There are many cars out there that will gladly ferry you from one destination safely, reliably, and in comfort. But for drivers that want something a little more than that, there are brands like Mini.
We’ll get right down to brass tacks and tell you that the Mini is by no means an affordable car. It was always meant to be a niche vehicle, a style statement, and in some ways, an extension of your personality. It’s for buyers that are loud and proud first, and pennywise last. It’s that kind of mindset that has driven Mini to be a proudly eccentric brand since its revival in 2001.
By now, we’re quite familiar with the modern Mini’s styling: the bug-eyed bulldog look with a contrasting roof. For the 2019 model, the devil has really gone into the details as there are admittedly very little tweaks. However, they make for some pretty noticeable changes.
The lights may look the same, but it actually bears brand new daytime running lights (DRL). Standard in all models are new ellipse-shaped DRLs that are on all the time. They also illuminate in amber and serve as the turn signals. For comparison, the last model didn’t quite close the circle at the bottom.
Behind they are complemented by brand new taillights that proudly show their country of origin: Britain via the Union Jack pattern. Brake lights illuminate the vertical stripe, while turn signals illuminate the horizontal stripe. And for owners of the last Mini Cooper, these new tail lights are backwards compatible.
The car rolls on a new set of 17 wheels that are equally eye-catching. Finally, the driver side mirror also includes a puddle lamp in the shape of the Mini logo. All these additions may sound pretty superficial but it’s these little things that draw just a few more stares.
Inside, the changes are also quite minimal, but are certainly well appreciated. First off, the fuel gauge is now LCD instead of stacked LEDs, allowing you to better gauge the fuel level.
Over in the center is the updated infotainment system with a wider screen that is now touch sensitive. The last model still required you to go through the menus with a dial on the center console. This touch sensitive screen is much more intuitive to use. Of course, the dial is still there if you found that more comfortable. The round LED also changes color with each submenu, making it easier to navigate. It also serves as a monitor for the new back-up camera.
Thankfully, Mini has kept the fighter-plane inspired toggles in the cockpit that control the engine start, lights, and some of the air-conditioning. What has been changed is the unique dial around the stickshift for the drive modes. It’s now a toggle on the center stack.
This being the mid-spec cooper, it doesn’t have the illuminated pattern on the passenger-side dash of the Cooper S model. Nonetheless, it does come with the fabric and leather combo seats with the plaid pattern. At least there’s always the various ambient light colors to play with. The terracotta leather inserts in the dash are also a nice touch.
Being a 5-door model, it has extra doors at the back. These doors are incredibly tiny and the opening is hard for the elderly to squeeze through. The seat space is liveable for two, but squeezing three people in the back will be torture owing to the high mound and cupholder in the center.
Behind is the cargo area that’s honestly only good for groceries or two overnight bags. The floor has three levels you can set it to. Underneath is an electric pump and puncture kit. No spare tire here. The rear bench can fold forward though in a 60/40 split.
Powering it along is a 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder turbo engine producing 136-PS and 200-Nm of torque. It’s paired to a brand new 7-speed dual clutch automatic with manual mode. While the power may not seem like much, the dual clutch works wonders as a force multiplier, shifting down quickly and smoothly to give it some surprisingly quick acceleration. It will rocket to 100 km/h quite rapidly. You’ll only feel the power deficit of the engine upwards of 140 km/h. Driven leisurely, the 5-door can still manage 8 km/L in the city in heavy traffic, and up to 14 km/L on the highway.
It might not sound like much, but this little powerhouse packs a punch, feeling much more than just 1.5-liters. It can simply cruise along the city or quickly rocket the car up to highway speeds. Best of all, there’s no penalty when it comes to consumption as it will easily average.
Handling is exceptional thanks to the very precise electric power steering. It returns some good feedback from the road and keeps the car feeling stable yet agile. It hardly feels like a 5-door at all, taking turns just as sharply as the 3-door.
Where the Mini really shines is in the infotainment menu which has some surprising depth and personality. There’s no CD or navigation, but no one is going to miss that thanks to its other cool features. Click through it a while and you’ll discover customizable settings for everything from the lights, to locks, and drive modes. It also hides power and torque meters, as well as built-in stoplights for a quick drag race.
It’s easy to make a cool or cute-looking car, but few other carmakers manage to keep the fun factor consistent all throughout the driving experience (whether in the city or race track) the way Mini does. Yes, the Cooper S is faster and looks better, but for the city and short trips out of town, this 5-door provides more than enough giggles.
At P2,650,000, and barely able to fit four people, it’s not practical, nor is it affordable. But if these are your main concerns, perhaps you shouldn’t be looking at a Mini Cooper in the first place. It’s an exclusive, fun, spunky car, and is definitely more enjoyable to drive daily than your average hot hatch. It all comes at a steep price, but will reward you every day that you use it.