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Back to the future: Mini GT gets a modern twist

By Paul Connolly

I'm a big fan of how Mini continues to cherish its heritage and vehicle lineage.

You know, when BMW took over Mini, it must have been very tempting to over-egg the heritage bit at the start, wait until the new Mini became a star in its own right - and then head off in a completely new direction with nothing but lip service to its roots. Job done.

But no, BMW has been more than faithful to Mini's origins. Whether this is because of the brilliance of the original concept, the affection Mini has in the minds of the public, clever BMW marketing, or a bit of all of the above - we'll probably never know.

But whatever it is - it works. Mini is today a successful brand that still pays regular and appropriate homage to its 1960s roots.

This can be clearly seen with the latest, and very tasty, Mini 1499 GT.

But first, considering that some may only know the 'modern' Mini, a (very) potted history: the original Mini was a line of iconic British small cars made by the British Motor Corporation, and its successors, from 1959 until 2000.

Its revolutionary style and space-saving transverse engine front-wheel drive layout, won it instant acclaim.

Indeed, in one poll, the Mini was voted the second most influential car of the 20th century, behind the Ford Model T, and ahead of Volkswagen Beetle.

It had a variety of owners, including British Leyland and the Rover Group. In 2000, Rover was broken up by owners BMW, with the Germans taking the seemingly risky (but now clearly inspired) decision to retain the Mini brand.

The plan included keeping lots of old Mini model names, and, indeed, often their styles: Cooper, Clubman, Countryman and so on.

So fast forward to the present day, and there is, as you'll know, a vast line-up of modern Minis that sell extremely well.

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Mini 1499 GT

Fans of the company, particularly those with some knowledge of classic Mini history, will be interested in the latest iteration: The Mini 1499 GT.

This is a UK-only special edition that celebrates the brand's rich heritage with a nod to one of the best known sporty classic Minis of all time, the 1275 GT. (If you're wondering about the mis-match between 1499 and 1275, modern cars have much more kit and are heavier: a 1275cc car wouldn't have enough poke for this purpose).

The 1499 GT has been devised by BMW to recall the lively drive, distinctive styling and low running costs of the 1969 original, which indeed was thought of as one of the most affordable performance cars of its day.

The 1275 GT badging reflected the increased engine capacity over the standard 998cc Mini. The all-new Mini 1499 GT treads a similar path for the modern age.

With 102hp on tap and 0-60mph attainable in 10.1 seconds, courtesy of its lively twin power turbo three-cylinder engine, the 1499 GT is definitively livelier than its other siblings.

Just 1,499 models of the 1499 GT will be built (between next month and February), and it should therefore command excellent resale prices.

There's a choice of two colours, Pepper White or Midnight Black.

Additional exterior features include the John Cooper Works Sport Pack, featuring 17-inch Track Spoke alloy wheels in black, dark tinted windows and white indicator lenses.

Interior features include JCW Sports seats in Dinamica and leather and JCW badges, a JCW steering wheel in perforated leather with Chilli Red stitching and multi-function controls, and a Piano Black interior trim.

A sports suspension completes the package, which also includes all of the standard equipment found on the MINI One Hatch, like independent rear suspension, a six-speed manual gearbox with sports car-inspired rev matching technology, air con and all-round disc brakes.

OTR pricing starts at £16,990, but for that, Mini is also adding some deals, including at launch a tempting new finance offer with Mini Ready Fuel Go, which offers one year's inclusive insurance.

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