The original Mini launched nearly 60 years ago to the day. Since then, it’s been completely reimagined by parent company BMW; available in more kit and colour combinations than you can shake a stick at.
But now, MINI wants to simplify the order process. Instead of offering endless individual options, you now pick the packs that best suit your needs. Here, we’re driving the expected big seller: the MINI Cooper Classic.
The MINI was facelifted last year, and while there are no mechanical changes following the trim restructure, all models get a bit more standard equipment. Every version now gets automatic headlamps and MINI-branded puddle lights, while inside all cars boast adjustable ambient lighting.
Buying a new MINI now comprises a five-step procedure. As ever, you’ll first need to choose the model that suits your needs (Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman), followed by your desired engine (One, Cooper, Cooper S). Things differ when you get to step three, at which point you’re asked to select Classic, Sport or Exclusive.
Classic is comparable to Audi’s SE trim; all cars get a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Prices start from £16,190 for a three-door MINI One Classic.
Above this sit Sport and Exclusive. Priced on par with one another, the former gets a racier design, while the latter boasts a more luxury-focused aesthetic. Sport cars get a body kit, bigger wheels, Sports Suspension, special seats and a black headlining. Exclusive cars are set apart by their MINI Yours Lounge leather, bespoke trim and chrome flourishes.
Presumably, MINI still expects buyers to dial in a few option packs; even those coming from more mainstream brands might wince at the Classic’s rather miserly kit list.
Which brings us neatly to step four. There are five packs to choose from, with the £900 Comfort Pack (heated seats, parking sensors, etc) and the Navigation Pack (sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and an upgraded stereo) – also £900 – expected to be particularly popular. Both of these are available as ‘Plus’ packs, adding extra equipment for an additional fee. The final kit bundle is the Driving Assistance Pack, which adds things like camera-based autonomous emergency braking.
At this time of year, the Comfort Pack fitted to our car is worth its weight in gold. The heated seats warm up quickly, and the dual-zone climate control allows driver and passenger to set their temperature just right. The Navigation Plus Pack (£1,110 more than the Navigation Pack) seemed like an unnecessary addition, though, with Real Time Traffic Information and wireless phone charging the only real benefits over the standard pack.
The benefit of the restructure, however, is that buyers can now strike a better balance of spec and engine, depending on their needs. Those after a punchy supermini with less kit are best served by the Cooper S in Classic trim, for example. Those looking for a slower model loaded with toys can choose the Cooper Sport or Exclusive. Frustratingly, you can only buy the MINI One in Classic spec.
Elsewhere, the MINI remains a fantastic car to drive. The suspension is firm, but the trade-off is measurable gains in body control, with sweet steering and plenty of grip. The punchy 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine is among the best three-cylinder units on sale, settling down to a quiet cruise on the motorway.
But while it leads the class for driver fun, it falls behind the very best when it comes to practicality. The 278-litre boot is small, and isn’t as well shaped as the load bay in a Ford Fiesta. The rear seats are pretty tight, too, even in 5-door guise.