MINI Cooper D technology and drive review: Poetry in motion

The MINI Cooper D makes heads turn with its looks, has a thorough infotainment setup that looks great, and is a driving enthusiast's choice. Here's looking at everything it includes.

Published Date
27 - Mar - 2017
| Last Updated
13 - Jun - 2017
 
MINI Cooper D technology and drive review: Poetry in motion

There’s no real introduction needed for MINI, the neat ‘little’ division of BMW. Anyone with a penchant for cars would have noticed time and again the petite dimensions of a MINI - small enough to fit into tight city traffic, yet bold enough to race down open highways. Born in 1959 and bred by descendants of the British Motor Corporation until 2000, MINI was finally taken under its wings by BMW at the turn of the millennium. Original models included the Morris MINI-Minor and Austin Seven, and it even picked up the Cooper tag on the way, owing to its partnership with the forefather of the modern day rear-engine chassis sports car, Sir John Newton Cooper.

The MINI Cooper D has a fairly formidable lineage. The ‘Cooper’ lineup stands tall amidst its Clubman, Countryman and Paceman brethren, and is revered by rally enthusiasts and city commuters alike. The prime hatchback is the latest redesign of the 5-door MINI body, adding 72mm to its wheelbase to accommodate usable rear seats, which is also wider to avoid feelings of limited space. Alongside, it gets a generous dash of technology that is all about jazzing up your ride and justifying its British-German ancestry.

As it turns out, the MINI Cooper D is a lot, lot more than just its looks, or the drive, or the tech that went into making it a cohesive unit. It is all of these, and an extra bit of emotion that tangible elements may not match.

The technology inside
MINI Connected infotainment console - It’s not touchscreen!
At a time when the entire world is running after touch-operated infotainment panels with extensive Android and iOS compatibility, MINI’s large, 8.8-inch LCD display audaciously ignores the need for a touchscreen interface. This may indeed seem a bit odd at first, and you may even end up wishing if only it were touch operated, it would have been a very fluid system to use.

As it turns out, MINI’s obsession with symmetry extends well beyond the tiny elements in the car’s build, and the MINI Connected infotainment system is operated by the MINI Controller - an unsurprisingly circular dial that also operates as a six-way switch, flanked by six switches that are rounded at the edges to maintain continuity of design. Once you get down to using it, you will realise how efficient and intuitive it is to use.

Eight large icons flank the circular graphic dial on the display - Phone, Office, Multimedia, Radio, Navigation, Settings, Vehicle Info and MINI Connected. You can connect your smartphone via either USB or Bluetooth to relay all the information to the central panel, and each of the eight options are colour coded to add more glitz to the console. An LED ring governs the rim of the circular console for the most part, and glows depending on what you are using on the console. Underneath the display, you get a circular volume/power knob at the central axis, flanked by four buttons to select input mode of infotainment services, radio frequency band, and previous/next. Underneath this, in a slight semi-circular arch, you get four preset channel buttons to which you can assign your favourite radio frequencies. These buttons operate on touch, and you can simply swipe on them to shift between channels.

It is here that you realise the beauty and efficiency of seamless continuity. Governed entirely by the circular design flow, you get accustomed to the operations very easily. There is also an effortless synchronisation between sifting through the icons on screen and rotating the toggle, and the way the LED lights up to relay your present setting.

Connecting to the console
You can synchronise your smartphone to the central console via Bluetooth or USB. Synchronising with Bluetooth is fairly easy and seamless, and you can register up to four devices to the console at one go. Apart from USB, you also get an aux port for music playback, and even an SD card slot is present.

As pairing succeeds, the LED rim glows to signify that connection has been made successful, which is functional and aesthetic.

Phone controls
The first option on the infotainment display gives you access to your phone settings, from where you can access your contacts, your recent call log, and a keypad to directly dial from. Even the input panel is placed in circular toggle, but offers dynamic selection to make contact searches easier. With this, though, you will find voice searches significantly easier to operate.

All of this can also be accessed from the MID on the sporty instrument cluster, via steering-mounted controls, which is discussed below.

Office
Office settings also give you the latest messages that you may receive on the go, and info from select contacts marked under office. Operating this is fairly easy, both via the Controller and voice.

Multimedia and Audio Playback
The orange-coded multimedia window allows you to select one of the four connected devices to play music from, and seamlessly allows you to import tracks from your smartphone, including playlists. You get speed-sensing audio, the levels of which can be selected by you. There is also an equaliser for treble and bass, along with audio balance and fader to ensure perfect balance of sound.

The multimedia player interface is friendly and looks quite jazzy, displaying album art and song particulars. You get the standard operation buttons, all navigated by the controller or the steering wheels, along with the two buttons for rewind/fast forward on the central dash.

The 10-speaker audio setup is spread out even across the plush cabin, and creates a wonderful, theatrical aura of warmth and wholesomeness with the sound that it relays. There is a very good punch in the bass, and the clarity of audio befits the MINI Cooper D’s stature as a luxury offering. Mids are well amplified, and the treble is adequately sharp. Optimal volume levels are loud enough for everyone, making this one of the best in-car audio setups that we have heard till date.

While this is good enough by all means, you can opt for a further upgrade and switch to Harman-powered speakers in the car. In all cases, however, you would not require the upgrade, and the default speakers offer well-defined, clear audio, with the plush leather-and-fabric interior adding to the aura that it produces.

Satellite navigation
The integrated sat-nav is dynamic in terms of route adjustment and is fairly accurate too. Once again, feeding information here is easier with voice control, which is what we preferred for the most part. The 3D navigation view allows you smooth view of the road ahead along with 3D structural representations, all of which works well. There is an added touch of suave finishing that ties all the knots here - from the voice-based guidance to how the LED ring reacts as you choose options, everything is well calibrated.

Vehicle settings
Here, you get access to all your in-car settings, including ambient lighting, units and languages, weather details, and more. You also get the mechanical statistics relayed to you, ranging from mean mileage to present suspension balance and tyre pressure.

Accessing is also fairly easy, after you have sifted through the menu once. The slight learning curve here is in getting accustomed to the entire setup of physical buttons and the circular dial, in a world where we have taken to touchscreen operations in the entirety.

MINI Connected
Installed with a permanent SIM inside, the MINI Connected setup has hotlines stored for 24x7 assistance with the car. You get instant access to the MINI helpline in case of emergency, and you also get an app to synchronise to it.

The Connected app suite also displays the forces acting on your car - an intuitive addition for any driving enthusiast. Listed under Forcemeter, it relays statistics to enhance what MINI calls the go-kart handling of the car, and makes for a neat mechanical addition to this heavily feature-loaded car.

Alongside, you get individual trip details, overall mileage, remaining fuel level, last trip details included mileage breakdown and total distance travelled, along with the time taken to traverse the distance.

All of these sensors work in tandem to present a thorough flow of information, giving you complete control over your car.

Rear parking sensors
Here too, contrary to what you would expect, the rear parking camera is an optional accessory, and you get rear parking sensors by default. The sensors show a four-step seismographic display to relay your proximity with the car that is immediately behind yours. The sensors work quite well, although owing to the low stance and the relatively small rear window, it would have been helpful to get a rear parking camera by default. Those who want it, though, can avail one for Rs. 58,000.

Interestingly, MINI also offers an optional HUD (heads-up display) package for an additional cost of Rs. 65,000. This would have been a great little addition to the new MINI Cooper D, and it only seems justified that the HUD is a part of the additional accessory, considering the novelty that HUDs still present.

LED ambient lighting
The entire play of LEDs create a warm, plush ambience inside the MINI Cooper D. Straight off the bat is the LED ring on the central dash that changes colour depending on the choice you make on the central infotainment console, or in the air conditioning and drive modes. You also get multi-colour LEDs inserted into the door crevices for ambient lighting, along with warm lighting to the bottom inserts.

All switches inside the car get red LED backlighting, which are in theme with the lighting on the instrument cluster. The central car lights are operable individually and as a whole, with chrome knobs in two light hubs on the plush fabric ceiling. The inclusion of LEDs continue on the exterior, with white welcome lights on door handles, ORVM indicators and LED headlamps with DRLs that can be switched off from the central console.

Air conditioning
The chrome-rimmed air conditioning knobs look classy, and continue the statement of design about the MINI Cooper D. The central blower has two integrated buttons for air flow control and blower intensity, flanked on both ends by the dual-zone temperature knobs that have ridged tactile feedback.

The blower seems a tad too noisy for a car that is so well refined, and the air conditioner also takes a little while to cool the well-insulated cabin. The circular theme continues with the AC vents as well, which also get rounded regulators to control individual air flow. While all of this is aesthetically appealing, we wish the air conditioning was a bit more powerful. That said, it still gets the job done in most situations.

Instrument cluster and MID
The instrument cluster includes an analogue-like speedometer with a semi-circular tachometer and a stepped, LED-backlit fuel gauge. All of this is mounted on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, and moves as you adjust the rack-and-pinion steering wheel adjuster according to your comfort. The red LED backlighting adds a dash of sportiness to the MINI Cooper D, underlining a sense of urgency with which you tackle the car.

The multi-information display panel includes trip, music and phone details. From the steering-mounted controls, you can make calls from your recently-contacted call list, access trip, date, time and temperature details, fuel range and the currently-playing music tracks, packing in all the essentials into the tiny multi-colour LED strip. The MID is sized optimally, and is efficient engineering and designing by MINI to present all the essentials without breaking continuity.

All of these wrap up the comprehensive dash of technology inside the MINI Cooper D, which not only covers all the essentials, but also gives access to multiple gauges and meters for you to get intuitive details about your car. MINI’s focus with the Cooper lineup is on enthusiastic drivers, and the overall infotainment package and design dynamics ensure that they relay the sportiness that the MINI Cooper D beholds.

Interiors and comfort
Seat comfort
The front seats are undoubtedly the place to be. Designed to ensure that you remain comfortable cushioned in sporty drives, you get a pliant headrest, along with solid side cushioning and a textured backrest that holds you firm and stable in the front seats. You also get additional thigh support with an additional panel that can be extended as well, and you get recline, distance and minor height adjustment for the two front seats.

The interior material is plush all along, with premium leather inserts along the doors, the front dash and the premium, dual-stitched leather seats. Inherently, you sit low in the MINI Cooper D, giving you a flat riding stance, and even after nearly 100 kilometers of driving continuously, you remain poised and the seats ensure that you do not feel discomfort.

The rear seats are solely for two adults, and attempting to sit three in the backseat is not for long hauls. The rear seats are equally premium, although the lumbar support is not extensive for tall passengers. Surprisingly, you can sit a fairly tall person at the back seat with reasonable comfort, with enough knee room as well. You get two dedicated bottle holders in the central column, which is possibly one of the largest central columns that we have seen in cars till date.

Chrome inlays
Along with the extensive LED play producing the plush ambience inside the MINI Cooper D, the chrome inlays play an equal part in it. You get a chrome-laid start/stop switch, coupled with chrome knobs for traction control, chrome rimmed LED strip, instrument cluster, door buckles, and the bright MINI logo on the steering wheel. Additionally, you can also choose to add an external chrome line for added design statement, which of course depends on your preference.

Drive dynamics
All of this is coupled with impressive drive dynamics. The 1.5L, 3-cylinder diesel engine produces 115bhp and 270Nm of torque. While all of this on paper may not seem formidable, MINI has tuned the engine to perfection and it churns out great performance on the road.

This is aided by the wonderfully weighted electromechanical steering wheel that gives heavy feedback on the road. It slightly lightens in the city, and is assistive enough to not make it intrusive in terms of turns. The handling is improved further on the highway, with the steering wheel offering precise feedback on the road. Power delivery is linear, and although there is no real surge, you do not feel out of breath on the highway. You can easily shoot up to 160kph in roads where you can and it does not feel strained. Instantaneous acceleration shows slight senses of lag, but in city traffic, the engine is tuned well enough to offer peppy feedback.

The soft suspension balance ensures great stability on the road, and you can switch between Green, Mid and Sport modes for driving. While Green does give you the best mileage figures, Sport gives the best power delivery, and you actually feel the car offering sportier driving feedback along with nicely dampened suspension, the zippy 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and an overall sense of precise handling.

The MINI Cooper D is a driving enthusiast’s car, and it really shows.

Poetry in Motion
With the symmetry of the circular design language, plush interiors, a thorough play of LEDs, extensive dash of technology and great driving dynamics, the MINI Cooper D really is poetry in motion. It is a car that urges you to sit back and relax, and occasionally, to step on the throttle and hit straight roads. The technology brings it right in line with heavily feature-loaded offerings from luxury competitors, and the MINI Cooper D manages all of this in style, without stepping a single toe out of its prime element - design.

The MINI Cooper D is also not just an enthusiast’s car, it is great fun to ride in, too. The car is incredibly stable, and even at high speeds, not for once do you feel out of depth on road. If anything, you feel important, and that is exactly what the MINI Cooper D is all about. It is not an extravagant head-turner. Rather, it is for those who prefer the rhythm of seamless designs, dynamic drives and up-to-date technology, all synchronised under one roof.

Souvik DasSouvik Das

Sentience.