BBC Top Gear Magazine
Now you’re a Mini expert, it’s time to buy one...
Mini Cooper S Works GP / 2006 / £12,000–£20,000
What is it?
Hot hatch specials are all the rage nowadays. Fast Golfs, Meganes and Civics are only too happy to bin the non-essentials – like back seats, the aircon and stereo – in the hunt for speed, precision and trackday paddock kudos. Beating them to it, though, was Mini, with the Cooper S Works GP. Limited to 2,000 cars, with around 450 coming to the UK, it was pieced together by Italian coachbuilder Bertone for maximum speciality.
Back in 2006, when the wee GP launched, its £22k price tag represented a big hike for a car which had halved its seat count. But those binned rear seats contribute to a 50kg weight loss, significant in such a small car. Final kerbweight? Just 1,090kg. Probably worth tethering it down on windy days.
The GP also sits 10mm lower than a contemporary Cooper S, its suspension stiffer and more aggressive. There’s a limited-slip differential on the front axle, too, helping control the stockier 218bhp of its 1.6-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine (yep, not turbocharged, like all Minis since have been).
Feels properly old-school. Partly it’s in the power delivery. The little 1.6-litre, or more specifically its supercharger, wails merrily
away as the revs climb. And those revs build in a completely linear manner. It just keeps accelerating, with the visceral whine of its forced induction possessing such clarity it’s like it’s being played straight through a B&O stereo in the footwell.
It’s into corners, particularly when it’s wet, where your inputs ought to be measured. The GP is hyper agile and needs a bit of care. The result, though, is a car that’s effervescent and full of energy, darting about the place with the merest of steering inputs. The GP behaves like this straight away, too. Unlike the Minis that followed it, you have no Sport button to press or driving modes to toggle through. It’s hard-edged and up-for-it immediately.
This also means that when the exhaust pops and crackles, a sound exacerbated by the lack of interior separating your ears from the bootlid, those noises are real. Not some manufactured-in fakery. Call us oldies, but this is fantastic news.
On the inside
The GP is characterised by its total and complete lack of rear seats. Ditched in the name of lightweighting, all there is behind you is a solid feeling brace, presumably for better rigidity. Elsewhere it’s normal first-gen BMW Mini, with a big central speedo that makes it entirely too easy to not notice how fast it is you’re going. The GP may have just 218bhp, but it absolutely flies along.