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[Behind the wheel] BMW’s New Mini both practical and powerful

By Song Su-hyun

Published : July 12, 2021 - 14:44

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The New Mini Family cars are parked in front of a Starbucks store in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Wednesday. (MINI Korea) The New Mini Family cars are parked in front of a Starbucks store in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Wednesday. (MINI Korea)


South Korea has been known as a tough market to crack for global compact car brands. But that’s not the case for BMW Group’s Mini.

Since its debut in Korea in 2005, the premium compact car brand under BMW has posted steady growth rates each year. In 2019, sales volume hit 10,000 units -- a major milestone for foreign car brands here. Last year, the figure grew more than 10 percent from the previous year.

Its latest lineup -- the New Mini Family -- consists of three models, the three-door, five-door and convertible, which feature a sleeker exterior design and enhanced driving assistance system.

Last week, The Korea Herald had a chance to drive the New Mini three-door convertible for about 90 kilometers, from the BMW and Mini Korea headquarters in central Seoul to a Starbucks drive-through in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. 

The New Mini 5 Door (MINI Korea) The New Mini 5 Door (MINI Korea)

My very first impression of the Mini was it was “highly agile.”

The small-size vehicle, 172.5 centimeters in width, about the average height of Korean men, felt easy to drive on narrow roads and change lanes.

Making U-turns was incredibly easy with the Mini especially on narrower roads filled with cars in central Seoul. The compactness of the vehicle made it feel like it was less of an interruption to other cars.

The latest generation of the Mini Twin Power Turbo engines, (straight-three for Cooper and straight-four for Cooper S) which boasts a maximum horsepower of 136 and 192, are more than enough to make the Mini cars “powerful.”

Thanks to the powerful engine system, driving a uniquely designed vehicle like the Mini was double the fun.

On the Jayu Motorway that stretches all the way from Seoul to Paju, driving the Mini convertible at a speed of 90 kilometers per hour with its roof opened in sport mode even offered a kind of thrill.

A range of driving assistance features, the stop-and-go, active cruise control and lane departure warning system enhanced the driving experience as well.

On the highway, with the active cruise control on, it was comfortable to drive at a set speed that maintained a sufficient distance from the vehicle in front.

One drawback was a mild rolling effect due to the low car body and relatively stiff suspension. For many others, this could be an element of fun, but for those who prefer softer and comfortable driving experiences, it could be a minor downside.

The inside of the Mini convertible was more than satisfying, personally. The front seats had large enough legroom and the windshield offered a wide and clear view.

The 8.8-inch circular touchscreen in the center, the Mini’s signature feature, was both attractive and convenient, allowing drivers to easily operate and control the in-vehicle system with their fingertips or the controller on the center console.

The Mini infotainment system however could be bad news for Android phone users as it runs on iOS, thus only supporting mirroring of Apple devices.

Last but not least, Mini has partnered with Starbucks to work on a variety of collaborations for the latest lineup, which seems to be quite effective in luring in the coffee chain’s loyal clientele.

Under a joint campaign dubbed “Big Love” to share joy and diversity, the two popular brands in Korea plan to introduce fresh products and services.

One of the products is a Mini Cooper-shaped Starbucks card exclusive for Mini owners to use at Starbucks shops.

“Under a slogan ‘We are different but pretty good together’ Mini and Starbucks that share the values of joy and diversity in common will bring a variety of collaborations,” said an executive at Mini Korea.

The entry models of the three-door and five-door start at 33.1 million won ($28,900) and 34.1 million won.

The convertible model starts at 43.8 million won.