I'm not the first to say this but when I first saw the redesigned MINI Coupe at the LA Auto Show I was disappointed at first glance.
And being a detail guy it was hard for even me to see the changes from the last model to this one.
The New MINI Cooper Launch
So when I got the invite to join MINI for their launch in Puerto Rico, my expectations of the new ride were low.
But I went with an open mind (probably the most important attribute for any of you future auto writers in the crowd because MOST of the automotive press doesn't) and gave the little man it's best chance to impress me.
As I jumped into the driver seat two key questions needed to be answered in my mind...
1. Is driving the new car still 'torque steer city' as the old car was?
2. Is the base car recommendable to customers?
When I first drove the last generation MINI I remember being most impressed with the interior space and how well my 6'5" frame fit in the cabin.
But the second I started driving it, the most hated car demon to me reared its ugly face and that would be Torque Steer.
How much do I hate torque steer? Well let me share one of my Facebook quotes with you that expresses my feelings. "Torque Steer. ABSOLUTE proof the devil exists."
Well MINI must have called in the Catholic Priests to the factory because the Torque Steer demon has been virtually exorcised from the car. There is still a little, but it is now manageable and no longer a deal breaker for me not putting a MINI in my garage someday.
Doesn't sound like much but that is HUGE in my opinion.
Cross that flaw off your list going forward.
Inevitably, in any previous conversation regarding the potential ownership of a MINI the chance of the base Cooper being in the conversation mix was about as likely as seeing Paris Hilton in a Baptist Church.
The ONLY worthy MINI's had to be an 'S' model or the 'Works'. Why? Because any kind of reasonable power and engine excitement was non-existent on the base car.
It was LAME.
Well not only is the new 3 Cylinder motor powerful enough and exciting we will go so far to say it is one of the most revolutionary consumer engine breakthroughs in our lifetime.
You just won't believe it's only 3 cylinders when you drive it. The power feel won't give it away nor will the sound coming from the car.
It is exquisite.
Look for ALL the competitors to go there.
But remember once again, BMW leads the way in engines. This thing is unreal.
And did we mention gas mileage?
Sad the diesel MINI won't be coming here? Well forget it. The new 3 cyl. is a diesel killer. Along with the government price fixing diesel at such a premium over regular fuel.
It ain't right but don't expect diesel gas prices to go down anytime soon.
But fret not, because you will LOVE this new 3 cyl. motor if you are a gas mizer. You get your cake and can eat it too. GREAT mileage AND performance and sporty sound! WINNING!
Lastly, the final superlative I will add to the mix is that if I was in the market for a MINI today I would choose the BASE car OVER the 'S' model. No doubt in my mind. That would have never happened in the last generation so that is a huge win for value conscious customers looking for great bang for the buck.
Be sure to get the manual transmission for the ultimate driving fun.
If you're looking at cars like the Golf and thought a good MINI was too expensive, get to the dealer and check out the new car. You WILL be impressed. PROMISE.
Now add a much nicer interior with more premium touches and new features like heads up display, color indicator surround, etc. and you'll quickly see the vast improvements adding up.
What didn't I like on the new car?
Well the car handles much better but in order to do that they stiffened the suspension A LOT. If you don't like that, it will be a deal breaker for you. It is VERY stiff on the roads. You feel everything.
I also wish they integrated water bottle holders in the door pockets and better useful storage areas for keys, etc. as it's very tight in the center console area.
Conclusion: All in all the new MINI has been vastly improved (mostly engine, drive and interior) although it would be easy to brush it off at first glance thinking it's the same old car. We say that would be a mistake and you'd be missing out on a wonderful driving surprise. 3 cylinders are the charm.
**Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the making of this photo gallery. 001 stumbled upon the already deceased iguanas.
The New MINI Cooper Launch
*MINI provided transportation, food and lodging to facilitate this review