Mini was absolutely right to leave well enough alone where the Cooper S Works 210’s suspension settings were concerned.

It could have made passive sports springs standard fit, or else fiddled with the car’s state of tune just for the sake of fiddling.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Body control is excellent. Handling response, outright grip and balance are all very good

But it resisted the temptation and has produced a car here – tested in absolutely standard specification, remember – whose handling represents the firm at its best.

To drive, the Works 210 is an eccentric, vivacious supermini that’s agile, immediate and energetic in everything it does – and compelling in plenty of ways.

But unlike other performance Minis we’ve driven, there’s a sense of well-judged equilibrium to the spring rates, damper set-up, ride fluency, grip level and rate of handling response. There’s also a truly pleasing, lively and playful sense of balance to the cornering manners that those more expensive, over-sprung, over-tyred model siblings often fail to reproduce.

Like all Minis, the Works 210 is fairly reactive in how it rides over a typical B-road, but it doesn’t ever pitch and rebound over the bumps in a discouraging way, and it quite easily maintains a cradled, settled sense of composure.

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Our test car dealt with sharper edges much better than run-flat-equipped Minis we’ve tested in recent years and it had a little bit of helpful steering feel to go with the rack’s rapier pace.

You can choose between Sport, Mid and Green driving modes, the first ramping down steering assistance to a hefty but not leaden level.

The car is at its best on fairly smooth, wide, well-sighted roads where there is a little bit of space to bring its natural agility to the fore.

On those kinds of roads, our test car’s cornering attitude was more adjustable than that of most rivals and greatly involving with it. It’s a match in that respect even for Ford’s celebrated Fiesta ST. The chassis is also the darting, enticing kind that makes particularly short, exciting work of quiet roundabouts and tight motorway slip roads.

On an ever-so-slightly slippery Wednesday in November, Millbrook’s Alpine hill route felt like the perfect stage for a Mini that found plenty of grip where less sensitively set-up hot hatchbacks might have struggled.

The car launched itself gleefully into the track’s tighter hairpins. It offered plenty of off-throttle handling adjustability if you wanted it but also strong grip and stability with the electronic aids enabled.

If you opt for off-throttle adjustability, the car slides into neutrality and beyond quite quickly, but lift-off oversteer is easily tidied up through the fast-paced steering – most of the time without really needing to feed the wheel or even move your hands from quarter to three.

The car’s firm suspension didn’t exactly make short work of the transmission bumps at the beginning of the lap, but it wasn’t tripped up by them, either, declining to be deflected off line.

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