Before we get on to how good the new Mini Cooper S automatic is, why has it taken so long to arrive? After all, the rest of the line-up has had a self-shifting option from the start.
The official reason is that the time’s been spent developing the new ’box so it didn’t compromise the performance of the sportiest Mini. A more cynical view might be that the CVT system fitted to other two-pedalled Minis is dire, emasculating them with appalling loss of poke and grim fuel economy.
Thankfully the Cooper S has been spared. This £1050 option is a conventional six-speed torque converter ’box, lifted from other parts of the BMW empire and so complete with the opportunity for DIY shifting via the selector stick or wheel-mounted paddles.
So, back to the question, is it any good? Not bad, actually, and light years away from the CVT. The factory figures say that you’ll lose half a second in the 0-62mph time over the manual (7.7sec plays 7.2) but in reality extending your right foot in the auto treats you to the same fireworks. The same brief chirrup of the front tyres, the same punchy mid-range urge and the same whining but curiously engaging soundtrack from the supercharger. And all the while the ’box behaves impeccably, unobtrusively carving its way through the cogs.