This is the all-new 2014 Mini, which promises improved cabin space, a more premium fascia, more refined engines and greater fuel efficiency when it arrives at UK dealers next spring.
The third generation of the BMW-owned 'new Mini' grows again over the car it replaces. It's 382cm long, 172.7cm wide and 141.4cm tall - or 9.8cm longer, 4.4cm wider and 0.7cm taller than the outgoing model. The new Cooper S edition is longer still, at 385cm, thanks to more sporty bumpers.
The new Mini gets a fresh line-up of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. The entry-level Mini Cooper gets a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine producing 134bhp and 162lb ft of torque between 1250rpm and 4000rpm. That's enough for a 0-62mph time of 7.9sec and a top speed of 131mph - with fuel economy of up to 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of between 105g/km and 107g/km, depending on wheel sizes.
The more potent Mini Cooper S gets a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol motor producing 189bhp and 207lb ft between 1250rpm and 4750rpm (221lb ft on overboost). It can reach 62mph in 6.8sec and has a top speed of 146mph; its fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 49.6-48.7mpg and 133-136g/km, again depending on wheel sizes.
The sole diesel option at launch is the Cooper D, which has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder motor producing 114bhp and 199lb ft. It takes 9.2sec to reach 62mph and its top speed is 127mph, but its efficiency figures are more impressive, at up to 80.7mpg and between 92g/km and 95g/km of CO2 emissions.
The standard gearbox on all models will be a six-speed manual; Mini says this transmission will 'auto-blip' to match engine speeds on down-shifts, a rare feature that has only ever been offered on a handful of models (including, for example, the Nissan 370Z and the latest Porsche Boxster and Cayman).
A six-speed automatic gearbox will be offered with all three engines; the Cooper D automatic manages to keep CO2 emissions beneath 100g/km (the outgoing Cooper D auto emits 135g/km). This gearbox features stop-start as standard and can hook up to the car's navigation system to 'predict' the road ahead and avoid unnecessary up-shifts.
Mini is also offering a six-speed dual-clutch transmission as an option. Called 'sports automatic', it also offers rev-matching on down-shifts, and it can be used as a manual via shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
The new Mini's chassis set-up looks set to build on the outgoing model's reputation for direct steering and good agility. Mini claims that its engineers have focused on retaining the car's 'go-kart feeling' - which is also a sign, perhaps, that the car's trademark firm ride will remain. Variable Damper Control will be offered as an option, however; it allows drivers to choose between comfort and sport settings.
The cabin gets improved materials throughout, with more heavily weighted switches and higher-quality fabrics. The fascia grows up a little too, although it's still clearly recognisable as a Mini dashboard. The large central dial no longer houses the speedometer, which is now in a more conventional position in a binnacle ahead of the steering wheel. Instead it holds the car's infotainment systems, which range from a relatively simple set-up to the widescreen sat-nav shown in our pictures. These functions can be controlled from a dial mounted low down between the front seats; it incorporates a touch-pad that allows you to scrawl out postcodes and look up phonebook entries.
The rim of the dial itself contains coloured LEDs which can change and 'move' depending on what you're doing. Increase the temperature and it can glow red; activate sat-nav and it will 'count down' units of colour when you're approaching your next turning; spec parking sensors and it'll give you a graphic to indicate how close you are to obstacles behind the car.
Mini claims improved cabin space and greater practicality, with more cubbyholes and bottle holders, and a wider range of adjustment on the front seats. Access to the rear seats is also said to be easier than before, but judging from our brief test with our studio car, adults will still find it a struggle to clamber in and out; the Mini's wheelbase has stretched by only 28mm, after all.
Boot space has increased to 211 litres, which is still poor compared with many superminis'. However, there are a few extra practical touches, such as the ability to raise and lower the boot floor (to increase space or reduce the lip you have to load items over) and the chance to make the rear seat back more upright to accommodate slightly larger items behind it.
Mini has yet to confirm final specs for the car, but it says that the Cooper edition gets more standard equipment, including Bluetooth, front fog lights, front and rear Isofix, and an on-board computer. Keyless go is also standard on all models; you use a switch in the centre console to start and stop the engine (it 'pulses' when you first get in, like a beating heart as it waits for you to fire up the motor). Thankfully, the window switches have been moved from their current position, low down in the centre of the dashboard, to a more logical site in the door linings.
There will continue to be a wide range of options, customisations and packs to boost the Mini's specification (and the final price). These will include the Storage package, roof rails (a first on the Mini), bonnet stripes, contrast roof colours (black and white are a no-cost option), a Harman Kardon sound system, leather upholstery and a head-up display.
Mini has already confirmed starting prices for the three models. The entry-level Cooper starts at £15,300, a rise of 2.6% over the outgoing car's figure. The new Cooper D starts at £16,450, slightly less than the current model, and the Cooper S costs from £18,650, around £500 more than the car it replaces. Cheaper versions of the car - in effect replacements for the Mini One and Mini First - will also be introduced in 2014, using detuned versions of the three-cylinder engine.