Trim, taut and terrific: okay, that’s old hat, but nothing could better describe the new Mini Cooper. A member of the 2014 Mini Hatch family, the Cooper, carries the famous name with aplomb.

The new hatchback comes in three versions – Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S – with the choice of two petrol (three and four-cylinder) and one diesel engine (three-cylinder) attached to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

The new Mini Hatch has its ups and downs . . . in the nicest possible way. It is larger than before in every way, cabin space is up, it will take more luggage and prices are down – by $5000 in the case of the Mini Cooper test vehicle at $26,650, plus on-road costs.

More power comes from fewer cylinders of a smaller engine which in turn is cheaper to run – the good news just keeps on coming.

The Europeans love tradition, so it’s no surprise the Mini Hatch shows all the visual characteristics of the 55-year-old British-born motor car. Our red test vehicle harked back to very early days of the Mini with its black contrasting roof.

A hexagonal radiator grille, side indicator surrounds, circular headlights, upright rear light clusters and the black detailing around the bottom edge of the body all hark back to the Mini genesis. The radiator grille ribs and a tailgate handle in white aluminium and a high-gloss black bumper strip, as well as chrome trim for the exhaust tailpipe, plus standard 15-inch Heli-spoke l alloy wheels pitch a modern message to the gen-three new Mini.

Inside, ‘our’ Mini came in hazy grey, carbon black and quality cloth upholstery for the four seats. Front seats feature manual adjustment, including height.

The sports leather steering wheel, adjustable for height and rake, incorporates multifunction controls for operating cruise control and audio / telephone system, which is typical of a modern motor.

There’s all the latest connectivity kit; including standard Bluetooth hands-free interface, and four-speaker audio system with USB input and an auxiliary jack for external music devices.

The test vehicle also carried an optional visual boost, which included a 6.5-inch display screen for the central information unit and a centre console mounted controller. Functions are controlled via a new knob and buttons in the centre console. Also new is an LED light ring, an option for Mini Cooper, surrounding the display which changes colour depending on the function selected.

The Mini Cooper Hatch three-cylinder 1.5 turbocharged petrol engine puts out maximum power of 100 kW between 4500 and 6000 rpm and 220 Nm of torque all the way from 1250 to 4000 revs, the latter up to 230 Nm with overboost.

For the first time, Mini TwinPower turbo technology is called on to include direct fuel injection and variable camshaft control on the intake and exhaust side and fully variable valve control in the form of BMW patented Valvetronic.

Power is put to the front wheels via either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The new Mini combines fuel-saving automatic start / stop function with the automatic transmission for the first time. Exhaust emission rating is Euro 6.

The Mini Cooper Hatch boasts a full suite of safety systems such as Dynamic Stability Control with electronic differential lock, ABS anti-skid brakes, dynamic brake lights and a crash sensor which automatically unlocks the vehicle, switches on the hazard lights and interior lights and disengages the battery in the event of a crash.

Occupants are also protected with standard front and side airbags, including curtain airbags covering front and rear seats. The new Mini also features an active bonnet which rises to minimise the risk of injury in a pedestrian accident.

From cruising the open road to parking in tight spots, manoeuvring is made easy with the standard cruise control with braking function, park distance control and BMW’s Servotronic speed sensitive power steering.

Fuel consumption for the six-speed automatic test vehicle gave us a best figure of 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres about town in Drive mode.

This jumped significantly, to 12.0 L/100 km zipping in and out of traffic using the gearshift manually in Sport mode; 4.8 L/100 km was the order of the day at motorway speeds.

Longer, wider dimensions, plus the characteristic ‘wheels at the four corners’ stance plant the Mini Cooper Hatch firmly on the road, producing one of the best dynamic packages available on a vehicle of any price. Anyone who challenges this need only get behind the wheel. It’s a delight to drive.

On the down side is the fact that the hatch has only two passenger doors, which can make getting into the rear seats a chore. Climbing out of the front seats is also pretty squashy in restricted parking spaces because of the extra wide doors.

Legroom in the back is tight for grown-ups but boot space has improved over the previous Mini with 211 litres to play with, even more with the rear 60:40 seat backs folded flat.

Lift the false floor and there’s even a hidden compartment. Loading cargo is convenient with a low lip and high-lift gate.

Anybody wishing to worship at the altar of a British automotive icon need go no further than the Mini Cooper Hatch. With its German innovation, technology and sharp pricing, the car is the perfect introduction to the famous marque.

MINI Cooper: $26,650
MINI Cooper D: $31,800
MINI Cooper S: $36,950
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Mini dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mini Cooper Hatch 3-cylinder 1.5 turbocharged petrol engine)

Capacity: 1499 cc
Configuration: Three-cylinder high precision direct injection turbocharged in-line. Double VANOS, variable camshaft control on the intake and exhaust side. Valvetronic technology
Bore x Stroke: 82 mm x 94.6 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0: 1
Maximum Power: 100 kW @ 4500-6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 220 Nm @ 1250-4000 rpm (230 Nm with overboost)
Emission rating: Euro 6

Front-wheel drive, six-speed manual / six-speed automatic

Length: 3821 mm
Width: 1727 mm
Height: 1414 mm
Wheelbase: 2495 mm
Track: 1501 mm (front); 1501 mm (rear)
Ground clearance: 124 mm
Unladen weight: 1190 kg
Gross vehicle weight: 1595 kg
Cargo capacity: 211 litres
Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres
Towing capacity: N/A
Turning circle: 10.7 m

Suspension: Single-joint spring strut axle with aluminium swivel bearing and also axle supports and wishbones made of high-strength steel (front); multilink axle also in optimised lightweight construction and space-saving geometry (rear).
Brakes: Anti-lock braking system including Brake force Distribution, Brake Assist and Cornering Brake Control. Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control. Park Distance Control, rear.
Steering: Power steering, Servotronic electronic speed-related
Wheels / tyres: Light-alloy, 15in Heli Spoke silver, 5.5 J x 15, 175/65 R15

Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: 7.9 sec
Top speed: 210 km/h

Fuel type: 95 RON unleaded
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 4.7 litres per 100 km. CO2 emissions 110 g / km

Greenhouse Rating: 8.5 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5 / 10

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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