By Gugu Masuku

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with peers in the motoring industry about every vehicle worth discussing. And whenever the Mini Cooper came up, everyone’s opinions were always the same. Their shared sentiments were related to the vehicle’s driving dynamics and go-kart like handling characteristics, which make it a treat to drive on twisty roads. Since I had never driven a Mini before, my comments were limited its exterior cloak. For years, I yearned to know what it felt like to get behind the wheel of one of these things, and it seemed the motoring gods were listening attentively to my yearnings because before I could even say a little prayer with my special request, I was whisked away to drive the new Mini on the best driving roads in the Western Cape. Talk about divine intervention!

 

First up was the Mini Cooper 5-door, and almost immediately I knew that all the tales I had heard over the years were rapidly manifesting right before my very eyes. It does feel like a go-kart, a very solid one at that, and it spikes your cornering confidence to levels higher than normal. The 100kW motor in this variant isn't flatteringly quick, but it felt sprightly enough to get the daily runabout done with reasonable zest.

 

The Cooper S distinguished itself with a deeper baritone voice and a bark every time it went into a different gear

 

The Cooper S, on the other hand, distinguished itself from the standard 5-door with a deeper baritone voice and a bark every time it went into a different gear under hard acceleration. Working in tandem with the 2.0 motor to produce these lovely sounds is a new 7-speed Steptronic dual-clutch transmission.

This slightly cocky derivative feels even more sure-footed through corners than its standard version, and it puts out a mild crackle and pop every so often when you gear down preparing to take on lateral Gs. It was with Cooper S that I fully understood what all the fuss around this car was all about. It’s compact in size, yet if you ignore its stature and just focus on the driving element, it feels more like one of its not so distant cousins from the BMW stable.

Well, what’s new besides the transmission? The 2018 version receives Mini’s new emblem, which doesn’t stray too far from the one it replaces – just sharper in design and to the point.

The headlamps and taillights also come with some pronounced changes, with the former now being a complete circle LED daytime running light and offered with the Matrix function as an option. At the rear, you’ll notice that the LED lights have the Union Jack design, which is not an option if you prefer yours without the flag.

Detail and personalisation are important to Mini, and they’ve made a point of highlighting this by offering MINI Yours Customised, which allows you to personalise your vehicle with some simple clip on bits for the interior and exterior, which can be anything of your liking – from simple text like your name, or patterns and icons. All in your favourite colour too!

 

After spending some quality time in all three new offerings (the MINI 3-door, MINI 5-door, and MINI Convertible), I came away with my itch satisfied and with a new understanding of the hype around this car. I now eagerly await the arrival of the JCW version of this pocket-sized hatch, and only then will my Mini experience be complete.