It’s not quite new, but let’s just say the 2018 MINI has been given a decent dose of tech and aesthetic updates. With new LED headlights and somewhat controversial Union Jack tail lamps the 2018 MINI remains a rare novelty car that basically sits in its own segment. Chris Bowen traveled to Brisbane to find if the 2018 MINI is worth your coin.
There’s little doubt the MINI appeals to a certain type of buyer. I’m not exactly sure who that is to be honest, perhaps a successful middle-aged woman, a trendy inner-city type guy with the mandatory hipster beard or just a person who needs to stand out. Whoever you are you’ll certainly score more than just an iconic shape and brand. The MINI undoubtably is a premium offering that now comes with a raft of worthwhile upgrades.
The mid-lifecycle update applies to the Mini Cooper three, five door and Convertible varients, including the high-performance John Cooper Works (JCW) model. Standard equipment has been lifted, particularly as you work your way up the range ladder. There’s a new 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, MINI Connected 4G is now installed accords the range, plus extra colour pallets and alloy wheels.
The headline act in the 2018 MINI must be standard wireless Apple CarPlay. Parent company BMW does offer this but as a rather expensive option. So, in effect the latest MINI is the only car on the road that offers wireless CarPlay as standard. It should be noted however that wireless charging is only offered on models north of the base Cooper. Another drawback is a lack of Android Auto support.
At the local launch much was made of MINI Connected, a 4G based connectivity system. Real-time traffic information that is unique to the segment, remote services, connected services and TeleServices all fall under the MINI Connected banner.
Via the MINI Connected App, owners can sit back and send instructions to the car, you could send your destination before even jumping in for example. Much like other connected car apps you can also take a peek at the car’s fuel level, lock / unlock the doors plus warm or cool the vehicle before you even jump in.
TeleServices allows for a direct link to the dealership; servicing reminders can be messaged whenever they are required. A Concierge function allows you to call an offshore call centre and speak to an actual human who can tip to you about restaurant locations and send directions to the car.
Of course, there is a bit of a white elephant in the room here, much of the above can be done via the excellent Apple CarPlay system. But hey, it’s something to boast about at the very least.
The 3-door hatch range includes the $29,900 Cooper, $39,900 Cooper S and $49,900 John Cooper Works (JCW). For those who enjoy a self-shifter, all models come with a six-speed manual as standard. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission comes as an option and scores paddles shifters and a lively sports tune for Cooper S models.
JCW buyers can opt for an eight-speed sports automatic gearbox that along with the seven-speed includes launch control. Of course, if you want a tad more space there’s the five door option. Although you’d seriously have to be a contortionist to squeeze into the back seats.
The base Cooper scores a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol producing figures of 100kW and 220Nm. Cooper S models receive a significant boost via a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol that pushes performance to 141kW and 280Nm.
JCW examples gain the most powerful unit thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine generating 170kW and 320Nm.
The MINI no matter what model is simply a fun car, but it’s a matter of just how much fun you want to have. While the Cooper’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder may sound underdone on paper I found it still hustles along admirably. That familiar go-kart MINI feel is still there which instantly instills some thrills from behind the wheel. The ride on all models is a tad choppy and often bouncy but the steering has a certain level of chunkiness that I like. Even in wet conditions the MINI doesn’t seem to have a propensity for understeer and will in fact probably let the rear end go first when pushed.
The 2.0-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder found in Cooper S models hits a real sweet spot. The addition of paddle shifters helps give it even more go-fast attitude, it’s still not a genuine hot-hatch but you do score some decent exhaust cracks and pops and excellent out of corner full-throttle fun.
Obviously the 170kW JCW is the aspirational model with much more prowess than the lower Cooper efforts. Adaptive suspension with Sport and Comfort modes really spices up what is already a compelling handling package.
The three-door hatch range kicks off at $29,900 for the Mini Cooper then escalates to $39,900 for the Cooper S and $49,900 for the JCW. Five door hatch modes start at $31,150 for the Cooper and $41,150 for the Cooper S. Convertible models start from $40,900 for the base Cooper, $47,900 for the S and $57,900 for the JCW.
There are any number of optional packages you can add on that will add driver assist technologies to the base model Cooper, those fancy Union Jack tail lamps and the larger 8.8-inch infotainment screen, up from 6.5-inch.
Dazzling ambient lighting colour schemes also introduce more flare to the cabin, including a pulsating circular ring around the infotainment screen and even another Union Jack embedded in the panel above the glovebox.
The EFTM Scoreboard.
It’s quirky, highly individual and packs a serious whack of feel good attitude into your daily drive. In many respects however, the Mini Hatch range is not overly practical and is in effect an insular type of car to buy. You won’t be road tripping too far in this little creation, but you will smile a lot as will others who see you whip by. On the EFTM Scoreboard it’s a 7/10 for me!