The new Mini range.
The new Mini range.

2014 Mini Cooper S road test review

SOMETIMES things just work out better than expected - and the new Cooper S exceeds expectations.

Now making 135kW (95 more than the original), the $36,950 Cooper S oozes performance behaviours - but only when you push the right buttons.

Eco mode, auto and "greened" engine maps make the S behave more like the 1961 version than it probably should. John Cooper would not have signed this off.

However, if you engage Sport mode, turn off the hippy-dippy stop/start function and flick the traction control switch to engage dynamic mode once, it would have passed the test with flying colours.

Mini pimps "go kart feel" in this mode, and it's not far wrong - with the eco-cuddly mode more like "go yawn". I'm guessing that in order to keep the S living up to its name in light of the standard version's excellent performance, the BMW boffins were forced to turn the wick up.

The car behaves more like the JCW (John Cooper Works) go-fast version of the second generation "new" Mini, popping and cackling on gear changes and revving like a demon. The four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo is a well-fettled mill, revving freely and cutting though the six-speed auto (sadly the manual version wasn't available) like there is no tomorrow.

An aggressive set-up isn't every driver's cup of Earl Grey, and the green modes do calm it down - but perhaps sedate it too heavily. If you like it both ways, this is the way to go; if you're more Miss Daisy than Italian Job, the $26,650 three-pot base model is the best pick.

The S design touches are quite racy - body-hugging bucket seats, visual boost display, sport gauges and bigger rims add up to a better-looking car. Everything that you'd expect from a brand built by one of Europe's top manufacturers is packed into the slightly larger new model - Bluetooth, customisable LED accent lighting, a set of selectable drive modes, servo power steer and a funky red-accented jet fighter-style stop-start switch.

One thing that absolutely made my day though is the removal of the massive centre-dash mounted speedometer. The nod to the early Minis was cute to start with, but by the second "new" Mini was feeling very played out. It's now the main screen for the infotainment interface and is very simple to use with a toggle-and-push wheel mounted between the seats, although some might find its positioning initially awkward.

The Cooper S will dispatch the sprint to the legal limit in seven seconds, with its 240Nm (260Nm with over boost function) all available from 1600rpm, and the top speed is a claimed 225kmh.

It creates a motorway menace that's small and nimble with enough "naughty" potential to indicate that the JCW version will be an angry wee animal.

New Mini Cooper range

Mini Cooper, $26,650:
• Three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine
• 1499 cc, 100kW, 220Nm @ 1250-4000 rpm (230 Nm with overboost)
• 0-100 kmh 7.9 seconds
•  4.7 litres/100km (combined average(, CO2 110 grams per km.

Mini Cooper D, $31,800:
• Three-cylinder turbo diesel
• 1496cc, 85kW, 270Nm @ 1750rpm
• 0-100 kmh 9.2 seconds
• 3.7 litres/100km (combined average), CO2 97 grams per km.

Mini Cooper S, $36,950:
• Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
• 1998cc, 141kW, 280 Nm @ 1250-4750rpm (300 Nm with overboost)
• 0-100kmh 6.8 seconds
•  5.9 litres/100km (combined average), CO2 138 grams per km.