MINI Cooper S (2006-2013) review

Hardcore fan shouldn't dismiss the Cooper S as a town car. It is a superb entertainer and a great investment.

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£15,645 to £35,895

Driving At first glance, the Cooper S's 1.6-litre engine looks pretty plain. But aside from the fact the 175bhp unit appears weak on paper compared to many hot hatch rivals (and arguably doesn't sound that thrilling), it's a very impressive performer. The turbocharger spools up almost instantly, and with 260Nm to shift only 1,205kg, we weren't at all surprised that, at the track, the MINI proved rapid flat-out, and deeply impressive in our in-gear tests. 0-60mph took 6.7 seconds, and 50-70mph in 5th gear just 5.8 seconds. With pulling power peaking at only 1,700rpm, the Cooper S is never caught out on the road - not even a 2.5-litre turbo Ford Focus ST responds as quickly and eagerly. What's more, no rival can catch the British baby around town. Compact, nippy, responsive, easy to see out of and with a tight turning circle, it ran rings around the opposition. This ability to engage the driver in all situations is the MINI's key strength. The Cooper S wears its heart on its sleeve, so even though its chassis isn't as pure and sharp as, say, a Honda Civic Type R, the car is just as much fun over fast cross-country roads.

Marketplace Is the MINI a victim of its own success? Ask most drivers to choose a hardcore hot hatch and the Cooper S would be the last car they would point at. Cute retro bodywork, a trendy urban image and perky all-round appeal mean it has become a massive worldwide sales smash, so people tent to overlook the fact that it's also one of the most gifted driver's cars in its class. If you want your MINI to look truly sporting, though, you must specify the optional Chili pack - 17-inch wheels, lowered suspension and bi-xenon headlamps. They add such a sense of purpose, we think they're essential. Rivals include the usual hot hatches - Renaultsport Clio 197, Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic Type R, Volkswagen Golf GTI. Despite many models being bigger motors, the MINI remains talented enough to compete with them head-on.

Owning The MINI has such a unique ambience; the upright windscreen and A-pillars are a long way forward, you sit surprisingly low and we love the whole design strategy - the toggle switches, giant speedometer and round key are great. But this individuality can't disguise the faults. Our test model had more than £4,000 of options, yet was still sparsely equipped inside, the air-con controls are cheap and nasty and the CD player sticks out obtrusively. The centre console isn't particularly attractive. The cabin is small too. Although the rear chairs have Isofix mountings, even child seats will struggle to fit, and you can forget about slotting a buggy in the boot. The small supermini frame does hamper cruising ability at speed too, through noise levels are reasonably well contained and the ride is undoubtedly better damped than on the previous machine. MINI hasn't improved its pricing policy, though. A standard Cooper S has a miserly kit tally. But impressive fuel economy of well over 30mpg offsets this (and CO2 emissions are also just 164g/km), while retained values are superb.

Engines, performance and drive

0

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

0

Interior, design and technology

0

Practicality, comfort and boot space

0

Reliability and Safety

0

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 One Classic II 3dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £15,645

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 One Classic II 3dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £17,045

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 John Cooper Works GP II 3dr Auto [8 Speed]
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £33,895

Most Popular

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport adds more power and gets an aero overhaul
13 Oct 2020
New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV 2020 review
Land Rover Discovery Sport

New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV 2020 review

The Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e plug-in hybrid promises 135mpg and an all-electric range of 38 miles, but does it deliver?
21 Oct 2020
Car exhaust smoke explained
British Steam Car
Tips & advice

Car exhaust smoke explained

Is your car suffering from a smoky exhaust? Our troubleshooting guide tells you the causes and what you need to do to fix it
22 Oct 2020