The new Mini F56 Cooper and Cooper S have been on sale for a couple of months now, which I drove and reviewed back in March to positive reviews and Mini Middle East kindly lent me a F56 Mini Cooper to drive for Mini Club Dubai‘s roadtrip to Hatta.
First off, I was torn between leaving behind my trusty R56 Mini John Cooper Works “Pocket” (above) which would be missing out on the club roadtrip, however I thought it would be great to see what the new Mini was like to drive in a variety of conditions, city traffic, motorways and confined spaces and too good an opportunity to turn down.
The Mini Club Dubai met up at in Festival City and we set out from there through the traffic and roadworks in Sharjah and onto the Sharjah/Kalba Road to Hatta.
The F56 Mini Cooper I had been lent, came with the satnav option which was handy, but was otherwise fairly standard.
The turbocharged 1.5 Litre 134bhp engine is, as discovered in March, surprisingly very responsive, albeit I drove mostly in Sport Mode which is selected by shifting the base of the gearlever to the left. There are 3 driving modes, Sport, Mid and Green. We’ll talk about Green mode later. 0-100kph is around 7.8 seconds. The engine is smooth and maybe more refined than before and has great acceleration throughout the rev range/gears.
The Mini feels and handles brilliantly for a standard Cooper on 16 inch alloys. It still feels like a Mini to drive, but of course is bigger all round. During the conjested roadworks and bumpy surfaces on the way out of Dubai, it still felt nimble and agile as the outgoing R56.
Out on the Sharjah Kalba Road leading the convoy, the F56 cruises well, the seats are brilliant, with adjustable bolsters underneath your thighs and far more hugging than the standard R56 seats. the ergonomics are better, with the speedo and rev counter behind the steering wheel (though I dislike the fuel guage indicator, it’s one of the few touches that looks cheap).
The interior has such a higher quality feel about it and certainly a big step up from the R56 and R50. This Mini also had the interior lighting package where you can change the colour of the ambient lighting.This model also had a matt carbon fibre finish.
The door window switches have moved from the central base to the doors, which whilst a more common sense position, you do have to bend you arms back to activate them.The sat nav works in the same way as the R56 but a lot bigger, with the zoom level going down to 25m compared to the R56 at 100m. Twisting the dial clockwise zooms in unlike before. Because of the width of the new screen, you can have a split screen option retaining the sat nav and having your music graphics showing adjacent to each other. Clever.
Music and volume controls are on the opposite side of the steering wheel which confused me quite often. Also as you skip music tracks, it also comes up on the speedo. AC is now dual zone, and was certainly in full use throughout the drive!
In the twisty mountain roads, I pushed the F56 hard around the bends and up the steep climbs without any difficulty and it kept up with it’s R56 JCW’s and Cooper S cousins.
After lunch at the Hatta Fort Hotel, we made the short drive up to Hatta Dam for some spectacular views. this presented further challenges as the road on top was barely wide enough for 2 cars.
A few 10 point turns were required. The F56 Mini had rear parking sensors and a display on the screen. There is an optional extra to have a rear camera too which wasn’t fitted.
Following the Dam visit we headed back through the mountains and returned to Dubai. At this point, fuel was looking a bit low, and so after being stubborn for a while, relented switched the Mini into Green mode.
Instantly the car feels different, with adjusted handling, with longer gear ranges on the automatic box that this model has. It saves on fuel significantly (the digital range increased) though clearly not a normal issue in this part of the world.
After dropping Daniyal off at Mini AGMC, I popped over to The Palm to get a few shots of the F56 at sunset to finish off the day.
Overall I was very impressed with the F56 Mini Cooper. It would be easy for it to be overshadowed by the 2.0 litre Cooper S, but the Cooper is a great improvement in terms of driveability and equipment whilst retaining and improving the go kart feel of the R56 and R50. Yes, it’s bigger and maybe lost some of it’s retro charm, but it’s matured and is still a Mini at heart.
As stated in my March review, I thought the cleaner lines of the Cooper front end look far better than the cluttered Cooper S, however it does need 17 or 18 inch alloys to fill out the proportions a bit more.
Many thanks again for Daniyal from Mini Middle East for accompanying the trip and fielding questions from the Mini Club Dubai and to Mini AGMC for the loan of the F56 Cooper. Full gallery of the Mini Club Dubai Roadtrip is here.
Great car, and good upgrade, but I will stick with my 2013 Mini R56 John Cooper Works for now (it’s a year old after all and I love it) and maybe, just maybe in a couple of years time I might have a look at the new F56 John Cooper Works.
Have you driven the New Mini F56 Cooper or Cooper S? Let me know what you think…