It is hard to imagine that the original Mini was produced, largely unchanged, in an epic run of 41 years. The car’s longevity is rivalled only by a handful of others, such as the Citroen 2CV and the Volkswagen Beetle. Designed in 1959 by the late English-Greek designer Sir Alec Issigonis, who passed away in 1988, the Mini was to outlive him by another 12 years (it was bought by BMW in 2000).
A bona fide British cultural icon, the Mini made its mark in cinema (The Italian Job), on TV (Mr. Bean) and in music (all four members of The Beatles had one), and had a roaring career in motorsport to boot (it was a three-time Monte Carlo Rally champ). However, if deep-pocketed BMW had not taken over the rights to the marque, it would have faded away quietly because its troubled parent group had no money to develop a replacement.
Which brings us to this: the 60th anniversary of the Mini, personified as the Mini Cooper S 5 Door 60 Years Edition, with its name stylised in all caps to differentiate it from its predecessor. It is a fitting tribute to the history of the nameplate.
The model The Peak tested came in a fetching two-tone paintwork –a British Racing Green body and “Pepper White” roof – with special 60 Years logos applied throughout, even on the bonnet stripe and the side scuttles of the turn indicators. The 17-inch wheels, clad in run-flats, are also unique to this edition.
Inside, the anniversary logo is embroidered on the seats and makes its appearance elsewhere on the steering wheel, door sills and the passenger side of the dash. One nice touch: “60 Years” replaces the Mini logo in the LED light projected onto the ground when the driver’s door is opened.
Otherwise, the car is based on the facelifted third-generation Mini introduced in 2018, which brought along improvements such as full LED lamps front and rear. The former features daytime running lights, shaped as a ring around the headlamps, that double as signal indicators; and the latter, a cheeky UK-flag motif.
The previous leisurely 6-speed automatic gearbox has made way for a properly quick 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. When not in “Sport” mode, disengaging the clutch of this new transmission additionally allows the car to coast and save gas.
The 2.0-litre engine, too, has been reworked for better fuel mileage, although it still produces the same power and torque as before. Pretty cool: its cover is now made of lightweight carbon fibre, a recycled material generated in the production of BMW i automobiles, the parent group’s line of environmentally friendly, electric cars.
I took the car out early on a Saturday morning to a sleepy serpentine street – my secret testing ground somewhere in Singapore’s north-west – where the Mini proved its mettle with its famed go-kart handling. It has the trifecta: wheels pushed out to the corners, a stiff suspension and a quick steering rack, allowing the car to be chucked willy-nilly along the “test track” with stupendous grip and agility.
The new gearbox, operated via the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifts, was a joy to use, responding to down-flicks with satisfying noises from the exhaust. The engine, too, produces the nicest song from a four-cylinder I have heard in a long while.
The cabin is well appointed. One highlight is the upmarket seat upholstery, which comprises dark maroon faces outlined by green piping. Not only is this stunning, it is soft to the touch and is something that belongs to a price point much further north.
It is also a fun place to be in, with retro toggle controls adding a touch of whimsy over the usual switchgear.
I particularly liked the cleverness of the large circular light ring around the 6.5-inch infotainment display that dominates the centre of the fascia. It not only changes colour to indicate the drive mode, but also scales up in tandem with the air-conditioning fan speed or radio volume. This means you can adjust knob controls without taking your eyes off the road by simply observing the ring with your peripheral vision.
Standard on the 60 Years Edition is Mini Connected, a millennial-satisfying digital feature pack with functions such as integration with your phone’s calendar to input driving destinations into the satnav, real-time traffic information and Apple CarPlay.
For those who are a little older (and suffering from age-related aches), you may wish to spec the car with the optional adjustable dampers. The standard suspension on the test car is harsh though; simply driving over a speed bump would set off the collision detector on the third-party dash cam. This stiffness is great for tearing down B roads, but not so much for day-to-day driving here.
If you owned a Mini when you were younger – and even if you didn’t – the 60 Years Edition is a great way to bring back those memories and the widest, stupidest grin to your face.
Motor: MINI Cooper S 5 Door 60 Years Edition
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo and direct- injection petrol
Power: 192 hp between 5,000 and 6,000 rpm
Torque: 280 Nm between 1,350 and 4,600 rpm 0-100KMH: 6.8 sec
Top speed: 235 km/h