Mini Cooper S: First Drive
We drove the ‘Furiously Fun’ Mini Cooper S on an airstrip! Sounds interesting? But one question – does the new-gen car stick to Mini’s legendary 'Go-Kart-Feeling'? Let's find out!
Apart from being a premium vehicle, Mini carries a charm, cuteness and fame – which very few cars are blessed with on this planet. In India, the third generation of Mini was launched last year in November and like the rest of the world, we too got the five-door version of the Cooper for the first time. This being said, until now both the – three and five doors – versions of the Cooper were available with diesel guise – Cooper D – only.
But we have now with us the anticipated version of the new Mini – the Cooper S – in the country. Initially, the Cooper S will only be available in the 3-door version as CBU (completely built unit) import, while the 5-door version is expected to be offered later. We drove the Cooper S around the picturesque Aamby Valley City, Pune to explore how the new 'S' version fairs with Mini’s go kart-ish thrills!
BMW has designed this third generation Mini from scratch, earlier Minis were plagued with few reliability issues across the period of ownership. But the new vehicle has improved in almost every aspect, while sticking to the classic Mini designing cues – compact dimension, quirky styling and shorter overhangs – and it remains unmistakably Mini!
The third-generation Mini has grown in size dramatically compared to its rest two generations and the original Mini; becoming more practical and a mainstream car, but with all the Mini-ness intact.
This third gen Cooper is still unmistakably Mini, but in a more mature way!
Speaking of the figures, it is 98mm longer, 44mm wider and 7mm taller, not to mention 28mm longer wheelbase, than the previous generation hatch, which also used to sell in India. And indeed it looks longer and wider, making it more mature than ever.
Adding on the design aspect, like the previous S, it gets sportier front bumper with larger air intakes, spruced up grille with the ‘S’ logo. It rides on 16-inch alloys as standard while sportier 17-inchers are optional.
At the rear, compared to the Cooper – the Cooper S gets a sportier bumper with centrally mounted twin exhausts. The Mini offers LED head and tail lamps along with LED fog lamps, the headlight cluster also features ring-shaped daytime running LEDs.
Like the exterior, Mini has given a lot of thoughtful and practical additions to the brand new interiors of the third-generation hatchback. It still has that classic large central display, but it does not show speed anymore, instead, it has a cool new Mini Connected infotainment screen. The speedometer and rev-counter are now placed behind the steering wheel. The power window switches have also moved to the doors, where they actually belong, compared to the previous Mini’s centrally mounted ones. The retro switches, like always, are still there on the central console, but unlike previous gens, it gets a trendy new start-stop button!
At the center it has a MINI Central Display which comes standard with a 6.5-inch screen, if you greed for more, Mini also offers a mighty 8.8-inch widescreen as optional. The system comes with a host of connectivity options including your social media updates through your smartphones via MINI Connected app along with Bluetooth telephony, Aux-in and USB. Speaking of the sound system, my car was fitted with an optional Rs 1.25 lakh Harman Kardon hi-fi system and it was a pure bliss! The Cooper S also comes with an optional head-up display, which comes quite handy as it provide quite a few information in your line of sight.
Compared to the Cooper’s interiors, the S gets standard Mini Sport seats and is upholstered in cloth-leather combination, you can also opt among four different combinations with the S. The extra bolstered Mini Sport seats keep you intact, when it does what it does best – changing directions. Moreover, the seats are adjusted manually including the adjustment for the under thigh support.
Since the Mini has grown in size, the rear leg space has increased slightly making more room for rear passengers.
Engine and Performance
Before I met the Cooper S, I thought the world was downsizing the displacements. Mini too have downsized the Cooper/Cooper D and One models with a BMW developed 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo petrol and diesel engines, specifically for the new Mini. But with the hotter Cooper S, you will be treated with a massive 2.0-liter Mini TwinPower turbo (twin scroll turbo) petrol engine.
I reckon, you wouldn't need that optional Harman Kardon hi-fi audio system because the Cooper S’ exhaust note will be just music to your ears!
The 1998 cc engine musters a healthy 189PS of max power between the engine speed – 4,700 - 6,000rpm, while the torque stands tall at 280Nm, it is poured-in at 1250rpm. Like others, this motor was also produced from scratch specifically for Mini and comes mated to a standard 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission (the 6-speed manual is not offered in India), while the Sport 6-Speed Steptronicautomatic is optional. The setup propels the Cooper S from 0-100 kmph in a meaty 6.7 seconds before topping out at 233 kmph. Third-gen Mini comes standard with idling engine auto start-stop and Mini India claims a certified fuel efficiency of 15.75kmpl. In terms of safety, the Cooper S comes standard with front and passenger airbags, DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) along with ABS, brake assist and cornering brake control. It also features run flat tyres with a run-flat indicator.
Ride and Handling
The new Mini is based on the parent company's – BMW – new UKL platform, and Mini was the first vehicle to implement it. Speaking of the Cooper S, it comes with Mini Driving modes as standard, featuring Sport, Green and MID mode. By default, it is in the MID mode, but the moment you flick a very nice lever below the gear lever and plonk it in Sports mode the throttle response alters and the steering decreases its assistance and it demands your attention more.
Talking about the suspension setup, the new Mini offers struts at front and multi-link at the rear. It also offers optional Dynamic Damper control, sadly, it should be standard at least on the Cooper S model. On this drive, Mini India had created a zippy and slalom track on the airfield of Aamby Valley and the Cooper S was exhilarating to drive, looking at the amount you pay this is seriously a fun hot hatch. The roads at Aamby valley were buttery smooth so didn't get a chance to assess its ride quality, but I am sure that would probably be acceptable as well.
The Cooper S are always fun-to-drive and this third-gen model is surely no exception, it has just the right amount of techiness along with complete inheritance of all the retro Mini-ness in a modern avatar. At Rs 34.65 lakh (ex-showroom), it's a hell of a machine. Considering the Indian market, it is unquestionably one of the fastest hatchbacks you can buy with an 189PS, 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo petrol engine with a sub-35 lac price bracket. Additionally, with this gen car, the practicality quotient has also improved plus the overall quality has enhanced too. If you are looking for a performance premium hatch that can also turn heads everywhere it goes, you should get one. And did I tell you that Cooper S was annoyingly addictive to drive!