The revised Mini Cooper 3Dr and Convertible retain much of the British marque's famed fun despite modern tweaks
Maxi fun with Mini: Cooper 3Dr and Convertible The Mini Cooper 3Dr and Convertible (right) come with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission controlled by a shift lever, which allows quick, fussless, stepless gear changes. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

In a world overrun by sport utility vehicles and crossovers, it is a good feeling to be behind the wheel of a tarmac-hugging number. And as trite as it may sound, no one builds cars that love the road as much as Mini.

The line-up of the BMW-owned British make has been refreshed, with various changes which give its cars a more modern look and which alter their driving characteristics.
Both are subtle, but still discernible.
Up front, LED headlights now sport ring-shaped daytime-running lights that double as winkers when the signal stalk is activated.
LEDs embedded in the rear lights depict the Union Jack and a new two-dimensional winged Mini emblem sits above the rear number plate. Alloy wheels are now of a new, if nondescript, design.
Inside, Mini's oversized infotainment disc now incorporates Apple CarPlay, with more features available on Cooper S and JCW variants.
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Look down and you will see a new shift lever, which controls the car's new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
SPECS / MINI COOPER 3DR; CONVERTIBLE
Price: $131,088; $142,088 with COE
Engine: 1,499cc 16-valve inline-3 turbocharged
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with manual select
Power: 136hp at 4,500-6,500rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 1,480-4,200rpm
0-100kmh: 7.8 seconds; 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 210kmh; 206kmh
Fuel consumption: 5.3 litres/ 100km; 5.6 litres/100km
Previously, it was a six-speed automatic transmission. This lever operates like a joystick - first adopted by BMW - allowing quick, fussless, stepless gear changes.
The transmission regulates a familiar three-cylinder turbo engine. There is no change here, but Mini says the engine cover is now made of carbon fibre and that has reduced its weight.
Along with the seven-speed tranny, this has cut carbon emission by up to 5 per cent.
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There are no notable differences in performance figures, but the revised cars feel a tad different - going by the Cooper 3Dr and Cooper Convertible tested here.
Both feel more leisurely in the lower rev range, especially in the default Comfort drive mode. Clearly, Mini has not been spared the global drive to increase efficiency.
The preferable mode is Sport, which makes the cars feel more lively, and which deactivates a most un-Mini function: the infuriating stop-start.
The Cooper 3Dr is clearly the more dynamically capable variant of the two.
It is tauter all round, setting it up for more confident exploits along serpentine stretches. Although sportily sprung, it is slightly more cushy than its soft-top sibling.
Both cars are adequately brisk, but not especially fast.
The Convertible offers a different proposition. It betrays more than a hint of body scuttle and its ride is a mite more thumpy. There is occasional cabin rattle, too.
And from a practicality perspective, its teeny-weeny boot will accommodate a briefcase or two, but nothing much else.
But the upside is that you get sensory feedback associated with Minis of old. Its beautifully tuned exhaust makes a nice sound, with lovely burbles in Sport mode punctuating gear changes.
Ironically, this is best enjoyed with the top up. With the top down, wind and road noises mask the exhaust almost completely.
But of course, driving with the canvas canopy folded is nice for its own reasons. This is marred slightly by the folded roof, which still sticks out to partially block rear visibility.
The car is not as quick as the hard-top, but is as agile in steering response and turn-ins. This is one trait that makes Minis a joy in a densely built-up city like ours.
Surprisingly, the soft-top's suspension does not make a creaking sound - common in modern Minis - as you get in and out of the car.
A one-touch button to operate the roof makes the Convertible all the more enjoyable.
Soft or hard top, both cars still surpass most others in terms of driving fun - a rare commodity these days
The line-up of the BMW-owned British make has been refreshed, with various changes which give its cars a more modern look and which alter their driving characteristics.

Both are subtle, but still discernible.

Up front, LED headlights now sport ring-shaped daytime-running lights that double as winkers when the signal stalk is activated.

LEDs embedded in the rear lights depict the Union Jack and a new two-dimensional winged Mini emblem sits above the rear number plate. Alloy wheels are now of a new, if nondescript, design.

Inside, Mini's oversized infotainment disc now incorporates Apple CarPlay, with more features available on Cooper S and JCW variants.

Look down and you will see a new shift lever, which controls the car's new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Previously, it was a six-speed automatic transmission. This lever operates like a joystick - first adopted by BMW - allowing quick, fussless, stepless gear changes.

The transmission regulates a familiar three-cylinder turbo engine. There is no change here, but Mini says the engine cover is now made of carbon fibre and that has reduced its weight.

Along with the seven-speed tranny, this has cut carbon emission by up to 5 per cent.

There are no notable differences in performance figures, but the revised cars feel a tad different - going by the Cooper 3Dr and Cooper Convertible tested here.

Both feel more leisurely in the lower rev range, especially in the default Comfort drive mode. Clearly, Mini has not been spared the global drive to increase efficiency.

The preferable mode is Sport, which makes the cars feel more lively, and which deactivates a most un-Mini function: the infuriating stop-start.

The Cooper 3Dr is clearly the more dynamically capable variant of the two.

It is tauter all round, setting it up for more confident exploits along serpentine stretches. Although sportily sprung, it is slightly more cushy than its soft-top sibling.

Both cars are adequately brisk, but not especially fast.

The Convertible offers a different proposition. It betrays more than a hint of body scuttle and its ride is a mite more thumpy. There is occasional cabin rattle, too.

And from a practicality perspective, its teeny-weeny boot will accommodate a briefcase or two, but nothing much else.

But the upside is that you get sensory feedback associated with Minis of old. Its beautifully tuned exhaust makes a nice sound, with lovely burbles in Sport mode punctuating gear changes.

Ironically, this is best enjoyed with the top up. With the top down, wind and road noises mask the exhaust almost completely.

But of course, driving with the canvas canopy folded is nice for its own reasons. This is marred slightly by the folded roof, which still sticks out to partially block rear visibility.

The car is not as quick as the hard-top, but is as agile in steering response and turn-ins. This is one trait that makes Minis a joy in a densely built-up city like ours.

Surprisingly, the soft-top's suspension does not make a creaking sound - common in modern Minis - as you get in and out of the car.

A one-touch button to operate the roof makes the Convertible all the more enjoyable.

Soft or hard top, both cars still surpass most others in terms of driving fun - a rare commodity these days.