“Does refined mean not fun?” That’s the big question for the Mini Cooper as the third generation of its iconic hatchback arrives. Built on a platform that small BMWs will share, the Cooper is now 4 ½ inches longer, “significantly” more upscale in its interior detailing, and surprisingly composed on the road. In short, it’s “a Mini that even your mother might enjoy.” But don’t be scared off. “Deep down, its soul remains Mini,” delivering all the driving pleasure that thought implies.
Several flaws have been smartly addressed. Some of the cabin’s annoying quirks have vanished, and the “practically uninhabitable” old rear seat has gained some useful shoulder room. Two new engines, including a three-cylinder in the $19,950 base Cooper, improve fuel efficiently dramatically, and performance from the three-banger is so impressive that “the argument to spend the extra few thousand bucks for the Cooper S is no longer as compelling as it used to be.”
About the only thing wrong with this Mini is that it defies the “less is more” ethos of the 2002 model that relaunched the brand. “No car this size is as nicely finished inside,” and “by nearly every measure, it is a better vehicle” than the car it replaces. “It will sell like hotcakes.”