When we talk about performance cars, the benchmark is still 0-60. Which may be outdated, but it’s easy to get your head around and compare cars of the past with cars of today. (Spoiler Alert – cars of today are much faster today.) That said, we are talking 0-60 mph. But with the 2019, we are talking something completely different.
0 – 60 Years
Yep, years. Hard to believe that the original Mini first bowed in 1959. Especially since a super-small, efficient and fun vehicle seems so now. 1959 was an interesting year – The first Barbie Doll was introduced, The Twilight Zone premiered on television, the first American astronauts were publicly announced by NASA as part of Project Mercury, and Hawaii and Alaska became the 49th and 50th states in the United States of America.
The Mini, while it has continued to grow larger in every iteration, is still not a large car. In fact at our 2-door tester’s 151.9 inches overall, it’s hard to find much that are shorter, other than a Smart Car, or Fiat 500. Even a Miata is longer.
But it wears its size well.
The Mini has a wide-stanced, rugged look, that fits in well with the “Bulldog” image it has carried.
To our eyes, the 3-door looks best. While the 5-door may offer a bit more access to the rear seats, the proportions look off a bit. The Convertible does look stunning with the top down, and pretty coupe-like with the top up. The droptop loses some of the functionality though – and that’s part of the charm of a Mini – good space utilization for such a little guy.
2019 has seen some added visual excitement, with a new Mini logo, new-look LED headlights, and an especially-cool LED taillights with a Union Jack design. Veddy cool. There are new colors and new wheels to tempt you as well. But for the ultimate temptation, we’d point you to the Mini 60 Years Special Edition. It starts with a fitting British Racing Green IV color that’s got a shimmering, luminescent quality that really stands out. White roof and mirror caps give it even more visual pop.
That’s just the beginning, adding signature side scuttles, badges, bonnet stripes and unique 17-inch, two-tone rims. There’s even a signature LED projection that lights up the ground when you open the door. Theater to be sure. (Or is that Theatre?), but we loved it. If green isn’t your thing, there are thousands of color and trim combinations you can put on a Mini. Just not on a 60th Years model.
Inside, Mini further rewards you for choosing the 60 Years Special Edition. It starts with stunningly handsome MINI Your Leather Lounge Sport Seats in a dark maroon leather with an embroidered logo. In case you’ve forgotten the green exterior, there is a rich braided green piping around the seats, with an illuminated interior and a unique design panel above the glovebox. The seats are exceptionally comfortable with excellent support, and even taller drivers will fit – up front – in comfort. The rear seats are best for kids, or very tolerant adults. But the quality of materials is superb.
This is on top of an interior that got a serious upgrade with the new model in 2014. Highlights included power window switches on the door (they used to be on toggle switches on the center console – not bad, but it was the devil’s business to open the windows just a crack), and the gauges migrating from the center console ( OK, we loved the giant speedometer) to the steering column, giving a dedicated info-tainment center.
You get a lot to smile about here – there are still dedicated toggle switches in the center console, with a big red toggle for starting and stopping the engine. The speedo is good-sized, and the tach looks like an aftermarket racing gauge which is kinda cool. The fuel gauge is a simple red fluorescent bar – you get used to it. No temp gauge though. The jumbo 8.8” display serves up all the mod-cons (modern conveniences) today’s tech- heavy user would want. Access is easy, with a large circular knob below the shifter that’s intuitive to use. And we love the extra care Mini took to design the different screens – they’re fun, colorful and make you smile. What’s not to like?
Well, we don’t like that Apple CarPlay is available, but not standard on all models. On the other hand there’s cool stuff like Mini’s Journey Mate – a trip planner app that coordinates your entire drive, integrating real-time traffic, weather and calendar appointments. It can eve help you find gas stations and parking spaces. Cool!
There’s also Mini Connected, an advanced suite of available features including remote and concierge services. It may be a small car, but you can feel like a big shot.
Make That a Sling Shot
Driving is still the biggest thrill in the Mini. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter, pumping out a respectable 189 horsepower and an equally respectable 207 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1350 rpm. It’s got a rorty little exhaust note that’s just perfect – not too loud, but you can hear it. In our tester it was hooked up to a 6-speed automatic, and we found it to be an excellent transmission, with smooth shifts in normal mode, and rapid-fire response in Sport mode. (We kept it in Sport mode most of the time). While there are certain cars that cry out for a manual – say a Miata – a Mini owner who opts for the auto can hold their head high.
The combination of the torque, the low weight, and the speedy six speed and the Mini feels very quick – probably quicker than it is, but with 0- 60 in just over 6 seconds, it gets around quite well. It pulls up to highway speeds with ease and has plenty of juice for higher speed passing. The throttle pedal is also very responsive, making it a hoot to zip around. Even with our extended hooting, we got 28 mpg. If we took advantage of the ECO modes and the like, lower 30’s would be easy. The brake pedal gets a big nod here too, it feels extremely powerful, and offers excellent feedback.
Of course, that’s just the beginning. With the Mini’s tidy exterior dimensions, you have the perfect weapon to slice, dice, and julienne traffic. OK, everyone says a Mini has “Go-Kart” like handling, but the hyperbole isn’t that far off. The response to the wheel is immediate, and just a quick twitch will have you changing lanes almost telepathically.
Another sign of excellent engineering, the steering has a bit of heft to it – perfect when on the freeway, so you don’t worry about sneezing and finding yourself over two lanes. It also imparts a feeling of stability that’s reassuring.
Another surprise was the ride quality. In the past, we’ve tested Mini’s with the run-flat 18” wheels and tires, and the grip was excellent, but the ride was harsh. The 60th Edition may have found the ideal size here – with the 17” alloys the ride was comfortable, the noise level was much less, and the handling was still stupefying fun, with plenty of grip.
Well, this is a premium coupe built by BMW, so…no. But then again, like BMW, it’s all in how you option it. You can start with a base Cooper with a 134 hp, turbo three-cylinder that would be a ball to drive and get excellent MPG, for just $23,400. And with Mini’s fantastic customization you can pretty much build yours into one-of-a-kind.
Our Cooper S started at just $25,900. But the 60 Years Package for $6,500, plus the 60 Years Edition option, which includes the unique body graphics, 17” wheels and special leather logo seats for $1,000, ratchet up the price. With the Sport automatic for $1,500 and $850 for Destination, we totaled, out at $35,750. Such is the price of a special edition. You could build something similar without the 60 years equipment for around $31,000. That’s probably what we would do.
The closest competitor for the Mini would be the VW GTI. A loaded Autobahn model comes in at $36,890. So the Mini is competitive. The GTI is more usable on a day to day basis, and a great drive. But part of the Mini is the unique vibe, the design, and the GTI can’t compete on that ground. If you’re looking for bargain bang for the buck, a loaded 275 hp Veloster N comes in at $30,420. We tested a regular Veloster and loved it – but again, you won’t have the cache and style of a Mini.
60 years on, the Mini continues to charm. But it’s much more than that.
This is a modern, delightful, hot-hatch that puts a smile on your face every time you drive. We love it!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.