2021 Mini facelift review – if it ain't broke…
We've driven the Craig David goatee car
The third-generation Mini must hold some sort of record for the longest a car's been on sale. This particular generation came out way back in 2013, and it's had more facelifts than Cher. We've just got back from driving the latest 2021 cars (that's the second facelift, if you're keeping count), and the news is largely good.
Not a colossal amount. It's worth pointing out that most of the changes below have been applied to the 3-door, 5-door and Convertible Minis, as well as the electric one.
The biggest tweaks are to the front end, which gets a new bigger black-rimmed grille which looks for all the world like Ming the Merciless' moustache, or Craig David's goatee, if you're a fan of dodgy early-noughties garage. This grille encloses a new body-coloured panel, and a bevy of tidy grilles. The foglight/DRL clusters are consigned to the bin.
Black Mini badges are now standard
You'll also notice all chrome has been replaced with shiny black bits – because most Mini customers did this when given the option anyway.
As well as the droopy black grille frames the new Mini gets black headlight innards. Note that there's not a front foglight cluster to be seen
Around the back the changes are smaller. Range-topping JCW models get a bigger rear diffuser, and most models get a tiny LED strip that serves as the foglight – the smallest on any production car, apparently. Exciting.
How about the inside?
The changes inside are more noticeable – pick a higher-spec model and you get a new Nappa leather steering wheel, which – sadly – goes a bit too BMW and is just a smidgen too thick. It also gets slightly wobbly cheap-feeling direction arrows for changing the volume and adjusting the adaptive cruise control, which can now bring you to a full stop in traffic. The lane-keep assist will now wiggle the wheel to alert you to your erring course.
The wheel's a bit too thick and the wheel-mounted buttons are a bit wobbly and plasticky compared to before
The central infotainment screen is more bezel-less than before at each edge, and the numbered buttons under the screen are now feedback-less touchscreen-type ones. The user interface has been jazzed up with new graphics, but it's still easy to use and – really – is exactly the same as before, just with some new colours and shapes.
The infotainment's been re-skinned with new graphics, and the buttons in the bottom half of the circle are the capacitive sort
Mini's trademark coloured swoop of colour-change light around the central screen now has a cool graphic EQ motif (or maybe it's a city skyline), which looks great. But that's really about it.
How does the updated Mini drive?
Almost identically to before – which is to say, really quite well. We drove the updated 3-door hatch in JCW form, and it still puts a huge smile on your face thanks to the way its 231hp 2.0-litre engine pulls you out of corners, and the way the chassis feels more than happy to kick the tail out a little if you drive it like a bit of a genital with the stability control in 'dynamic' mode.
The only real change to proceedings is the altered dynamic damper option – which sadly we didn't get to try. This is said to be better at taking the sharper edges off bumps than before. But even on the standard passive setup, the JCW didn't annoy, even on bumpy B roads.
The steering still feels nice and direct, although the thicker steering wheel does make it feel a bit like you're wearing an extra hand condom when you're being a bit of a helmlord.
The convertible is still fun to drive – be sure you can cope with the tiny boot though
We also tried the updated Mini Convertible Cooper S, although sadly not in the new Zesty Yellow – an M4-esque searing lemon colour that's only available on the convertible. The Convertible is still comfortable and doesn't shake your teeth out over bumps, and it's still an enjoyable car to drive quickly on the road, although you do sense it's a bit heavier than the 3-door. It grips well but isn't given to quite the same level of lairiness when you chuck it about.
Anything else I should know?
Mini's introduced a new personalisation option called the Multitone roof. This is essentially a three-colour gradient fill for the top of your car. It's a process that requires three robots to spray three layers of different-colour paint on top of the roof. Apparently it took four years to develop the wet-paint-on-wet-paint technique, and the production-line robots had to be modified so they could reach the roof more easily for the 60 seconds it takes to spray on. It looks quite nice in person.
This is Mini's new Multitone roof – it looks cool up close, and each one will be slightly different
You can also get your Mini with a gizmo to unlock and start the car using your phone – the idea being that you can set it up to work with 10 people's phones, so you can share a car between flatmates, colleagues or children – if you're brave. People can book slots using an app to avoid arguments between teenagers over whose turn it is to cruise to McDonald's at midnight.
Should I buy one?
This is a bit of a pointless section really, because if you want a Mini then nothing else will quite hit the spot like… a Mini.
It's as good to drive as ever, with a few more feel-good features in the cabin. It costs £16,000 for the cheapest-spec 3-Door, but you'll likely want to spend around £23,000 for a decent spec Cooper S. Convertibles cost from £21,000 and the Electric will set you back around £28,000.
So they're not exactly cheap cars, but it always was thus – and few other small cars have such a well-rounded premium vibe as a Mini.