R56 Interior Impressions

Tomorrow Gabe will have his full review of the R56, but today I wanted to take a bit of a look back myself on this past weekend at the U.S. Press Launch of the new MINI.  The one area that stood out as being the most significant improvement over the R50/R53 to me was the interior (the suspension was a close second).


The seat comfort has been dramatically improved.  While I had already formed this impression while in the R56, it became clear just how far the seats in the R56 had come when I drove my own MINI home to Los Angeles from Arizona.  What makes the new seats so good?  There are areas toward the front of the seat cushion that are almost pillow soft.  In addition, the side bolsters of the seats have been improved to as well, and it seemed as though the bolsters were ever so slightly closer together to hold the occupants a little more snugly. 

Of the various upholstery options we saw, the Lounge Leather stood out as more than justifying the cost over the regular leather.  It was comfortable, and really helped to class up the interior.  If I were spec’ing an R56 currently, I wouldn’t hesitate to order it on my own MINI (particularly the Red Lounge Leather).

Dash Surfaces

The dash surfaces have been improved too.  The wood dash, was real wood.  The brushed aluminum dash, was real brushed aluminum and was everything I had hoped “alloy patina” would have been back in 2002.  

Doors: Armrest and storage

The design of the door panels has changed significantly.  The door armrests now actually have space on which to rest your arm (gasp).  The one downside of this though is that access to the storage pockets in the doors is restricted a bit, but that’s not much of a problem since there is even less useful storage space in the R56 doors than the doors of the R50/R53.

Cargo Position

Moving to the rear of the car, one interesting update which has not been commented on so far, is the addition of the new “cargo position” for the rear seats.  The cargo position enables owners to lock the rear seat backs into a purely vertical orientation.  The beauty of the cargo position is that with the seat backs locked, larger items that would have otherwise necessitated folding down the rear seats, are now restrained from rolling around in the passenger compartment. 


To configure the seats into the cargo position, each seat back has to be angled forward a bit, then the metal tab that the seat backs clip into can be rotated about 90 degrees to reveal a previously concealed extension tab and the seats can be locked into place roughly 5 inches forward of where they normally would have been.

Note: even though it would still be possible to have someone crawl in the back seats with the seat backs in this configuration, it would not be advised (check your owners manual, my suspicion is that MINI probably has specific admonishments about putting people in the rear seats if the cargo position is in use). 

  • Brian

    Great review.

    Did you happen to notice whether the wood steering wheel option is also real wood? ‘The 2007 Mini: In Detail’ (posted 8/14) notes that the wheel has a ‘wood look’ option, which sounds to me like plastic made to look like wood. The rep at the car show indicated that the wheel was made out of the same material as the dash but couldn’t confirm that it was real wood.



  • Brendan

    Nice post Dave. As much as I liked the R53, the seats were the one thing I had a major issue with. I’m glad to hear they are so much better.

  • Jon

    Great to get you view on the Dave. Love the shot that leads the story, nice unique overview of the interior I havn’t seen before.

    The one thing Ive noticed is that the red lounge leather predominates all the shots from the press release. Like the lounge leather but would like to see the normal seats and the sport seats still.

  • Brian

    …For those new to the Mini, is that the stock headliner or anthracite? I’m trying to spec out my R56 and want to make sure I know what I’m looking at.

  • Ben

    In the UK I have seen a fair few of the new MIni and the interior of the R56 is very nice IF you get it in the correct colour. The Red and Black combo imo seems to be the best. The standard silver dash to me looks very plain and looks very ordinary. Difficult to explain, have a look for yourselves when they eventually arrive over there

  • Just an FYI for all you with questions about the R56 – we’re going to have an official R56 Q&A coming up late tomorrow after our review is posted. So if you have any questions about the new car you may want to hold off until then. Also having them all in one place will make it easier to answer 🙂

  • I’m really, really trying to like it. The toggles on the headliner are nice, and I like the “cargo seat position” thing. I still wish there was a way to avoid the center speedo. This could be done on past models with the Nav option or the chrono pak…

  • Ed.

    Is that a sun visor on the driver’s side? Being new to MINI, I didn’t know if that was the way it’s always been or what.

  • The supplemental sun visor on the side was new in 2005. It is there to provide additional coverage for the area of the window that the normal sun visor can’t reach when it is pivoted over to the side window.

  • snid

    Are there pictures of the brushed aluminum interior anywhere?

  • Bilbo Baggins


    Thanks for a great write-up. Well done.

  • robble
    Are there pictures of the brushed aluminum interior anywhere?

    here are some excellent pics of the brushed aluminum:


  • robble
    Are there pictures of the brushed aluminum interior anywhere?

    here are some excellent pics of the brushed aluminum:


    hmm something wierd in posting the comment..

  • Sam


    where is the aux input to use for an iPOD ? I understand it comes standard in R56….

  • Adam


    Below the toggle switches near the cupholder.

    There is a pic of it from someone who went to the Houston Auto Show floating around NAM.

  • rsb

    Dave, any pics of the standard checkered dash and 2 toned leatherette?

  • One bit that IHMO is missing from this review is the center part of the dash (i.e. center speedo and console), which so many people, including me, dislike. How are impressions when you actually see it up close (not for me – I’ve driven an R56 and my personal opinion hasn’t changed a bit – but for others)? I’m hoping that soonish (model year 2008?) Mini will do a redesign of that part of the interior to bring it back to something more like it was in the R50/R53.

  • The center stack is still the low point of the interior for me, paricularly the A/C controls, but it’s totally something I could live with. There is a lot more legroom because of the center stack design. Your leg no longer rest on the side of the stack.

  • BumbleBee

    What about adjustable lumbar support? I got leather on my 04 MCS because that was the only way to get it. Is it available? Leather only? All seats?

  • I too would like to see more pictures of the leatherette!

  • Pingback: Houston | MotoringFile » Archive » R56 Interior Impressions()

  • I too would like to see more pictures of the leatherette!


  • Paul

    The speedometer is absurdly large.

  • We heard the same “absurdly large” comments about the R50/R53 speedo. It’s not that bad in person. Actually, getting back into an R50/R53, that speedo seems small.

  • David98407

    Is there any hope that the red lounge leather will find it’s way into the current convertible for ’08 if not this model year? That seating is beautiful and I don’t want to be required to with the Sidewalk to get that style of seating. The malt is nice but I prefer red.