#edGY: Review: Mini Cooper Chili F56

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MINI-Cooper-Chili-F56

BMW’s slogan “Sheer Driving Pleasure” certainly extends to its latest offering, the MINI Cooper Chili F56. It is one addictive, superb machine.  

Petrolheads know that driving a new car is almost like a good first date, and test-driving the MINI Cooper Chili F56 does not disappoint. It leaves you wanting more, physically and emotionally.

First impressions count. The F56 — a third-generation MINI Cooper hatchback under BMW — is striking. It comes in nine colours, including red, grey and blue.

The MINI range has always been known for its classic hatchback design and that iconic nose we know and love. The F56 is similar but definitely bigger, meatier and more powerful.

Once in the driver’s seat, a quick glance at the chrome line interior, leather sports seats and tech-fuelled ambience will tell you you’re in for one helluva ride.

The F56 comes with a 1.5-litre MINI TwinPower Turbo engine with six-speed automatic transmission. In other words, it is turbo-charged to give you that oomph with 136 horsepower and 220Nm/rpm of torque.

Like a go-kart, the F56 is playful and promises to deliver on expectations. But at nearly RM200,000 on the road, is it worth the buy?

The look and feel

The F56 is sexy, to say the least, and stays true to the MINI’s chic-retro feel with facelifts, namely huge, full-LED round headlamps with daytime running lights, wide side-mirrors and chrome door handles.

The new protruding wheel arches and slightly sloping roofline give the F56 a slightly sportier look.

Inside, the focus is the central control system, which is jazzed up by the LED lights surrounding the 6.5-inch LCD infotainment display, which is controlled by the dials and buttons by the base of the gearstick.

The F56’s security and safety features include two front and two side airbags and central locking with electronic immobiliser and crash sensor. Other safety features include run-flat tyre and flat-tyre indicators.  

For the vain driver, there’s a mirror large and lit enough for face and hair touch-up.

In terms of space, the F56 feels spacious and comfortable enough, even for long-legged drivers. But backseat passengers are in for a cramped experience.

The boot space is insufficient to fit a 20kg piece of luggage and if push comes to shove, you can pull the backseats down.

It’s all about the drive   

Cruising and speeding in the F56 is refined. The car is smooth and responsive, and has a tight grip on the road. The steering weight is excellent and the F56 takes corners tightly — you feel confident that the car will not swerve and that it is safe to speed at curves (although you shouldn’t).

The compact size and power-to-weight ratio allow zippy and manoeuvrable driving in KL’s traffic and many U-turns.

A rotary switch at the base of the gearstick allows you to select your preferred driving mode and turning this dial is where the fun is.  

The F56 offers combinations of performance and economy. Average fuel consumption is about 4.7 litres per 100km and a full tank will cost you just under RM100.

For maximum fuel efficiency, turning the dial to Green mode shifts the F56 into low consumption driving fun — you lose some power but hey, you’re saving the earth from pollution.

Being an eco-friendly car, the engine shuts off when the car is stationary. But this feature isn’t a pain because a slight press on the accelerator or moving the steering wheel immediately brings the engine back to life.

Want to tear down the road? Twist to Sport mode for maximum go-kart feel. The F56 accelerates to 100kph in 7.8 seconds. It sharpens up, becomes more responsive and promises a serious badass driving experience.  

The verdict

What you wouldn’t dare do on busy KL roads with a lesser car, you’d feel confident and cocky enough to do in an F56.

For sure, the Mini Cooper Chili F56 is a load of fun — just sink in, put a foot on the pedal and drive. But it isn’t priced for everyone.

It is a fun car for two and the perfect machine for that Sunday drive around town with your significant other. As an everyday car, the MINI could lose some lustre owing to its weight and fuel consumption.

If you are willing to splurge, the F56 is no mistake. But if your budget is shy of six figures, there are plenty more fish in the sea.

This article first appeared in #edGY, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 15 - 21, 2014.