In the dozen years since BMW first revived the Mini name for the 21st century, the brand has enticed a parade of converts to its showrooms with a modern-sized reinterpretation of its quirky style. For the third generation revealed today that hits dealerships next March, Mini changes all of its particular ingredients while keeping its basic formula intact — even though the newest Mini is less mini in most dimensions.
With increased competition from lower-priced compacts around the world, Mini was overdue for a full set of mechanical updates. The changes start under the bonnet, where the 1.6-liter engine has been replaced by a 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder, good for 132 hp and 170 ft.-lb. of torque. The Mini Cooper S gets a 2-liter four-cylinder turbo with 189 hp and 221 ft.-lb. of torque, enough for a sprint to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. Each can be yoked to either a six-speed automatic or manual, both described as new by Mini.
Inside, Mini follows the pattern of all modern compact cars by growing less compact; it's gained 4.5 inches in length and 3 cubic feet of interior space. Much of Mini's appeal lies in its interior design, and here as well the Cooper has been upgraded rather than redone; there's a LED band around the circular center dash, which changes color based on driving mode. Instead of a key or stop-start button, the engine comes to life via a Mini toggle switch.
The fascia also gets its own optional LED rings, a first for models in this class, which gives the Cooper's front end a slightly more surprised look. Otherwise, the new Mini Cooper looks much as the old one did — and until there's proof to the contrary, that's likely exactly what Mini buyers want.