Nicholas Cooksey visits Dubai to drive the latest incarnation of the iconic British car.
The Mini Mk3 The iconic Mini has just had a facelift, and it includes Union Jack rear lights – seriously! Buyers can also have an illuminated Union Flag on the passenger-side dashboard. And, there’s all sorts of personalization options including having your name, or any name, on an interior or exterior panel of the car in a choice of colours and textures.
Mini is part of the BMW group, and it shares a lot with the latest BMW 2-Series. It’s fair to describe its sportier models, particularly the JCW version, as fitting into the ‘Hot Hatch’ category. There are few small hatchbacks that can corner as well as a MINI, and the feel through the steering wheel is excellent.
That said, high quality BMW materials and superb noise suppression make it feel more like a luxury car. The dash is busy with lots of knobs, buttons, and circular dials.
By far the largest circular dial, prominently positioned in the center of the dash, is a 6.5-inch touchscreen, which can also be operated via MINI’s version of the BMW iDrive controller. A multifunction steering wheel is also offered as standard.
Lots of online connected services are available, including MINI Find Mate – just attach a special fob to your bag or keys and if you lose them your Mini will notify you where they are. There’s also a wireless phone charger – in fact this car has everything demanded by a tech savvy driver. Available in 3 or 5 door options, an additional 3 new paint colours, new trim options, new design alloy wheels, new seven speed automatic transmission, plus various cosmetic changes make the latest Mini a fun choice.
The back seats don’t offer much leg-room and the boot is fairly small, but then this is a young person’s car and not a family car, Bahrain Confidential August 2018 53 Car Review with perhaps the exception of the Mini Countryman. For the engine, the previous 1.2-litre four-cylinder in the basic model is replaced by a detuned version of the Cooper’s three cylinder 1.5, offering 101 bhp and zero to one hundred kph in 10.1 seconds. Meanwhile the sporty JCW (John Cooper Works) version with its 2 liter four cylinder will hit one hundred kph in just 6.3 seconds.
I drove in its three drive modes (Green, Mid and Sport). Obviously Sport was by far the most fun, but in traffic I found Green was easier and less frustrating.
My driving partner for the day was Karim, a motoring journalist from the Lebanon and a proud owner of a pre-face lift Mini. His expert viewpoint was that the changes over the previous model, though an improvement, were relatively minor. He kept telling me I should buy a Mini for myself because they are great to own, and fun to drive.
Compared to its main ‘semi-retro’ rivals, in my opinion – which is subjective – the Mini is a lot more capable than the Fiat 500, and more fun and better looking than the VW Beetle.
I was told that Mini are planning to stage a track day at Bahrain’s BIC in October. I hope I will be invited. It will be good fun to test this car on an F1 circuit.