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The all-new third-generation (F56) version of the small but sporty runaround was named Auto Express Car of the Year 2014 at a lavish ceremony in the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s West End.

The new MINI is built in Oxford with engines made in Hams Hall near Birmingham and body panels coming from Swindon.

As well as winning the overall 'Car of the Year' Award, the MINI was also named 'Best Premium Small Car'.

The car is priced from £12,000 to £26,000 depending on model and specification, and judges said: 'Like its predecessors, the new car has the cheeky looks, classy cabin and fun driving experience we've come to expect. But it combines this with a new-found sophistication and an array of gadgets aimed at making you safer and more comfortable.'

They added: 'For the first time ever the British machine boasts the sort of comfort and refinement that makes light of long motorway marathons. Then there's the huge array of aids normally reserved for executive models that cost thousands more.' These include a head-up display on the windscreen, forward collision alert and adaptive cruise control which brakes if you are too close to the car in front, and speeds up again when there's enough space.

Auto Express editor-in-chief, Steve Fowler said: 'The MINI is the perfect Car of the Year for 2014. It's a small car that’s big on talent. We love the way it drives, the quality, the efficiency and the big-car tech on board. It's also built brilliantly in Britain – a car the UK can be proud of.'

Mini UK director Chris Brownridge said: 'This award is a real boost to all 6,000 Mini associates across Hams Hall, Swindon and of course, Oxford, all of whom should be extremely proud of this achievement. They have created a car which in just a few months has captured the imagination of customers and the motor industry alike.'

He said success in the 21st century was a fitting tribute to Sir Alec Issigonis, designer of the original '10ft square box' which kick-started the Swinging Sixties after its launch in 1959.

BMW oversaw the 'rebirth' of the Mini at its Oxford factory from 2001.

Brownridge added: 'The MINI Hatch is of course British-built and is a great British success story. We are soon to export our two-millionth car to one of the 110 markets around the world in which Mini is now sold.

'And while the quality, design and technology associated with this new MINI has taken an enormous leap forward, we've also managed to stay true to the character of Alec Issigonis' pioneering design that made the original Mini so appealing and unique.'

Production has just started in Oxford of a new 5-door MINI which goes on sale in the Autumn priced from £15,900 to £20,050.

New Mini is Car of the Year as Jaguar F-Type, McLaren and Qashqai also scoop awards | This is Money

Car of the Year 2014 | Auto Express

The new F56 MINI production areas have now re-opened for Factory Tours for clubs, groups and individuals which can be booked here:-
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