Few automotive brands have done a better job at defying conventional wisdom than Mini.
When it first rolled into American showrooms in 2002, the prevailing thought was that small cars wouldn’t sell in a market dominated by SUVs and midsize or larger sedans.
And not only was Mini planning to market one of the smallest products on the road but it was also trying to shatter the longtime link between size and value, as U.S. motorists are used to paying prices measured by the pound and inch.
Now, Mini hopes to repeat its initial success with an all-new version of the 3-door Mini Cooper Hardtop that accounts for nearly 40 percent of its U.S. sales. But the maker is tweaking the formula ever so slightly. The 2015 Mini Hardtop is growing ever so slightly larger, gaining significantly more luxury features – but still holding its base price down at just below $20,000.
“In 2002, we defined the premium small car market. Now we’re redefining it,” said Mini’s U.S. product planning chief Pat McKenna during an interview in Puerto Rico where automotive reviewers were getting their first chance to drive the new 3-door model.
The new Hardtop grows 4.5 inches nose-to-tail, a significant amount for a vehicle so small to begin with. Its cabin is far more refined and lavishly equipped, while adding some classically Mini quirks like the LED Lighting Ring at the top of the center console that glows in various colors as you adjust cabin temperature or turn up the volume. And Mini finally addressed a series of nagging complaints that routinely drove down its quality and customer satisfaction scores. Most notably, it moved the speedometer from the center of the dash to the more common position visible through the steering wheel.
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