We've already done a full test of the new MINI Cooper S, and recently we got behind the wheel of the Cooper model. CLICK HERE for our full review on the Cooper S.
What's it about
The first thing that strikes you of the latest Mini Cooper is that at face-value it looks so much like its predecessor.
But in fact it is a much-evolved car with better fit and finish and an improved ride. The interior has been revised too and everything on the outside has grown a little.
Besides power differences between the Cooper S and the Cooper, the latter's styling is more subdued.
For example, the Cooper doesn't get the bulging bonnet scoop or twin exhaust outlets. But despite, the Cooper's toned-down appearance in comparison with its racier sibling, it still looks funky.
Build quality is good and gone are the tacky plastic bits of the old car. BMW has done much to give the Mini range a more premium feel - and it works.
MINI buyers can now opt for real wood and aluminium as interior finishes and the Cooper feels the upmarket part.
Our test car came with the optional Chili trim package, which includes the five-colour ambient light package, bi-xenon headlights, chrome exterior package and height adjustable front passenger seat.
Also, with this trim level you get climate control, however, if you want features such as leather trim you'll have to pay extra. Stability and traction control is also optional but you do get ABS, EBD, CBC (Cornering Brake control) and six airbags as standard.
In fact the list of optional extras is extensive and you can elevate the Cooper's price significantly once you start adding all those gizmos. However, we feel that you don't need more than the Chili package to spice up the Cooper.
The Cooper has the same 1.6-litre BMW-Peugeot-developed engine as the Cooper S, but without the turbocharger.
In the Cooper it develops 88 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque of 160 Nm at 4 250 r/min, with 140 Nm of that torque available from 2 000 r/min.
Mini claims a top speed of 203 km/h and an impressive average fuel consumption of 5.8 litres per 100 km.
Obviously the Cooper doesn't offer the same thrill as the S model, but it is still a fun car to drive.
You have to push the engine to get decent acceleration from it, but once it is up to speed it is a happy cruiser.
Our test car featured the 6-speed manual gearbox, which is a precise and slick transmission.
The MINI's wheel-at-each-corner stance and the MacPherson suspension give the Cooper not only keen road grip but also excellent handling dynamics.
Some understeer sets in if you go through corners but otherwise the Cooper keeps its poise.
The Mini now comes with electric power steering which adjusts the steering inputs required depending on speed. It does a good job in the MINI as you are kept aware how the front wheels are interacting with the road.
The MINI brand is strong and unlike retro cars such as the VW Beetle it doesn't look awkward or outdated. Yes, it is pretty much a niche model with no direct competitors as the car has more than enough unique attributes.
Yes, you could argue that the MINI isn't practical or lacks decent passenger space, however, the Cooper isn't trying to be a set of family wheels or a load lugger. It is basically a two-seater with lots of funk.
The only real criticism is that you pay a premium price for any of the MINIs. The Cooper with the Chili package will cost you a bit more than R200 000. Also, at this price you only get a 3-year 75 000 km maintenance plan - a 5-year package would have been more acceptable.
But we like the MINI's strong image, top-notch quality and good drive. It certainly feels good to be behind the wheel of one.
Only 3-year maintenance plan