BMW wanted to retain the sporting handling of the Mini while responding to requests for lighter steering and a significant improvement in ride quality.
Sure enough, pottering around in a Mini couldn’t be easier or more pleasant. The steering is oily smooth, calm and light enough to be guided by your fingertips as you filter through traffic. Even more noticeable is the staggering improvement in ride quality.
Our road test Cooper S wore the standard 16-inch wheels with regular Cooper S suspension (rather than the now optional sports set-up), and it coped admirably with broken town surfacing. Its relaxed gait promotes a definite big-car feel that its agitated predecessor could only dream about, a scope afforded by an additional 8mm of wheel travel in the redesigned front suspension.
That zestiness that you expect of the re-invented BMW Mini is still present in the Mk2 model. It changes direction keenly, despite a dose of initial body roll, and skates through corners with the sensation of a mild four-wheel drift when cornering hard – the car seems to pivot around a point somewhere below the handbrake.
It’s a surprisingly laid-back experience after the madcap previous car, and you need not look further than the electric power steering to find the chief reason why. It’s accurate and pleasingly linear in its response, but it’s almost too smooth and grown-up for a dynamic little car such as this, and the feel through the rim has a typical mask of electrical assistance.
With more potent petrol engines, the Mini is a rapid ground coverer – and entertaining in its own way – but perhaps a dash of personality and involvement has gone missing in the process.