by | Sep 12, 2021 | Motor, Cars

Someone asked me the other day why a luxury digi-mag would feature the MINI, a car you wouldn’t exactly toss in the same conversation as a Porsche, McLaren, even Mercedes-Benz, which we write often about. Plus they’re tiny. Makes you feel you should it drive it directly to a go-kart track at the CNE.

Related: BMW Mini Cooper S Electric is a dazzling commuter

I guess it comes down to how each of us defines “luxury”. For me, living in one of North America’s most dense downtown cores, when it comes to driving, to just getting around, “luxury” in many ways is dexterity. Life is hectic. Despite the onset of bike lanes and a walking mentality, there are still a lot of cars competing for space in Toronto’s core. There’s nothing like a MINI to get you around fast, having fun while you’re doing it.

I drove three this summer – the MINI 3-door, MINI 5-door and the MINI Convertible. Here are three quick reasons why you may want to consider getting one:

They’re roomy

This one was a big surprise. Being a bigger guy (6-foot, 215 pounds), I was expecting my knee caps to clip the steering wheel. The re-designed cockpit in the MINI 3-door, MINI 5-door and MINI-Convertible is one of the big storylines of the new series, from a premium character perspective.

So imagine my surprise when I climbed into the driver seat and stretched out my legs. Ample head room as well. The new Comfort Package includes automatic AC, centre arm rest, and the interior mirror with automatic anti-dazzle function. Everything is comfortably within easy reach, without feeling cramped. The Comfort Plus Package adds comfort access, heated seats and steering wheel. So that’s a plus.

The operating system in all three is all you need – new graphics display, new options giving you better control selecting vehicle functions, navigation, apps, hands-free telephone systems and of course the audio system. The clear cockpit layout also has a new multi-function steering wheel, integrating more functions which screams digital age. All high-grade, sleek and modern.

I should mention seating here as well: new to the MINI range are sports seats in Light Chequered colour variant which nicely complements the Zesty Yellow exterior finish MINI. Also, the hallmark British MINI style seen through the familiar Black Pearl fabric is also given a fresh, new expressive look.

MINI Convertible/Click on image to enlarge and view gallery

Fuel costs

We can have a debate about electric cars versus internal combustion cars on another day. However what is a hard truth at this point in time are the challenges finding a reliable, convenient place downtown to power up your EV car fast. As said we’re all busy. Check out my column here on the battery-charging headaches when I drove a Porsche Taycan EV last winter. I am too busy to mess around competing with other EVs at the small number of fast-charging battery locations.

So until infrastructure catches up we’ll go with gas-powered cars. But gas prices are up all over the place. Inflation is more and more on people’s minds. So especially if you’re a city dweller, and you aren’t out on the highway every day, the MINI is a viable option. MINI is celebrating 20 years under BMW ownership with this new re-launch of the brand. The objective is offering premium cars for the small car segment, building on the fuel savings and agility you’ve always had with the MINI brand since it came into existence in 1959.

So gas mileage is a big plus today. Depending on the MINI version you go with, manual versus automatic transmission, gas mileage ranges from 26-31 MPG, combined city and highway driving.

MINI 5-Door/Click on image to enlarge and view gallery

They’re speedy

The drive portfolio for the MINI 3-door, MINI 5-door and MINI Convertible are three- and four-cylinder engines. The three-cylinder engines are available in three versions, with outputs ranging from 75 hp, 102 hp, and 136 hp. The 2.0 litre four-cylinder engines generates a maximum out of 178 hp or 231 hp.

That’s plenty for getting around the city. Again you buy a MINI if you live downtown, in my view, and on occasion take trips outside the city. We took a special side trip to a farm just north of Georgetown, ON., on a Sunday, where they sell grass-feed steak. The MINI is perfect for that kind of city lifestyle.

But if you’re a commuter, regularly taking the Greater Toronto Area’s network of 400 highways, buy a more substantial car.

There’s also some cool safety features that mark the new MINI cars. That includes new lane departure warning, Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, and an adaptive chassis now features frequency-selective damping.

MINI 3-Door/Click on image to enlarge and view gallery

Interview with Oliver Heilmer, head of design for MINI

What does the new MINI model stand for in your view?

The new MINI is first and foremost an authentic MINI and has gained even further in personality and substance. Under the banner ”Purify“, we have refined and emphasized all those things that make MINI what it is: quality, modernity and identity. Here, it was also important to us to achieve even greater differentiation between the various engine variants.

For the first time, there is no specific design for the MINI One, and the Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper SE and John Cooper Works can be clearly distinguished from one another.

Bmw Mini Cooper Oliver Heilmer Canadas Best Luxury Website

What was the approach with the development of this model?

MINI has a great history. This means we at MINI Design are repeatedly handed the fascinating task of striking the right balance between heritage and the future. What things do you keep in, what do you rethink?

An important strategy for us here was a purposeful ”reduction“ to essential aspects, so we could focus on specific elements and enhance their visual presence. With the new MINI, the revolution is in the detail. We set out to modernize where we could, while at the same time retaining the car’s established substance.

For example, omitting chrome in the headlights for the first time showcases even more effectively the signature MINI look created by the circular daytime driving lights. The same goes for the radiator grille: reducing certain elements gives the grille and therefore the front end as a whole a clearer and more modern appearance. And incorporating the body colour into the grille for the first time adds another visual highlight.

What are some of the special design features of the new MINI?

Revolutions at MINI often begin with colour and material-related themes. We’ve always been pretty bold in this area, and that’s the case again with the new MINI.

With the Multitone Roof – a visually expressive design made up of multiple colours – we are making a real stylistic statement and taking the next step in developing the contrast-colour roof design originally established by us. The paint finish on this new roof progresses from dark blue through light blue to black.

The special manufacturing process we developed at Plant Oxford for the job at hand ensures each roof is a one-off, as the wet-on-wet painting method inherently creates slight differences in the colour transitions.

And so, every customer will be given a unique example of the car; it doesn’t get any more individual. What is more, we are the first carmaker to offer this kind of roof design. Another feature of the exterior are the new 18-inch radial wheels.

New Multitone roof

These represent a further development of the classic Mini’s signature wheel rims, now with milled surfaces. The bi-colour design of the rims creates a very effective contrast, and the concentric pattern adds the finishing touch to their dynamic and modern appearance.

At first glance, the interior is typically MINI, but look again and the array of detail updates we’ve introduced are revealed. Fewer joins and buttons give the cabin a more sophisticated and modern feel. The clear cockpit layout with new multi-function steering wheel integrates more functions yet reduces the number of control surfaces.

The digital instrument cluster on the steering column and iconic central instrument with all-new user interface point the way into the brand’s digital age. One feature of the car you may not be able to see as such, but which I would say is equally important is the use of 100% recycled material for the surfaces of the sports seats in the new Light Chequered design. After all, our goal is to make the future not only modern but also more sustainable.

Bmw Mini Cooper Oliver Heilmer Canadas Best Luxury Website 2

What does the new MINI tell us about the (design) future of MINI?

The principle of reduction will play a major role in shaping the future face of MINI. After all, we believe that, in this ever more complex world, it will become increasingly important to focus on the essential aspects. We don’t see reduction as ”doing without“.

Rather, purposefully leaving things out enables us to highlight and emphasize those that remain to the best possible effect. In our eyes, reduction represents a clear choice – for elements that will then benefit from all of our passion, eye for detail and expertise.

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