Pedro Arrais review: Iconic Mini Cooper still tons of fun

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The classic Mini is alive and well — and just as relevant in 2019 as it was 60 years ago.

If you are of a certain age, you might remember the original Mini, produced by British Motor Corporation, which graced our shores between 1959 and 2000.

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The iconic brand was acquired by BMW, which reintroduced the Mini brand in 2001. A second generation was launched in 2006, and a third followed in 2014. For the 2019 model year, it received a minor cosmetic refresh.

I recently was reacquainted with a 2019 Mini Cooper, which now has a base price of $23,090.

Few cars can trace their lineage back as long as the Mini. The only other car that comes to mind is the Volkswagen Beetle.

The Mini, as its name implies, is small — a subcompact in today’s reckoning. It has always been the case, but although it might be small on the outside, it delivers a large dollop of fun for those looking for more than just transportation.

The Mini at one time was one of the more inexpensive modes of transportation. Times have changed. Instead of a race to be the least expensive, BMW decided instead to take it on an alternate route, going upmarket.

Over the past 19 model years it has succeeded, transforming it from basic transportation to a an iconic statement.

Through it all, the Mini has remained a quintessential symbol, with an instantly recognizable silhouette. (The Mini hardtop is now available with two doors, four doors or as a two-door convertible.)

Diehard Mini fans will no doubt be aware of every little change, but for the most of us, the look and feel of the Mini is about the same. (One exception, perhaps, is the optional LED rear taillights, which display the silhouette of the Union Jack when braking.)

The base Cooper comes equipped with a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine producing 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. (The power hungry would opt for the Cooper S model, with a turbo four and 189 hp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque).

Power is delivered to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.

Tall gearing and torque available as low as 1,250 rpm means you rarely have to shift gears around town. Put the pedal to the metal and the little critter scoots to highway speeds with nary a hesitation.

The only complaint is a hint of torque steer (where the wheels pull to one side) under hard acceleration.

At speeds over 100 kilometres per hour, the engine can best be described as loafing, making highway travel actually relaxing (the interior is quite quiet as well).

But it is the side trips to back roads where the Mini really shines. After driving an endless succession of SUVs, the Mini’s low centre of gravity is like a breath of fresh air.

It scoots around corners, turns on a dime and makes for inexpensive entertainment when traffic is light. The seats aren’t as bolstered as some high-end sports cars, but that’s hardly the Mini’s fault at this price point.

Due to its diminutive dimensions, downtown parking is a breeze. Kudos to Mini engineers who have fitted a high-resolution camera to aid in parking manoeuvres.

Although it is listed as a five-passenger car, I would argue against carrying more than a pregnant cat or a small dog in the rear should the front occupants be of average height. On the flip side, the front seats do go back a fair distance to accommodate those with long femurs.

As part of the BMW family, the Mini has inherited many of the excellent interior cabin attributes from its parent company.

The cabin materials are a cut above regular economy cars, with fit and finish rivalling that of its more expensive brethren.

I would argue that the car’s standard leatherette seats would rival leather for durability and ease of upkeep. If you have a pooch that loves to get down and dirty during walks, the material is a godsend.

The central infotainment screen is housed in an oversized round binnacle with a design nod to the original car. All the knobs, dials and switches are either easy to decipher, easy to find or both. A place for everything and everything in its place.

My tester had a Classic Line package that included a huge panoramic sunroof (with a section for the rear passengers as well).

Sixty years is a long time in anybody’s books, and an eon for a car. The 2019 Mini is one of those things that has aged well. Although it is larger than the original, it is still small compared to vehicles on the road today.

But what hasn’t changed is the spirit of fun and practicality, even whimsy, that the new car exudes. It’s not the cheapest, nor the fastest, but it is possibly the most endearing car you can buy today.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Subcompact two-door hatchback, front engine, front-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine, 134 hp at 4,400 to 6,000 rpm,

162 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,250 to 4,300 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Dimensions (mm): Length, 3,837; width, 1,727; height, 1,414; wheelbase, 2,495

Curb weight (kg): 1,191

Price (base/as tested): $23,090/ $26,305 (includes $2,475 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Classic (includes sunroof, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, etc.) $1,300, metallic paint $590, bonnet stripes $150

Tires: 195/55 R16 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 6.2 hwy/8.5 city

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car and roadside assistancee

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