An unprecedented amount of choice makes it unlikely you’ll ever see another MINI exactly like yours. There’s substance to match the style, however, and the fundamental Cooper S qualities are in place - the new car go, stops, and handles like superbly.


Under the ownership of BMW the MINI hatch is becoming bigger and, to most eyes, uglier with each iteration. Pricey options are also a sticking point for what is already an expensive car, and while the Cooper S is great fun to drive, it can’t match the Ford Fiesta ST for sheer entertainment.


People considering the MINI Cooper S generally fall into two camps: those who want the iconic style of what is a practical but quick car, and others who value the gratifying driver’s car hidden underneath all of that. This new, third generation car will appeal to both groups much more than the previous Cooper S.

A bigger, more powerful engine, a redesigned yet stalwartly idiosyncratic design inside and out, and much-improved ergonomics add up to boost the new car’s offering considerably.

While the former aforementioned group of buyers may well opt for the automatic transmission, the Volcanic Orange (a no cost option) example we tested came with a six-speed manual, which is a must-have for the latter. Its relatively long but accurate throw quickly makes exploiting the new car’s larger, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine – and the 189bhp it now develops – an addictive experience. Huge torque at low revs also means you’ll rarely be caught short for acceleration, while automatic rev-matching (even though the pedals are well spaced for doing it yourself) makes every shift clinical.

The result of all this is that the sprint from 0-60mph takes 6.8 seconds, which is faster than the Ford Fiesta ST and just 0.1 seconds behind the double clutch gearbox-equipped Renault Clio RS 200. Overtaking at any legal speed is also an effortless experience.

Excellent fuel economy given the power on offer is a hallmark of all BMW-made engines and the one in the MINI Cooper S is no exception. A claimed combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg puts it ahead of any rival you care to mention and a selectable ‘Green’ mode that blunts throttle response should make 50mpg-plus driving a reality. The engine is so flexible that using a high gear is no hardship.

The new MINI also features the chassis architecture that BMW will use for its upcoming front-wheel drive cars (yes, that’s really happening). The result is that, despite being quite a bit larger than before, the Cooper S has the same go-kart feel that official MINI literature habitually refers to. Along with direct steering that initially makes the car feel a little skittish, it means the hatch changes direction on impulse and corners with immense grip. It’s a machine you can take liberties with, which is what this type of car is all about.

While we thought that the standard passive dampers were more than adequate, buyers also have the option of MINI’s variable damper control (a £300 extra), which offers the choice of a softer, UK-friendly suspension setting and a more unforgiving mode that’s best left to glass-smooth roads.

If you thought that the old car’s interior was too fussy and claustrophobic, the new model won’t change your opinion. It features an even higher window line, which emphasizes sportiness but makes the whole experience akin to sitting in a very fast pillbox. Those who appreciate the MINI’s go-kart appeal (which is surely most of the Cooper S-buying demographic), however, will like this low-slung environment, and the heavily bolstered seats really are superbly supportive.

The quality of the interior has taken a step forward, too, and the speedo is now mounted behind the steering wheel, instead of sitting awkwardly on the centre console. In its place is an enormous digital display (if you spec the £1,175 Media Pack, which you should), the screen and controls for which have been lifted directly from BMW’s cars. While you’ll pay for most options on the new MINI, quickly pushing the price beyond £20,000, Bluetooth, air-conditioning and a DAB radio are all standard.

Ultimately, behind the slightly puerile design and marketing that defines the MINI brand lies a beautifully built hot-hatch that’s fun to grab by the gruff of the neck when the moment arises but remains well-mannered the rest of the time. The Fiesta ST may be more engaging and the Peugeot 208 GTi (far) more attractive, buy no other car in the segment boasts such versatility or quality.

Comfort            4 stars

Style                  3 stars

Handling            4.5 stars

Depreciation      4.5 stars

Economy           4.5 stars


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