A Mini has always looked like, well, a Mini, but the 2021 model year brings one of the bigger aesthetic changes we’ve seen from the brand. The front bumper and grille, the side scuttles behind the front fenders, the wheel arches, and the rear bumper have all been changed, and there are tweaks to the door handles, badging, fuel filler cap, and exhaust pipes.
Most noticeable is the change to the bumper, with the grille-insert now colour-coded rather than black. LED headlamps are standard, along with Union Jack-detailed taillights. Mini has also removed the fog lamps, replacing their functionality with a new headlamp element it’s referring to as the “bad weather light” that is also standard fare.
The other big change is the multi-tone roof option on the new models. The automaker points out that it popularised the contrast-finish roof idea, something other car companies have since adopted. Now, it’s jumping ahead to this blended finish version, which transitions through light blue, dark blue, and black. Mini makes it by spraying on the different colour paints while they’re all still wet, creating a unique gradient on each car.
There is also a Gloss Black package, with piano black exhaust finishers and the rest of the exterior chrome switched for black trim instead. New wheels are being added to the range, and there’ll be three new colours available. Rooftop Grey and Zesty Yellow are brand new, while Island Blue was previously only available on the Countryman.
Familiar but new is the same theme inside the 2021 Mini range. There’s a new steering wheel design, with a Union Jack element at the lower spoke while new upholstery options, including a cloth leatherette in black pearl with a light checkered finish, make an appearance.
The dashboard has new surfacing and vents. The 8.8” infotainment touchscreen is now standard across all 2021 models, replacing the old 6.5” version. The system gets new software and an updated interface with different UI modes, too.
The Mini One’s power and acceleration figures don’t jump off the page, but that hides some truly sublime qualities.
For starters, the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that powers the Mini One and Cooper produces 75 and 100 kW respectively, while the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine generates a maximum output of 141 kW in the Cooper S. The John Cooper Works models have a feisty 170 kW on tap.
Arguably the best quality in Mini’s performance arsenal is its steering. It’s racecar-quick and has some of the best feedback and loading quality of any electric power steering system I have used. The result is that, despite being only marginally smaller than a Golf GTI, the Mini Cooper S feels like a racing go-kart half the size of the VW.
On back-roads, this makes the Mini more fun than ever. The problem is that the Mini Cooper S just can’t give up on the go-kart impression, even on the daily commute. Not that we’re complaining, though. And the tamer yet fun-to-drive One and Cooper models? Well, they too are perfectly competent at putting a smile on your face during inner-city stints.
Mini One, Cooper, Cooper S and JCW pricing
- One 3-door R 424,554
- One 5-door R434,968
- Cooper 3-door R489,654
- Cooper 5-door R500,068
- Cooper S 3-door R564,058
- Cooper S 5-door R574,058
- John Cooper Works 3-door R668,124
- Cooper SE 3-door R686,400