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Car reviews - Mini - Hatch - range

Launch Story

Mini logo24 Nov 2010

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

BMW’S AUDI A1 spoiler has surfaced in Australia in the shape of the subtly modified MY11 Mini Cooper range, bringing better equipment levels, improved efficiency, stronger performance, and greater visual differentiation between some models.

But nothing comes for free, with price hikes starting from $400 for the base Cooper (now $31,500), rising to $1000 for the Cooper D diesel, that is $34,750 from today. Both are before on-road costs are stacked on.

Nevertheless, a Mini spokesman said the extra standard features fitted to the LCI (Life Cycle Impulse – or Series II) cars represented added value of between $400 (diesel) and $1450 (base Cooper).

A keen eye is certainly helpful in spotting the differences, which affects all body styles (R56 three-door hatch, R55 four-door Clubman wagon and R57 two-door Cabrio).

They include a new bonnet, redesigned grille choices, reshaped bumpers, revised tail-light lenses, and a fresh colour palette, with the latter forming part of a larger personalisation and options program than before that includes restyled wheels.

Meanwhile the long-awaited Countryman crossover/compact SUV will join the clan in the second quarter of next year.

Different bumpers (sporting standard new ‘three dimensional’ fog lights as well as larger air intakes up front) add 99mm to the Mini’s length, while all petrol-powered models gain a bonnet that is the same height as that of the Mini D’s item. Both aid in bettering pedestrian/cyclist impact properties thanks to more progressive deformation zones. Despite these, BMW says the car’s classic short-overhang proportions remain.

A new, minuter detailing is a glass cover for the side indicators that is now characterised by very BMC-era Mini concentric circles. Look, too, for the introduction of two-colour side scuttles on the non-S models.

From the rear LED brake lights make their Mini debut, featuring a brake-force display that increases the light intensity depending on how hard the pedal is pressed down. Furthermore, the reverse and fog lights have been repositioned to the outer edge of the car, to mirror the placement of the new brake air ducts at the front of the Mini.

Under the bonnet of the Mini D is a new diesel engine – a 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit with aluminium construction, common-rail direct injection, variable turbine geometry, a diesel particulate filter, oxidation catalytic converter and EU5 emissions certification.

Brandishing 82kW of power at 4000rpm and 270Nm of torque between 1750-2250rpm, the Cooper D dashes to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds (a 0.2s improvement), can hit 197km/h, and return 3.8 litres per 100km and 99 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions. All are a 0.2s, 0.1L/100km and 5g/km improvement over the old engine respectively.

Related to the 2.0-litre powerplants offered in larger BMWs, its transverse installation is a first for the engine family, and replaces the PSA unit of the same capacity that is also found in varying forms in the Ford Fiesta Econetic, Citroen DS3, Peugeot RCZ, Volvo C30 DRIVe, and a host of other models.

Lending a helping hand (or at least some green fingers) here are a bunch of emissions reducing tech bandied as ‘Minimalism’ – Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start/Stop functionality, a gear shift display arrow, electromechanical power steering, and what BMW calls ‘need-based ancillary componentry.

There’s now a self-adjusting clutch with the standard six-speed manual gearbox featuring improved synchronisation thanks to a liberal dose of carbon coating. A six-speed automatic gearbox is also available at extra cost.

On the petrol engine front for 2011, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder Valvetronic variable valve petrol engine is now 2kW stronger (90kW at 6000rpm/160Nm at 4250rpm approximately) in the Cooper, while the turbocharged and direct-injection Cooper S’ 7kW increase takes the power max up to 135kW at 5500rpm (approx) and about 240Nm between 1600-5000rpm (approx).

The normally aspirated 1.6 manual races to 100km/h from standstill in around 9.1s, drinks 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle and spits out 138g/km of CO2, while the Cooper S in manual guise manages a 7.0s run (about a 0.4s improvement), uses 6.3L/100km, and emits 146g/km.

As before, the John Cooper Works range topper uses a variation of the Cooper S’ engine to pump out 155kW at 6000rpm and 260Nm of torque from 1850rpm. Amongst its treasures is a turbo overboost function to deliver a further 20Nm of peak torque for short periods, for a 6.5s (or thereabouts) 0-100km/h streak.

All these figures are approximate, and concern the R56-bodied Minis with manual transmission only.

As before, MacPherson struts and a central arm rear axle form the suspension set-up, while the steering is a rack and pinion set-up.

Moving inside, there has also been a fettling of the cabin trim, resulting in refreshed materials and colours designed to bring a ‘premium nature’ to the interior.

Black is the new silver as it now swathes the centre console, steering wheel and ergonomically enhanced radio that resides within the giant speedo, while Brilliant Silver usurps Fine White Silver – to improve readability evidently. A more liberal splashing of chrome and more LEDs for the standard ‘mood’ colour lighting are other new Mini mods.

Of more use is the standard inclusion of a Bluetooth hands-free telephony and USB audio interface kit, auto-on/off headlights, rain-sensing wipers and floor mats, as well as improved access to the rear seats due to a repositioning of the seat belt holder in the Clubman models. BMW does listen to criticism.

Still on the R55, a new roller cover for the luggage area improves usability, and can be adjusted at different heights. Neat.

Among a plethora of new-for-2011 options, buyers with plonk for automatic-dipping anti-dazzling mirrors (total cost $900), adaptive headlights (only available with the extra-cost bi-xenon lights) that ‘see’ around corners, and a $750 upgrade for the audio upgrade known as the Mini Radio Visual Boost. It includes a double tuner, remote controllability via a tunnel console joystick, a hi-res LCD display in the speedo, a trip computer, and a speedo that Mini describes as being circumferential in scale.

Choosing the improved (and now cheaper) satellite navigation option brings all that, while the cost of that itself has plummeted from $3000 to $1900.

Lastly, BMW now offers what it calls ‘design worlds’ that cluster popular configurations into Rally, Classic or Scene themes, but its “almost limitless” personalisation combos continue unabated.

The ‘Chilli’ pack option is expected to account for almost 80 per cent of all sales.

BMW is not talking numbers, but expects the updates to keep sales above the record 2700 mark achieved last year.

Mini production continues at the Cowley plant near Oxford, UK.

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