Despite the historic significance and attraction of the Cooper S model, the entry-level three-door Cooper remains the top-selling version and we requested the $29,990 (plus on-road costs) six-speed manual to fully immerse ourselves in the driving dynamics. BMW, however, chose to supply the seven-speed dual-clutch auto-equipped version, adding $2500, and then delved deeply into option kits, adding more than $15,000 to our test car – now $47,450 before registration.
Individuality is key to the Mini, which follows the spacious, cube-like cabin architecture of the original – only now, it’s physically as large as many small cars. Reinforcing its emotive difference is a busy cockpit and a dashboard bristling with retro-styled gauges and classic rocker switches, effectively fronting a full suite of modern interactive electronics.
Press the starter button and there’s a sense of awakening provided by the $2200 Multimedia Pro package, including voice activation, glowing colours circling the 8.8-inch high-resolution touchscreen, 12-speaker audio and an elegantly rising head-up display.
It’s a distinctive but also very tactile environment for drivers, in this case with added comfort from the $1700 leather-trimmed sports seats. There is, however, decidedly awkward lumbar adjustment for both of the manual front seats, an obstructive centre armrest, and a clamber to access the rear seat. Surprisingly, four adults can sit comfortably once they’ve climbed in, with a small amount of luggage space available in the rear. Access to the front seats is notably easy, and vision on the road is excellent, although near-vertical windscreen pillars take some getting used to.