What the three-pot Mini Cooper lacks, and the four-pot Cooper S delivers, is a genuine high. Something that could see us bond like chewing gum to hair. After nearly 2000 kays in my six-speed manual Cooper, I’m struggling to find something I truly, genuinely love. But here goes.
Rear seat surprisingly comfy, but front passengers need to move forward a notch or two.
Contrary to what others think, I quite like the rear styling of the latest Mini, particularly its blobby tail-lights, and I’m always a sucker for frameless doors (until the seals stop sucking at highway speeds – ask any old Subaru owner). The Mini’s front cupholders are great for phones and keys and what not, while the one-litre Tupperware bottle I cart everywhere sits perfectly in the recess next to the handbrake. So practicality-wise it’s usefully inoffensive, even though its watered-down interior design means the new Mini is a little less Mini than it used to be.
It’s the dynamic aspect, though, that’s leaving me numb. Every now and then you get a taste of its delightful rear-end adjustment as it tucks into an urban corner, courtesy of super-keen steering and a neat leather wheel. But out on the open road, it simply doesn’t gel as well as it should.
Even on its non-run-flat 195/55R16 Hankooks, the Mini Cooper’s urban ride is rubbish, yet at speed on a typically bumpy Aussie freeway, there’s virtually no improvement in its bump absorbency. If you like a jiggly, constantly jostling ride, then here’s your car! And the Mini’s steering is arguably too reactive on a twisty road, especially when it’s wet, because those Hankooks don’t quite keep up with the steering’s demands.
So, highs that aren’t satisfying enough, mixed with a ride-quality low that’s borderline hateful. If the Cooper sounded raspy and keen, like a three-pot Mini should, then I could forgive some of its flaws, but it doesn’t do that either. If only it were a Cooper S manual with adaptive dampers.
DOLLARS AND SENSE
A $500 grocery shop is a big ask, not least for your wallet, but with a visitor staying for a fortnight, the new Mini’s increased cargo flexibility had a chance to prove its worth. I laid copious amounts of mineral water and anything else that would fit beneath the dual-height adjustable boot floor, and wedged the rest as tight as possible in the upper level. A few bags had to ride shotgun with the rear-seat passenger, but the little Mini did an admirable job.
This article was originally published in Wheels February 2015.