Be MINI

“Why is the MINI named after Sheldon Cooper?” asks my son when he sees the Cooper S badges on the MINI. I laughed and said “No mate, that’s a reference to the link with John Cooper…” But that explanation went completely over his head and for the next week I was driving Sheldon Cooper’s car.

This got me thinking about the MINI and some of the quirky features. Including the obsessive use of circles being one of them, even the key was circular. As was the driver’s dash, the central screen, around the gear shifter and even the head rests were almost circles.

The MINI Cooper S is the mid-range variant in the three-door MINI model line-up. There are also five-door options, plus the larger MINI Countryman, MINI Clubman and a convertible as well. The Cooper S has a 4-cylinder 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 141kW and 280Nm and offers decent acceleration of 6.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash. The official combined fuel consumption is 5.5L/100km and for my week I used 8.1L/100km of 95RON petrol.

My MINI also had a reminder that 2019 is the 60th Anniversary of this iconic British car. In case you forgot that MINI is British this one is also metallic British Racing Green in colour ($800 option) and Union Jack styled tail lamps. 

When you first get into the MINI the display on the driver’s dash winks at you and gives you an idea of what’s in store. Under Sport mode you can select a system that works through a number of screens including a MINI wearing sunglasses and then if everything is OK, you’re told to go and ‘Be MINI’. ‘Be MINI’ is code for ‘have fun’, this is a car that is designed to make you smile and enjoy your driving experience.

The engine is quite perky and there is an excitable blurp from the exhaust as you upshift using the wheel mounted paddle shifters through the 7-speed sports double clutch gearbox ($2,800 option). The interior has a sporty feel thanks to the chunky steering wheel and optional Sport seats ($1,500), which are comfortable but only have manual adjustment.

From a daily liveability stand point the MINI would be great in a city environment due to it’s still quite small size. But the downside of this smallness is it is very cramped in the back seat and adults really wouldn’t fit back there without the driver and front passenger being very far forward. My children only just fitted in and I needed to drive slightly closer to the steering wheel than I would want to with my son sitting behind me.

Other complaints from the back seat passengers were that there were no rear air vents and no USB/12V outlets, they did have drink holders though. My always curious children flipped up the central arm rest and revealed the wireless charging/Apple CarPlay pad under the arm rest and proceeded to tell me that this could be used for them to watch movies etc.

The two rear seats do have two ISOFIX/rear tether child seat restraint points and have a 60/40 split folding mechanism. These would need to be lowered if you wanted to carry anything more than a small weekly shop in the boot. One thing the MINI does have to give you some extra storage space in an additional area under the boot floor to place items that you may wat to carry around all of the time, like a nappy bag with some emergency spare clothes and other odds and ends that children sometimes need. Again, my always adventurous children proceeded to climb into the boot and try out the size of this additional storage area and concluded that a six year old can fit in there.

Back up the front and the central touchscreen display gives you access to sat nav that has real time traffic information, media options and Bluetooth connectivity. The voice control for this system works really well both more making calls and setting a destination on the sat nav.

Your media options include DAB, AM/FM radio, Phone or USB and when you adjust the volume in the MINI the light around the screen moves. The light also moves when you adjust the temperature on the dual zone climate control, from blue to red. When you are driving in ‘Green’ mode, which allows you to set a maximum speed and have efficient climate control settings, the light is of course green; just another fun feature of this quirky little car.

The problem with the MINI though is all the things that you don’t get and for a car that starts at $40k this is an issue. There is no keyless entry and after living with this feature for so long, you realise that not having it is a real pain, digging around in your handbag to find the key is so annoying! The MINI only has standard cruise control and no blind spot assist or lane departure warning. You do get auto lights and auto wipers though.

The MINI comes with a three year unlimited kilometre warranty and how often your MINI needs servicing depends on its condition and your driving style. Built-in sensors monitor important things like brake pads, engine oil and brake fluid levels. All of the information is then saved on your MINI key, so your MINI Service Centre can instantly see what needs doing and only ever does what’s needed.

All MINI models have a four star ANCAP safety rating and come with drivers and passenger’s front air bags and curtain airbags. Standard active safety features include Electronic Brake Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist. The Cooper S also gets a reversing camera and Park Distance Control as standard.

The MINI Cooper S three door starts at $39,900 excluding on road costs and as tested my MINI was $45,800. This quirky, slightly obsessive car would be fun to live with, but at the same time a bit difficult as well, just like the Cooper S that it is not named after. Visit your preferred MINI dealer to experience this British icon for yourself.

Pros Cons
The MINI makes you smile Limited  rear seat room
Perky engine Lack of active safety features
Quirky British detailing  No keyless entry

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.