BBR MINI Cooper S 220

28 Jul, 2003 1:32pm Euan Sey

For tuning companies, the arrival of the MINI Cooper S must have seemed like a gift from the gods.

Verdict

Although many Cooper S conversions available, the BBR MINI stands out as a mature package. Unrivalled in terms of punch-per-pound, it's a tempting alternative to the factory-approved Works version. BBR has a 275bhp kit in the pipeline, so watch this space.
For tuning companies, the arrival of the MINI Cooper S must have seemed like a gift from the gods.

The combination of an easy-to-tweak supercharged engine and a customer base with both the money and, crucially, the enthusiasm for greater power has made the hot BMW baby the biggest tuning phenomenon since the Eighties' Ford Sierra Cosworth.

Each new conversion raises the stakes even higher, and the latest - the Brodie Brittain Racing MINI 220 - puts out a thumping 218bhp at 6,750rpm. The 51bhp power hike has been achieved by fitting a high-speed pulley on to the supercharger to make it spin faster, adjusting the boost and intercooling systems and then remapping the ECU. Torque has also shot up to 270Nm at 5,100rpm - 70Nm more than the standard S and a full 40Nm above that claimed for the official 'Works' kit.

So does all that extra on-paper go translate into a better driving experience? You bet it does. Find a stretch of open road, and the MINI 220 delivers about as many thrills as you could ask of a sub-£20k hot hatch.

The throttle response is noticeably sharper than in the factory-built car - although not quite as psychically connected as in the Works - and the six-speed box combines with the beefed- up power curve to deliver superb overtaking in the mid-range. If you're looking for manic top-end fizz, then you should go for a Cooper S Works or, better still, a Honda Civic Type R. But for real-world, point-to-point pace, few cars come close to the MINI 220.

At £1,522 all in, BBR's 'Phase One' conversion is £236 less than rival tuning firm Hartge's 210bhp upgrade. It's also under half what Mike Cooper's outfit charges for its official Works kit - and neither is as powerful as this version.

BBR, based in Brackley, Northamp-tonshire, will also sell you a quad pipe exhaust for £934. This produces a deeper note that crackles satisfyingly. In addition, a redesigned bonnet air inlet (£93) reduces charge temperatures for improved performance on hot days.

But perhaps the most impressive feature is the uprated suspension. New front wishbones with altered geometry, along with wider Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres at the front, has sharpened up the MINI's handling, providing greater front-end grip, more steering feel during turn-in and less understeer.

The traction control has also been altered to allow extra slip before it intervenes. The trade-off for this extra ability is a slightly firmer ride and a tendency to tramline on bumpy roads, but for keen drivers it's a must-have at £582.

As an unapproved conversion, the car doesn't benefit from BMW's fantastic five-year 'tlc' aftersales cover. But if you don't mind that, the MINI 220 is a bargain - especially if you receive the £500 discount being offered on the first 50 complete packages sold.

Key specs

* BBR 'MINI Phase One' upgrade boosts power to 218bhp
* Uprated suspension kit and exhaust available. Total package costs £2,543, inc VAT and fitting

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