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BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Added 11th September, 2014
Not even the most deluded optimist could have predicted quite how successful the MINI has turned out to be since its launch in 2001. The shift to German ownership was handled sensibly and sensitively with the heart and soul of the car remaining British. This time round, the MINI range has excised the flaws with Teutonic efficiency. As they have proved with Rolls-Royce, Bentley and now MINI, the Germans are better at building British cars than we are but a used MINI is more than enough fun to make up for this slightly depressing fact.
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Fresh technology, smarter connectivity and sharper looks are amongst the highlight changes made to this revised MINI 3-Door Hatch model. If you liked it before, you'll really like it now.
It's still a great hatch and the latest changes give it some legs to continue the success story. The prices look very reasonable at the moment, but to get the best from this car, you'll probably want to throw a few high-end options at it, so budget accordingly and take that into account when you're calculating your cost of ownership numbers. The MINI might have grown up but it doesn't look as if it's lost its sense of fun.
One journalist we read of described this Paceman as 'the perfect car for someone else' - and we kind of understand what he means. It wouldn't necessarily suit us, but we know a lot of other people who'd simply love it. MINI calls this a 'Sports Activity Vehicle', whatever that means: we'd simply call it a 'cute-ute', a crossover with a bit of sporting attitude. A larger MINI that can also let its hair down a bit.
According to its marketeers, this isn't a car defined by age or gender - which is probably right. It's as likely to be driven by an upwardly mobile thirty-something man as it is by a retiree or a lady who lunches. Yet another reason why this car is so difficult to pigeonhole. But then, that's probably part of its charm.
What we do know is that this Paceman, the MINI Countryman's younger, sportier coupe cousin, offers something refreshingly different, part Crossover, part hot hatch. And it's perfectly pitched to satisfy those who want a sporty MINI with extra space and style. Just as it was intended to.
In one sense, it's extraordinary that it took the MINI brand so long to bring us this car. After all, over 70% of all sales in the small hatchback segment are of five-door models. In not offering a conventional MINI Hatch with that option, this franchise was missing out on a significant number of sales.
With the extra doors in place and this car in MINI's range, the company's position in the compact hatch sector has changed significantly. After all, in the eyes of many potential customers, the extra versatility of this variant will turn what was previously an un-buyable car into a really credible proposition.
You have to know what you're getting of course. Though the engine range can certainly offer the power and technology you'd get in the best Focus-sized family hatchbacks, the rear seat passenger room and boot space of this model can't quite match the best players in that segment. This MINI gets reasonably close though, priced and pitched to hit a tempting sweet spot between the supermini and family hatch sectors that will suit many buyers perfectly. For these kinds of people, the news that they can have one of these for less than the price of an ordinary Focus or Astra will be music to their ears.
That affordability's key given that high-ish pricing was one of the things that put some buyers off the MINI Countryman model that represented the brand's first stab at five-door motoring. Here though, the sticker figures seem to be right and have been matched with strong British build quality and this third generation Hatch design's classy, endearing feel. Best of all perhaps, the extra length of this variant has done nothing to dilute its fun factor. It's still a great choice for the young at heart.
It's pretty hard to take exception to MINI's improved MK3 model Convertible. It delivers surprising space for passengers and luggage, a stylish roadway demeanour and a customisable fabric roof. This current version has been usefully updated in recent years with fresh technology, smart connectivity, standard-fit front and rear LED lights across the range, plus an advanced dual-clutch automatic gearbox. As before, buyers can pick three cylinder, four cylinder and JCW 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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