Me and Mini have both grown up

By Liz Dobson

A selection of Minis - just make sure parking is secure. Picture / Ted Baghurst
A selection of Minis - just make sure parking is secure. Picture / Ted Baghurst

One of my first cars was an orange 1976 Mini that was stolen - twice - by a 14-year-old fanatic of the British car.

The first time the underage driver stole it from outside my garage-less Auckland flat one night, he put a new stereo in it, upgraded my tyres and spray painted the sides of it with Michael Jackson song titles.

A police patrol found it, as well as a near car yard of stolen Minis outside the teen's home, and reunited me with my car - only to have the Mini fanatic steal it again that night ... and write it off in a joy ride alongside a railway track.

Over the years when I've tested Minis - including a 1993 Cooper and the second generation new-look Mini at its Spain launch - I've been wary of where I park it.

So with the gen-three Mini Cooper in my possession this week there was only place for it - doors locked inside my bolted double garage. I wasn't taking any chances.

My entry-level Cooper came with a new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox and was priced from $36,200 (add $3000 for the auto).

Being the third manual I'd tested in about a year, which says a lot about Kiwi buying habits, it took me a couple of chunky starts at traffic lights to remember the finesse of changing gears.

To help with the gear change, there was a digital read-out below the speedo that told you when to move from fourth to fifth gear to give the engine optimum output.

On the motorway, the car sat comfortably in fifth gear with sixth only required when I needed to overtake.

The entry-level Cooper came with 16in alloys plus fuel-saving stop-start technology, with the central dial illuminated around the edge green when it was in action or red when accelerating.

The engine gets a 10kW, 60Nm increase over the previous petrol version, while externally the bonnet and grille gets a hefty liftup over gen two to give it a prominent appearance.

While initially the larger front headlights appear animal-like, with the daytime running lights on the Mini had a more grown-up look.

- NZ Herald

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