Test drive: MINI Cooper S

Even in this age of super hatches, the MINI Cooper S holds its own in many ways

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While we at TopGear are often offered cars to re-test, we don’t often do it. That is, of course, unless it’s something guaranteed to be as thrilling as it was the first time. Cars like the MINI Cooper S could be considered one of the few to meet that standard.

BMW Group Malaysia recently offered us one again, only this time we had an extended period with it, roughly a week. While we are no strangers to the MINI Cooper S, it’s one hatch that can still charm its way into our hearts – and that of many others too – as easily as it did the first time.

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The reasons behind this are few, but they’re all good. For starters, this Cooper S, in 3-door form, is still our performance and handling benchmark for front-wheel-drive (FWD) machines. Boasting an impressive 192bhp and 280Nm from its potent turbocharged 2.0-litre four-banger heart, not forgetting its claimed weight of 1,175kg, it’s no surprise that it’s capable of winning such favour.

On that note, it’s worth refreshing you on the Cooper S’s other brilliant traits, notably the slick 6-speed sports automatic box tasked with sending all that power to the front wheels. Sprints from nought to 100kph take just 6.7 seconds and, should you switch the drive mode to ‘Green’ and drive it right, it’ll sip as low as 5.4 litres/100km.

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More than that, though, we’ve always loved the MINI in 3-door Cooper S form for the way it handles.  We’ve probably said it before, but it’s worth saying again: it really is like a go-kart on the road, especially when you switch to ‘Sport’.

Let’s also not forget its impressive chassis and taut yet forgiving suspension, which, aided by dampers, offer enough comfort for the daily, urban grind. There’s certainly no denying that BMW – the iconic British marque’s current owners – knows how to make a driver’s car versatile.

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In 3-door form, there are a few niggles to live with. The first and most obvious one is the lack of space to comfortably ferry two adults in the rear, followed by the seemingly tiny 211-litre standard boot space. Nevertheless, depending on one’s lifestyle and family size, these aren’t deal-breakers given just how many thrills this hot hatch delivers to anyone helming its wheel.

Yes, that last statement may seem a tad too brash given the existence of the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and Volkswagen Golf R, super hatches that offer significantly more power and traction through intelligent all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems. As a result, most would dismiss the less powerful and FWD MINI in a heartbeat, but by no means does this make the Cooper S ‘soft’ in comparison to those two.

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In the right hands, the Cooper S will easily keep up with either of them or their watered down siblings (the A250 Sport and Golf GTI) on a typical Sunday morning run through Ulu Yam. More importantly, it’s arguably much easier to live with on a daily basis.

The other undeniably appealing facet of the 3-door Cooper S is its looks. There’s just something about MINI’s iconic and timeless design that draws smiles of delight from all who lay eyes on it, more so when dressed in that iconic British Racing Green, as per our test unit. You’ll certainly feel more the part in it than you would in something loud, overpowered and decked out in a boy racer aerokit.

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During our week with it, which involved office commutes in everyday traffic and a packed weekend of fun driving, it became clear that this is a car built for those who appreciate both performance and daily drivability. This alone perhaps justifies the premium RM229,888 price it commands. The price includes a 4-year unlimited mileage warranty plus a free scheduled service plan. However, if you’re the sort who prefers a short-term ownership plan, then MINI Malaysia’s recently introduced leasing scheme may be attractive. Called MINI Full Circle, the monthly rates start from as low as RM1,378 for the MINI 3-door variants (the Cooper S included).

A tad small, but still comfortable enough for the daily ride, and certainly thrilling enough for weekends.


Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq