If you can’t decide between the sensible and the ‘fun’ choices when buying a hot hatch, there’s one that ticks both of those boxes at the same time.
It’s the Mini Cooper S, and it’s just landed locally with a revised (but not more powerful) engine, and a more ‘British Patriot’ design motif.
That engine still makes 141kW, but it feels eager and its power delivery is where you need it thanks to its 7-speed dual-clutch, between 4000 and 6000rpm where the needle hangs out while you’re booking it in third.
Quick but smooth (and non-argumentative) shifts are almost enough to lure a proper enthusiast away from the manual, as it feels more like a very fast torque-converter than a DCT.
Underneath is a chassis that’s fun to toy with on a twisty road, especially with a dab of mid-corner braking for some playful rotation.
The Mini remains relatively light given the pudginess of some of its rivals, and its feels it in almost every way aside from the steering.
Even before switching to Sport Mode, something you’ll want to do out on the twisties, the steering feels artificially heavy, becoming worse in the more aggressive setting.
Each element of the car deserves individual adjustability, as can be done in the JCW.
But for $42,700 ($39,900 with a manual ‘box), the Mini is a pretty good deal. Its interior is quite sleek if speced well (as black as possible is a good choice), and the amount of fun you can have with the car is more accessible than something like a Golf GTI, which is usually more mature in most hands.
The biggest thing that’ll likely turn most away is the ‘image’ that comes with the cute Mini, especially now that it’s got Union Jack tail lights – a motif which comes into the cabin and spreads to seemingly every surface.
If you can look past those flags, or even enjoy them, the Cooper S is a blast.
2018 MINI COOPER S SPECS
Engine: 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 141kW @ 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1250rpm
0-100km/h: 6.8sec (claimed)
Price: $39,900 (6/m) - $42,700 (7/dct)