Another car more or less like the last could have spelled the beginning of the end for BMW’s Mini success story.

Exuberant charm and retro cool have taken this car to great heights but, 13 years after its relaunch, Mini needed to offer something extra.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The Mini's more grown-up and easier to live with

And ‘something extra’ is what it’s got: extra space, pace, refinement and maturity but, crucially, no less ‘Mini-ness’.

While it’s grown from proportions many thought already too large, the Mini Mk3 remains a small modern supermini and appeals for its compactness. It can be unruly to drive at times, but it’s enough fun at other times to bring out the excited teenager in anyone.

To us, the Cooper S falls short of the class lead only by the distance that separates its handling from true excellence. For now, the Ford Fiesta ST remains the most fun you can have a on B-road.

But for those inclined to put driver appeal anywhere other than at the top of their list of priorities, and who can live with a Mini’s practicality, the Cooper S deserves to be top of the pile. For those who want the fun factor with added fuel efficiency then 1.5-litre petrol and diesel versions should cater well-enough.

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