In January of this year, MINI introduced the facelifted version of the popular hatchback and convertible models. The update for the MINI Hardtop 2 Door, the MINI Hardtop 4 Door and the MINI Convertible includes some slight design updates, new drive technology, additional customization options and an expansion of the digital services available as part of MINI Connected.
So to sample the latest update from MINI, we headed to Mallorca, Spain where we had the chance to drive two of the facelifted models – a Cooper S three door with a manual transmission and a Convertible with the new dual-clutch transmission.
The visual changes on the refreshed MINIs are mild, therefore the first thing one would notice are the redesigned headlights. In the standard halogen headlights, a striking accentuation is added by means of a black panel. In the LED headlights available as optional equipment items, the lights get an entirely new design. The LED daytime driving light and the turn indicator light are generated by a ring which surrounds the entire contour of the headlight.
The rear lights also feature a new design in conjunction with the optional LED headlights. As a clear reference to the brand’s British DNA, the upright light units at the rear now appear in a Union Jack design. The turn indicators are horizontally arranged and the brake lights are vertically aligned, with the tail light additionally representing the diagonal lines of the British flag.
Another visually minor update, but important in our opinion, is the new MINI logo which represents the refreshed identify of the brand as well. The logo is a re-interpretation of the existing logo and now features a two-dimensional “flat design”.
Other updates include wireless charging, logo door projection and a new 6.5” display included as standard. Some really attractive and fresh 17-inch alloy wheel designs round off the new facelift model.
The 2018 MINI Cooper S that we tested on the first day was painted in the all-new Solaris Orange metallic, a vibrant color which matches perfectly the sunny Mallorca and its beautiful scenery. In a true MINI spirit, the Communication folks at MINI decided to let us row our own gears and truly have a cool driving experience.
The island in the middle of the Mediterranean is one of the most popular holiday destinations for Europeans, with Palma International airport seeing nearly 30 million passengers pass through its doors in any given year. With that, also comes a large number of cyclists who can make driving for others quite difficult. So extra focus is required, while trying to still enjoy the curvy roads hugging the coast line and deep into the mountains.
The snippy 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine has been revised, with a new turbo, high-pressure injectors and a louder exhaust system. there’s more power and grunt at lower revs. The engine continues to delivers 192hp and 280 Nm of torque, offering the same MINI driving dynamics we got accustomed to.
On driving the Mini Cooper S, we immediately noticed the car’s agility and razor-sharp steering where small inputs result in larger movements, which is something we always prefer in our cars. It gets even better when you pick the fans’ favorite Sport mode where everything gets stiffer and sportier, from the steering to the chassis and suspension. It truly is a heavy and responsive steering wheel which gives the impressions that you’re turning the wheels quicker than you actually do.
The 6-speed manual is definitely the choice for any MINI enthusiast, and you’re even getting the automatic throttle blip function which helps you get the right RPM before shifting. It’s fair to say that the facelifted MINI with the manual gearbox is just so much more inclusive and you’re constantly part of the driving experience.
Through the curvy and playful mountain roads, the new MINI S Cooper is eager to please with its perfect turn ins, grip and low center of gravity. You’re getting that MINI go-kart feel that the company takes pride in and at every corner you’re getting rewarded. One other thing we’ve noticed is the lower tail spin which basically allows us to stay longer on the gas when cornering.
As mentioned earlier, the most fun driving configuration comes in the Sport mode, which firms up the steering, sharpens the throttle response and stiffens the suspension. Of course, in a stop-and-go traffic, you can always downgrade your sporty experience and enjoy a calmer ride.
The following day it was time to fully immerse ourselves into the Mallorcan experience which calls for an open-top automobiles to cruise around. So before we headed out to the airport, we spent the next few hours aboard a Starlight Blue Cooper S Convertible equipped with the new 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission.
It has now been a couple of years since we sampled the cabrio version of the Cooper S, but one thing that stood out instantly was the rigidity of the chassis. At times, even with the roof up or down, the convertible exhibited the qualities of a true hardtop, so it’s impressive that the engineers managed to keep that stiffness into the open-top model.
There is not much to say in terms of driving dynamics since it mimics the one in the Cooper S 3-Door, but of course, with the more stylish and cool look of a cabriolet. If you live in a year-round sunny area, then the MINI Cooper S Convertible is the one we would pick, knowing that we won’t sacrifice much in terms of driving dynamics.
Together with the dual-clutch gearbox, a new gear selector lever has moved in, which looks more modern and sportier than the previous version.
The 7-speed DCT allows gear changes without interrupting the traction effort, because two partial transmissions are paired in a common housing. Two oil-cooled wet clutches are the core of the system and connect the two partial transmissions. With a gear change under load, a simultaneous opening of the one and closing the other clutch allows extremely fast switching operations without interruption of traction.
When driving slowly in city traffic, as well as when parking and maneuvering, the DCT changes into a comfortable creep function, which facilitates smooth starting.
It will come down to your personal preference when choosing between the two gearboxes, and if you live in the US, you won’t have that choice for a while anyway.
Overall, the facelifted MINIs have subtle changes on the outside, but there are plenty of small upgrades and new features that will ensure that the MINI hipsterish and sporty experience lives on. The Cooper S especially continues to be a potent hot hatchback, which now gives customers even more premium materials, new cabin tech and a more refined drive.