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The Mini grows up

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Range-spanning updates show line’s maturation while staying true to its spirit of fun

A BRAND that has always stood for carefree fun gets serious.

Well, okay, just a little more serious.

Mini Asia and local Philippine distributor British United Automobiles, Inc. have refreshed the lineup of the iconic UK marque known for its go-kart-like handling and distinct styling. But maybe “refresh” is too light a term.

In an exclusive interview with “Velocity,” Mini Philippines Sales Consultant Vic Tankeh shared that the official term for the change is “life cycle impulse” or LCI. It’s not yet quite an all-new iteration (which means it’s still part of the fourth generation), but there are enough alterations and additions to glean a new direction from the UK-headquartered brand. “Mini has always been known for being aggressive, cheeky, colorful, and fun. Now, it has matured in a way. You could say it’s probably like an adult person now. It has tamed down the bright colors, and yet it’s boasting new tech.”

Mr. Tankeh, also designated a “Mini genius,” quickly added, “It’s not being serious; it’s still more fun to drive. But you could say that the colorways are more formal.”

The new design cuts across the following models: Mini 3-Door, Mini 5-Door, Mini Convertible, plus the Mini John Cooper Works edition of the 3-Door and Convertible. In a release, Autohub Group (which controls the Mini brand here) President Willy Q. Tee Ten averred, “Mini is kicking things up a notch in the Philippines with its biggest launch to date. With seven new variants across the range, there is a Mini for everyone… These cars are premium, urban, and thrillingly playful. No matter which version you choose, you will see a great leap in modern design, technology and pure Mini-ness while staying true to its iconic, classic go-kart design.”

Mini Design Head Oliver Heilmer distilled it thus, “The new Mini design is more modern, fresher and clearer… All innovations follow a common mission: Purify Mini. Less complexity, more individuality.”

This ethos begins to find expression in the new Mini exterior. “The protection bar in front is now in body color. The hexagonal grille design is now wider, and Mini has stayed away from using chrome items and started using black gloss colors for trimmings. It brings a premium feel to the line,” said Mr. Tankeh.

The Mini decals have also been recast in black in an obvious bid to dial down the Mini’s flashiness. On the front bumper, the additional fog lamps have been supplanted by air ducts that are not merely for show but, maintained Mr. Tankeh, are part of the aerodynamic package. These ducts specifically help exert downforce when the Mini is at speed.

“On the rear apron, Mini added more body color while emphasizing the twin pipe exhaust of the Cooper S — now with a high-gloss black color, of course,” he added. The entire range also gets a fresh palette of colors, along with a unique line of light-alloy wheels. The taillight now has the Union Jack design as standard; same with the soft top of the JCW Convertible. Even the side scuttle and LED design are new.

And there are interesting changes inside as well. A Nappa-leather-wrapped steering wheel also receives black-gloss accents through its multi-button controls. More notably, Mini has swapped the analog gauges mounted on the steering wheel column with a digital instrument display. “It will show you everything you need to know, and it’s very accurate,” insisted Mr. Tankeh. “It still depicts the analog needles, and has very sharp definition.” This five-inch multifunctional display is a standard fixture across all variants.

The digital innovation complements the large circular central display which holds the infotainment touchscreen, which is much easier to control owing to big widgets. The 8.8-inch screen is complemented by a new piano black high-gloss surround, and modern graphics.

Along with its suite of safety systems, the Mini now boasts as standard a Driving Assistant with Lane Departure Warning. This camera-based system recognizes and reports speed limits. “The collision warning and pedestrian warning systems with city braking function make it easier to avoid dangerous situations, particularly in city traffic. Notable features in the Driving Assistant package include Park Distance Control with sensors at the rear and the rearview camera, as well as cruise control with braking function,” said Mini Philippines.

Meanwhile, Lane Departure Warning makes sure that the car stays on course at speeds of 70kph to 210kph. The system reads markings “at the edge of the lane and alerts the driver if there is a risk of deviation by vibrating the steering wheel.” Also included in the Driving Assistant package is a camera-predicated speed and distance control which helps keep the Mini a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Being a premium brand, Mini offers a measure of customization options for its buyers. It will take a few months to have them ready, but it surely will be worth the wait. “Customers have already made reservations,” revealed Mr. Tankeh with a smile.

The new Minis are available at Mini Bonifacio Global City, Mini Alabang, Mini Pampanga, and Mini Cebu showrooms.