It seems barely believable that the first ‘new’ MINI was launched fifteen years ago before going on sale in 2001.

Since that car’s introduction, we’ve seen the release of cabriolet, coupe, roadster and even crossover models with the iconic nametag. At the core of the range has always been the three-door hatchback, something which isn’t changing any time soon. All the more reason to look at this model, especially in potent Cooper S guise.

Now on its third generation, the MINI has grown in all dimensions when compared to its predecessors to give improved safety and more room inside. While lesser models have shrunk in the engine department, the Cooper S now has a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet. Unsurprisingly power and torque are increased although not at the expense of fuel economy according to MINI.

From the outside, the new model is unmistakably a MINI. Although it may have puffed-out cheeks and rear lights that look too big for the tail of the car, it’s still a cute little thing. Being a Cooper S, there are twin tailpipes out back, a jutting front spoiler and of course a letterbox air-intake on the bonnet. Inside will be recognisable to many as well; there’s the familiar circular theme running through the interior along with the usual row of toggle switches.

It all feels more premium than ever before inside especially if you start opting for some of the swankier trim pieces. One option I’d definitely recommend is the head-up display that projects your speed, sat-nav instructions and other information directly into your line-of-sight. Anything that lets you keep your eyes on the road is a good thing in my book. I loved the rotary controller for the infotainment system too, much easier than a touchscreen. While it may be bigger inside, the boot is still on the small side while taller adults may be cramped in the rear seats.

Not that you generally buy a MINI for practicality of course. Alongside those retro looks, you’ll probably be drawn to the driving dynamics the brand has always prided itself in. Despite the increase in size, the Cooper S still proves a playful companion on a country road, especially with the driving mode dialled round to ‘sport’. There are also ‘mid’ and ‘green’ modes for when you want to drive normally or as fuel efficiently as possible.

It’s with the Cooper S in ‘sport’ that it really comes alive though. Throttle response is sharpened to allow you to tap into all 192bhp with ease while the exhaust makes some fantastic pops and crackles when you come off the throttle. The steering may not be as communicative as older versions but it is precise and well weighted. Handling is neutral but ultimately safe although there is still noticeable torque-steer at times. Overall I found it to be huge fun though.

It isn’t all good news however. On top of the small boot, it can get expensive; you can easily spend over £25,000 with a few choice options ticked. While the MINI comes with a decent amount of standard kit including air-con, a Bluetooth connection and even a digital radio, many will want to spend more to get sat-nav, bigger wheels and other items to personalise their car. Economy won’t be brilliant with the Cooper S either; enjoy yourself and expect to average a low 30’s mpg figure. This is at least on par with other similar hot hatchbacks.

In summary, the MINI is still a more style-led choice of hatchback than a Ford Fiesta or even Audi A1 for example. While it may not have quite as much space as many rivals and can become expensive quickly, it’s impossible to dislike once you’ve spent a decent amount of time behind the wheel. Not only does it drive well, the interior is well made and attractive too. It’s also worth remembering the One and Cooper models are cheaper to buy and run should you not be interested in going quickly. If you’re searching for a supermini, the MINI has a lot going for it.

Pros

Handling

Interior quality

Infotainment system

Cons

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Inflated looks

Small boot

Gets expensive with options

The Lowdown

Car – MINI Cooper S

Price – £18,840

Power – 192bhp

0-62mph – 6.8 seconds

Top Speed – 146mph

Co2 – 133g/km

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