It is very appropriate that for its latest Mini design incarnation that the brand has decided to hark back to its historic roots to invoke a car which was probably one of the most historically important motor cars of all time — the Austin 7.
Aside from the fact that the original Austin 7 did as much if not more to bring motoring to the masses in this part of the world as the Model T Ford, the name became so influential that it was also used to label the very first Mini ever built.
Indeed when the Mini was originally launched in 1959, the Austin 7 name was still so powerfully evocative in the public mind that it was chosen as the name for the revolutionary small family car. History proves that the Mini name would be the one that took root in worldwide consciousness and it was the long standing power of that brand which h would ultimately persuade BMW to buy it.
The new Mini Seven, however, is not expected to have the same longevity or impact on the automotive world as the original Austin Seven being as it is little more than a special edition version of the Mk III Mini which was launched a mere two years ago. It is called a ‘design model’ by its’ makers.
Now, the whole idea of car personalisation is something that Mini practically invented — outside the realm of specialist one-off pimp-my-ride specialists — and it is, of course, something which is now being copied left, right and centre by anyone else trying to make a buck in the automotive business.
With a range of exclusive colours (Lapisluxury Blue is standard, no less, while you can also choose from Pepper White, Midnight Black and British Racing Green as options) and bonnet stripes (Melting Silver and Malt Brown), as well as a raft of unique ‘Mini Seven’ touches like door finishers and side scuttles, unique upholstery, special alloys and a couple of specification tweaks — and there you have it. Oh, sorry, you also have a Melting Silver roof and mirror caps.
Under the skin, you get, well, a Mini.
Great driving thing that it is, the differences between this version and the other regular Minis is only really cosmetic and, on that basis, you’d have to ask if it is worth the five grand being asked for this Mini Cooper over and above a regular Mini Cooper.
Or, thinking laterally, you have to wonder what you could do with that five grand if you simply applied it to getting some of the options available to add to the regular car.
I think I know where I’d being going if faced with that problem.
As I said, though, the Cooper (and indeed the Cooper Seven) is a great driving machine and while many of those who buy one may never fully appreciate just how good it actually is, let me assure you that that is the case.
Powered by the 1.5 litre three cylinder turbo petrol engine which features across the BMW and Mini ranges (most notably as the ‘internal combustion’ element of the mighty i8) and an excellent little thing it is. You get a sub-eight second 0-100 kph time, a top speed of 207 kph and the potential for a 4.8 l/100 km (58 mpg) consumption return.
Although not creating as characteristically soulful sound as most three-pots — maybe something to do with the turbocharging, I’m guessing — it is still terrifically swift and, allied to an excellent six-speed ‘box — delivers pretty much what any driver from Aunty Mabel to Uncle Deccie would like to see delivered.
Aunty Mabel will like the pottering around characteristics while Uncle Deccie would like to explore what happens between the delivery of maximum torque of 220 Nm at 1,250 rpm and the delivery of maximum power at 4,400 rpm. In both instances it delivers serious driving satisfaction.
And of course we all know that the Mini handles like the sort of car any wannabe racing driver would like to own, making it one of the most fun cars there is on offer anywhere in the free world.
The three-door layout does make access to the back seats a bit tiresome and those run-flat tyres are a pain in the ass, but other than that there are few complaints from this quarter about the Mini Seven — apart, of course from the cost factor.
¦ The Cost: from €26,490 - €32,247 as tested.
¦ The Engine: surprisingly racy 1.5 litre three-pot.
¦ The Specification: excellent, but add-ons rack up the shekels.
¦ Overall Verdict: do people really get very excited about fancy-dan paint jobs?
¦ Star Rating: ***
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved