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2019 Mini Cooper S quick review

By Tom Fraser, 03 May 2019 Car Reviews

2019 Mini Cooper S quick review

A mini car with a massive character, the Cooper S 60 Years Edition doubles down on its fun-loving character with a nod to the past

This year marks the 60th anniversary since the British Motor Corporation first unveiled the Mini compact car. Never one to shy from a special edition, Mini took the chance to celebrate that fact with the Mini Cooper S 60 Years Edition.

What is it?

The Mini Cooper is as timeless as a Porsche 911, staying (fairly) true to its roots since its creation 60 years ago. But as much as the world fell in love with the original Mini Cooper, the spicier Cooper S is now the small hatch coveted by Mini-diehards.

Read next: Mini 60 Years Edition celebrates the birth of a legend

Earlier this year Mini announced a swathe of 60 Years Edition Coopers which included the Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper D and Cooper SD versions of the iconic hatchback. What we have here is the sports-oriented Cooper S three-door hatch which is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine.

This Cooper S 60 Years Edition embraces the Cooper’s British heritage by going for a dive back into the colour swatch back catalogue. In addition to a unique blend of British racing green for the body and a cream coloured roof on the exterior, this Cooper S sports a brown leather interior with love-it-or-hate-it green piping surrounding the edges of seats.

This version also sees 60 Years graphics around the car, stripes on the bonnet and bespoke 60 Years Edition 17-inch alloy wheels. It’s a similar treatment on the inside with the unique 60 Years logo package featuring on the seats and leather sports steering wheel.  

In terms of other equipment specific to the 60 Years Edition, it receives LED puddle lamps projecting ’60 Years’ onto the ground, as well as ambient lighting for the interior.

The last time a Mini was safety rated with the Australian New Car Assessment Program was 2014 where it received a four-out-of-five star crash safety rating.

Read next: 2018 Mini facelift revealed

How much is the Mini Cooper S?

Pricing is yet to be announced for the 60 Years Edition of the Mini Cooper (we will let you know as soon as we do); however, the standard Cooper S three-door can be used as a yardstick and costs $39,900 before on road costs.

Compared to its rivals, the Mini Cooper S commands a higher price tag than a similar Renault Clio RS ($30,990) or Volkswagen Polo GTI ($31,990), but Mini buyers tend to be in a class of their own and are less likely to cross-shop.

Who is it for?

Let’s get this straight: the Mini Cooper S is unequivocally for the Mini Cooper S buyer. It’s not a car that people buy with their head, rather much more a style-oriented choice driven by the heart.

The Mini Cooper is aimed at a younger style-conscious audience who have always liked the looks of the iconic shaped hatchback and have come into the money needed to afford its higher price tag.

It’s undoubtedly a premium hatchback that trades on its reputation and ability to be a fun-to-drive small hatchback that also wears its style on its tweed sleeve.

Read next: 2018 Mini Cooper review

Is the Mini Cooper S easy to live with?

Working in the Cooper S’s favour is the fact that it’s available in a number of variations, whether it be with a manual or automatic transmission, or three- or five-door body styles.

Focus on the three door, automatic version that we tested, and you find that the Cooper S works nicely as a daily driver, provided you fit snugly between the bounds of its intended market. It won’t be carting kids to school easily and its not going to take long to fill that 211 litre boot, but for the single or couple that purchases the Cooper S, it’s a fun, responsive small car to drive about town.

The Cooper S is loaded with a lot of technology, but on occasion our automatic Bluetooth audio streaming wouldn’t work every time. You can work around it via the touchscreen-based built-in wireless Apple CarPlay system.

Mini’s 6.5-inch infotainment system can be handled in one of three ways: touch, rotary dial controls or voice-control. Using the rotary dial is often an ergonomic struggle due to an intrusive fold-up centre armrest that won’t quite fold back far enough, so we defaulted to the touchscreen.

The updated media system controls the well-presented satellite-navigation system, digital radio and Bluetooth media system, and features Mini-specific apps. The Harmon/Kardon surround sound speakers produce great audio and the voice control is quick to comprehend instructions with little need for re-dos.

The cabin is very well appointed with quality materials – special mention goes to the nice feel of the leather sports steering wheel. 60 Years Edition motifs appear throughout the interior on the seats and bottom of the steering wheel reminding you of the the history of the Mini lineage, making it feel like a semi-special occasion.

Read next: 2018 Mini Cooper hatch quick review

Seats are heated in the Cooper S 60 Years Edition and dual zone climate control takes care of air-con, but it’d be handy if Mini could just throw in a ‘SYNC’ button to change both zones simultaneously.

The cabin can feel cramped at times if you’re larger than normal, and the rear seat space is especially tight. But once you’re in and have everything set just so, the cabin is a fairly accommodating cosy experience and is comfortable enough for that once-in-a-blue-moon extended drive.

How well does the Mini Cooper S drive?

Part and parcel of a Mini experience is the way it drives. Pedalling a Mini, especially in its prime habitat of inner-city streets, can be a lot of fun and this 60 Years Edition is no different. Its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine produces a modest 141kW/280Nm, but by the seat of the pants, the turbocharged four propels harder than you’d expect.

The Cooper’s petite stature make for fun blasts about town and it feels nimble and manoeuvrable especially when compared to larger sports cars. A sudden change of direction in the Cooper S doesn’t upset its balance and it’ll power through connecting corners with ease.

Adding to the theatre are cute little pops and crackles from the exhaust on overrun and while swapping cogs, and stepping off the accelerator while on boost results in an awesome little turbo flutter that sounds like you’re piloting a 1990s Japanese drift car.

Take it further afield and it starts to feel a bit out of its depth on sweeping country roads, but there’s no one area where it falls apart. Ride is well damped across larger bumps (if a little jittery over the smaller stuff), the stopping power feels adequate for a car of its size and it feels properly quick enough to hustle competitors above its weight class. Road noise is well refined for a small sporty hatchback too. 

Read next: Winging it: Mini’s fuel-efficient future design tricks

Mini claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.5 litres per 100km for the Cooper S three door but we found our number to be hovering about 9.8 for the time we spent aboard. It was a fresh build with just 500km on the odometer, though, so that higher-than-expected fuel use will likely improve after a solid run-in phase.

Verdict

As long as you’re going into a Mini Cooper S purchase with its unique style and fun in mind, you’re absolutely in for a hoot. If you’re looking at a Mini purchase from any other viewpoint, though, it starts to make less sense.

However, the 60 Years Edition with its throwback colour scheme and unique badging is a worthy celebration of a hot hatch legend and rightly justifies its unique place in history.

Click on the gallery at the top for plenty more photos of the 2019 Mini Cooper S 60 Years Edition by Tom Fraser.

2019 MINI COOPER S SPECS

Engine: 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 141kW @ 5000-6000rpm
Max torque: 280Nm @ 1350-4600rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch, FWD
L/W/H/WB: 3850/1727/1414/2495mm
Weight: 1280kg
0-100km/h: 6.7sec (claimed)
Economy: 5.5L/100km