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Road Tests

Mini Cooper Automatic, motoring review: The latest mini is fun to drive, fun to be in - and a credit to its heritage


PRICE £16,570 (£24,210 as tested)
ENGINE CAPACITY1.5 litre petrol
POWER OUTPUT 136@4,000-5,000rpm
TOP SPEED 130mph

It's at about this juncture in any review I write about the Mini – that is, at the very start – that I point out that the so-called new Mini, or new new new Mini (now that the BMW version is in its third generation), is anything but a "real" Mini in conception; is an insult to the design integrity of the 1959 original; and has spawned a shameful, appallingly bloated "cross-over" four-wheel drive version made in Austria and called the Countryman. Irritatingly, the latter is selling in unbelievable numbers. Grrrr.

I really ought to stop moaning and move on. After all, new Minis are a lot more common on our roads than classic ones. And so I have – moved on, that is – and I am happy to declare that this most attractive confection of the modern Mini is a perfect town car, and a more or less perfect performance car, too.

This is not the first time that an automatic option has been available on a Mini: the original had the choice from 1965. They didn't sell many, though, presumably because the option was expensive in relation to the price of the car. So it remains. An auto box adds 9.2 per cent to the price of a basic Mini One, and 8.3 per cent on a Mini Cooper, or £1,270.

Is it worth it? Depends on how much time you spend in traffic jams, but it does underline the "fashion"-based nature of the Mini's appeal; there are more economical, better value cars, but to many that is pretty irrelevant, because they haven't got much in the way of style. Someone, somewhere will pay the £24,000 that our automatic test car, resplendent in Volcanic Orange, will cost.

That said, I stress that this is a fine car. The Mini is fitted with a proper (six-speed) automatic box, not a semi-automatic or "automated manual" affair, so it doesn't jerk. Set the performance button to economy and you have the ideal car for crawling through town; set it to performance and you max out on the traditional Mini Cooper go-kart appeal, and more so because you don't have to bother with the gearstick.

So the Mini Cooper automatic actually makes a fine case for itself as a superbly well-engineered, well-finished, British-made car that is a credit to its heritage. That it is fun to drive, fun to be in and fun to own merely adds to the case. I told you I'd moved on.