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First drive: Mini changes to BMW baby

Power boost: The 7kW extra power produced by the revised Cooper S engine enables it to accelerate to 100km/h in 7.0s.

Minor spec and efficiency improvements sharpen the Mini Cooper range for 2011

23 Nov 2010

BMW’S Audi A1-spoiler has surfaced in Australia in the shape of the subtly modified 2011 Mini Cooper range, bringing better equipment levels, improved efficiency, stronger performance and some greater visual model differentiation.

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 (now $34,750).

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).

Body changes for the R56 three-door hatch, R55 four-door Clubman wagon and R57 two-door Cabrio include a new bonnet, redesigned grilles, 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.

39 center imageFrom top: Mini Cooper, Mini Cooper S Clubman, Mini JCW.

The long-awaited Countryman crossover/compact SUV will join the UK-built Mini 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 the Mini D’s.

While the car’s classic short-overhang proportions remain, both bonnets improve pedestrian/cyclist impact properties thanks to more progressive deformation zones.

An even smaller new detail is the glass cover for the side indicators, now characterised by very BMC-era Mini concentric circles, while two-colour side scuttles have been introduced on 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, while the reverse and fog lights have been repositioned to the outer edge of the car, mirroring the placement of new brake ducts at the front.

The Mini D gets a new diesel engine that replaces the widely-used PSA unit and features emissions-reducing technology such as brake energy regeneration, an idle-stop function, a gear shift display arrow, electromechanical power steering and what BMW calls “need-based ancillary componentry”.

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, it produces 82kW of power at 4000rpm and 270Nm of torque from 1750-2250rpm.

This new engine pushes the Cooper D to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds (0.2s faster than before), can hit 197km/h, and returns 3.8 litres per 100km (down 0.1L/100km) and 99 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions (a 5g/km improvement).

The standard six-speed manual gearbox features improved synchronisation thanks to a liberal dose of carbon coating while an optional six-speed automatic is also available.

On the petrol engine front, the standard 1.6-litre four-cylinder Valvetronic petrol engine is now 2kW stronger (90kW at 6000rpm/160Nm at 4250rpm), giving a 0-100km/h time of around 9.1s, combined fuel consumption of 5.8L/100km and 138g/km of emissions.

The turbocharged direct-injection unit in the Cooper S gets an extra 7kW, taking it to 135kW at 5500rpm and 240Nm from 1600-5000rpm, which allows it to accelerate to 100km/h 0.4s faster at 7.0s. Fuel consumption is rated at 6.3L/100km and emissions at 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 while a turbo overboost function delivers a burst of 20Nm extra torque to slice the sprint to about 6.5s.

Inside, refreshed materials and colours are designed to bring a ‘premium nature’ to the interior, with black now adorning the centre console, steering wheel and ergonomically enhanced radio that resides within the giant speedo, with a more liberal splashing of chrome and more LEDs for the standard ‘mood’ colour lighting.

Now standard are a Bluetooth hands-free telephony and USB audio interface kit, floor mats and automatic headlights and wipers.

BMW has listened to criticism and improved access to the rear seats by repositioning the seat-belt holders in Clubman models while a new roller cover for the luggage area improves usability, and can be adjusted to different heights.

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.

2011 Mini pricing:
Cooper $31,500
Cooper (a) $33,850
Cooper D $34,750
Cooper D (a) $37,100
Cooper S $40,500
Cooper S (a) $42,850
John Cooper Works $49,200
Cooper Clubman $34,800
Cooper Clubman (a) $37,150
Cooper S Clubman $43,800
Cooper S Clubman (a) $46,150
John Cooper Works Clubman $51,700
Cooper Cabrio $40,200
Cooper Cabrio (a) $42,550
Cooper S Cabrio $48,600
Cooper S Cabrio (a) $50,950
John Cooper Works Cabrio $57,300

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