CAPE TOWN – Mini South Africa recently updated its hatchback and convertible ranges, making various tweaks to the line-ups. And the new technology now on offer plus a fresh batch of tasty options make this product even more attractive than before. We took the Cooper derivative for a drive in and around Cape Town during the local launch.

What's new?

From afar, it may seem as though this facelift has ushered in very little change, but step slightly closer you'll no doubt notice numerous updates. These include new LED headlamps with so-called Matrix technology for the high beams and rather neat LED rear lights designed to incorporate the Union Jack.

Standard equipment now includes a multifunction steering wheel and a 6,5-inch colour screen with USB and Bluetooth interfaces. Furthermore, there are various fresh individualisation options on offer in the form of the "Mini Yours Customised" programme, as well as new Mini Connected and Mini Connected XL  digital services. Ultimately, though, these new features are as much a visual and customisation step forward as they are a connectivity step forward.

Highlights of the customisation programme include the side scuttles, decorative strips for the cockpit facia, LED door-sill finishers and LED door projectors, all of which can feature designs specified from scratch by the customer. An online shop allows buyers to design the visual element of these parts, which are then manufactured using 3D printing and laser engraving. Handily, the next owner will be able to remove these customised parts and replace them with items to their own taste.

Other updates, some of which are not visible, includes lighter alloy wheels and improved claimed fuel consumption.

Behind the wheel

During the launch, I opted for the more run-of-the-mill Cooper, eschewing the chance to spend the bulk of my time with the Cooper S. Under the bonnet beats a 1,5-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol, which still develops 100 kW and 220 N.m. Although this is no match for the Cooper S’s 141 kW and 280 N.m, the Cooper still offers plenty of punch. The result is that it feels planted and nippy, with quick steering, and delivers a driving experience one would expect from a modern Mini.

Although you have the option to rev the engine all the way to 6 000 r/min, it's around the mid range where the most fun can be had. Equipped with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, gearshifts are quick, while the system, compared to the six-speed manual, also allows the driver to relax should he or she wish to.

From the driver’s seat, there is no doubting the unique cabin atmosphere that these Minis offer. The variety of switches plus the combination of colours and instruments make it an exciting environment in which to perform your driving duties.

Summary

The Mini range continues to offer a driving experience unique to the brand. As high-end manufacturers offer clients customisation to an extent last seen in the early to mid-20th century, it is interesting to watch the makers of more relatively affordable products such as Mini embrace buyers' desires to stand out from the crowd.