It’s not easy to take a Mini seriously as a fully fledged hot hatch, not least because performance appeal is a relatively small part of what attracts most modern Mini buyers. But here’s a note to the cynics: on road or track, the Cooper S earns its go-faster stripes in fairly spectacular fasion.
Hitting 60mph from rest in 6.9sec and a standing quarter mile in 15.3sec, the Mini does enough to outsprint the class-leading Ford Fiesta ST. Its advantage to 60mph is just a tenth of a second, achieved because the Mini can hit 60mph in second gear, whereas the Fiesta needs third.
The move from a 1.6 to a 2.0-litre engine has done this car a power of good. Accelerator response is cleaner at low revs and mid-range torque is much stronger, as evidenced by a fourth-gear 30-70mph showing of just 8.0sec – faster than a Vauxhall Astra VXR and, incredibly, the 6.2-litre Chevrolet Camaro.
Such response and pulling power give the Mini instant appeal on the road. The car feels eager to scamper off and its effusive spirit is disarming enough to make you minded to indulge it. As does a much sweeter shift quality, it must be noted.
But just as pleasing to report is the new Mini’s civility. Hot Minis have for a while been capable of putting a grin on your face, but this one is twice as unobtrusive, better mannered and much more frugal; you can conjure better than 50mpg from this car when you select Eco mode and drive accordingly.
Road and wind noise are decently controlled and suspension noise isn’t so wearing, either. Those sound principles also apply to the harder, tauter JCW Mini too.