Testing the all-new Mini Cooper S five-door hatch felt a little like deja vu, and no, not because I had driven one before, purely because I felt like I was staring at the same Mini Cooper that was released in the early 2000s.
The styling of this car is seemingly the same as it was back then, with no major changes to the exterior apart from the upgraded LED lighting, bumper, grille and alloys. This is not much of a surprise considering that from 1959 to 1990, Mini used the same basic styling for the entire range, apart from different body derivatives and slight tweaks as technology advanced, and this could play a large part in the company’s success.
It means they don’t have to focus on changing the entire shape of the car, which in turn gives them more time to perfect everything else, so although the exterior has very slight changes, the other aspects feel like top quality, as you should expect from a vehicle made by BMW.
Mini has also increased their JCW (John Cooper Works) offering by letting you choose this option on their entire range. Unlike in the past though, this JCW doesn’t have anything other than standard Cooper S mechanics under the skin. Even Mini itself says the JCW line was a “cosmetic kit”.
However, you still get a 2.0 litre twin turbo engine that pushes out an impressive 141kW using an eight-speed steptronic transmission to transfer the power to the wheels and they have added sports suspension for better handling.
In the interior I loved that all the major buttons on the dashboard, such as the ignition, traction control and sport mode, were lined up like toggle switches in an aircraft. Many of the instruments on the dash have a circular shape, which Mini calls “decorative rings”, from the speedometer to the media system and even the door handles, creating uniformity throughout the cabin. Mini have also added accent lighting in and around the cockpit, which not only illuminates the cabin, but the LED ring around the entertainment system changes colours based on your mood, change in driving mode and it even acts as an indicator of how hot or cool the airconditioner’s temperature is.
The head-up display is also another feature you don’t see on many cars these days and it’s a very useful tool because it displays information like the speed limit, your current speed, your tracklist and your navigation, and you can see all this without taking your eyes off the road.
The model I was testing had 18-inch twin-spoke JCW five star wheels, but you have the option to choose from a range of alloy wheels.
Mini has also included a host of driving assist features such as pedestrian warning, traffic sign memory and no-overtaking zones. Although this was the five-door version, the Mini felt very small for five people on the long road and the boot didn’t have much space either.
Overall, I enjoyed its agility for city driving and the steering felt very solid on the road. If you are looking for a high-performance car, but you don’t want to be like everybody else who owns a Golf GTI, Mini offers you the perfect performance alternative. It may surprise you as much as it did me.