Faster, better built, smoother riding: in just about every area, the second-generation Mini hatchback is an improvement on its forebear, and car buyers will love it. It seems a little ironic, however, that it goes on sale on what would have been Alec Issigonis’s 100th birthday, because this new incarnation retains only a judiciously guarded strand of Mini DNA.

The Mini is a satisfyingly brisk machine in nearly all its forms, with impressive ‘legs’ for longer journeys. However, every time you drive a new Mini, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that it has lost something in transition to its second generation. Perhaps this car is just too logically executed, too much a lab-grown product tended by men in white coats with clipboards.

It’s all very well singing the praises of the chassis on 16in wheels, but visually there’s no contest between that and an example slammed on 17s.

BMW’s first Mini was touched by genius. It was an expensive car to build but deep in its core you could sense where that money had been spent. The new one is an altogether ‘better’ Mini, and with models like the Cooper D offering a combination of pace, sub-100g/km emissions and over 70mpg, frugality is also a convincing pitch in the face of the climate change onslaught.

But now, the Mini is one perilous step closer to Euro-normality. Style, branding and individuality are now all that stand between this tiny machine and more practical Volkswagen Golf-class cars – no longer does any new Mini bristle with dynamic character.

Mini Hatch 2006-2013 news

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Although this hatch has paved the way for a wider range of cars in the Mini family, a little more of the old magic has been lost. On the other hand, sales figures prove that the more accessible Mk2 version has wider appeal.