When the car you’re driving prides itself on its driving dynamics, you take it to the hills and drive the nuts off the thing. And that’s exactly what I did with the Mini.

A hundred and twenty kilometres of pure motoring nirvana. If someone told me this road existed in our back yard, I would’ve mocked their knowledge of world geography. But then, the Mini is that sort of a car. It’s minuscule dimensions mean that it fits rather well on roads that would otherwise be considered narrow by “normal car” standards. Granted, this new one is bigger than any Cooper before it. Its wheelbase is up by 28mm and overall length is up by a whopping 9cm. But it’s still small, almost dinky in its proportions. And so this road, with about twelve inches of run-off on either side, is just about perfect for it. I say “just about” because we’re actually 4000ft above sea level in the Western Ghats and beyond those twelve inches, there’s a 1000ft drop on our right, into a river.

I’m consciously trying to not think about that as we make our way through one of the most intricately carved back roads in the country. I’m also trying to block out the scenery, cuz it’s distractingly, jaw-droppingly beautiful. A few minutes ago, I remember switching ON the traction control system in a moment of frenzy as the road narrowed down from two lanes to just about one lane. Since then, we’ve covered around five kilometres and I’m wondering if I should switch it OFF again. The Cooper is that sort of a car. It begs to be shown a narrow back-road high up in the mountains and then it challenges the driver to show some balls and drive the nuts off the thing(no puns intended)! It inspires such immense confidence in the driver corner after corner, apex after apex. You sense you’ve reached a limit with the car, but then you push a little bit harder and it responds magnificently, raising the bar you’d set for yourself when you got into it. And this doesn’t happen just once. You’ll go through that cycle four, maybe five times before you hit the limit of the car, its tyres and its front wheel drive architecture. And by that point of time, you’ll be blown away by how a 1.5L, 3cylinder, 115bhp diesel hatchback can show such promise at being the ultimate drivers car. It’s bloody brilliant!

The steering is direct (I’ve had a bet with Prathik I won’t use the words go and k*rt anywhere in this article) and makes you feel like you’re a part of the car. It’s organic, and it’s quick. I rarely remember having turned it more than a quarter of a turn to point the car where I intended it to go. Twenty kilometres on, the road opens up a little, and we’re properly juicing the diesel engine now. Prathik turns to me, a hint of worry in his eyes, and asks how high up in the hills we are. I don’t know for sure what the altitude was, but we were high enough not to be doing the silly speeds we were. When you’re on the limit with this car, you get this feeling it would’ve been more fun if it was rear wheel drive. But I’ve driven rear wheel drive cars that are less fun than this one. Credit must go to the suspension too. It’s hard, and tuned for handling instead of comfort. It makes you aware of virtually every nook and cranny in the road. But thats okay, frankly! If softening it is going to take away something from the cars character, I’d rather not do that!

As I write this article, Mini’s just launched the Cooper S in the Indian market. It’s priced at about the same level as the diesel variant, but features 50% more power. With the diesel 3-door that we were driving, I got this feeling that the chassis could take a lot more, and the 190bhp petrol S-version will definitely appeal to thrill seeking enthusiasts out there. But the diesel has the potential to be your everyday car, matching small car efficiency with linear power delivery all the way up to its 5000rpm red line. It’s decently quick too, the sprint to hundred coming up in 9.5s with a top speed of 205kmph.

The prospect of using a Mini everyday is what excites me. I had people come up to me and say the car looks like a “person”. And thats about the best compliment a car can get. It means it has got tonnes of personality and appeals to the human brain at a deeper, more intimate level. You wouldn’t expect much else from the playful, almost cartoonish exterior. It invites you closer, almost forcing you to pat it like you would your pet cat or dog. The same theme is carried over to the inside. Quality is top notch. All the buttons and switches have a certain attention to detail you wouldn’t normally find in a car of this size and price. After driving around in a bunch of Audi’s and BMW’s with generic interiors, the Mini’s cabin comes across as a breath of fresh air. It makes you feel special, bringing a smile to your face every time you get in. From the circular LED lights that replace the conventional central speedometer, to the toggle switches for the heads up display and traction control, everything makes you feel like you’re eight years old again.

Every once in a while, a car comes along that really pulls at your heart’s strings. The Cooper is THAT car! It’s everything that made you fall in love with driving in the first place, and for that, I’m going to miss this little one dearly!