It’s too big, blah, blah, blah. Minis are supposed to small blah blah blah. The Cooper S is nothing like the original.
All of these things are true or based in truth. The new Mini is big car, monstering our Volkswagen up! and the Suzuki Swift Sport we had a few weeks ago. It’s also nothing like the original which is a great thing – having an accident in a Mini now is much safer, even when you take into account over five decades of safety innovation. Crashing a new Mini is not the death sentence of an old one, a car that survived into the 1990s.
The third generation New Mini, know as the F55, has been around since 2014, which comes as somewhat of a shock to me. It is kind of hard to tell things are changing because the three generations of BMW-owned Mini look so similar.
As it has been around for a while, it’s time for a freshen-up which has meant a new interior, a few fix-ups and a general tweaking to make things a bit faster and, hopefully, more fun.
Look and Feel
As you can see, it’s…quite familiar. The facelift meant a few things, but the most obvious are those Union Jack taillights. I got into trouble on Instagram when I took a photo of them and said they were naff. Torrents of mild and amusing abuse followed and for once, people weren’t laying into the Mini’s funky looks.
I quite like the wheels on this Cooper S. I reckon they look really cool and reinvent the Minilites a little bit. The self-conscious retro-ism of the old wheels was getting annoying. This BRG-style colour is pretty much perfect and goes with those rear lights.
The centrally-mounted twin exhausts look stupid, though – tiny pea-shooters.
The Cooper S still has the 2.0-litre modular four-cylinder turbo, one-upping the three-cylinder turbo of the standard Cooper. Codenamed B48, it’s scattered through the BMW range as well in various states of tune.
Here in the Cooper S you have 141kW (PS) and a very handy 280Nm. That’s good for a half-decent 0-100km/h (0-62mph) time of 6.8 seconds, which will slay things like the Fiesta ST. As it should given how much more it costs.
The front wheels get their power from a seven-speed twin-clutch or, as you’re more likely to choose, a six-speed manual. Most buyers choose the seven-speed, which is why I drove that one.
The Cooper S rolls on those very handsome 17-inch alloys wrapped in 205/45 Michelin Primacy tyres.
Obviously, the S is a bit lower and stiffer than the standard Cooper, but not by much. It also scores adaptive suspension, which is quite impressive in a car this small and goes some way to justifying its higher pricing. Here in Australia, the Mini Cooper S costs the same as a Golf GTI or Hyundai i30 N.
Minis are great. They’ve got this little bounce in their roll, the way they get about is cheerful and fun. I’m quite happy in a 1.5-litre base model, particularly if it’s a manual, because it’s a great car to get around in.
I love the driving position. Low and with those massive side windows, the pushed-forward A-pillars widen your field-of-view. You can see where the front wheels are going to go and the view ahead is not the postbox slot of a racy front windscreen.
The current Mini is the basis of a whole new run of BMWs and, obviously Minis. With the recent Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) update, the Mini seems to have calmed slightly. I can speculate as to why – with more money being spent on the UKL2 platform and with Mini’s burgeoning range and BMW’s move to a transverse-engined architecture, lots of cash has gone to making it ride well.
As I’ve already said, I liked the way the Mini bounced around. My wife, however, did not. She really hated what we came to call “the Mini bounce” (super-creative, I know) and felt that the car wasn’t tied down.
The 2019 Mini Cooper S feels much more tied down than before. Firing through the bends – tight or long – the front end sticks and digs in as you lean on it. But now, it feels more like it’s holding the road rather than riding over it a bit. It’s a great feeling and helps you push on.
And that’s a good thing. It still feels like a Mini – short wheelbase, pointy front end and in the S, lots of power. The seven-speed twin clutch is deceptively good – I had to check it wasn’t the ZF auto. Fast, positive shifts, no dithering like the old one and no lurching in reverse. It’s clever and lets you get on with the job of going fast.
And again, you can go fast because while the chassis is a little more settled, the brakes are always there for you. Great pedal feel means you can hammer them has you hook the car into the turn and have the confidence that you’re going to get the stopping performance you need.
The Mini has always been fun. And this Cooper S is a blast. I had the JCW Millbrook a few weeks after the Mini and thought that in some ways (apart from cost) the Cooper S is really close. Yeah, it doesn’t have the huge power, adaptive damping and LSD but it’s got all the things that make a Mini good.
And that’s one of the reasons I like the Mini – they’re fun to drive, even a Countryman is good fun. The Cooper S might just be the sweet spot.
|(April 2019)||Mini Cooper S||Mini John Cooper Works|
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.