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Tested: Mini Cooper S

2007-06-05 07:01

Hailey Philander

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mini
Model Cooper S
Engine 16-valve 1.6 turbo
Power 128 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque 240 Nm from 1 600 - 5 000 r/min
Transmission six-speed manual
Top Speed 225 km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.9 l/100 km (combined)
Price R240 000
Video clips
Broadband (4.1MB @ 200kbps)

Mini Cooper S vs The Tank

Dial-up (1.9MB @ 100kbps)
Mini Cooper S vs The Tank

What's it about?

While it may appear, to some, to be nothing more than an overpriced girly toy with looks that appeal only to urban trendsetters and never serious petrolheads, the latest iteration of the Mini Cooper S is a very focused driving machine.

Bulbous curves and a pocket-sized stature give it its "cute" appeal, but the wheel-at-each-corner stance also lends it its unflappable demeanour.


The Mini Cooper S with the optional Chili package provided as a test unit was an example of how the features list on this quintessential urban car can be manipulated to provide its new owner with almost endless options. The five-colour ambient light package, bi-xenon headlights, chrome exterior package and height adjustable front passenger seat form part of this R10 800-package.

The car's pale gold exterior is artfully matched with a deep red interior that complement the chrome-rimmed instruments.

"Dodgy" probably best describes the perceived quality of the silver-coloured plastics used on parts of the hangdown console, but overall quality of the hard plastics and leather used throughout the cabin is top notch.

There are little things, like the one-touch indicator stalks and getting a digital speed reading on the rev counter's information display, that irk somewhat, but could just as easily be forgotten as the Mini's desire to please in other aspects overwhelm.

This car seems to display qualities akin to an automotive equivalent of "short man's syndrome". It appears tiny from the outside, but everything within the cabin is oversized and almost loud. Big, circular dials and vents, and the clever integration of the signature Mini logo within the cabin, give this car that something extra.

In the Cooper S, the navigation, entertainment and vehicle setup can be controlled using the iDrive-like joystick between the front seats and viewed on the colour monitor housed within the central speedometer.

It could be crass, but you get the distinct feeling that the Cooper S could also make "loud" appear super cool. This could perhaps be attributed to the car's joi de vivre.

Under the bonnet

Most of this "energy" is definitely thanks to the livewire's power supply. The new turbocharged 1.6-litre unit, in conjunction with the Cooper's great dynamics, ensures endless supplies of fun. This unit produces 128 kW of power with peak torque of 260 Nm on tap from a low 1 600 r/min.

With figures like these on a car of the Mini's size, it should be quite easy to understand how any attempts at driving this car in a civilised fashion are met with real disdain. All it really wants to do is play and who would want to disappoint this car - just look at that "face"!

Driving it

Launch it quickly off the line and a fair amount of torque steer is induced. Unfortunately any misbehaviour on the part of the Cooper S is just laughed off as the kilometers rush by.

But get the engine growling and it dispatches traffic with a few short chirps of the tyres. The grin factor is almost instant. The only spot of consternation is that there is no conventional heat gauge. According to the owner's manual, a warning lamp is activated on the instrument panel when things become very hot under the bonnet, but thankfully, even hours of hard driving never saw this function being put to use.

Ride and road holding are also worth noting and its agility and grip levels make the Mini Cooper S a really rewarding car to drive. The firm ride quality is not unwelcome, unless you happen to be driving across corrugated roads where the Mini's interior transforms into an instant tumbledrier. But stick it on a decent surface, point it in the right direction, give it some juice, and feel this little car stick. No questions asked.

However, on the days when the driver really isn't able to oblige, the very flexible engine makes life so easy. Slip it into sixth for regular highway cruising and it's able to comfortably pick up speed and even coast by slower moving traffic.

For when matters do become a bit too much for the driver to handle, the optional DSC (with hill start), Automatic Stabilty Control and Traction step in while a full complement of airbags keep the occupants safe.

There are four seats, so it should be able to carry four occupants, though I would not dare anyone to test this theory using adults on a long journey. However, when carting a passenger and your combined shopping spoils, just toss the rear seats down and the Mini swallows it up. With the rear seats up, the boot space is simply laughable, though.


  • Retains its original character
  • A real driver's car
  • The cute little Mini Owners Club (they wave at and flash at one another!)


  • Fussy indicator switch
  • My pudgy space man water bottle found the cupholders to be a "bit snug"...


    The Mini may have grown up a bit (largely to satisfy more stringent European safety standards) and its exterior styling more resemble that of a facelift than an all-new model, but the core values of the original small car remain unchanged.

    The Cooper S is an engaging drive, and while demanding fair amounts of its driver's attention, it rewards in more than equal measures.

    Video clips
    Broadband (4.1MB @ 200kbps)

    Mini Cooper S vs The Tank

    Dial-up (1.9MB @ 100kbps)
    Mini Cooper S vs The Tank


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