THIS IS meant to be a review of the 2018 Cooper S, but a booking mix-up landed us with a base Cooper automatic by mistake. No bad thing, as it turns out. The standard Cooper arguably gets closest to capturing the character of the original.
Its thrummy 1.5-litre turbo three-pot sounds suspiciously like an old 911, but ridiculously tall gearing makes the standard manual too slow. Thankfully, the new seven-speed dual-clutch offers much closer ratios to give the Cooper a bit of verve, yet its lack of outright pace means its entire performance envelope is accessible in almost every situation.
Speed is fun, but lack of speed also has its appeal. Current Minis aren’t as sharp as their predecessors, but accurate steering and light weight ensure you won’t be bored behind the wheel. Stick with the smallest possible wheels and replace the run-flat tyres at the first opportunity and you’ll even enjoy respectable ride quality.
At $29,990 (plus $2500 for the dualclutch) the Mini is an expensive small car, but it has the swagger to pull it off, with neat touches like the puddle lights and new Union Jack tail-lights, with an interior that’s much classier than more mainstream offerings. If you were sensible you’d buy a Golf, but a Mini is much more fun. – Scott Newman
1.5 I3T; 100kW @ 6000rpm; 220Nm @ 1250rpm; FWD; 1115kg; $29,990