In-depth reviews

Mini Cooper S review

Mini’s middle-ground hot hatch is fun, but keen drivers will get more from a Ford Fiesta ST

Evo rating
from £19,555
  • Fun to throw around, well built, distinctive inside and out
  • Not as focused as some, uninspiring engine, limited practicality

Other hot hatchbacks come and go, but since BMW relaunched the Mini two decades ago, the retro hatch has been a constant fixture on the market. Only occasionally has it topped the table in group tests, but the Cooper S in particular has long been a fun, accessible and desirable alternative to the mainstream.

Now in its third generation and past its mid-life facelift, the current Cooper S is quite a different beast from those early, supercharged cars. The market too has moved on, with less competition these days, so the fact the Cooper S exists at all is worthy of celebration.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

The current car might be large by Mini standards but it’s among the more compact superminis, while its retro styling hides technology, such as LED headlights and a comprehensive infotainment system, that make it feel surprisingly grown-up.

And naturally, there’s a good chassis too. Mini’s particular brand of tack-sharp steering and waspish agility are no longer unique these days, but they do mean the Mini DNA remains intact. We’d still take a Ford Fiesta ST for driving thrills, but to live with day to day, the Mini still has the edge.

Mini Cooper S: in detail 

  • Engine, gearbox and technical specs – 2-litre four-cylinder engines are larger than the class norm, but deliver good power and torque through six-speed manual and seven-speed DCT gearboxes
  • Performance and 0-60 time – A 0-62mph time under seven seconds is perfectly respectable. It’s a shame the engine isn’t more engaging to use, though
  • Ride and handling – Sharp steering and a nimble chassis make the Cooper S fun to chuck around, but it’s not as finely tuned as some alternatives
  • MPG and running costs – Despite a large engine for the class, the Mini’s not a big drinker, and is able to match its on-paper mpg in the real world
  • Interior and tech – Retro touches can be cloying in places and there’s not much space in three-door models, but it’s well built and the tech is up to date
  • Design – Nothing else looks like a Mini, for better or worse. Huge range of personalisation means few Minis are ever alike

Prices, specs and rivals

A basic three-door Mini Cooper S in entry-level ‘Classic’ specification comes in at £20,925. Upgrading to ‘Sport’ trim bumps this to £22,675, and the more luxurious ‘Exclusive’ models are the same price as their Sport counterparts.

To this you can then add £700 if you want an extra pair of doors, £3520 if you want the roof to fold back, and £1360 for the dual-clutch auto transmission. This does make a car that initially seems like quite good value, quite expensive – a Cooper S Convertible in Sport trim with the auto transmission is a £27,575 car, and that kind of money starts to conflict with some of the more serious hot hatches from the class above.

As far as comparably sized rivals go, the obvious alternative is a Ford Fiesta ST. It might only displace 1.5 litres and three cylinders, but with 197bhp on tap it’s more muscular than the Mini, and its slightly boosty power delivery and offbeat soundtrack make its power plant more exciting too. It’s also sharper on the road, though you have to spend £26,495 for the Performance Edition before you get a ride quality as well-tuned as the handling. Basic STs start at £19,495, though with desirable options most roll out of the showroom at something north of £23,000.

Beyond the Fiesta, true alternatives are thin on the ground. The Suzuki Swift Sport is similarly sized and similarly priced (though a current £2000 customer saving allows it to undercut the Mini at £17,249), and its lower weight offsets its lower output, but for most people it’ll struggle to touch the Mini’s image. The same goes for Abarth’s wide range of 595s and 695s, which are rowdy fun but less practical and less well-built than the Mini.

More on Cooper S

Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S GT Edition – a modern-day Mini 1275GT?

Mini’s latest retro limited-edition car will only be available in France
5 Oct 2018
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S review - more dynamic than the Fiesta ST?

The third-gen Mini Cooper S is now in the UK. Can it compete with the best small hot hatchbacks?
28 Sep 2015
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Challenge 210 review, prices, specs and 0-60 time

Limited-edition model offers JCW-level thrills, but the price is hard to stomach
9 May 2015
Mini Cooper S hatchback

2015 Mini Cooper S v John Cooper Works – what’s the difference?

evo spoke to the new Mini JCW's project director to see what separates the hottest Mini from its lesser brethren
22 Jan 2015
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S Cabrio

Convertible Mini finally brought in line with other Mk2 models
23 Oct 2008
Mini Cooper S hatchback

AC Schnitzer Mini Cooper S

The Cooper S is under attack from the new breed of superminis. AC Schnitzer has the answer
11 Mar 2008
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S

The Mini's a mighty little car and its chassis and engine a perfect marriage
28 Feb 2008
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S

We take the Cooper S to the Bedford Autodrome for a comparison with Renault's Clio R27
2 Jan 2008
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S

Is the 189bhp works kit worth the outlay? We find out
6 Dec 2007
Mini Cooper S hatchback

Mini Cooper S

The new-car love affair with our Cooper S is wearing off on Jethro
8 Nov 2007
Mini Cooper S hatchback

MINI Cooper S v Clio Renaultsport 197

MINI Cooper S and Clio Renaultsport 197 in a head-to-head
16 Oct 2006
Mini Cooper S hatchback

MINI Cooper S: BBR MINI Cooper S 300T

BBR says its turbocharged 307bhp Cooper S is the fastest ever built. We find out
18 Jul 2005
Mini Cooper S hatchback

MINI Cooper S Works

We're serial Mini owners here at evo, having bought and subsequently failed to sell our early Cooper Works (42,528 miles and counting) and our Hartge-…
7 Mar 2005
Mini Cooper S hatchback

MINI Cooper S Works

I've been wearing a groove in the A14, M11, M25 and M23 this month, with four trips to Gatwick. My heart always sinks when a launch invite mentions th…
5 Nov 2004