The styling of the new Mini Cooper generated huge debate when we revealed the new hatch on CAR Online late last year. Some of you hated the bulbous, high-shouldered look, while others criticised the stylists for not moving the game on far enough next to rivals like the Citroen DS3 and Audi A1.
The dust is still settling on that front, but there can be no argument over just how important the new Cooper is not just for Mini, but BMW’s future too.
The new Mini is the lucky first recipient of a suite of new drivetrain features that will see duty in several future BMWs. The front-drive 2-series Active Tourer will share three-cylinder turbocharged engines with the Mini, which in turn benefits from adaptive suspension know-how trialled on current BMWs. That’s right – at the touch of a button you’ll be able to stiffen the ride of your next-gen Mini, and relax it after your B-road blast itch has been scratched. Issigonis could barely have dreamt of such hardware in a city car.
Electric power steering appears in the new Cooper, and it’ll even compensate for torque-steer in some of the more unruly Cooper S and JCW models, claims Mini. With power outputs from those cars on the rise (the Cooper S develops 192bhp, while the JCW could top 215bhp), it has its work cut out to keep BMW’s ‘road-going go-kart’ on the straight-and-narrow.
Mini has come over all sensible elsewhere, though. The new Cooper is more efficient, with claimed figures of 62.7mpg and 105g/km of CO2. The new 1.5-litre three-pot diesel is the first Mini to ever top 80mpg: test results point to 80.7mpg and 92g/km of CO2 emissions.
Praise be: Mini’s also matured its new baby’s cockpit. Not only has perceived quality been turned up a notch for the new Cooper, but common sense emerges too – electric window switches now live on the doors rather than the dashboard, and the central speedometer has been junked at last. Instead, drivers will spot a conventional speedo behind the steering wheel.
Plus, BMW has at last seen fit to equip Cooper and Cooper S models with its iDrive infotainment interface – one of the best non-touchscreen systems in the business.
The best thing about the Mini since it was reborn under BMW has always been its superbly chuckable chassis. If the tech applied to the latest iteration makes this Mini the best yet, you might just forgive the 2014 Cooper its controversial face…
By the CAR editorial team
First Official Pictures
20 January 2014