While at first glance it may look much like every new-age Mini before it, the third-generation Mini Cooper hatch that launches in Australia this week is new in almost every way.

Mini-Cooper-S-5

The new Cooper’s platform, engines, transmissions, suspension, technology, safety features and packaging have been completely overhauled, while Mini Australia has also bucked a global trend by cutting rather than increasing prices.

The 2014 Mini Cooper now costs from $26,650 paired with a six-speed manual transmission and $29,000 with a six-speed automatic, undercutting its predecessor by $5000. While that’s still roughly $1000 more than the old entry-level Mini Ray, a new base model badged the Mini One will join the line-up in the coming months with an even sharper $23,000-$24,000 estimated starting price.

Delayed slightly but due to arrive next month is the Mini Cooper D, which is now $3000 cheaper at $31,800 ($34,150 auto).

Topping the initial launch range and in showrooms now is the new Mini Cooper S, which is also down $3750 to $36,950 in manual guise and $39,300 as an auto. A super sporty John Cooper Works variant will join the line-up in the first half of 2015.

Mini-Cooper-2

The new-generation Mini Cooper is the first production vehicle to use the BMW Group’s new front-wheel-drive small-car architecture. At 3821mm long (3850mm Cooper S), 1727mm wide, 1414mm tall and riding on a 2495mm wheelbase, the Cooper hatch is 98mm longer, 44mm wider and 7mm taller than its predecessor, as well as 28mm longer between the wheels. Mini also boasts a 19mm increase in rear legroom (though is less keen to draw attention to the 17mm decrease in rear headroom) and a 51-litre increase in boot capacity (now 211L).

All three launch engines are brand new, as are the six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

The Cooper’s turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine produces 100kW and 220Nm, up 10kW and 60Nm from its predecessor. Both manual and auto variants are more than one second faster from 0-100km/h (7.9 and 7.8 seconds respectively) and use more than one litre less fuel per 100km on the combined cycle (4.7 and 4.9L/100km respectively).

The gains are less dramatic for the Cooper D, though improve upon an already impressive drivetrain. Its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine produces 85kW and 270Nm (up 3kW), and while the manual now consumes 3.7L/100km (down 0.1L/100km) the auto is the big winner, falling from 5.1 to 3.9L/100km combined. Both sprint to triple figures in 9.2 seconds, improving between 0.5 and 0.9sec from before.

The sporty Cooper S upgrades to a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine that produces 141kW and 280Nm (up 6kW/40Nm). It’s fractionally quicker than before, wiping up to half a second off its 0-100km/h time (6.8sec manual, 6.7sec auto), and while the manual’s fuel consumption creeps up 0.1L to 5.9L/100km, the auto’s falls from 6.7 to 5.5L/100km.

Mini-Cooper-S-6

Where fitted, Driving Modes allows Mini owners to flick between ‘Green’ and ‘Sport’ modes, altering the characteristics of the accelerator, steering, engine acoustics, auto transmission shifts and ambient lighting, as well as the newly introduced dynamic dampers, which can be set to ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ tunes.

A host of other new technologies debut in the third-generation Mini Cooper hatch, headlined by a pedestrian-protecting active bonnet; LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights; head-up display; adaptive cruise control; reverse-view camera; and auto reverse parking.

A key change to the cabin is the relocation of the analogue speedometer, which now sits more conventionally behind the steering wheel. The move has freed-up the centre console to accommodate new infotainment systems, including the 6.5-inch display version standard in Cooper D and S, and an optional 8.8-inch unit that’s operated via a touchpad controller.

Mini has also ramped up the customisation potential of the new model, offering a range of body, roof and mirror-cap colours, as well as decorative trim colours and styles, interior surfaces, bonnet stripes, seat upholsteries, and other accessories.

 

2014 Mini Cooper hatch: Key features model by model

Cooper

1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine

Six-speed manual/automatic transmissions

Stop/start engine

Keyless engine start toggle

15-inch alloy wheels

Auto headlights and wipers

Leather steering wheel

Floor mats

Cloth seats

Manual air conditioning

Bluetooth phone connectivity

Six airbags

Rear parking sensors

Cooper D (changes/gains over Cooper)

1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo diesel engine

Six-speed manual/automatic transmissions

16-inch alloy wheels

Dual-zone climate control

6.5-inch LED centre display screen

Extended Bluetooth functionality including audio streaming

Clear indicator lenses

Front fog lights

Cooper S (changes/gains over Cooper D)

2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine

Six-speed manual/automatic transmissions

17-inch alloy wheels

Front sports seats

Cloth/leather combination upholstery

Black chequered trim

Satellite navigation

Bonnet scoop

Dual chrome tailpipes

Chrome Cooper S side scuttles

 

2014 Mini Cooper hatch range

Cooper manual $26,650

Cooper auto $29,000

Cooper D manual $31,800

Cooper D auto $34,150

Cooper S manual $36,950

Cooper S auto $39,300

Major options

18-inch alloy wheels $2500

Full leather upholstery $2400-$2700

Sports automatic transmission with paddles, launch control and JCW steering wheel $2650 (Cooper S only)

Dynamic dampers $700 (requires Driving Modes)

Reverse-view camera $470 (requires 6.5- or 8.8-inch screen)

Panoramic sunroof $1900

LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights $1500

Adaptive LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights $1800

Driver assistance package with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and high beam assist $1350

Front parking sensors $700

Satellite navigation $1100 (standard in Cooper S)

Navigation Professional with 8.8-inch screen, 3D maps, 20GB hard drive and touchpad controller $1400 (Cooper D and S only)

10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system $1200

Head-up display $700

Super solid paint $400

Metallic paint $800