Made for Instagram - 2018 Mini Cooper Urbanite Edition Review


It’s good to be back. Things were very busy the past two months with contribution work, Hajj, and moving. Hajj definitely took its toll on me since I was away for so long in a foreign country. I guess when you like what you do so much, even time off can be tiring and boring. Some interesting things have happened while I was away and we’ll see if those proposals and ideas come to reality or not. Bismillah.

 

This time we drive a 2018 Mini Urbanite. A 5-door special edition Mini Cooper, which as the official Mini Malaysia website proclaims, is a lot edgier than the 5-door Mini it is based on. A good condition classic Mini Cooper would cost you around RM25,000 to RM40,000 for one. Not the new Mini. Prices float near the RM200,000 region which makes it a far cry from the small economy car it was intended to be when first introduced in 1959 by British Motor Corporation.


Before we go on, here’s a little overview of the Urbanite






Engine: 1.5L B38A15M0 I3 Turbocharged (BMW)
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic (with tiptronic)
Tyres: Pirelli Cinturato P1 195/55/R16
Drivetrain: FWD
Year: 2018
Price: Approx. RM198,888 brand new in 2018





Nostalgia does wonders to the price of a car and we can see that with continuously increasing prices of certain succeeding car models like the Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Beetle, Honda Civic Type R, and Volkswagen Golf. The classic Mini has had a successful film career. It was the star of the 1969 Movie, ‘The Italian Job’ (1969), and it had an unforgettable chase scene in ‘The Bourne Identity’ (2002). The Classic Mini has had more screen appearances but the most memorable one for all of us would be the green BMC Mini with the black hood driven around by our favourite childish-alien-buffoon, the one and only Mr. Bean. All of this has helped the Mini to become so memorable in all of our minds. Of course, the Mini Cooper has racing and rallying history, but pop culture helps a car brand reach just about anyone on earth. Even those who don’t have an interest in cars.



The legend who took driving to a whole new level

[Image Source]


 

It’s a little bit odd




I personally found the Mini Urbanite to be a bit oddly packaged. It’s a 2018 luxury compact car in the RM200,000 region but it still has a mechanical hand brake lever, doesn’t have an in-car navigation system, doesn’t have a sunroof, doesn’t have an electronic driver seat adjustment, doesn’t have Head Up Display (HUD), and doesn’t have an armrest. I could tolerate the lack of many things in my RM24,000 Axia, but I’d expect more car for my money if I’m spending this much. I guess the Mini brand name is what puts it in that price range.

 

The Urbanite is marketed as an ‘Instaworthy’ and ‘Styled for the Gram’ car. I find it weird but that’s what the marketing guys at Mini came up with. I also noticed many females turning their heads as I drove past them in the Urbanite. They were actually checking out the car (They wanted to own one). Despite feeling like a fashion accessory for women, the Urbanite has rally inspired additional headlights (as mentioned on the official website) and the 3-cylinder turbocharged B38A15M0 is rather lively at high revs (and I like it). It also has a melodious cold start rumble. Cornering isn’t that great (The CX-3 does a better job), but decent for a little chuck around here and there.

 

So is this meant to be…

 

A. A compact driver-oriented car

Or

B.  A Fashion accessory for Instagram

Or

C. Both

 

Because if it’s a compact driver-oriented car, there are better options out there (VW Golf, Renault Megane RS) and if it is a fashion accessory, the VW Beetle is a cheaper option (and turns more heads due to its weirdness).



BMW’s 3 Cylinder Turbocharged Engine (B38A15M0)



The day started cold and wet with rain still drizzling from the night before and we were headed for the hills. It seemed fitting that we were getting UK-ish weather while driving a UK-ish car in Malaysia. It’s German, sharing the same three-cylinder engine with the BMW 1 series (BMW’s B38A15M0). It’s from the same B38 engine family as the engine you get in the BMW i8. The BMW i8 is equipped with the B38A15T0 instead.

 

The difference? (B38A15M0 vs B38A15T0)

The main difference between the two engines are definitely the power outputs and torque. I am uncertain if the figures for the B38A15T0 in the i8 are from both the engine and electric motor combined or not.


EngineB38A15M0B38A15T0
Car ModelMini Cooper Urbanite, BMW 1 SeriesBMW i8

Power [kW] @ [rpm]

100 @ 4.500 - 6.000

170 @ 5,800

Torque [Nm] @ [rpm]

220 @ 1,250

320 @ 3,700

More detail of the difference of the two engines was obtained via Bimmerfest. Thanks to ‘gkr778’ for responding to a question on Bimmerfest. (link to forum)

 

1. The B38A15T0 has a reoriented crankcase position (to accommodate the i8's horizontal engine mounting)

2. The B38A15T0 has a Larger main bearing and connecting rod bearing

3. The engine block in the B38A15T0 has a higher density, gravity cast head

4. The B38A15T0 has twin pipe intake

5. The B38A15T0 has Integrated CAC (some computer stuff?)

6. The B38A15T0 has Modified turbine geometry and electric wastegate valve for turbo

*I also assume the B38A15T0 in the i8 has a bigger turbocharger


What is it like to drive?



Decent. Nice rumble from the 1.5L 3-cylinder. It’s great once you get it over 2,000rpm. The red in the interior did remind me of the CX-3, although the Mini felt more stylish than ergonomic. The gauge cluster is of its own kind and Mini’s big round infotainment unit is synonymous with MINI. Acceleration is decent and had it not been for the suffocating engine at low revs, I wouldn’t have guessed it was a three-cylinder. You could barely hear the turbocharger at work, and BMW’s ‘twin power turbo’ is basically a twin scroll turbocharger.




Since the Mini Urbanite is essentially a BMW, I guess you do get a little bit of that ‘Ultimate Driving Experience’. Nice grip on the steering wheel and as usual, I appreciate the floor-mounted accelerator pedal. It was comfortable at speeds between 120km/h to 160km/h which is not something I would expect from a three-cylinder. Cornering is alright but the CX-3 does it better.




You get electronic flick switches which makes the interior of the Mini different from other compacts. The wiper stalk behaves in reverse. I intuitively flicked it upwards to clear some mist but it turned out that engaged the low speed wipers. In a Mini, you flick the wiper stalk downwards to do that ‘single wipe’ we usually do when there’s a little bit of mist on the windscreen. The rear view camera in the Urbanite isn’t very helpful since there’s none of that green and red line thing to guide you if it’s safe to back up.

 

The Urbanite isn’t exactly small but it feels small on the inside thanks to the small windows. The A and C Pillars are rather thick and the first time I drove it, it felt a little claustrophobic. It doesn’t take long to get used to. It also sits lower than a standard econobox of today so it does feel a little bit sporty. The only thing in the interior that makes the Urbanite feel a little bit off would be the infotainment controller, which feels cheap compared to the rest of the car.




Similar Cars


The Volkswagen Beetle

Because they’re both classic commoner cars that eventually became overpriced fashion statements. With only 3 doors, the Beetle is a lot less practical. But practicality isn’t a matter of concern when you’re buying cars if you’re already considering a Mini or a Beetle. The Beetle is also cheaper than the Mini (Approximately RM140,000).


(link to short review of the Beetle during MAS2018)

Ford Fiesta Ecoboost

Because they’re both 3-cylinder turbocharged cars with 5-doors. Although the engine in the Fiesta is much smaller (1,000cc only). The Fiesta costs a lot less too at approximately RM92,000.

 
(link to 2017 Ford Fiesta Ecoboost Review)


Mazda CX-3

Because they’re both similarly sized and both are quite rewarding to drive. I find the CX-3 to be more ergonomic and more of a driver’s car when compared to the Mini. At approximately RM120,000, you do get more car for your money. It’s just the CX-3 won’t turn as much heads as the Mini.


(link to 2018 pre-facelift Mazda CX-3 Review)

Volkswagen Golf R-Line

Cheaper than the Mini at approximately RM173,000. Similarly to the Mini, it’s an ordinary 5-door Golf Sportline with some cosmetic enhancements. It also has a more serious mean-face if that’s your kind of thing.



Renault Megane 265 RS Sport (2015)

A crazier option from the rest of the pack. I’m just gonna leave this here for the fun of it. The listed price on carbase.my is RM197,888 for a 2015 Model. Comes with a 6-speed standard manual transmission (if that’s your kind of thing).


[Image Source]

The Cross Tape and Additional Headlights



The official website for the Malaysian Mini Urbanite calls them ‘Rally Inspired Additional Headlights’. It’s true, rally cars usually do have additional headlights and the old Mini rally machine had more than two of them.



[Image Source 1; Image Source 2]


And the Cross you see on these additional headlights (with ‘Mini’ written in the middle of it have some significance too). Although, I do feel that this was more of a track car thing than a rally car thing. Race cars of the older days used to have tape applied in the form of a cross to avoid the headlight glass cover from shattering in the event of a collision. Headlight covers used to be made of glass and you wouldn’t want shards of glass on the race track, would you? The ‘cross-tape’ was there for a practical reason, but it seemed to have created a style which has caught on in the car modification scene and found its way into the styling of the new Mini.


Verdict



The new Mini has always been a homage to its original, much smaller ancestor. This is just a Mini 5-door with some extra cosmetics. For fun’s sake, I’d prefer the classic Mini. Drives like a German, looks like a Brit. If I were to buy a brand new MINI, I’d get the Cooper S (We’re already spending anyway). Decent drive, but that’s something expected when you’re paying this price. It doesn’t look ferocious but it does have the grunt under the hood should you need it in certain driving situations.

 



Two wild boars we encountered during our test drive



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