Mini_Cooper_S_frontIntroducing a car as well-known as the Mini Cooper S brings back images of twin-tank bricks-on-wheels sliding across the top of Mount Panorama or slithering down the Col de Turini.

With the all-new model Mini has come a new, beefed up Cooper S, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder. Which is one cylinder and a half-litre up on the three-cylinder Cooper, not to mention a $10,000 price increase.

The Mini range starts at $24,500 for the manual 1.2-litre turbo One. Our road test car, the Cooper S, starts at $36,950 for the manual with the six-speed automatic adding a stiff $2350 to nudge the price over the $40,000 mark. On-road costs have to be factored in as well.

Mini Cooper S comes with standard dual-zone climate control, interior LED lighting, multi-function leather steering wheel, Bluetooth and USB, keyless start, cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking and auto headlights and wipers and clear indicator lenses.

The big dinner-plate shaped and sized central stack houses a 6.5-inch high-res screen to run the infotainment system which is controlled by a BMW iDrive-style rotary knob. The S picks up sat-nav as standard as well as Bluetooth music streaming, an option on the Cooper.

Our car had further (and sobering) $11,930 of options. These included the two-panel Panorama sunroof ($1900), head-up display ($700), reversing camera ($470), adaptive LED headlights, LED driving lights and fog lights ($1500), dynamic dampers ($700) DAB tuner ($300) and something called leather cross punch ($1400), replacing the cloth/leather combination.

Mini_Cooper_S_engineThe balance of that huge options price rise is taken up with cosmetic bits and pieces such as stripes and a slightly-suspect off-white interior trim option.

This gave a staggering total of $48,880. Or VW Golf GTI Performance Package and RenaultSport Megane money.

The Cooper S gets its own unique wing, a choice of 17-inch wheels (ours had the no-cost option Cosmos black replacing the Tentacle silver), and red highlights to remind you it’s the quick one. The ‘S’ badging is subtle but identifiable and avoids being twee.

The front seats are chunkier and grippier than other Minis. The seats also pick up some extra adjustment for greater comfort and body holding.

The off-white optional interior trim wasn’t our favourite option, but did brighten the otherwise very dark cabin, seemingly a part of parent company BMW’s DNA. To further lighten the mood, there’s a gigantic two-panel sunroof (the forward panel opens), although it only has a perforated blind to shield you from the sun’s rays.

The 6.5-inch central screen hosts USB and Bluetooth audio streaming, all controlled by a rotary dial on the centre console. The screen is much better than the Cooper’s and the curiously cheap DAB radio was a welcome addition.

The sat-nav is standard BMW fare, so quite good, and with the $700 head-up display, the nav directions are projected on to the dinky little blade of glass that rises from the dash when activated. The head-up also shows speed and cruise control information.

The 2.0-litre four has a twin-scroll turbocharger and produces peak power of 141kW and 280 Nm of torque, the numbers are slightly down on its price competitors’ but more than adequate.

As with the Cooper, the engine also features an active air flap and brake energy regeneration. Additionally, the S has driving mode control, with a smooth, frugal eco mode, a middle ground and an hilarious Sport mode with crackly exhaust and noisy turbo wastegate.

BMW claims fuel consumption of 5.9 L/100km (5.5 for the manual) and 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds. We saw 7.7 L/100km which wasn’t bad at all given how hard it was driven.

The Mini comes with six airbags, ABS, brake force distribution and corner brake control and stability and traction control.

There’s also active pedestrian protection and a crash sensor. As yet, there is no Euro NCAP or ANCAP star rating, but five stars seem inevitable.

The Cooper S is a hoot and, interestingly, a better all-round proposition than the supposedly calmer Cooper. The key may have been the dynamic dampers, but the S is a more composed car all round.

It’s also much, much faster. Barrelling through the bends, even when they’re practically underwater, is a huge amount of fun, with plenty of grip that gives way to gentle, predictable understeer.

With sport mode activated, the engine barks, splutters and chatters exuberantly, even in automatic form. The manual shifting of the tall selector is fun but still sometimes ignores your request for a downshift. It also automatically upshifts at the rev limit in manual mode, something we’d rather it didn’t do. Go for the manual if you like to pick the gears.

Across broken surfaces and the ride is composed (for front seat passengers, anyway) even in Sport mode.

Eco is the mode of choice for normal driving. Everything calms down, the throttle response is dampened and it drives like a normal German hatchback. It’s an impressive transformation.

The highlight of the car is the way its chassis and steering work together to make the Mini such a lively car. All the Minis in the current range have this – a taut chassis with fast steering and effortless change of direction. The Cooper S just ramps up the responses and the speed.

As with the Cooper, the Mini Cooper S would be a lot more fun if it was manual. With a low redline but a revvy engine, you want to be able to access every last revolution.

The Cooper S has a mythology built around it stretching over five decades and while this modern iteration is a completely different concept, it still hangs on to the glory days of serious cornering fun.

What the Cooper S does is behave like a normal car when you want it to, albeit an extremely small one. With or without the options it’ll be a great, stylish hot hatch (make sure to tick “dynamic damping”) but the S also serves as a warm-up to the inevitable John Cooper Works. Based on the brilliant S, the JCW will be even belter.


One 1.2-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $24,500 (manual)
Cooper 1.5-litre petrol five-door hatch: $26,650 (manual)
Cooper D 1.5-litre turbo-diesel five-door hatch: $31,800 (manual)
Cooper S 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $36,950 (manual)
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Mini dealer for drive-away prices.

ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Air Conditioning: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Not offered in JCW, $2200 option in other models
CD Player: Standard in all models
Central Locking: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Stability Control: Standard in all models
Traction Control: Standard in all models

SPECIFICATIONS (Mini Cooper S 2.0-litre five-door hatch)

Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Bore/Stroke: 82.0 x 94.6 mm
Maximum Power: 141 kW @ 4700-6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 280 Nm @ 1250-4750 rpm

Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Six-speed
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 3.588:1 (manual), 3.502:1 (automatic)

Length: 3850 mm
Wheelbase: 2495 mm
Width: 1727 mm
Height: 1414 mm
Turning Circle: 10.88metres
Kerb Mass: 1140 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
Towing Ability: Not supplied
Boot Capacity: 160 litres (680 litres with rear seatbacks folded)

Front Suspension: Single-joint McPherson spring strut axle with aluminium swivel bearing and anti-dive control
Rear Suspension: Multilink axle with weight-optimised trailing arm
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc

0-100 km/h Acceleration: 6.8 seconds

Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined Cycle (EU): 5.9 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 7.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10

Three years / 100,000 km

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