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The Top Ten Things We Love About the New MINI (And Five We Don’t)

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After spending a few days with the new MINI we’ve come away convinced that photos don’t quite do the car justice. There’s so much nuance in three-dimensions that is lost in a flat photo where you’re really only getting part of the picture. So we wanted to bring you ten things that we love about the new car that might not be obvious in any of the photos released to date. We’ll then list five things that we’re not so sure about yet.

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  1. The interior quality is dramatically better. Some of this is due to the materials themselves but just as much improvement is due to the design making better use of these materials.

  2. The boot is so much more versatile. Not only is it larger, but it now has a surprisingly useful under-floor storage area with an integrated net. Additionally the rear seats not only fold down flat, but they can lock in a 90 degree position straight up. This provides more storage space in the boot while also creating a barrier to keep items of sliding forward. It’s a nice alternate to folding the seats all the way down.

  3. We think the 18” wheels combined with a higher belt-line, and lower roofline, give the car a more menacing character out of the box.

  4. The rear spoiler on both cars (but especially the Cooper S) is much larger than you’d expect and gives the car a sporting character from rear angles

  5. The optional LED headlights look fantastic in person due to their simplicity. They also offer great visibility.

  6. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. The sport seats are fantastic. They combine more comfort with a more aggressive bolstering to create the perfect everyday MINI seat. What you don’t get in photos, however, is how far improved the quality is over the R50 and R56. The rear seats are better too — deeper and with an altered profile for more comfort. Still not a great place for adults on long trips, but they’ve come a long way since the R50.

  7. The size. Yes, it’s bigger. However, the F56 has noticeably more utility in regards to storage and there’s more room in both the front and rear seats. All in a package that weighs only 60 lbs more than the R56 due to a strengthened chassis and other safety measures. Yet even with that little extra (literal) elbow room, the F56 is still a very small car, especially in the US market.

  8. The optional JCW steering wheel is the best wheel yet from MINI. From the perforated leather, to the shape, it’s simply perfect. It’s not at all too soft or too thick like some BMW M wheels can be.

  9. MINI’s new optional 8.8” navigation screen is a huge improvement in both resolution and color vibrancy. Yet while the software is dramatically improved over today’s system, it’s not quite on par with BMW’s excellent iDrive system.

  10. The engines. Sure we haven’t driven it yet but the idea of the menacing growl only a three cylinder can bring along with great MPG is genuinely exciting. Then there’s the 2.0L four cylinder. Sure it’s only moderately more power, but the increased torque is near JCW levels. And with .4L more capacity than before, just imagine what can be done with a JCW massaged version.

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Now let’s talk about the things we haven’t yet wrapped our heads around.

  1. The rear lights are huge and haven’t gotten any smaller over the last two days spent with the car.

  2. The bumper features a chin that is frankly hard to love – especially in light colors. Darker colors help greatly.

  3. The scourge of the MINI branding – the “S” in Cooper S – is everywhere on the Cooper S. It’s most egregious on the front grille. Look for sticker kits from MotoringBadges.com to at least black this out.

  4. The optional CD Changer (the only way to get a CD in this MINI) takes up almost the entire glovebox.

  5. The clutch. It’s all new, but feel very light. Granted I just played with it in a stationary position, but the clutch on the Cooper S I demoed felt noticeably lighter than the one in our MF 2011 JCW Roadster, and not in a good way.

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Written By: Gabe

  • Frank Granados

    The new engines and interior is where is at for this new MINI. The exterior wrapper and those cartoonish rear tailights are not doing it any favors. Shall we say “LCI”?

  • sugurunishioka

    I’m starting to like the exterior (considering what had to be done for safety standards), but I’m still not sure the brake air duct area and the rear on S were the right approach. I guess the “Justa” always looks classier in any generation.

    I feel R56 got more refined look with LCI. Exterior details made more sense from 2011 on, especially on S.

    I guess they may do something different for JCW from the aero kit they’ve already announced. Looking forward to seeing that in 2014-2015 and S in 3-4 years.

  • SPICYJCWCOUPE

    Re the grill….that black brace (bumper?) across the grill matches where the body color bumper use to be. I’ve seen similar black bumpers in many other latest brands lately. Sure would look better without it but guess it’s really needed.

    As for the large vertical tail lights, I’ve seen a computer generated depiction of the 4 door F55 hatch to debut next fall that had ‘horizontal’ tail lights (a-la-Paceman) that would look much better, giving the back end an even wider lower look! Don’t know if the F55 will have those horizontal tail lights or the same vertical ones as the F56.

    Really like the new sport seats. Still not sure how I feel about the way the tach has been set up as a partial pie wedge making it secondary to the speedo in importance. Think it should be viewed at least as important as the speedo.

  • SPICYJCWCOUPE

    I think that blackout kits will be forthcoming quickly to deal with that chrome horizontal bar above the license tag that stands out like a sore thumb on the F56 S. Would guess it would be less of an issue in that respect on the base model with the chrome horizontal grill. Having the entire grill area blacked out on the F56 S ‘including’ the grill chrome border would make for a huge improvement. I did that on my R58 JCW Coupe & looks great.

  • carcrazed

    Seeing as I have seen the F56 in person, I think the concern over the taillights will dissipate quickly since IMO most people are overreacting about these lights. The front lip on the S is another story and with luck may too over more time become accepted. I hope an aero kit becomes available that corrects the big lower lip, otherwise the design must grow in appeal to avoid a buyer backlash. A lot of the appeal of the MINI has to do with how it drives, and this one is sure not to disappoint! The interior improvements are fantastic.

    • TheBigNewt

      I can raise my 2007 MCS rear seatbacks to 90 degrees. In fact I accidentally stuck somebody back there like that. They didn’t like it.

      • carcrazed

        yes, the cargo position for the rear seat backs is not new, been around since 07

        • walk0080

          I found that odd as well.

          I’ve also had a rear passenger with the seats vertical for a short 20 minute trip. She was not happy but survived. “Pack lighter next time”, I said!

  • bk_r56

    Bad news about the clutch. I test drove a JCW GP, and I thought the clutch was too light in that compared to my old ’07 R56. That sucks if it’s super light.

    • ulrichd

      Is this another issue in response to the low initial quality test scores? Did people complain about the “heavy” clutch feel? Arrrgh.

      • r.burns

        A light clutch would be awful ! Some heavy clutch feel is part of MINI DNA

  • agree

    I think I’m in agreement with everything you mentioned in the article. Seeing it in person does make a huge difference and it still is a ridiculously tiny car. Regarding the front bumper chin dislike in the S trim… if they made it all one color and ditched that “manly” two-tone gray plastic it would look much better.

    I actually expect that to be one of the first aftermarket mods: body colored front spoiler, wheel arch, and side spoiler replacements.

  • ulrichd

    is it my imagination or are the plastic fender flares almost flat on the F56? They seem a bit shapeless compared to the R50/53/56.

  • lawrothegreat

    If you’ve looked at lots of F56 photos (like me), then the R56 and R50/R53 rear light clusters actually start to look small. I’ve ordered the F56 S, but I suspect that the F56 3-cylinger Cooper will actually be the pick of the range (lightness, fuel economy, sound, good enough performance).

  • Gene Leeds

    FYI…the R56 also has the same, move to 90degrees feature already. But obviously they don’t fold flat…well i took them out anyway.

    • sugurunishioka

      And I wonder if the Justa will be a good custom/mod base now it has turbo.

  • Bor

    could somebody who’ve seen the car quantify the rear seat legroom improvement please ? I got two 6/9 year old kids and hope to switch to the F56 from my 07 R56 and not go the clubman or the new 5-door route while still leaving the kids room for growth so to speak :-) … B.

  • Herr26

    Umm… The embargo for the NAIAS concept has now passed…

    • b-

      Just guessing you mean this…

      Mini reveals new John Cooper Works concept ahead of Detroit

      http://www.autoblog.com/2013/12/17/mini-john-cooper-works-concept-detroit-official/

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        It’s been live on MF since this morning http://www.motoringfile.com/2013/12/17/world-premier-the-mini-john-cooper-works-concept/

        • SPICYJCWCOUPE

          Gabe…any idea what kind of material that black bumper band is made of across the grill? Is it steel, alum., plastic??? If it were steel, it would make for a good location to put magnetic badges instead of on mounted backing for a badge within the grill.

          On a completely different note, I know it’ll be quite some time before we see the Countryman & especially the Paceman be refreshed with all the new mechanical & technical features of the F56. My plan was to trade my 2012 JCWCoupe for an S Paceman next fall. But with all the the new ‘bells & whistles’ to be on the F56 & F55 next fall, I’d feel shortchanged to opt for all the current technology of the Paceman as well as the uncertainty of its future per low sales figures. I’ve now become especially interested in going for the fall release of the F55…instead of the Paceman. That could be a very popular model.

  • JonPD

    Not far from where I am with the car personally. I did chuckle wiht “give the car a more menacing character out of the box.” as menacing is the last word that comes to mind for any MINI I’ve ever seen. I have seen so many aftermarket MINI with good performance and decent looks but all MINI’s still fall more towards cute than menacing. Even the GP I had was a nice car but lacked any form of menacing.

  • SPICYJCWCOUPE

    What’s the latest info on when the MINIUSA configurator re the F56 will be available for view/build here? The last I heard was it would be sometime in Jan. Anything more specific than that since it tend to be at dealers sometime in March?

  • walk0080

    Yuck that last pic of the front is pretty fugly IMO. Hate that front “S” batch.

    Love the seats. Why oh why can’t I have those thigh extended supports on my R56? :-(

    Still don’t like the LED headlamps but at least they are not cheap looking like some older Audi or the new MB GLK for example (The new Audi X5 LED implementation look awesome IMO). The xenon projectors with black reflectors are one of my favorite visual aspects of my R56.

  • SPICYJCWCOUPE

    Gabe (or anyone else)….a bit off the subject of this article…what’s are the latest chronological refresh schedule timetables for the various models over the upcoming several years…updating to the new 1.5 & 2.0 liters that the F56 is leading the charge as well as an eventual 9 sped auto?

    The last I heard/read, along with the F55 to come out next fall, the R60 Countryman will also get a refresh (including the new engines?) Will it become the F60 at that time? Where does that leave the Paceman after only 1.5 years of fair to middling sales? Will each ‘refresh’ also mean a change from the R to the F designations?

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      F54 next fall, f55 2015. Check the F55 or F54 sections on MF for details.

      • SPICYJCWCOUPE

        Gabe…do you have the F55 & F54 releases reversed? I thought the 5 door hatch was to come out in the fall 2014 followed by the F54 Clubman to come out in the spring of 2015??

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Yes I have them reversed. Good catch. Lack of sleep :)

        • SPICYJCWCOUPE

          Gabe…would a ‘refresh’ of the Countryman next fall include updating the engine to the new ones as well as many of the other new technological features of the F56, or would all of that have to wait for the ‘next generation’ a few years later??? Would the Paceman be tied to the Countryman’s refresh next fall?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          The R60 will have a 6-7 year cycle. Meanwhile Prince engines will be out of the MINI line-up by 2015 most likely. So either they’ll shorten the life cycle (highly doubt it) or they’ll swap over to the new power plants during the refresh late next year. I’d assume the latter.

        • SPICYJCWCOUPE

          So if what you are saying comes to pass, all MINIS may likely be fitted with the new 1.5L & 2.0L engines beginning with the 2015 model year (ie: next fall). That would make for the biggest change for MINI (other than going from the classic Mini to the new MINI) as the Prince engine disappears in one swoop…or nearly so!

  • Chad R. Cook

    Personally I will miss the center speedometer! This is what got more people to look at my car than anything else. Once they saw that, they started asking questions about the different characteristics. Bring back my speedo!


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1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
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2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
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R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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