Thoroughly modern MINI [Newcastle Journal (England)]
(Newcastle Journal (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) STAYING connected is the mantra at MINI with the arrival of the second generation of Britain's most iconic hatchback. It is bristling with technology to cater for every whim in the world of Facebook, Twitter and smartphone apps.
No self-respecting car can afford to be without such features in these days of online reliance but what really matters is they have to be techno trendy.
So the car that brought personalisation to the motoring masses back in 2001 has been transformed into a thoroughly modern MINI for 2014.
It can still be customised to the hilt but what has been done to create the latest model puts it on a superhighway of its own.
Everything about the latest MINI is new and although it is bigger than before it is still instantly recognisable.
The new MINI is almost two inches wider and four inches longer which makes for much more room inside and greater luggage space - over 30 per cent more at 211 litres.
For a three door hatch it is roomy enough to sit four adults and pack away four flight cases in the boot which now comes with an adjustable floor releasing extra cargo space beneath. The rear seats can now tilt forward slightly to create more room or be folded flat on a 60/40 split.
The interior itself has been spruced up and made much more user friendly.
Alterations include moving the electric window switches from a fiddly place on the dash to a more convenient location on the door armrests while the instrument binnacle has been redesigned.
It still sits on top of the steering wheel and comprises a speedometer and rev counter but now flanked by an eight bar illuminated fuel gauge.
The dominant feature on the dashboard remains the large round central display - a style cue taken from the original Mini of 1959 - which can now include an 8.8-inch colour screen and an LED surround that produces its own light show - a display which is a driver aid and not just decoration.
On the cars we have just driven - both fitted with optional Pounds 1,175 MINI Media Packs - the light ring changes colour depending on drive mode (red for sport, green for eco) and also supports the navigation system with the circle of light diminishing as a turning point nears.
Altering the drive mode - itself a new feature on a MINI - not only changes throttle response and feel but also conjures up one of three graphics showing a representation of the car and a description of its characteristics.
Sport mode will read "Maximum go-kart feel" and the regular Mid setting will display "Typical MINI driving fun".
It's a cheeky reminder of what MINI motoring is all about and like its predecessor the new car doesn't disappoint.
Download some apps and the car can become an Internet portal on wheels. There's 3D mapping, enough storage space for 5,000 songs and access to live traffic updates, journey planning and all the regular social media facilities.
With independent suspension all round the ride is spot on and it remains very nippy and grippy.
There's a range of new engines - three cylinder petrol and diesel as well as a four cylinder twin turbo to power the quicker Cooper S. The most economical MINI One diesel is said to be good for 83.1mpg with emissions down to 89g/km giving a range close on 800 miles while even the more powerful Cooper diesel is in the 80-plus league with emissions rated at 92g/km yet it has splendid performance with 0 to 60 coming up in 9.2 seconds. It is torquey and lively to drive and even when set for economical driving there's fun to be had.
On some sinewy mountain roads we managed to average 63.9mpg according to the trip computer and that was helped thanks to a six speed gearbox and an effective stop/start system - standard on all models.
Another standard feature is a toggle switch starter which pulses red on ignition to fire up the impressive new 1.5-litre diesel or the equally capable new two-litre petrol engine which powers the Cooper S. As the current flagship of the new MINI line up it is not only quicker - 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds - but noticeable quieter.
Officially the Cooper S is rated at 49.6mpg with a CO2 figure of 133g/km but we managed only 34 to the gallon on an equally demanding route.
Compared to the previous MINI both the Cooper D and Cooper S are streets ahead in terms of performance and refinement.
The new MINI range is priced from Pounds 13,750 for the MINI One, a rise of just Pounds 290 and tops out at Pounds 18,650 for the Cooper S. The diesels start from Pounds 14,820 for the MINI One D and Pounds 16,450 for the Cooper D. Since 2001 we have lapped them up with more than 2.4 million MINIs built - mainly at Cowley in Oxford - and last year alone more than 200,000 came off the line.
With the current range now featuring seven different body styles from convertible to 4x4 the new hatch is not just the best MINI yet but the start of many more years of MINI mania.
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