MINI Cooper S
Now a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
Ever since the original Mini first arrived in 1959, driving fun has been a key part of the legend. And BMW did well to instil the same ingredients into the new version at its launch in 2001.
As a result, MINIs have always featured strongly at Greatest Drives – a Cooper S Works won outright in 2003. But now there’s an all-new Cooper S: turbocharged rather than supercharged, and claiming to be better than ever to drive. So why does it finish in 11th position?
Well, the MINI has grown up and, despite BMW’s best efforts, it no longer has the same carefree zest for life. It’s undoubtedly better than ever to own, and arguably more competent in corners. With a more compliant ride, though, it’s lost the go-kart dynamics that brought the supercharged car so many fans. The Cooper S is slightly less addictive to drive, but the steering is beautifully weighted and communicative, while great body control and high-speed balance bring a smile.
The engine is perhaps the star of the show: it’s tractable, punchy and eager with no lag. And the gearshift is just as impressive.
On the test track, the MINI can’t match the precision of the Honda Civic Type R or Renaultsport Clio R27 while, with the stability control switched off, the lack of a limited-slip differential affects traction coming out of tight corners.
The £115 optional differential would boost mechanical grip and may have given a slightly higher placing, but lap times are not at the heart of the MINI’s appeal.
Nevertheless, a Works version is known to be in the pipeline and is expected some time next year. Roll on Greatest Drives 2008!
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M SportAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350ZA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper S - currently readingNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HPAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
- 16Porsche 911 GT3 RSThe hardcore Porsche 911 GT3 RS is an unequivocal supercar. With incredible performance, the only doubt is its real-world usability - and price tag
- 17Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Team R27If you thought the Megane was impressive, the hot Renaultsport Clio R27 manages to force its way into the top 5 with sheer poise
- 18Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraThe Lamborghini was the most expensive car on test. Luckily the super-light Gallardo was also the most rewarding to drive
- 19Honda Civic Type RThe Type R version of the Honda Civic is not only the best hot hatch, its chassis makes it one of the best drivers' cars, full stop
- 20Audi R8The hottest car of the year, the Audi R8 isn't perfect, but driving it is such a thrilling experience, you won't care
- 21Porsche Cayman SDespite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title