MINI Cooper

MINI Cooper, front static
MINI Cooper, rear static
MINI Cooper, dashboard
MINI Cooper, front seats
MINI Cooper, boot 2
MINI Cooper, boot 1

WHEN a car maker gets excited about a new look to its badge you know not much else has changed.

Which in the case of the latest MINI is no bad thing at all.

It means one of the best driving small cars you can buy needs to stay on the shortlist of prospective buyers, now presumably tempted still more by a new MINI logo stripped back to two dimensions to emphasise the essentials.

When those include 'driving fun, distinctive design, premium quality and emotional appeal' you step aboard with high hopes.

Rather more substantial upgrades to the newest MINIs include standard fit LED lights front and rear, 6.5-inch colour screen, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and a multifunction steering wheel.

So, nice but hardly game changing. But it takes only a few metres in a MINI Cooper to appreciate how little need there is for anything approaching a radical rethink.

Here is a car that makes you smile. It's not explosively fast - leave the highest performance to the Cooper S and John Cooper Works versions higher up the pecking order - but it's lively enough to entertain.

Then you notice how the steering is solidly responsive and the gearchange firmly positive and here's a car made to be driven. Front seats with sporty intent grip you firmly as corners are taken with a dash of verve.

And then you notice the ride. You'd have noticed in much sooner in earlier versions of the new MINI, when its firmly sidewalled runflat tyres made things far too unyielding.

Not so today - this latest MINI rode the unkempt roads of rural England with something approaching aplomb, at least with the £375 adaptive suspension option fitted.

You can buy into a new three-door MINI from £15,905 for a One version, making the £17,345 for the peppier Cooper look like a bit of a bargain, at least unless you're tempted by the add-on packs waiting to plunder your pocket.

Most buyers give in and take something like a £2,000 navigation pack and/or the £2,800 Chilli pack with its 17-inch alloys, sports seats, parking peepers, velour mats and a driving mode selector that sharpens the throttle at the turn of a toggle.

You can even change the lighting inside the car through a dozen colours and throw a lit up MINI logo onto the ground by the driver's door as you unlock the car in the dark.

Go even moderately mad with the optional packs and your new MINI will suddenly cost more than £23,000. Easy to do and lots of buyers are very happy to treat themselves.

FAST FACTS

MINI Cooper

Price: £17,345

Mechanical: 134 bhp, 1,499cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 130mph

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 56.5

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions: 114 g/km

Bik rating: 23%

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

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