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MINI Cooper S Hatch

Click to view picture gallery“From March 2014 youve been
  able to buy the all-new MINI Hatch.
  Just so you know, for the present
  only the Hatch versions are the
  completely new from the ground
  up third-generation models.
  Got it? Good!

WE'RE MAKING THIS CLARIFICATION of what 'new' means in terms of the MINI because 'new' has also recently been applied to the MINI Paceman and the Countryman. However, these are refreshed models using the previous platform so for now when you see the 'new' tag associated with MINI, it only applies to the Hatch range.

All others in the current MINI line-up, such as the Clubman, Convertible, Coupe and Roadster, will be built on the new platform with the new generation of Euro 6 engines as and when the time comes for them to be replaced anytime within the next three years. This new front-wheel drive platform developed for the third-generation MINI will shortly also be used for BMW's first-ever front-wheel drive models.

“The new front-wheel
drive platform developed
for this 3rd-gen MINI
will shortly
be used
for BMW’s first-ever
FWD models...
In the UK (and world-wide) the Hatch accounts for 50% of all MINI sales, with the five-door Countryman (2WD and 4WD versions) being the next most popular and taking a third of total MINI sales. Last year, over a thousand MINIs were bought every week in the UK alone.

As before, the new Hatch will continue to be built at the home of MINI in Oxford with body panels pressed at their facility in Swindon and a new generation of engines coming from their Hams Hall production centre in Birmingham. For fans of all things MINI, Paceman and Countryman models are built in Austria.

This larger all-new MINI Hatch is completely new from the ground up and not only does it offer slightly more interior space but comes with improvements in terms of technology, engine efficiency, power delivery, driving refinement and dynamics, acoustic refinement, a noticeably higher quality interior, and a revised range of the popular personalisation options.

As you'd expect, the overall visual appearance is an evolution of the iconic MINI design by BMW Group. The Hatch range consists of the MINI One Hatch and MINI Cooper Hatch, powered by 1.2 and 1.5 three-cylinder turbo petrol and 1.5 turbodiesel three-cylinder engines; the MINI Cooper S runs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turboed petrol unit.

Over the engines they replace, the new Euro 6 units have fuel consumption and CO2 emissions reduced by as much as 27%. All have new six-speed manual gearboxes (a new six-speed automatic transmission is also available for each engine). Also optional is a six-speed sports auto transmission with faster shift times that can be operated by steering column-mounted shift-paddles.

The body of the muscular new MINI Hatch is now 3.8 metres long so it's longer, and wider and slightly taller. The wheelbase has been also been extended and the front and rear track increased.

The new MINI also comes with a revised suspension system: struts at the front; multi-link at the rear. The components are lighter but torsionally stiffer to retain the legendary 'go-kart' handling.

“This new MINI also
comes with a
revised suspension
system: struts at the
front; multi-link at
the rear.
The components
are lighter but torsionally
stiffer to retain the
legendary ‘go-kart’
To bring more refinement to the MINI, work has also been done to eliminate vibrations entering the car through the suspension system with the necessary chassis development being carried out on UK roads. Going into the well-stocked options list you'll find a 375 Variable Damper Control which offers two settings: comfort, and a firmer sporty one.

My first UK sampling of the all-new MINI was with the current range-topping Cooper S, priced at 18,650. But the price doesn't end there as many MINI owners like to load up on the options, such as the popular Pepper and Chili packs.

As usual with MINI press cars, my test model had numerous additions to showcase what is on offer, which explains why the final price fully-loaded was 25,350. A figure that's actually not out of place compared to a fully-kitted Audi A1, Citroen DS3 or a VW Polo GTi and not too expensive for a car of this quality, even a small one.

The exterior of the new MINI remains recognisable with its rising high waistline, narrow-in-depth letterbox-shaped front windscreen and lift-up rear tailgate with spoiler. The bonnet appears longer and is certainly chunkier with a large grille flanked by distinctive large round headlights with under-bumper air vents plus fogs. There are circular LED 'signature' daytime running lights and LED lighting stacks at the tail. The bolder overall appearance is set off by 16-inch alloys standard for the Cooper S but my test car had the larger no-cost option 17-inchers.

Inside, the evolution of MINI continues; it's much plusher, like a smaller version of a top-spec BMW. There is definitely more interior space, and the rear is less cramped for legroom but it's still not the place for adult passengers.

The trademark large round dial in the centre of the dashboard (which previously housed the speedo), is now used for the navigation, entertainment and communication systems; the speedometer has been relocated to a conventional position above the steering column.

The power window switches have also been moved to a more logical position on the doors. However, there are still too many small switches and controls spread around the dashboard, centre console and the roof panel between the sun visors and it all looks very 'busy'.

Just like a BMW, there's an i-control unit and buttons positioned between the front seat squabs although well out of the driver's line-of-sight which control the various onboard information systems. Good news: BMW's excellent head-up display system can be migrated to the Cooper S version of the new MINI well worth the extra 375, I'd say.

“BMW’s excellent
head-up display system
can be migrated to
the Cooper S version of
the new MINI —
and is well worth
the extra 375...
Being the Cooper S version, the standard spec is very comprehensive (as it should be for the price) and items range from a Start button to AirCon, driver's computer, DAB radio, sports front seats, 60:40 split/fold rear seats, Bluetooth, and much more. The navigation system comes as one of several upgrades provided in the 1,175 Media Pack XL.

Engine-wise, the 'S' has a revised and slightly more powerful but also more fuel-efficient EU6 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Power is 192bhp, but it's the generous amount of torque 206lb ft delivered from just 1,250rpm which impresses the most.

The engine appears quieter and more refined; it's certainly more flexible at low speeds and really responsive mid-range. It will accelerate from zero to 62mph in 6.8 seconds and it tops out at 146mph. Plus the revised engine and new slick-action six-speed 'box worked very well together.

Another impressive characteristic, given the performance on offer, is the fuel economy. Officially the Combined Cycle figure is 49.6mpg and on test, covering all types of roads, speeds and traffic conditions, my average figure was a worthwhile 36.2mpg. Okay, this was not close to the official figure, but I was more than happy with it given the performance available.

The MINI has always been renowned for its go-kart handing and the new third-gen Hatch does that in part; the steering is sharp enough to make it feel sporty, as is the engine performance but perhaps not as much as before. The new model feels heavier and not as agile, and for me the fun-to-drive element was less obvious.

Reasons to cheer include more interior space, a larger boot (211 to a seats-down 731 litres with a handy height-adjustable boot floor), better spec, higher quality look and feel, and improved comfort.

It's also more refined, the ride (although still firm) is noticeably improved, and the revised suspension copes better with our roads; no more jumping about over bumps and potholes. However, it feels less agile, heavier and, to some extent, less fun to drive than past MINIS. Perhaps it's just reflecting the profile of long-term MINI customers: more grown-up and less youthful. — David Miles

MINI Cooper S Hatch | 18,650
Maximum speed: 146mph | 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds | Test Average: 36.2mpg
Power: 192bhp | Torque: 206lb ft | CO2 133g/km