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What mid-life crisis? The new Mini Cooper will forever be a fan favourite in SA

2018-07-04 09:11

Charlen Raymond

Image: Wheels24/Charlen Raymond

Nearly six decades ago the first Mini Cooper was penned to paper. The brief was simple; design a car from the ground up that can counter the economic crisis the world was facing, whilst at the same time making it suitable to life in the city. Sound familiar?

Not long after, the British-built Mini Cooper was created and by 1968 more than 68 000 little city cars found new homes. It’s a success story like no other and to date the car has been seen in numerous movies and television series.

Perhaps the two most notable: The Italian Job and Mr Bean. And, says Mini South Africa, over the years they’ve aimed to reproduce the Cooper (and later on the other models in the range) with the very same goals the original car was tasked with.

WATCH: Reinventing the pocket-rocket Mini Cooper S Convertible

In doing so, they’ve managed to attract new customers whilst keeping existing customers happy.

What mid-life crisis?

Mini’s success in South Africa should also not be discounted: in 2017 they’ve managed to sell 2080 units, and in 2018 - up until the end of June - the count stood on 1049 units. Not bad for a car made to counter any crisis experienced in life.  

The range

Mini South Africa launched the latest generation Cooper in both three- and five-dour guises but each model in the range can be fitted with different engine and gearbox options/combinations.

In total, the range comprises of 18 models, of which four are convertible.

The three- and five-door models have a basic model to kick off their respective choice-list, called the Mini One. It is driven by 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that develops 75kW and 190Nm.

Image: Wheels24/Charlen Raymond

As the frugal engine in the range, Mini says the car will return as little as 4.8 litre/100km. The Cooper is powered by the same engine but power has been increased to 100kW/220Nm.

The Cooper S, driven by a 2.0-litre engine, churns out a very lively 141kW and 300Nm. Mini claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 233km/h.

All engines are turbocharged and power is sent to the front wheels.

The convertibles, in Cooper and Cooper S guises, are powered by the same engines bar the 75kW unit. A six-speed manual gearbox forms part of the range, as well as a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

An eight-speed automatic step-tronic gearbox with paddle shifts is fitted to the John Cooper Works (JCW) models.

The highlights

What’s made the Mini Cooper a favourite amongst buyers over the years is that it has always managed to stand out from the crowd and with the latest car it is no different.

As part of the package, the range features full LED headlights and selected models’ taillights feature the Union Jack flag.

Union Jack signage are also spread across the interior hinting at Mini’s British heritage.

Image: Wheels24/Charlen Raymond

Furthermore, there are numerous options for conneting smartphones, BMW’s SOS service and the Internet.

Interestingly, for those listening to AM radio, the new Mini only has FM frequency.

It’s also enabled with a projection logo underneath the side mirrors that display the new Mini logo - launched in 2015.

A multi-function steering wheel and 6.5" colour screen are standard.

Perhaps the biggest highlight aboutis that Mini offers a host of customisable options. Owners can now order removable panels for their Cooper and even have their name engraved into it.

Owners can even have the logo projection or whatever they choose to be displayed. These customisable options are bought in Euro’s and will then be shipped to the buyer. It should be interesting to see how users customise their cars according to their tastes… 

The drive

Driving from Cape Town International airport, the starting point for the launch, the convoy made their way through holiday traffic out of town.

The Cooper felt solid as it coped with the open road but road noise filtered through into the cabin. The tyres really announced their handshake with the tar. 

Image: Wheels24/Charlen Raymond

Performance-wise the Cooper is obviously not as lively as the Cooper S but does well to shoot off the line and reach respectable speeds.

Those who can stretch their budgets far enough can aim for the JCW versions, though the S has enough performance in its pocket to put a big smile on your face. It transfers its power to the road in an effortless manner, virtually without issue.

Steering is typical Mini - like a go-kart - and it corners wonderfully. The steering wheel does feel a tad too big but that is soon forgotten as the car’s limits are explored.

Image: Wheels24/Charlen Raymond

Mini has managed to instil a new sense of fun in the just-launched Cooper range, without doing away with what made the car a hit for the last sixty years.

It’s still agile in the city, engaging over a mountain pass, and with lekker driving dynamics.

The package speaks to those young at heart and who place niceties such as tech features at the forefront of their priority list but those wanting a fun driving experience will not be disappointed.

The new Mini Cooper range is priced from R302 200 for the manual three-door Mini One hatch to R514 800 for the Cooper S convertible automatic.


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