Cooper S true to the Mini legend
One of the first names that come to mind when recalling the racing history of the iconic Mini Cooper cars in South Africa is George Armstrong. Yes, he, more than anyone, put the Mini Cooper on the motor racing map the RSA in the 1960s, with his A&G Conversions business in Wynberg, Joburg – a stone’s throw from our factory also in the suburb.
The Rover Group then owned the rights to the marque, which in 1990 was acquired by BMW, retaining the Mini brand then re-launching it in 2000.
Our impressive looking Mini Cooper S 5-door Hatch automatic test car is the result of this relationship that blossomed into a series of globe-challenging hatches and other models. Similar in looks to the previous model, our test car differs little, bar the front fascia, tail lamps, side badges and other minor details including the more rounded overall shape and those cool Union Jack LED taillight graphics. And this one’s a five door and way bigger, of course.
Improved, too, is the console in the smart cabin dominated by the giant centre-mounted speedometer, standout window buttons, the focal point rev-counter to the left of the speedo and the large colour-changing LED light bar around the infotainment screen. Funky, fun and cool.
The high point of the Mini Cooper S is handling. It's tops - though the imposing steering-feel proved a touch too positive due to there being no steering-wheel play at all. This I discovered on the highway as any tweaking no matter how minute, resulted in the car immediately and incrementally reacting in minuscule directional changes. In fact, it proved somewhat disturbing at first, though with practice, one soon learns to live with it.
Ride was also a tad stiff - although expected from a car with the high level of handling characteristics. This was proven when shallow potholes are struck at speed, the resultant ‘whack’ sounding more like a gunshot report.
On the road the Mini Cooper is a honey, especially with the oh-so impressive the 7-speed dual clutch Steptronic automatic box with those almost unfelt and virtually ‘secret gear changes’ - and more than highlighted by the exciting pop-flutter sounds from the turbocharger.
It is of course quick, frugal and nimble, but best of all for me, was how much this car reminded me of those great originals – that blast from the past made it for me! – Mario Lupini
Images – Mario Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Mini Cooper S 5-door Auto
Engine: 141kW 280Nm 1998cc DI I4 turbo petrol
Drive: 7-speed DCT automatic FWD
0-60km/h: 3.34 sec
0-100km/h: 6.62 sec
0-160km/h: 15.24 sec
400m: 14.8 sec @ 156km/h
80-120km/h: 4.13 sec
120-160km/h: 7.06 sec
Fuel: 5.5 l/100km
Warranty/Service 3y 100K/4y 80Kkm
LIST PRICE: R464K