THIS is the one that brings the best out of the MINI's new chassis. We slung the high-performance Cooper S around mountain roads and angular bends with poor, rutted, surfaces and it had us looking for more. That's a good sign.
The automatic gearbox fairly shifted the 189bhp streaming through it, with the exhaust-tuned crackle deepening the impression of speedy performance.
One of the few things against it is the price – €28,030 (road tax is €280 a year). You could stretch another few grand and get a Golf GTi, for example, with a lot more cabin room.
The MINI simply can't compete on space – especially at the back where it remains severely restricted if you have anyone approaching or over six foot in the driver's or front passenger's seats. At 3,850mm, it is 29mm longer than the other hatches but you'd not notice that.
But that is to overlook what the MINI is truly about. This Cooper S is all energy and buzz and really is about the drive and that close-to-road sensation. I suspect buyers won't be overly concerned about rear-seat space. Those buying a GTi, one of the most 'together' pieces of quick, poised driving you'll come across, know they are getting a practical four-seater as well.
Anyway, the Cooper S showed remarkable agility and its ability to hug the road and squirt to speed provided the sense of energy you want from a motor like this. That four-cylinder petrol seemed, to us anyway, to find an extra metre of pace the more we pushed it.
I expected zip and zeal, but I was equally impressed with the automatic gearbox (and, of course, the paddles on the steering column).
We agreed, after two of us had driven it, that it was crying out for a stint around a track. That would be fun. Public roads merely offer a taste of what this can do, but we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that it took anything we threw at it easily in its stride.
In my case it forgave bad timing on corners, tucked in when pushed into sharper bends and came out of them at full tilt. And that's why it will generate a lot of talk – it has a rare ability to make modest drivers feel like rally champions.
THE MINIS AND
MINI One – €20,500 OTR
MINI One D – €21,760 OTR
MINI Cooper – €22,530
MINI Cooper S – €28,030
MINI Cooper D – €23,830