The third generation of Mini produced under the BMW umbrella is available as a 5-door version intended to be more versatile alongside the 3-door, convertible, Clubman and Countryman,. We tested it for you, equipped with a 136bhp petrol engine and 6-speed dual clutch Steptronic gearbox. The Mini is a bit like the naughty kid of the family, allowed to have fun within reasonable limits, parents fully aware that eventually good manners will do the rest…
Premium in a small format
In a very crowded market segment, the Mini is doing well being a bit apart and like a miniature BMW… compared to its rival Audi A1, for example. However, the Mini grows and is becoming more and more like an entry-level BMW, size wise. The third generation, named F56, uses the UKL1 platform and was released in 2014. The model was given a facelift in 2018 and evolved considerably again since the beginning of this year. One the one hand, this celebrates 20 years of Mini by BMW and… on the other it’s a way to keep it fresh while waiting for the next generation.
Outside, the Mini gets a new and even more imposing front grille, with a body-coloured strip that crosses it horizontally, a new black frame and air intakes now replace the fog lights. The whole thing is supposed to be reminiscent of the original Mini’s grille and its particular shape. We still prefer the prefacelift Mini, but we understand it had to evolve to face its competitors… as they don’t rest on their laurels. The Mini now looks a bit too cartoonish for our taste and the feeling is even stronger looking at its huge mirrors! Time has come to use black instead of chrome, from the headlight rings to a whole series of finishes.
Inside, a new 8.8″ central touch screen sits in the centre of the dashboard. Equipped with the now familiar 1,500 cc three-cylinder engine, the Mini produces 136 bhp between 4,400 and 6,000 rpm and 220 Nm torque between 1,250 and 4,300 rpm, which makes this engine very alert and smooth. The whole package is homogeneous and is a good compromise for a car that weighs just over 1,200 kg. As far as prices are concerned, the 5-door Mini starts at €20,500 but can quickly become very expensive… if you let yourself loose with the extras’list. Our Copper is priced at €24,350 for the basic version. The Steptronic dual-clutch gearbox is priced at €1,890 and does not penalise acceleration (0 to 100 in 8.3 seconds), top speed (207 km/h) or CO2 emissions.
However, it is not as smooth and refined as the BMW 8-speed ZF automatic box, as we will see later. The “Mini Yours” finish is a bit like the BMW “Individual” finish for Mini. It adds €5,600 to the base price, which is almost the same as the JCW finish (€5,800), but it is more luxurious than the latter. It includes metallic paint (Island Blue on our test model), two-tone 18″ alloy wheels and run flat tyres. The multi-ton roof is priced at €510. The interior is upholstered in black leather, as is the steering wheel. Options on the test car include the ‘Comfort Plus Pack’ with heated steering wheel, keyless access, front armrest, electric folding mirrors, heated seats and steering wheel and automatic climate control.
The ‘Driving Assistant Pack’ adds a reversing camera, radar and cruise control. In addition, our test car gets ‘Connected Navigation’, with real-time traffic information, a multi-function display and smartphone integration. Add to this the tinted rear windows and you have a Mini that costs a whopping €36,975 including VAT.
I like it
This 5-door version is a real Mini and a rather fun car at that ! The engine is well adapted to the car and is more than sufficient for everyday use. On winding backroads, in “sport” mode, it takes the bends with a light turn of the wheel. Empty roundabouts are as much fun : it is as playful as it is safe. Its size also makes it easy to get about in town. The steering is direct and precise and the suspension is firm but comfortable. This chassis is a real peach and really well sorted. The interior atmosphere has a touch of class that inevitably reminds you of a downsized BMW, for good reason!
The sports steering wheel is thick-rimmed, easy to grip and inevitably reminiscent of a BMW. It’s not studded with buttons, the cruise control is on the left, the multimedia system buttons on the right. In addition, the instrument cluster moves with the steering wheel, which always gives a perfect vision of it. A simple feature that many manufacturers could adopt easily! The Mini also features a multitude of nods to its British origins, such as the rear lights recalling the Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom…
I don’t like it
On our test version, the interior was black, black, black… admittedly, it’s easier to maintain but when I got in there for the first time it felt claustrophobic. The feeling was certainly reinforced by the anthracite headliner and the dark tinted rear windows. No doubt a sunroof would have greatly improved things. Although the Mini is a premium car, some cheap details let it down : exposed door pillar trim bolts, painted metal parts visible from the inside ; flimsy (and very badly placed) front seats backrest pulling handles or the lack of front seat belts height adjustment… something that shouldn’t cost the Earth and that could be easily shared on a whole range, couldn’t it ?
Why I buy it
For the very “Mini” driving experience and its slightly offbeat “British” side. Even the 5-door version is still a go-kart! In a rather clogged segment, the Mini is different, sporty and fun while being reassuring…no mean fact! Apart from some details (see above), fit and finish is generally good and there is no doubt about reliability as well as reasonable maintenance costs, thanks to the BMW DNA. A 7.4 litres/ 100 km average fuel consumption for the whole of our test drive means the be Mini is not particularly frugal… Mind you, its fun character urged us to have fun so we can live with that ! It really takes a featherlight right foot to get the “official” 6.2 l/ 100 km value . CO2 emissions are rated between 125 and 140 gr/km, which means a € 100 tax rate in Wallonia.
Why I don’t buy it
The Spettronic dual clutch gearbox! Sometimes it can be unpredictable and hesitant, is often slow and too often leaves a taste of too little. It doesn’t seem to match the qualities of the engine and the chassis. The brake pedal is rather light. Slowing the car is OK but stopping it requires much more pressure. This could prove a real problem in some circumstances. Soundproofing could also be better, which would further enhance its premium feel.
In conclusion, the Mini allows you to be a little bit crazy while remaining reasonable and reassuring yourself. This evolution allows it to reach a certain maturity in all areas, while being one of the most pleasant cars to drive in the segment. Once driven, forever smitten! (Text : Dimitri URBAIN, photos : Pierre FONTIGNIES)