The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The MINI Cooper S is a great hot hatch, with loads of driver appeal and a stylish retro design, inside and out. A fast and efficient Cooper SD diesel version was added to the line-up in March 2011.
Reasons to buy
- Strong image
- Great performance
- SD version is fast and efficient
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The new MINI has always sold on its retro design, and the Cooper S is no exception. The S gets more aggressive front and rear bumpers, bigger wheels, and that instantly-recognisable bonnet vent to mark it out from lesser MINIs. Customers can customise the look of their Cooper S from the large number of options available. No two MINIs really look the same.
What's the interior like?
The Coopers S continues the retro MINI theme inside. The large, central speedometer looks like the one from the original Mini but is of limited value, and some heating controls are fiddly to use, but otherwise it all works well. Most of the materials have a premium feel and the ability to change the colour of the ambient lighting is a nice touch.
How practical is it?
Never a new MINI strong point, the Cooper S suffers from all the usual issues of cramped rear seating and a small boot – just 160 litres. Best to think of it then as a 2+2 hot hatch. Front seat occupants get plenty of space, comfortable seats, and there’s a fine driving position with plenty of adjustment.
What's it like to drive?
The new Cooper S is a much more comfortable car than its supercharged predecessor, although you should expect the ride to be on the firm side. This is especially so if the car has the sports suspension and large alloy wheels. However, the trade-off is incredibly agile handling, with accurate steering and lots of cornering grip from the tyres. Driving the Cooper S is a lot of fun, whether around town or on the open road. A traction control and electronic stability system is fitted, which is just as well given the powerful engine’s tendency to spin the front wheels in wet weather.
How powerful is it?
The MINI’s 1.6-litre engine is turbocharged for use in the Cooper S, and the result is one very quick little car. Expect 0-60mph in just 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 142mph, with the sort of mid-range performance that makes overtaking easy. The Cooper SD gets a 143bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine which, thanks to 225lb/ft of pulling power, provides a top speed of 134mph and a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds. Both benefit from a sport button. It sharpens both the throttle response and the steering, making the car feel more alert to the driver.
How much will it cost me?
The Cooper S offers strong performance without paying heavily for it at the pumps. Drive in a relaxed manner and you should be able to see MINI’s quoted figure of 45.6mpg, with C02 emissions of 136g/km. The diesel SD option is the most efficient, with average fuel economy of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of just 114g/km of CO2, thanks to standard stop and start, brake energy regeneration and a gear shift indicator making it more efficient and cleaner than its nearest rival the SEAT Ibiza FR TDI. Buyers can also take advantage of MINI’s famous TLC servicing package that gives inclusive servicing for a fixed fee – £200 or £275 depending on how long it applies. It’s also worth taking into account that MINIs hold their value extremely well, which is good news when you come to sell the car on.
How reliable is it?
The Cooper S has a good reputation for reliability, with few known problems. The current MINI doesn’t have the issues that affected the first of the new-era MINIs.
How safe is it?
The MINI Cooper S is much safer than its namesake of the 1960s. It has a five-star EuroNCAP rating, thanks to six airbags, a strong construction and a raft of electronic safety measures such as anti-lock brakes and traction control. There are two Isofix child seat points in the rear of the cabin.
How much equipment do I get?
The Cooper S comes with the basics, but much of the appealing equipment is extra, and some of it is vital if you’re to get the best price at resale time. The MINI pioneered the modern resurgence of factory personalisation, but the upshot is that most Cooper S models cost their owners a lot more than the on-the-road price once the extras have been taken into account. However, it’s hard to resist some of the different roof colours, stripes, interior trim packages and mechanical upgrades.
The Cooper S remains the strongest mix of style and hot hatch performance available on the market, with a cheeky character and plenty of feel-good factor. The addition of a diesel Cooper SD to the line-up makes for a sensible choice. It should be a safe place to put your money too.