No, we haven’t got the wrong pictures – this really is the new Mini undisguised for the first time.
Mini has decided that evolution is better than revolution, so the new car promises the same successful formula of cute looks, a thrilling drive and a funky, upmarket interior.
Despite minimal changes to the car’s appearance, it is almost entirely new, with only the bulkhead and floor structure carried over from the old car. Almost every other part, including each body panel, has been changed.
The most important alterations lie under the skin. The old car’s lacklustre power units – one of few weaknesses – have been replaced by a range of new engines, developed in conjunction with Peugeot, and the suspension has been thoroughly reworked to improve the ride without blunting the sharp handling. Sports suspension will be an option on both Cooper models.
The new Cooper and Cooper S (which go on sale later this year for £12,995 and £15,995) both get 1.6-litre petrol engines, the latter now with a turbocharger rather than a supercharger, while the One (which goes on sale along with the new Mini diesel in the first half of 2007) gets a 1.4-litre unit.
Performance gains are small – only the new S is quicker than its predecessor to 62mph, and then by just 0.1sec at 7.1sec – but fuel economy is massively improved, at 48.7mpg for the Cooper (up from 40.9) and 40.9mpg for the S (up from 32.8). Increased torque should also provide better flexibility.
Changes to the Mini’s interior are more noticeable than those to the outside. The cabin design is at once familiar but fresh, with higher-quality plastics designed to create a more upmarket ambience.
The trademark central speedo remains, but this time it’s even bigger and houses audio controls and the optional sat-nav system. Mini has wisely kept its distinctive toggle switches on the centre console, though those too are now bigger, and it has also introduced a panel of switches on the ceiling, so you can pretend to be a helicopter pilot. Among the ceiling-mounted controls is optionally a switch that controls five different colours of ambient “mood lighting” in the cabin. The only controls which have got smaller are those for the rather fiddly climate control system, which is housed inconveniently close to the floor.
Rear-seat space has been marginally improved, with cut-outs in the front seat backs to increase legroom, but adults will still find the rear cramped.
We’ve only driven the new Mini on a track, but on initial impressions it offers the same combination of sharp handling and pace that made its predecessor so popular.BMW has high expectations for the Mini, with the Oxford factory gearing up for increased production of 240,000 cars a year.
The new Minis at a glanceOne £11,595 1.4 94bhp
Cooper £12,995 1.6 118bhp at 6000rpm 118lb ft at 4250rpm
Cooper S £15,995 1.6 turbo 173bhp at 5500rpm 177lb ft at 1600rpm (192lb ft overboost)