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Only MINI could have brought us a family hatchback like the Clubman. June Neary checks the second generation version out
Added 9th August, 2019
Third time round, BMW's modern era MINI turned out to be a much more sophisticated thing. This three-door Hatch version is slightly more practical than its R56-series predecessor and feels considerably better built. It's far more efficient too, with the bulk of the range using a punchier range of eager three cylinder engines. And its more sophisticated underpinnings are better suited to longer journeys. In short, this car came of age in third generation form. But does it make sense as a used buy?
When it comes to affordable open-topped sportscars that drive well and are usable every day, the used market isn't exactly swollen with talent. There's the evergreen Mazda MX-5, but beyond that, you'll need to step up to much pricier cars like the Audi TT Roadster. Slotting in between these two was an open goal that this MINI was never going to miss.
A little more extreme than an MX-5. A little easier to own - and much more affordable - than a Lotus Elise, this MINI Roadster was extremely carefully targeted, with a very different appeal to any of the brand's previous soft-top models. Buying one will be an unashamed indulgence, as the purchase of any sportscar should be, the beginning of a driving experience that promises fun without too many hard core compromises. It's the MINI method of sportscar ownership. And you can see why many in this market are going to like it.
We can all argue about whether this generation F56/F55-series Cooper S Hatch is as pretty a car as its predecessor, but there can be no doubt that it was a better all-rounder. It's more spacious, better built, features some fascinating technical features and seems to have been engineered to offer more driving fun on one hand and lower bills on the other.
Just make sure you get a car whose original owner specced it right, with extras like the Driving Modes system and the Variable damping. You might want to avoid examples fitted with larger wheels that bring a crashy ride and automatic gearboxes that detract from the connected feel.
Yes, you could pay the same kind of money and buy a more conventional supermini-based hot hatch. Perhaps the purer, more focused Fiesta ST. Or the more comfortable and relaxing Peugeot 208 GTI. This Cooper S though, arguably delivers an appealing compromise between the two - and feels much more special while it's doing it. It's a MINI to the max. And that's always a tempting thing.
Here is a MINI - but not as you might know it. But then, if it was conventionally sized, this Countryman wouldn't be able to keep existing MINI people loyal when they out-grew their city runabouts and shopping rockets. Nor would it tempt in buyers new to the brand. Customers liking the vibrant SUV-inspired Crossover concept, but wanting it with a little more tarmac sparkle.
This Countryman has done both these things, though at the cost of British style and build. It's as suited to the urban jungle as a Land Rover is to the Amazon. It's a car created for the times we live in. And a Country you could be proud of.
It's pretty hard to take exception to MINI's MK3 model Convertible. It delivers surprising space for passengers and luggage, a stylish roadway demeanour and a customisable fabric roof. This revised version has been usefully updated with fresh technology, smarter connectivity and an advanced dual-clutch automatic gearbox. As before, buyers can pick petrol, diesel and performance versions.
The styling of this revised MK3 model doesn't look all that different, but close inspection will reveal the addition of standard-fit LED front and rear lights, plus there's now extra scope for all-important personalisation. When the folded fabric roof is down, it forms a wrap-around collar around the back seats, rather than disappearing completely. It encroaches slightly into the boot area but despite this, the luggage capacity is these days a reasonably acceptable 215-litres with the roof closed and 160-litres with it folded down. The roof is customisable and retracts in 18 seconds.
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