So far, we’ve tried the most powerful Cooper S petrol and the diesel-powered Cooper D and Cooper SD cars. The 2.0-litre S delivers 192 horsepower, and it gives the car every ounce of fizz-factor that we’ve come to expect from S-designated Minis, because acceleration is strong, smooth and readily available. There’s even more sparkle when you select the ‘Sport’ driving mode due to sharper throttle responses, and you’re also treated to a slightly meaner temperament, including a few pops and bangs from the exhaust. The Cooper SD, however, isn’t so appealing. Yes, it makes the car fairly fast, but the power delivery doesn’t have that frenetic, always-up-for-it nature that’s essential in a Mini, and it’s pretty noisy, too. The less powerful Cooper D, on the other hand, is an absolute peach. It only produces 150 horsepower, but it’s flexible, free-revving, creamy smooth and impressively hushed. What’s more, it pulls really strongly and feels a whole lot more powerful than its relatively modest output suggests.
Fans of automatic gearboxes can specify a seven-speed twin-clutch with the more modest versions, while the more powerful ones can be had with an eight-speeder. Both could be smoother (the former is better than the latter on that score) and have a strange reluctance to change down as you pull up to a standstill, causing some shudders through the car, but otherwise, they swap around their gears quickly and effectively. Even so, unless you really can’t bear the thought of pumping a clutch pedal, we’d stick with sweet-shifting manual six-speeder; its short-throw-action and precise weighting are beautifully synchronised and wonderfully engaging.