Ride and Handling
If you’re worried the Mini might lose its nippy nature given its increased girth, you needn’t – as the car’s Sport mode advertises, the car retains its ‘go-kart feel’.
The optional (£375) variable dampers seem like an option worth speccing. Sometimes the differences between variable damper settings can be fairly minimal, but the Cooper S’s demeanour changes markedly. In its standard setting the car feels much more supple, particularly in its secondary ride, and as a result copes far better with bumpy UK B-roads (and general everyday driving).
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On smoother terrain you get a little extra precision from the steering in Sport mode, but the car feels happier as a whole in its more relaxed setting because it breathes with the road rather than fighting it. The standard 16in wheels (17s are a £450 option) might be the better choice for ride and handling, unfashionable though that might be.
The Mini has always had sharp, darty steering but the new car takes that to a new level. It's quicker to react than before and front-end grip has improved. Importantly, it still feels like a Mini and has that appealing chuckable nature that its predecessors have always possessed. Find a wide corner and turn the stability control off and the Mini can still be persuaded to tighten its line aggressively on a lifted throttle, but it won't intimidate the more casual driver either.