It’s here at last: after impatiently waiting for the new Mini Cooper to arrive here at What Car?’s HQ, I've spent the past week enjoying its lively 134bhp, three-cylinder turbo petrol engine. Out of the three driving modes I get with this particular (pretty fully loaded) spec, the Mini has been stuck firmly in Sport mode, which makes it feel like a fabulously fast go-kart. Needless to say, my urban commute is great fun.
This third-generation car is the latest incarnation of the ‘new’ Mini, and while it might not look that much different, it’s now got a vastly improved dashboard and instrument layout, with some pretty cool infotainment and screen options available.
We were so keen to get our hands on the new Mini we asked if we could take one of the cars from the launch event, the pay-off being that we didn’t get to spec it ourselves. However, I am not complaining because the tech geek in me loves the huge 8.8-inch central widescreen, which is controlled by a rotary dial and shortcut buttons located between the two front seats. It not only looks cool, in a slightly retro way, it also works incredibly well; it has to be one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use systems I’ve come across.
I also think that the head-up display (a £375 option), may seem pricey, but it’s nice to have. I initially wasn’t convinced by it and kept it switched off, but after playing around with it and getting the display set correctly (you can alter the height and brightness of it), I’ve realised that it’s actually very handy to have your speed and the applicable speed limit posted right in front of you; I never look down at the traditional speedo now.
It’s going to take a while longer to become fully accustomed to all the Mini’s high-tech wizardry on offer, particularly because most of my colleagues are trying to beg, borrow or just steal it outright for a few days, evidenced by the fact that we’ve already racked up nearly 1800 miles so far.
However, based on early impressions, it’s safe to say I am going to enjoy the next 12 months behind the Mini’s sporty leather steering wheel.
**By Melanie Falconer
**Elsewhere, content editor Tom Webster has found that the BMW i3's gearlever has been taking some getting used to.