As part of its radical rethink of the interior, MINI has killed its iconic start/stop toggle switch and replaced it with something that we never thought we’d see again. A key. Sort of.

MINI has done away with its iconic start/stop toggle switch and replaced it with a switch that harkens back to the original 1959 classic Mini. The switch is designed as an homage to the key that you’d turn to start the original Mini.

While tie motion is the same, this new version is fixed and doesn’t even get removed. It also can operate by either turning the switch to the left or right. That means if the car is off you can start it by twisting the “key” to either the left or right. The applies when the car is on as well.

Why the change? It’s a call back to the original Mini as is the entire interior. Yes it’s full of new tech, but MINI designers have gone out of their way to base the interior of this new generation of MINIs (and especially the Cooper) on the original from 1959 . The speedometer might be replaced by a giant circular display, but the layout and the control design below it are extremely similar.

In fact if you look at that original Mini interior and the J01 you’ll see a striking similarity in overall design and focus on simplicity. That’s no accident. MINI designers actually started not with a clean sheet but a single photograph. A press photo of the original Mini interior in all its simplistic glory.

Like the original there’s a center strip that houses most of the car’s controls. In the new MINI these are thankfully still physical switches, levers and buttons. But there are a few very new ideas in these controls.

The MINI fob has grown slightly in size and lost it’s rounded shape.

The new gear lever for example is a major departure as it both moves from the center console to the dash and sees a radical redesign. In our hands-on experience, it makes a lot of sense in the real world. The manual is gone and a lot of the new models are electric. So why not not rethink the placement and design to make it more intuitive?

In total this area includes controls for the parking-brake button, gear selector, volume knob, on/off toggle, and Driving Experiences selector. Below that are several other safety related buttons and the defrost functions. But in our mind the biggest change is that key.

What do you think? Does this change feel right given the MINI’s history? Or do you prefer the F56’s large toggle switch instead? How about the R56’s start/stop button or even the original F50’s key? Let us know below.