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.
My fantasy Big Mini could hit the streets for £16,500 and completely clean up in a moribund European market that has seen enough Focuses, Golfs and A3s to last it a lifetime.
It’s a massive success just waiting to happen.