It was while looking at the new five-door Mini under the studio lights that I finally wished that BMW would build a full-blown Golf rival under the Mini brand. 

Add another 25cm to the length, stretching the rear cabin and boot, and give the big Mini a slightly more aggressive bum-up stance, and bingo – you’ve got a viable, big-selling Euro-hatchback. 

It would also have Golf-beating quality and the sort of premium image that will ensure BMW sells them to paying customers at healthy transaction prices. 

What’s most striking about the new-generation car is the sheer quality of its execution. The doors are weighty in the hand and close with a marvellous thwack. The quality of the interior fittings – especially the dashboard – isn’t so far adrift of what you’d find in big premium cars.

And then there’s the highly impressive engines, which manage to be both remarkably economical as well refined and pacey, and the sophisticated suspension systems – particularly the BMW’s trademark rear ‘Z-axle’. 

Funnily enough, I wrote the first drive report on the 2001 BMW Mini in another magazine and said, even back then, that it was too cheap for the engineering involved, and predicted that BMW couldn’t keep the starting price at just over £10,000.

This Mini’s sense of quality and depth of engineering – especially at these prices – is quite exceptional. The Audi A1 – this car’s direct rival - may be another exercise in measured and tasteful execution, but it lacks the Mini’s engineering strength in depth and the perceived quality.

It’s time that BMW unshackled itself from the idea that it needs Mini models to be either small or the ‘smallest in its class’. Space efficiency is a good thing, but from here ‘Mini’ should be an indication of driving characteristics only. 

Just imagine a direct Golf rival built to this standard, with these engines and with the Mk3 Mini’s combination of verve and refinement. This car costs just over £14k in its base form; an entry-level, 122bhp Golf costs over £19,000.