December 22, 2014 @ 05:30 PM

REVIEW: MINI COOPER – 3rd Generation MINI hatchback tested

We test-drive the third-gen Mini Cooper on Malaysian mountain roads and found that it is good. Except for one thing. Read our review here. By Chris Ng

We test-drive the third-gen Mini Cooper on Malaysian mountain roads and found that it is good. Except for one thing. Read our review here.

You won’t realise just how much larger the new MINI is until you pull up beside a classic Mini – from where you’re sitting, you’ll see its roof and not much else. Alright, so it can’t be bigger than the second-gen Mini hatch. Wrong! The third-gen Mini is a gargantuan compared to the second-generation, albeit the Countryman wins the size war. In any case… let’s get on with the review.

Exterior  (Score: 3/5)

Despite the size, the Mini retains all the circles and trapeziums that keep the shape close to the original, making it instantly recognisable. The new fascia is a little bit of a hit and miss. Ask the street and opinions divide between it looking cute or shocked – it’s polarising. The colour of the Mini you see in these pictures is actually brown yet it constantly changes colour under different lighting conditions.

The car you see here is wearing the Chilli upgrades, which is clearly shown with those unique, half-circle-ish daytime running lights. There’s plenty more Chilli after you crack the hatch opens. In its standard guise, the Mini makes do with the standard halogen headlights.

Interior (Score: 4/5)

If you’ve been inside the second generation Mini then the interior of the new one is familiar, with a few exceptions. The speedo isn’t in the middle for the world to see; it’s been moved to the meter cluster in front of the driver where it is supposed to be. This Mini tambah Chilli installs leather sport seats and dual-zone climate control.

Unlike the [link: recently-reviewed Honda Jazz], where the interior looks more cavernous than its exterior suggest, the Mini is actually the opposite. The Mini’s living space feels snug, yet comfortable, and its feels like you’re sitting low even when you’re not. So it does achieve in giving off that sporty vibe synonymous with the brand.

Power and handling (Score: 5/5)

Full disclosure: I didn’t quite like the power delivery in the second-generation Mini – that it wasn’t the smooth and could be easily tripped up. It’s better in the new Mini. No, wait. Actually, it is a light-year and a half better than the old unit. The new six-speed auto knows when to shift smooth or bang on the gear when you want to go fast. And when that happens, you won’t feel the smallness of the engine.

Yes, the engine is small. The Mini runs with BMW’s latest 1.5-litre three-cylinder powerplant that feels more powerful than it looks. If comparison’s need be made, this tiny turbocharged engine feels just as punchy as a 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated. It picks up speed from standstill nicely and gets up to speed quickly. It’s only when you approach max speed that the engine starts getting breathless – still respectable nonetheless.

Tech and safety (Score: 4/5)

The Mini is one of the few cars that pops the bonnet when it collides with a pedestrian, the aim here is to lessen the injuries of the person outside of the car. Those inside will have four airbags (front and curtains) to cushion the blow.

On the tech front and only if you ordered Chilli with your Mini, then you’ll find the MINI Radio Visual Boost, which is a fancy name for its coloured LCD screen. You scroll through the menu by way if an iDrive-ish knob and control panel. This one also has Mini Connect, a program that links with your iOS or Android phone, which turns your daily drive into a game. Gimmicky, but fun.

In case you skipped the rest of the review just so you can get to this part, well, let me tell you this – that this car injects fun in daily driving shouldn’t come as a surprise. The new Mini still has the handling and pace that’s expected of the brand; in fact this one feels better than before. Big power from tiny engine and a smooth-shifting gearbox are just two of the many reasons why you should get this car.

Overal score: 16/20

MINI Cooper Chili
On sale

RM198,888 without insurance
1499cc, 3-cyl, in-line petrol engine, MINI TwinPower Turbo, 136bhp @ 4500-6000rpm, 220Nm @ 1250-4000rpm (230Nm with overboost)
6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
7.8sec 0-100kph, 210kph, 4.7l/100km, 109g/km

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