MINI STILL A MA­JOR PLAYER

THE COOPER S IS A MINI LIKE NO OTHER

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Bill Buys

WELL, for a 55-year-old, the Mini cer­tainly has aged well.

In­stead of age wrin­kles and lame per­for­mance, the lat­est gen­er­a­tion is much bet­ter look­ing, more pow­er­ful, re­fined, eco­nom­i­cal and, most im­por­tant of all, it has re­tained the kart-like han­dling that en­deared it­self to a zil­lion en­thu­si­asts all over the world.

There’s a fair crop of newies in the cur­rent line-up, in­clud­ing three-cylin­der ver­sions, with sev­eral more mod­els still to come.

But to­day we’re look­ing at the hot­tie du jour, the Cooper S.

It has a new 2.0litre four-cylin­der twin­scroll turbo BMW mo­tor that gen­er­ates 141kW and 300Nm, which, through the op­tional ($2600) six-speed auto, can take it to 100km/h in a blis­ter­ing 6.6 seconds. Ah, mama mia, one can’t legally go any faster in the metro re­gion, but get­ting to the limit in that time at least lifts the veil of dull­ness to re­veal a world of joy.

The slick au­to­matic comes com­plete with smile-in­duc­ing sound ef­fects as it runs through the cogs on its way to the “tonne”.

The car looks lovely, and ours had a few ex­tras, among them bon­net stripes, colour-coded mir­ror caps, a rev­ers­ing cam­era, head-up dis­play and a big nav­i­ga­tion screen that lifted its base drive­away price in Perth from $43,203 for the man­ual shift ver­sion to about $48,000.

Yep, the Mini, orig­i­nally de­vel­oped for ev­ery­one’s bud­get, has evolved into a pre­mium ma­chine, with price to match.

The new one is 10cm longer, has a big­ger twin-level boot and fold-down back seats, a switch for its turbo over­boost func­tion in­stead of the ear­lier but­ton, a big cen­tral in­stru­ment dis­play, dual zone cli­mate con­trol, Blue­tooth and all its as­so­ci­ated thin­gies, and a de­cent thick­rimmed steer­ing wheel with var­i­ous con­trol but­tons.

The tail end has also been given some styling treat­ment and the big-bore chrome-tipped twin ex­hausts now poke out from be­neath their own grille, giv­ing the beastie an even cheekier look.

It has auto-on head­lights with a won­der­ful spread, and rain-sens­ing wipers, plus the full com­ple­ment of elec­tronic driv­ing aids and it runs on at­trac­tive 17-inch light al­loy wheels that fill the body arches nicely.

The Cooper S first came to my at­ten­tion at the Kyalami rac­ing cir­cuit a long time ago, when a lass named Pat Son­nen- schein drove one in the pro­duc­tion car races that knocked spots off the reg­u­lars in their much big­ger ma­chines.

The Mini was light, su­per-nim­ble, scooted through the cor­ners with­out hav­ing to brake and left a trail of em­bar­rassed com­pe­ti­tion in its wake.

The new one, with BMW power un­der its air-scooped bon­net, is a ver­sa­tile lit­tle honey that hap­pily chor­tles off to the su­per­mar­ket or tack­les a track day at Barba­gallo Race­way with equal aplomb.

It’s a three-door hatch with four seats, su­perb ones in front, all the mod cons and safety fea­tures one could wish for, but its main at­trac­tion re­mains its huge fun fac­tor. It, and I, could hardly wait for the next cor­ner.

Doesn’t cost much to run ei­ther. How about an av­er­age 5.5litres/100km?

Ver­dict: A class act. Loved it.

The cute and eye­catch­ing Mini Coupe Cooper S.

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