Since we last road tested a three-door Mini or even a Cooper S, BMW has introduced an entire family around its famous British sub-brand and expanded its domestic operation to suit.

It has been an impressive journey, and one easily significant enough for successive British governments to fawn over.

But the Cooper S’s replacement is the harbinger of even deeper ambition, underpinned as it is by an all-new modular platform that will form the basis of not only a refreshed Mini line-up but also a new generation of front-drive BMWs - started by the third generation three-door hatch, this platform has already spawned a five-door hatch, the next generation Convertible, Clubman and Countryman, the second iteration of the BMW X1 and the 2 Series Active and Grand Tourers. The UKL platform has also allowed Mini to develop its first plug-in hybrid and will be the backbone to the first front-wheel drive 1 Series.

This extraordinarily expensive and complicated strategy will take years to play out completely and already has proven fairly successful thus far, but our core focus here is to see if this platform ensures that the hatchback – still very much the centre of its Mini universe – has been satisfactorily replaced.

The previous Cooper S was dinky, twitchy and tenacious, which was great when you were in the mood but wearisome when you weren’t. It embodied much of what the Mini stood for, so if its shortcomings – such as space, comfort and fit – have been addressed with its strengths preserved, BMW can consider the first hurdle in a bright future triumphantly cleared.

The original Mini Cooper S was developed by John Cooper alongside the motorsport version of the original car, using, most famously, a 1275cc engine. BMW seized on the concept, and the model has been a feature of the modern Mini line-up since its inception.

The first modern-day Cooper S featured a supercharged 1.6-litre Tritec engine, replaced in 2006 by a turbo unit co-developed with PSA. The Cooper S nameplate, which typically plays second fiddle to the JCW badge, has since been shared across the Mini line-up.

So is this third-generation Mini Cooper S as fun to drive as its predecessor? Our comprehensive road test will reveal all.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Mini range

Driven this week

  • Jaguar E-Pace 2018 review hero front
    Car review
    20 April 2018
    Can Jaguar’s compact SUV bring flair and dynamic polish to a fast-growing class?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    20 April 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?
  • Lamborghini Urus review 2018 hero front
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    The supercar maker's new 4x4 is massively capable wherever it goes, while being extremely conspicuous and costly while it does it
  • Skoda Kodiaq
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    High-spec seven-seater Kodiaq begins its family life with a lot to prove — for Skoda and SUVs
  • Ford Focus RS Race Red Edition front
    First Drive
    18 April 2018
    Ford drafts in some tasty extras for this limited-run Focus RS swansong edition