What is it?
The ultimate evolution of the multi-faceted and ubiquitous Mini, the Cooper S at long last makes the most of that extraordinary chassis, providing all the power you’d ever need in a compact, lithesome and utterly addictive package. Yes, it’s too expensive, especially in frankly ludicrous John Cooper works trim, and, yes, you look like a bit of a plonker, but this is grinning ear- to-ear stuff and the sort of car that’ll put the wind up high performance fare costing two or three times as much.
The Mini is a superb driver’s car in whatever guise you plump for, although when shopping for a hot one we’d counsel saving significant bucks by getting the ‘standard’ Cooper S over the unnecessary John Cooper works. Power is rated at 184bhp in the S against 211bhp in the JCw, and this is an increase you’re unlikely to notice in a positive way. The extra grunt unsettles the Mini on uneven road surfaces and torque-steers it up slippery roads. It’s also a car bedecked in daft bits of trim, which, when you realise it’s mostly fluff and not substance, leaves you feeling mugged.
The Cooper S, then, strikes the right balance. Power is largely lag-free and the steering is superbly weighted and informative. Our only criticism here is a stiff ride, tough on long journeys, but that’s a problem on most small hot hatches anyway.
On the inside
There aren’t any significant changes made to a Mini’s interior when you go from a more basic Cooper to the S. It’s still that attractive mix of contemporary and consciously retro, with reassuringly solidity courtesy of parent company BMw butting up against surprisingly cheap-looking bits of plastic.
But, sat low to the ground yet with excellent forwards visibility, this is a natural sports car set up with bags of adjustability for even the tallest of drivers. It’s also an exceptionally refined cabin at speed, with engine and road noise expertly isolated. The downside is only that overly firm ride, however, which becomes ever more punishing as you increase your wheel size in Cooper S spec.
Rear space is still a joke too, and the boot’s not even funny, but when we’re spending nigh-on £20k on a performance hatch, practicality is already playing second fiddle.
Any Mini, but particularly a high- spec, high-performance one like the Cooper S, will enjoy some of the best residuals out there. It is bloody pricey, however, and Minis are notorious financial blackholes when it comes to going through the options list. Still, the new generation has proven to
be exceptionally well made with strong, reliable engines.