World Car Fans drives the R56

They hated the Italian Job, but loved the R56.

It was hardly broke on the outside anyway, the new MINI is every bit as popular, cute and non-threatening as the original, and there’s only so much they could do without being accused of fiddling for its own sake.

This is BMW at work, the quiet maestro that marks this car apart from French and Far Eastern competition. But they made it fun, too, the interior is light, airy and dotted with adjustable lighting for boys and girls and toggle switches that undoubtedly proved costly yet added so much to the overall experience. Then it all went wrong, everyone got carried away with this cray-zee English funcar and they went and made that speedo…

They even had some nice words about the R56 Cooper.

The base model’s 1.6-litre, normally aspirated engine has barely any more torque or horsepower than the last model with 160lb/ft and 118bhp respectively, so inevitably it feels like its straining at high motorway speeds. But it is more refined than its predecessor and always feels like it’s got something left to give when you floor the throttle.

The engine comes mated to a sweet shifting six-speed gearbox too, which, stirred well and often, helps conceal most of the engine’s shortcomings and help it to 60mph in 9.1s and on to 126mph. Now that’s still not record-breaking pace, but this is the base model.

[ WCF Test Drive: New MINI Cooper ] WorldCarfans.com