Unconditional love for the MINI

New MINI hatchback

New MINI hatchback - Credit: Archant

It’s no Tardis, but the third generation MINI underlines the enduring popularity of what is now a premium motoring icon

Somehow during 50 years, the Mini has been turned on its head. Sir Alec Issigonis’ 1960s original wowed with a relatively huge cabin contained within a compact car.

It was a real-life counterpart to that fictional spatial phenomenon of the same period – Dr Who’s Tardis.

The fact that the car’s modern descendant must now be capped up as MINI, only seems to underline how the car has grown while shrinking inside.

To be fair, current safety measures and the modern day car’s premium fixtures and fittings have much to do with the cabin’s relative snugness.

And we must remember how the original Mini soon became more famous for style than its inherent practicality.

Hardly surprising then, that the BMW group’s re-imagination of the icon has majored on image and customisation.

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Nevertheless, the new third generation MINI has heeded calls for more interior space, at the cost of yet more growth: 98mm (length), 44mm (width) and 7mm (height). That said, the rear is still cramped and adult access/exit remains tight.

The boot has also grown by an impressive 30 per cent to 211 litres, though still short of the rival Citroen DS3’s 285 litres.

But it all rather misses the point, because the MINI continues to turn heads and this latest car is even more sophisticated and well made.

Trademark features remain such as the centre toggle switches and round centre display – the speedo on the 1960s car, but now a truly enormous infotainment centre.

Vital gauges are now gathered dead ahead, with speed and speed limit available on a head up display.

There are also some nice touches such as a driving mode selector that tweaks the throttle and chassis set-up at the whim of the driver, perhaps prompted by the DNA system on the MINI’s left field rival, the Alfa Romeo MiTo.

The three modes comprise Mid (described as ‘typical MINI driving fun’), Sport (for maximum go kart feel) and Green, which has a rather contradictory tag – ‘low consumption driving fun’.

No prizes for guessing that Sport knocks your socks off, especially when experienced in the Cooper S (£18,650) – the test car loaned by Broad Oak MINI of Ashford and Canterbury.

This car’s 192bhp 1,998cc petrol engine offers 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and it has quite grippy and responsive handling. Sport mode will even blip the throttle for you on downshifts, yet the ride is impressively taut while comfortable.

MINI hatchback

Price from: £13,750

Driving appeal: *****

Image: *****

Space: ****

Value: ***

Running costs: *****

Reliability: *****

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