Mini Cooper S
The Mini is twenty years old this year. Not that Mini, obviously, but the BMW version that took the world by storm and charmed the Bowler hats off pretty much all of us upon its release in 2001. This is the third instalment in the new Mini tale and it’s taken the Britishness that apparently sells so well and turned it up to eleven. You only need proof of this by looking at the rear lights – yep, they’re Union flags and they’re even asymmetrical as they should be. It takes German engineering to get that right, sadly.
As with everything in the automotive world, this latest Mini is larger than what came before. At 3821 mm x 1727 mm for the three-door we have here, that’s 173 mm longer than the last version and 43 mm wider. For reference, the original, original Mini was a dinky 3054 mm x 1397 mm; there’s a five-door body for this latest Mini and it’s pretty-much a full metre longer than the 1959 model.
A version to suit every need?
Despite its expansion and some of the silhouette being adapted to house an ever increasing list of safety features, this still could only be a Mini. Its grille may be going the way of other BMW models i.e. inching closer to swallowing the rest of the bonnet, but this 3-door version especially maintains the squat profile that’s what defines Minis. As well as the Clubman ‘estate’, convertible and Countryman SUV, there’s been a 5-door Mini for a while which tries but ultimately fails to squeeze a couple of extra doors in unnoticed. This latest Mini may have lost its secondary lights from the front bumper and there’s not much chrome going on either,but this is the one that sticks most honestly to the original recipe.
More tech, but still some toggles too
Sit inside and the dashboard with its oversized, circular dial slap-bang in the middle is still the Mini’s standout feature. No, it doesn’t house a speedometer anymore, that’s been moved to a binnacle behind the steering wheel. Instead there’s a whole host of multimedia functions displayed via a high-res screen. Thankfully this Mini still has a row of actual toggle switched underneath for certain functions as those of us with less than dainty digits may struggle to prod the right virtual button whilst driving along.
Space inside the Mini is still the opposite of what the 1959 design managed; where that did a decent impression of the Tardis, this one doesn’t. If you want decent room for rear seat passengers or luggage, you’re going to have to go for the Countryman. Thankfully it also still feels a step ahead of the competition in terms of fixtures and fittings, and being a BMW product, so it should really.
It’s not just the Mini’s exterior that’s customisable to the nth degree, there’s plenty of scope for souping up things inside too. Go for the £2,400 Connected Navigation Plus pack our test car came with and your speedometer binnacle becomes digital, you get real time traffic info and heads up display. It also includes Apple CarPlay connectivity; you could argue that should come as standard. Our favourite bit of the upgrade, though, is the centre armrest that contains a cradle for wireless phone charging. The only fly in the ointment is when it’s down it obstructs the handbrake that hasn’t been shifted for the RHD market.
What’s under the bonnet?
Go for a lesser Mini, i.e. One & Cooper and you get a 1.5 litre, 3-cylinder engine. This isn’t a lesser Mini, though, and it comes with a 2.0-l, 4-cylinder unit – the same one you’ll find in the John Cooper Works version. In Cooper S guise it comes with 178 hp and it’s good for 0-62 mph in 6.6 seconds & 146 mph. That performance doesn’t come at too high an environmental price either; 48.7 mpg & 133 g/km CO2 at best aren’t too shabby at all.
A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard across the range, and it maintains a feel of simplicity for the Mini, as well as interactivity with the driver. Shell out an extra £1,700 and you get the 7-speed Steptronic transmission from the 1-Series BWW. Not only does it shave a sliver off your 0-62 mph time, it makes the Mini cleaner still. We’d probably stick with the manual; it just fits in in a Mini.
Green, Sport or somewhere in the middle?
The Sport spec Cooper S we have here comes with intelligent adaptive damping; mechanical, not electrical like the previous gen versions. Adapt it to your driving style via a three-step, drive mode toggle switch and you get everything from impressive refinement to the Mini’s legendary go-kart handling. That same drive mode toggle adjusts steering weight and how much popping you get from the exhaust. Default is a Mid mode that the car starts up in, want greener driving? – press down for Green, want something sportier? – pull up for Sport. You’ve got to love the innocent simplicity.
Should I buy a Mini Cooper S?
Like the Porsche 911 and Ford Mustang, the Mini will always have a certain look, especially in this 3-door hatch guise. Even with Rule Britannia elevated to the heavens, the world still can’t get enough of its character and BMW-inspired refinement. The expanding electric range will raise its popularity further, but for pure fun, it’s still the Cooper S you want.
By Ben Harrington
Mini Cooper S Sport Specifications:
Engine – 2.0-l petrol, Transmission – 6-speed manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 178bhp, Torque – 280Nm, Emissions – 133g/km CO2, Economy – 48.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 146mph, Acceleration – 6.6-s 0-62 mph, Price – £23,995 OTR