New MINI first look: iconic car is back with a unique tech twist

Most new cars arriving on UK roads now feature giant tablet-style screens which instantly show sat-nav directions, what’s playing on the radio and let you switch on an array of in-depth settings. These iPad lookalikes clearly offer an abundance of data but they aren’t exactly thrilling to use on your morning commute to the office.

In fact, most of the recent motors we’ve tested are pretty bland with the screen acting more like a boring personal PC than an in-car entertainment system. They can also be packed with so many features you need a technology degree to understand them.

That’s definitely not the case when you hop inside the new MINI. This iconic car has had a full reboot and Express.co.uk has been one of the first to take it for a spin on UK roads.

Climbing inside the latest MINI Countryman you instantly get an overwhelming feeling of fun with this car getting a colourful eco-friendly fabric interior that feels lively yet super refined. Touches of rose gold metal add to the premium feel and there’s no huge dashboard in front of your eyes with a simple head-up display (an optional extra) showing just your speed instead.

It’s a really nice place to be and it’s been made even more appealing thanks to the star of the show – a giant OLED screen that’s completely circular.

MINIs have long had a rounded design for the speedometer and other information but this is the first time these vehicles have got a fully interactive and pixel-packed panel. Not only does this 240mm display dazzle, but it’s also buckets of fun to view and really easy to use.

MINI has included a neat “Experiences” button under the screen which instantly switches things between numerous styles and modes. There are options such as Go Kart – Green – Timeless – Trail – and even a Personal Mode which lets you add your own personal images to the bright screen.

Each mode completely transforms the display and there are even interactive sound effects to let you know what’s been selected.

It might sound like a bit of a gimmick but it’s genuinely fun to use and makes switching things up super simple.

Each mode also changes the feeling inside the car. For example, pop it into Go-Kart Mode and the display and interior switch to anthracite and red colours. In Vivid Mode, the ambient lighting is based on the colours of the album cover of the current music playback.

Trail mode, which focuses on the driver’s desire to discover, is unique for the MINI Countryman and displays an image of the car and how it’s coping with the terrain around it. Timeless Model offers a blast from the past with the panel getting an original retro feel rather than a modern twist.

The other thing we noticed during our time with the car is how intuitive the display is. It only took a matter of minutes to work out how to fill it with the Sat Nav, pump up the heating and get our favourite tunes playing.

Like most modern motors, it’s fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and even includes the time-busting AirConsole mode.

This app, which works when the car is parked, transforms the screen into a games machine with owners then using their phones to control the on-screen action. There are over 13 titles – including Go Kart Go, Golazo and Music Guess – currently available to play although you do have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use it.

MINI’s own personal assistant will help you find things without digging into endless settings and the controls you use the most are always placed at the forefront of the screen making them easier to find.

We had around an hour in the blisteringly quick new MINI Countryman John Cooper Works model and enjoyed every minute of it. 

No, this is not a small car anymore and with some prices pushing past £40,000 it’s definitely not cheap to own.

However, if you want something a little less dull to drive, the new MINI offers plenty of fun that’s guaranteed to make the Monday morning commute a little less depressing.


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