the recently-revealed Rocketman concept.

But amidst the most significant shift in Mini’s core business, there’s still some same old, same old in the hatch we all know.

Believe it or not, the pictures on this page are of the new Mini hatch. If you’re having trouble spotting the difference might I direct your gaze to the LED new tail lights and the revised bumper and bonnet most models pick up. It’s also 99mm longer, but ultimately it takes a Mini geek to tell it apart from the previous version.

That’s not a biggie really, there are reasons the Mini has been so popular and its retro-inspired looks have worked like a skeleton key to the heart of urban fashion tragic everywhere.

But to keep the car feeling fresh the often criticised interior now benefits from worthwhile improvements. For instance, rather than being located on different continents, the radio knobs can now be found on the actual radio. Crazy, I know.

There’s less chrome and more handy gadgets like USB compatible audio and Bluetooth, Mini’s optional SAT NAV system, which is easy to view on the signature central dial, but like the BMW systems it’s derived from, can be tricky to program.

A new, and confusingly-named ‘Radio Visual Boost’ allows you to scroll through entertainment, phone and vehicle settings for an additional $2440. That’s great, but Mini couldn’t confirm if the Radio Visual Boost system can be upgraded to the even cooler Mini Connect system ,which is also just round the corner. Mini Connect is simply brilliant for iPhone (or similar smartphone) owners as it syncs with a Mini specific Smartphone application to enable internet search functions and web radio through the standard Mini entertainment packages. I’ve sampled it overseas and it’s worth holding out for. If you can’t wait, ask the dealer to subsidise the Radio Visual Boost package and fingers crossed it can be updated with Mini Connect later on.

Pick of the range will always be the 155kW, $58,500 John Cooper Works model, which is unquestionably one of the most exciting cars you could own for under $100k. However, if you like the go-kart handling but can live without the JCW’s cackling exhaust and close ratio gearing, my pick is the new 82kW Cooper D.

The diesel version has ditched the Peugeot/PSA derived engine for a more refined option as shared with the BMW 116d. You can claim the environmental high ground with stop-start technology, regenerative breaking and a shift indicator to minimise the fuel burn. The sooner the planned revisions to our road user charges can be green lit the better; without the unfair penalty it’s currently lumped with, the Cooper D’s hyper economy of just 3.8 litres per 100km would give it the lowest fuel bill in New Zealand .

It’s good to drive too. 270Nm of torque pulls the Mini uphill in taller gears easily and 0-100km/h takes 9.7 seconds – it feels faster though as the short wheel base skips across the road surface with the stereotypical Mini brio. The diesel’s front end is weightier and under-tyred when you push it, but this is a small diesel that actually urges you to drive hard and the winning platform has proven it’s able to cope with the punishment. Like most minis though, the $42,900 Cooper D is an expensive small car. It seems increasingly steep among the growing number of style-conscious and fun-to-drive alternatives popping up this year, but drive it and you do appreciate what your money buys. The most fun to drive small diesel on the market.

See Mini Coopers for sale.

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