As you may have seen on the roads, the new MINI is a popular car on British roads – and rightly so. The MINI has been a whole lot of fun in the four months that my family and I have run the car.
The addition of the extra rear doors and increased boot space have made the MINI a more practical option, yet it lacks none of the upmarket appeal that made the original three-door model such a huge hit. Yet those searching for 5dr MINI deals should be aware some compromises do lie in wait.
The split-level boot is clever, opening up 278 litres of space. It easily accommodates an average family weekly shop, but over the Christmas period, we had to ask another family member to take my eldest son’s guitar in their car, because we just couldn’t squeeze it in with the rest of our luggage.
Likewise, another family member who would usually accompany us on our festive trip needed to hire their own car, as we simply couldn’t fit him and his gear in.
Still, motorway driving has generally been stress-free. The intuitive sat-nav system has directed us around the country on various family trips away, and the ability to sync several iPods and phones has caused only minor in-car squabbles.
But you’ll need to make full use of the stereo’s volume control on the noisiest stretches of road. The first time I drove along the concrete section of the M25, I slowed down and moved into the inside lane, as the din from the uneven surface convinced me the MINI had a puncture.
This is one of the downsides of the low driving position. Driving the MINI is great fun, and this is predominantly down to its road-hugging stance. It is genuinely exciting flicking the red start button and feeling your weight shift as you turn into the first corner. Yet after several months of daily urban commuting, the initial fun factor of the ‘go-kart thrills’ is waning.
Much of the blame can be levelled at the combination of our roads and the optional 17-inch alloys. The amount of thumps and bumps on my commute has led me to avoid certain sections of road, and I’ve taken to driving over speed bumps at a slight angle to lessen the thuds (even at low speed).
A fuel return of 38.1mpg isn’t at all bad for a petrol car driven almost exclusively in slow city traffic. I’ve been using the green mode which encourages sensible acceleration and thoughtful gear choices by illuminating the green lights on the centre console.
However, the eight-stepped digital fuel gauge does seem to count down quite quickly. It may only take around £44 to fill up the MINI’s small 40-litre tank with unleaded fuel, but it would be nice if I was doing this a little less frequently.
Still, it’s hard to stay mad at the MINI for too long, as it only takes a few corners or an admiring glance to have me smiling again.
MINI Cooper: first report
Getting the keys to our new MINI wasn’t a problem, but keeping hold of them has been a different matter.
Auto Express required a family to test the fashionable Brit’s increased size, accessibility and practicality for our MINI special, and I immediately volunteered my rapidly growing-up clan.
The Cooper is the only car to join our fleet that I can recall actively asking to run, even though I knew it would require a serious bit of downsizing from the vast Citroen Grand C4 Picasso that I previously looked after. You could say I’m a MINI fan.
Turns out I’m not the only one. Within a few weeks of the five-door turning up in our car park, four people had whisked away its keys for a variety of magazine features – even the company chief executive tried the MINI for size as he’s considering buying one. So what would he get for his £15,900? Fun must top the list.
You can’t help but enjoy driving the MINI. For me, the low seats, smallish steering wheel and wide, shallow screen evoke memories of driving as a teen, racing through the gears, pulling out of corners and hearing the responsive engine’s rasp. The MINI encapsulates all of this, but now has five doors, added space and practicality for the children.
My family have certainly taken to the new car, and are wowed by the metallic paint, white roof and go-faster stripes. And while they don’t have the space to stretch out that they were used to in the Grand C4 Picasso, they’ve been won over by the MINI’s style. Neat designer label touches include the MINI logo sewn into tabs on the seats and inset within the light clusters front and rear.
So far the car’s proven practical enough for my family of four. It can easily take a week’s shopping in the cleverly designed split-level boot, and was even able to collect a new bathroom sink, pedestal and bath panel with the seats folded flat.
The kids have had to adapt to the bumpy ride, though. They sit close to the road, but the ride can be hard, especially on the capital’s potholed streets, and has caused the odd case of car sickness in my younger son. I’ve also had to stop him fiddling with the rear door handles that glow different colours as the ambient lighting changes. If he was any younger than 10, I’d put the child locks on.
So, first impressions? Excellent. The MINI’s beautifully designed, with head-turning looks and improved practicality over the three-door, and it’s lots of fun. Yet I’m not going to shout about my love for it – the more attention I draw to it, the more likely it is someone will want the keys.
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