No matter the generation, from the original 1959 two-door all the way up to the just refreshed 2019 models, the MINI Cooper has always been about quirky design and great handling. The if-it-ain’t-broke formula continues to serve the brand well as I’ll talk about in today’s review of the base 3-Door.
Still in its third generation introduced five years ago, the Cooper just underwent a fairly significant facelift. While there are quite a few changes, none take away the essence of the car keeping true to its heritage. The headlights can now be equipped with optional ultra-bright LEDs, housing separate modules for the low and high beam. Other markets also receive adaptive feature add-on allows the intensity of the lights to automatically vary according to individual situations encountered on the road.
One of my favourite updates is at the rear of the vehicle. The iconic Union Jack is a visual element often used by the British marque taking the form of factory roof wraps and side mirror caps. It’s found its way to the available LED taillights as well, each side representing one half of the flag when illuminated — a very striking and distinctive feature particularly at night.
Subtler is the update to the MINI logo, for example seen on the hood and hatch. Overall flatter and more streamlined, the bars making up the wings that extend out from the roundel are separated. According to the company, “The MINI logo reflects the new brand identity with its focus on the essentials: namely key values such as driving fun, distinctive design, premium quality and emotional appeal.”
The car feels nimble and quick on the road, in typical go kart like fashion, which is why it may be surprising to hear the engine is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder. Turbocharging helps, and the 1,191-kilogram curb weight (manual) is certainly on the lower end of the scale nowadays. Output is rated at 136 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque.
A seven-speed Steptronic automatic is offered, but my tester had the much-preferred six-speed standard transmission. Pleasant to shift, the only niggle being BMW Group’s insistence on placing the entry into reverse directly left of first gear making it easy to accidentally go backwards instead of forwards.
Having evaluated the S and John Cooper Works variants many times, I think this is the first time I’ve been behind the wheel of the base trim. The takeaway? Priced at $23,090 the 3-Door is affordable, a blast to drive, great on gas — I averaged 9.8 L/100 km, a godsend with fuel prices reaching $1.70 per litre in the Lower Mainland — and deserves a demographic beyond primarily young women.