Mini has announced that the imminent replacement for the current model will sport an all-new range of three- and four-cylinder engines, adaptive suspension, and marry chuckable handling with better comfort and refinement.
There are some big promises here, but can the Mini maintain its runaway popularity a more than decade after BMW revived the brand and created a whole new class of posh, premium-priced city cars? Read on for more details.
What’s been said about the new Mini Cooper’s engines?
The new Mini will be bigger in every way – except engine size. In the continual push for lower CO2 outputs, the Mini is downsizing from an all-four cylinder line-up: lower-powered models will switch to three-pot engines. Whether you opt for a triple or a four-cylinder, one thing’s certain: it won’t be naturally aspirated. Like parent brand BMW, Mini is switching to an all-turbocharged line-up, using the same ‘TwinPower’ turbo technology (which means twin-scroll turbocharging in this case), plus direct fuel injection and variable valve timing for petrol versions.
What are the new Mini’s petrol engine choices?
Kicking off the range is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder, developing 136bhp and up to 162lb ft of torque at a lowly 1250rpm. This will be the engine for the Cooper model, which currently uses a 121bhp 1.6-litre four and makes a lower 118lb ft of torque later in the rev range – which bodes well for the new model's drivability. Add that the new Mini will be lighter than the current Cooper's 1075kg, and it should be easily capable of bettering the old model's 9.1sec 0-62mph time.
The extra performance won't come at a cost, as fuel consumption (52.3mpg for the outgoing Cooper) is reduced 'considerably', as is CO2 output and therefore running costs. The lower-powered versions of the new three-pot unit – destined for the entry-level Minis – will come on stream after this November’s launch.
Expected to be powering the hot Mini Cooper S is a 189bhp four-cylinder, with 221lb ft of torque – a jump of 8bp and 29lb ft. Both petrol engines nestle their turbochargers within their respective exhaust manifolds, saving space, cost and reducing turbo lag for improved throttle response. The redline for all new Mini petrol engines is pegged at 6500rpm – the same as the current car’s.
And if I want a diesel Mini?
Mini has announced there’ll be a 1.5-litre three-cylinder Mini Cooper D, developing 114bhp and 199lb ft. The current four-cylinder diesel is laden with technology: it's all aluminium, has common-rail direct injection and variable-geometry turbocharging, but Mini says that the new derv has achieved a 7% improvement in fuel economy by losing a cylinder. The most efficient of the current line-up – a tie between the Mini One D and Cooper D – share claimed stats of 74.3 mpg and 99g/km of CO2. A more potent Cooper SD model should arrive later in the car’s lifespan.
Do the new engines get new gearboxes?
Yes indeed. The six-speed manual now comes with automatic rev-matching for smoother downshifts. It’s a clever trick, but the manual Mini’s appeal has always been the slick action of its shifter: we say learn to heel-and-toe and you’ll enjoy it all the more.
Sadly, there’s no double-clutch gearbox coming (yet), but there is a new automatic, which will share technology with BMW’s other British icon: Rolls-Royce. How so? In Minis equipped with sat-nav, the car’s GPS communicates with the transmission, selecting the gear which best suits the gradient, speed limit and curvature of the road ahead. The same feature is used in the new £237,000 Rolls-Royce Wraith.
So what’s this about adaptive dampers?
Electronically-controlled two-stage dampers will be available in the new Mini, offering a choice between a more supple Comfort mode and firmer Sport setting. This is in addition to the existing Sport button that sharpens the steering and throttle response. Meanwhile, Mini assures us the chassis will retain its trademark agile handling, thanks to lightweight aluminium suspension components and lower friction bearings.
The electric power steering system has been retuned with a counter torque-steer function: anyone who’s wrestled a feisty Cooper S or JCW Mini down a typical British B-road will be aware just what a boon this could be. Plus, ‘speed dependant support’ will dial back the level of assistance at higher speeds, which should improve the feel and communication being transmitted through the wheel.