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.
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.
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.