REVIEW: The MINI Cooper S Hatch
Date posted: 23 July 2020
As a child, the first car I can remember was a Mini Cooper S. (Mini was written in lower case letters in those days.) It was my mother’s car. She also rode a 500cc Matchless motorbike. She wasn’t your average mother. The interior door handle was a piece of string which was a standard fitment. You yanked it to open the door. The heater was an optional extra. Seat belts hadn’t been thought about. It drank engine oil as fast as petrol. Activation of the main beam headlights was by pressing a button on the floor with left your foot. To aid starting, you had to pull a spring loaded knob and then twist it to hold it in place. It was called a choke. Unfortunately the twisting mechanism used to wear out so, to prevent it from springing back, she used a splinter of wood to jam it into position. Driving required a fair amount of juggling.
Within three years, it was covered in rust. It was hopelessly unreliable. That’s what a lot of British built cars were like.
I’m glad to report that our family still has a MINI Cooper S (capital letters now) and, as it celebrates its tenth birthday, it uses no oil, never misses a beat, hasn’t got a speck of rust on it and still has its original exhaust and battery.
The MINI is still British built but the company’s owners are now BMW which, if you want a reliable, well-built MINI has been a terrific move.
The MINI is celebrating its 60th year in production and the Cooper S is still the one to go for if you want grin-a-minute motoring. It’s a hoot to drive, largely thanks to the fact that the latest MINI has stuck to the original Mini’s tried and tested formula first penned by Sir Alec Issigonis. Stick the wheels as far as possible into each corner of the car, give it a low centre of gravity and make sure there’s plenty of power. You also need loads of ‘feel’ through the steering wheel and a snicky gearbox that allows for quick changes.
Power comes from a 2.0 litre 192hp 4-cylinder engine. 0-60 takes a shade over 6 seconds. Go easily (unlikely) and you’ll manage around 43 mpg. You can opt for an automatic gearbox but I prefer the 6-speed manual for no other reason that it suits the car’s sporty nature.
You get all of the essentials like air con, decent audio system, electric windows and a stack of safety kit. We’d recommend the adaptive suspension pack which gives you the option of softening the ride. The standard ride is fine for those of you who like a firm-ish ride. When I compare the ride on the latest Cooper S with our 10 yr old model, the ride is outstanding.
If you need to make things easier for rear seat passengers, try the 5-door Cooper S. If you need additional space, then go for the Clubman or Countryman. There’s also the very smart convertible for those who like to be seen and, if you want full-fat thrills, go for the John Cooper Works version which gives you a 4.9 seconds sprint to 60mph.
The driving sensation is wonderful. You’ve probably read that the MINI is a bit like riding on a skateboard… and it’s true. Compact dimensions, comfy yet supportive seats and a real point and squirt power delivery, mean that the MINI in standard form is huge fun, but chuck into the mix a lump of power and tuned suspension, and you have a car that really does make you want to climb out of bed on a Sunday morning and go for a drive, just for the sheer fun of it. Few cars provide this level of driver enjoyment.
It’s a hoot.
Credit: Graham Courtney