More than you’d think, given that it looks near-identical to the previous new Mini. Some of the floor and suspension are carried over, but everything else is new. It’s a little longer now, to accommodate pedestrian protection legislation, and there are dozens of detail changes besides the new BMW-designed 1.6 litre petrol engines and the completely refreshed interior.
The Cooper S now gets a turbo rather than a supercharger to blow its motor, lifting power from 161bhp to 173bhp. BMW claims no turbo lag, and very impressive cuts in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The suspension is more pliant, the gear-linkage of the six-speeder improved, there’s (marginally) more knee-room for backbenchers, the seats are redesigned, the front chairs getting a much-needed redesign of their folding and adjusting mechanisms, the optional sat nav/infotainment system is more comprehensive, the centre console has been narrowed to widen the footwells, the speedo is now as big as a dinner plate and sits within a totally redesigned dashboard that remains very attractive.
However, the centre console looks a little cheap and weedy, and you’ll find low grade fittings if you look hard enough, such as the interior light and the stereo ‘on’ knob. Still, you can now have ambient lighting – five position, ranging between orange and blue, and very effective too – and there are many more trims and finished, as well as new options, too.
What's it like?
A new Mini. The Cooper S still gets you grinning like a fool, the eager verve of its turbo motor combining very effectively with six well-chosen – and slickly-selecting – ratios. Despite BMW’s claims this engine does need a little spooling up, but it pulls hard from 2500rpm through to 6000rpm. There are only 500 revs to come after that, but they deliver less. It feels quick, and the chassis is mostly well up to it, though it’s a surprise to find some torque-steer, especially when the car crosses the crown of the road during an overtake.
Turn off the DSC, and you’ll discover ploughing understeer if you try hard enough, and tight corners will have the inside front wheel lifting and spinning, especially on the less supple Sports suspension versions. Go for the standard set-up, we reckon. The super-keen can order a limited slip diff too.
None of these foibles detracts much from the entertainment quotient, especially if you leave the DSC on, its subtle interventions usually allowing you to get more out of this Mini, not less.
The steering is the best we’ve tried among the new electrically assisted breed, feeling far less artificial than most of this type. Feel isn’t exactly fulsome, but it’s accurate and easy – especially round town, when it lightens up usefully. It’s not really go-kart quick though, as BMW claims. Oh, and you can tighten the Mini’s line if you lift the throttle mid-bend, and without any oversteering adventures - good news or bad, depending on your preference.
The ride is less choppy than before, especially if you stick with standard set-up, though it can get turbulent at times. The Sport suspension is acceptable, but the trade-off isn’t worth it. All Cooper Ss run on fourth-generation run-flat rubber, which is less harsh than earlier iterations. This Mini is pretty refined all round, in fact, and also makes noises endearingly similar to a tuned original Mini – a coincidence, says BMW. And the twin pipe exhaust sounds brilliant from outside.