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Things have come a long way for the Mini

Created on 02/08/2016 @ 09:21
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Test Drive by Graham Breeze

Sir Alec Issigonis would be turning in his grave if he could see what BMW has done to his beloved Mini. But you get the feeling that the visionary designer would have been impressed.

I’ve just tested the Mini Clubman Cooper S, with an eight speed automatic gearbox, and it’s a million miles away from the first Mini designed by Issigonis when the British Motor Company(BMC) asked him to come up with a family of new models back in 1955.

Fuel rationing produced by the Suez crisis accelerated the launch of the new Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven and in 1961 it became the Austin Mini. Fast forward to 1969 and Mini was an amazingly successful brand in its own right.

That was the very year that my love affair with the brand began with the purchase of my first vehicle - a Mini Van. There followed a string of company owned Minis as I went about my business as a journalist – none baring much resemblance to today’s offering.

The renaissance of the Mini brand may never have happened as it was passed from company to company. Mini was owned by BMC, British Leyland and the Rover Group. BMW then bought and sold Rover but thankfully retained the Mini.

In 2001 BMW revealed the new Mini with many fans of the original model mocking the new design. But it struck a chord and has become a huge commercial success - and they’re not laughing now.

The new Mini Clubman Cooper S carries some resemblance to the original model, which was also known as a Traveller, with its wooden inserts and double back doors. But it’s a very small resemblance because this pumped-up model is a metre longer and packed to the roof with all the latest technology on the market today.

The new Clubman continues with Mini’s rounded theme. There’s large and distinctive frog-eyed headlights, a huge circular fuel cap and of course the massive central screen which contains all the latest technology including Sat Nav, Bluetooth and Mini Connected.

One great new touch is the introduction of a neon halo around the centre console which changes from green to orange to show how economically you are driving. I loved this feature but it may not be t everyone’s liking. Thankfully it’s a feature you can disable if the flashing lights aren’t to your liking.

You’ll either love or hate the big split back doors but they do open to reveal a surprising amount of luggage space, just enough in fact for the golf clubs though it’s a tight squeeze. It’s disappointing that there is no reversing camera because you have to remember how much space you need to leave for loading – the doors are so big.

As you would expect for a Mini Cooper performance is stunning with the 1.6litre, 190bhp model producing 62mph in 7.8 seconds and capable of 133mph. CO2 emissions are only 137g/km but you will need to keep your foot off the pedal to achieve the claimed 40mpg.

Handling is typically Mini – what is it that brings still brings out the boy racer in me every time I get behind the wheel of a Cooper S? It’s agility and lightness on the road will attract a whole new generation of fans.

So what does it all cost I hear you saying – well quite a lot really. When you consider I had to save up for the £25 cost of my first second hand model today’s price tag of £24,195 is a shock to the system.

And you’re likely to be attracted by the extras on offer so the cost can easily spiral by another £8,000 as it did on the test car.

Additions included damper control, run flat tyres, 18” alloys, sports leather steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, black bonnet stripes, sun protection glass, heated front seats, driving modes, park assist, rain-sensoring wipers, cruise control and a brilliant heads-up display system which pushed the price to £32,990.

Things have come a long way since Sir Alec first scribbled a design on the back of a fag packet but you get the feeling that Mini is here to stay.

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