Mini Cooper S

Tested 22.3.18, SPAIN On sale Now Price £20,630

Makeover aims to stimulate sales of the achingly cool hot hatch

The Union flag, appearing in the tail-lights and cabin, remains a recurring theme

Having been introduced four years ago, the third-generation ‘new Mini’ is due a facelift. Sales of the most popular Hatch derivative reached a peak of 44,560 in the UK in 2015 but, by last year, that figure had fallen by 10%. Mini hopes a refreshed headlight design, tail-lights that incorporate a Union flag motif, a handful of new wheel and colour options, piano black rather than chrome trim and much more besides will help drive those sales figures back up.

The new lights front and rear use LEDs, with very clever adaptive LED headlights now featuring on the options list. There are new personalisation options too, including a number of 3D-printed parts that buyers can customise with their own name or simple graphics – a world first in the car industry.

The revised four-cylinder turbo engine gets new, high-pressure injectors, a new exhaust system and a new turbocharger too. Power and torque figures remain 189bhp and 221lb ft, but fuel economy has improved by about 7%. Interestingly, the updated engine is said to be up to 30kg heavier than before. The suspension has been tweaked to account for that extra weight.

We’ve come to expect a distinct dynamic character from these BMW-era Minis and this revised model is no exception. The darty, eager front end is still there, as are the quick steering, mobile rear end and overall sense of agility. There may be more weight over the front axle now, but it’s been disguised extremely well. All told, the Cooper S is a huge amount of fun to fling along a winding road.

The engine, meanwhile, is brawny and muscular, but it’s no rev-happy screamer. In fact, having started pulling hard from 2500rpm, it’s done its best work by 5500rpm, so you don’t chase the redline like you would in many other hot hatches.

Other hot hatches at this price point may be more thrilling to drive, but none matches a rewarding chassis with a high-quality cabin and grown-up demeanour in normal driving quite like the Mini Cooper S.



Updated engine and useful technology breathe new life into the best all-round £20k hot hatch

Price  £20,630
Engine  4 cyls, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power  189bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque 221lb ft at 1250rpm
Gearbox 6-spd manual
Kerb weight 1235kg
0-62mph 6.8sec
Top speed 146mph
Economy 47.1mpg
CO2, tax band 138g/km,26%
Rivals Peugeot 208 GTi, Ford Fiesta ST