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

  • Hyundai Nexo 2019 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    Designed from the outset to use a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, this front-driven crossover provides a taste of the future today
  • Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2018 road test review hero front
    Car review
    13 July 2018
    This new version is the most luxurious A-Class yet, but has Mercedes made it a class leader?
  • Honda CR-V 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    For its fourth-generation, the Honda CR-V grows in size and now offers a choice of five or seven seats, but slims down in terms of engine choices
  • Volkswagen Arteon 1.5 EVO 2018 UK review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    Entry-level fastback doesn’t do enough to make the Arteon any more competitive in an already-tough class
  • BMW i8 Coupe 2018 UK first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    BMW's flagship i car has received a facelift for 2018. How does it compare to offerings from Porsche?