Is this love?

ĎItís not me, itís youí scenario stymies the romance

NATHAN PONCHARD

OurGarage

THEREíS something not quite right about this relationship. On paper, the F56 Mini Cooper should be right at the top of anyoneís RSVP feed. Itís small and sporty, punchy and pointy, and seemingly perfect for urban manoeuvrability. It has all the engineering genes to produce a frigging brilliant little hatchback, yet when Robbo recently asked me how we were getting along, and I paused, he said, ďYouíre not in love with it.Ē And he was right.

What the three-pot Mini Cooper lacks, and the four-pot Cooper S delivers, is a genuine high. Something that could see us bond like chewing gum to hair. After nearly 2000 kays in my six-speed manual Cooper, Iím struggling to find something I truly, genuinely love. But here goes.

Contrary to what others think, I quite like the rear styling of the latest Mini, particularly its blobby tail-lights, and Iím always a sucker for frameless doors (until the seals stop sucking at highway speeds Ė ask any old Subaru owner). The Miniís front cupholders are great for phones and keys and what not, while the one-litre Tupperware bottle I cart everywhere sits perfectly in the recess next to the handbrake. So practicality-wise itís usefully inoffensive, even though its watered-down interior design means the new Mini is a little less Mini than it used to be.

Itís the dynamic aspect, though, thatís leaving me numb. Every now and then you get a taste of its delightful rear-end adjustment as it tucks into an urban corner, courtesy of super-keen steering and a neat leather wheel. But out on the open road, it simply doesnít gel as well as it should.

Even on its non-run-flat 195/55R16 Hankooks, the Mini Cooperís urban ride is rubbish, yet at speed on a typically bumpy Aussie freeway, thereís virtually no improvement in its bump absorbency.

If you like a jiggly, constantly jostling ride, then hereís your car! And the Miniís steering is arguably too reactive on a twisty road, especially when itís wet, because those Hankooks donít quite keep up with the steeringís demands.

So, highs that arenít satisfying enough, mixed with a ride-quality low thatís borderline hateful. If the Cooper sounded raspy and keen, like a three-pot Mini should, then I could forgive some of its flaws, but it doesnít do that either. If only it were a Cooper S manual with adaptive dampers.

MINI COOPER PEPPER

Date acquired: September 2014 Price as tested: $31,470 This month: 1029km @ 9.2L/100km Overall: 1835km @ 9.3L/100km

Dollars and sense

A $500 grocery shop is a big ask, not least for your wallet, but with a visitor staying for a fortnight, the new Miniís increased cargo flexibility had a chance to prove its worth.

I laid copious amounts of mineral water and anything else that would fit beneath the dual-height adjustable boot floor, and wedged the rest as tight as possible in the upper level. A few bags had to ride shotgun with the rear-seat passenger, but the little Mini did an admirable job.

BEARABLE BENCH

Rear seat surprisingly comfy, but front passengers need to move forward a notch or two