We’ve got a world exclusive for you today. First impressions and a first drive of a pre-production 2007 MINI. You’ll see a lot of R56 “spy shots” in the coming weeks and months from the automotive press, however you won’t get other first hand accounts like this. While we obviously can’t say where they come from, we can verify that both are 100% legitimate.

>Just thought MotoringFile readers would like to know I’ve been driving around in a new R56 Cooper for several hours and my first impressions are ‘it’s great’!

>The new interior is superb, the dash and controls are all there and function much the same as the current car apart from the integrated radio which has an iDrive-ish sort of operation. Seats are quite different from the current car, (not sure about the design) but time in the car will tell. Interior gadgetry is all fine and functional, but it would take a while to get used to.

>The new engine is quiet and free revving. I’d say better than the current unit for smoothness and zip. All the handling of the current MINI is still there, but has this was a very low mileage car (and the roads damp and greasy), I didn’t really feel comfortable pushing it too hard.

>All in all its a fine car despite the obvious bits which are not production spec yet (and certainly not based on production tooling).

We also managed to get another first hand account of the new R56. Here are a few more interesting bits of information.

With regards to final styling, we’ve been told that the r56 does indeed look close to this recent Auto Bilde rendering. Apparently the car is slightly larger in most dimensions. Also of note, the bonnet vent on the MCS will resemble that of the Tokyo concept wagon, meaning there will be no plastic insert. This is the first we’ve heard of this so at this point there’s no confirmation.

According to our source the MINI plant in Oxford has already built about 20 R56 MINI test mules and is planning on finishing up to 50 by Christmas. That’s 2-3 a day!

We should have further information on the next generation MINI in the coming weeks and months.

For those keeping score at home, yes, the photos above have appeared on MF previously.