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Coincidence is a funny thing. The same week I had the Mini Cooper S 60 Years, the last VW Beetle rolled down the line in Mexico. VW blamed its mammoth €25bn investment in electric, but the reality is that nobody was buying that nostalgia trip anymore.
The story of Mini is quite different. BMW's aggressive expansion of the range beyond the three-door hatch has breathed all sorts of life into a brand that could have disappeared up its own Union Jack. Instead of sticking to the formula, the brand tried all sorts of things but has since settled on the hatch (three- and five-door), the Cabrio, the wacky Clubman semi-wagon and the Countryman SUV. BMW is now making lots of cars on the same platform, a nice two way street.
The Mini Cooper S is 60 years old and unlike the Beetle, it's powering on past its birthday and the company - no stranger to a special edition - has slapped together a classic combo of colours, stripes and badges.
|Mini Cooper S 2019: The Mini 60 Years|
There are four ways you can have your 60th Anniversary Mini. If you're happy with 1.5-litres of power, there is the three or five-door Cooper for $33,900 and $35,150 respectively. If you want a bit more grunt, you can step up to the Cooper S three-door (the car I had) for $43,900 and the five-door for $45,150. Eagle-eyed readers who know their Mini pricing will see a price rise of $4000, and Mini Australia says you get $8500 of value. All of those prices are before on-road costs.
The standard Cooper S package brings dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, driving mode selection, leather interior, reversing camera, sat nav, auto LED headlights and wipers, wireless Apple CarPlay, run-flat tyres and you can add all the 60 Years stuff on top of that.
Without putting too fine a point on it, the Mini isn't cheap to begin with, so whacking four grand on top of the already stiff pricing obviously doesn't improve matters. You do get more stuff, obviously, as suggested by the claimed $8500 figure.
That means British Racing Green IV metallic paint with Pepper White mirrors and roof or Midnight Black Lapis Luxury Blue with black mirrors and roof. Inside you get a choice of Dark Cacao with the green paint or Carbon Black with the blue paint. If you choose the latter you miss out on the special piping and details.
Cooper S buyers pick up wireless phone charging, Comfort Access pack, heated front seats and LED headlights while the Cooper S adds a panoramic sunroof, Harmon Kardon-branded system and head-up display.
Always readily identifiable, Mini updates always add detail without touching the main game. I quite like the indicators, which are big LED rings surrounding the headlights, but then again I'm a sucker for lighting. I think the Mini looks terrific in three-door form and the Union Jack rear lights have grown on me. They're a bit silly but in a good way, which kind of sums up the car. The British Racing Green looks pretty good, too. Amusingly, the puddle lamp even has a 60 Years flavour.
You can spot the Cooper S by the centre exhaust and the 60 Years has its own set of 17-inch alloys.
The cabin is pretty much the same apart from the particularly warm hue of the leather. It's a classic colour for British cars but works nicely. In the Cooper S, the panoramic sunroof is split in two, but the front section opens. It does make the car feel a bit bigger, which is handy given it's pretty tight in there. The piping is a nice touch, too, although the Piano Black on the dash was so last decade rather than so last century but at least there isn't a slab of tacky wood. The fact the interior is otherwise unchanged means there are other cheap touches that somehow fail to ruin the ambience.
Mini calls its version of iDrive 'Visual Boost' for some reason, and it's displayed via a 6.5-inch screen set in a big round dial ringed by changeable LED lights.
Yep, it's a small car so expect things to be reasonably cosy. I fit in there fine but I am neither particularly tall nor broad. Taller folks will fit just fine in the front (but not too tall, don't be greedy) while larger people might find themselves uncomfortably close to their passengers.
The rear seat is bearable for children and patient adults on short trips. At least they'll be well hydrated because as well as the pair of cupholders up front there are a further three in the back for a total of five. The Mini joins the NC Mazda MX-5 as a car with a greater cup capacity than passenger capacity. Front seat passengers can keep the water topped up as there are also small bottle holders in the doors.
There are two USB ports in the front seat and a wireless charging pad that doesn't fit bigger phones under the armrest. If your iPhone is the smaller size, the combination of wireless CarPlay and charging pad is excellent.
The boot is surprisingly big for such a small car, beating many of its cheaper rivals with 211 litres with the seats in place and 731L with them folded down.
The Cooper S has the usual 2.0-litre turbocharged four (the Cooper has a 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder), serving up 141kW and 280Nm. Power finds its way to the front wheels via a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and will push the 1265kg Cooper S to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds.
Mini reckons you'll get 5.6L/100km on the combined cycle. Maybe you could if you don't drive it like I did (I got an indicated figure of 9.4L/100km).
The Mini has stop-start to help cut fuel use around town and launch control to ruin those efforts.
Like the rest of the range, the 60 Years has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, AEB (auto emergency braking), a reversing camera, speed sign recognition, and tyre pressure monitoring (it also has run-flat tyres and no spare, so that's an important consideration).
There are two top tether and ISOFIX points for the kiddies.
The Mini scored four out of a possible five ANCAP stars in April 2015. This was before AEB became standard earlier in 2019.
As with parent company BMW, Mini only offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the duration. You can buy an extension to five or hold your breath during negotiations with a dealer.
Servicing is condition-based - the car will tell you when it needs one. You can buy a servicing package that covers the basics for five years for about $1400 or step up to the near-$4000 option which throws in consumables like brake pads and wiper blades.
Driving a Mini is a unique experience. Almost no other car on sale today has the combination of that far-away, near-vertical windscreen and an A-pillar that is almost slim by today's standards. The side of the car is almost fifty percent glass, so vision is terrific.
It had been a little while since I drove a Mini Cooper S so I was looking forward to the Mini bounce that I've always loved and my wife despised. Somewhere along the way, that bounce has faded somewhat, to the point where my wife says she doesn't mind it anymore. That must be a good thing, because while the ride is more refined, it's still a blast to drive, even if you're just getting around in traffic.
The Mini just loves point and squirt driving. The quick, well-weighted steering helps you swing the nose in and out of gaps and the handy slab of torque from the 2.0-litre ensures you stay out of trouble while doing it. The Mini also loves haring down a country road, the more secure-feeling ride belying its short wheelbase. The weight of the car probably helps keep things on the straight and narrow. It's pretty clever to make the car feel grown-up while also maintaining its sense of playfulness.
The driving mode switch doesn't make a huge amount of difference, with Sport mode adding a few apologetic pops from the exhaust.
Complaints are few, but there are too many buttons on the steering wheel and to my mind are all in the wrong place. By necessity, the controller for the media screen is practically on the floor and is crowded in by the cupholders and huge handbrake lever. But that doesn't mean Mini should take away the handbrake.
I have my reasons.
The Mini 60 Years is another classic special edition Mini and its definitely one for the fans. I'm not at all fussed by it and would quite happily save my money for a standard Cooper S. The Mini is still one of the most playful, interesting cars from a mainstream car maker and while it doesn't please everyone with its size and weight, it's tremendous fun to drive.
It's the kind of car I could own and I always feel comfortable in - it's the perfect size for urban environments but is just as much at home belting down a freeway on a long trip or scooting down a B-road just because.
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