Mini Cooper S hatch 2017 new car review

The 2017 2-litre turbocharged Mini Cooper S hatch follows in the footsteps of the original car.

Robert Barry
Robert Barry
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

The 2017 2-litre turbocharged Mini Cooper S hatch follows in the footsteps of the original car. It retains the fun-to-drive character with go-kart like handling and performance, as well as quick steering response and fast acceleration. Buyers looking for something that stands out and has a little more practicality than a normal sports car – but not as much as a normal hatch – will love this Mini. Need more than two seats? This is not the car for you.

Exterior full starfull starfull starfull starempty star

4

Drive full starfull starfull starfull starempty star

4

Safety full starfull starfull starfull starfull star

5

Value full starfull starfull starfull starempty star

4

Overall score 4.3 / 5

The good
  • Fun-to-drive compact city cruiser
  • Easy to park
  • Low fuel consumption considering the performance on offer
The not-so-good
  • Despite growing in size, interior room is still tight
  • Optional extras are pricey

The creator of the original Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, wasn't keen on the idea of a performance version of his 1959 design, believing it would never sell. British formula one racing car maker John Cooper persuaded him otherwise, and the two set to work. The Mini Cooper was born in 1961, followed by the even sportier Mini Cooper S in 1963, which saw the small British car entering motorsport in circuit races as well as international rallies, notably winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1967.

Inside and out

The exterior design of the Cooper S hatch is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but the small details such as the squared-off tail lamps, and the S specific front and rear bumpers differentiate it clearly from its less sporty sibling.

To meet more stringent safety criteria, including pedestrian protection, the current F56 Mini Cooper S is longer, wider and lower than the previous R56 and R50 designs, which in reality makes it feel like more of a maxi rather than ‘mini’, even at 3.82m in length.

Unfortunately for the Mini Cooper S hatch, the longer external dimensions don’t translate into a roomier cabin. Space for the front occupants in the hatch is perfectly adequate and comfortable for people who are six-foot-plus, but sadly not so much for people squeezing into the two rear seats. The space inside the boot is also minimal at 211 litres.

Sensibly the quirky interior design touches are toned down in the latest Mini; the switchgear and toggle controls are more intuitively placed and easier to use. It’s a much better setup than in the previous two generations of Mini, even though it eschews tradition.

The easily used cruise control function activates immediately at the touch of a button on the remote steering wheel controls.

The traditional Mini centre speedometer is replaced in the F56 cars with a large screen for the infotainment display which includes vehicle information, audio, Bluetooth, and navigation functions. The speedometer has been moved into the instrument pods directly in the driver’s line of sight, which also house the rev counter, fuel gauge, and temperature gauge.

On the road

The responsive engine, transmission and steering, coupled with the sporting suspension package, make this car so much fun to drive around town and on rural state highways. Despite the low profile 17-inch alloy wheel and tyre combination, the ride quality is comfortable and compliant, even over some of our worst road surfaces - a testament to the better build quality of today’s run-flat tyres.

Underneath the clamshell bonnet is a 141kW 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine allied to six-speed sports shift automatic transmission driving the two front wheels. There are three driving modes that are accessed by toggle switch at the base of the automatic transmission selector: Green, Comfort, and Sport.

Sport (for maximum go-kart feel according the display screen) is by far the most preferred mode as it tightens up the engine and steering response, adding some lovely snap, crackle, and pop when you lift off the accelerator for compression braking downhill and around corners. In this mode, the Cooper S hatch will sprint to 100km/h from standing still in 6.8 seconds but retain the frugal consumption of 5.5-litres per 100km.

You sit quite low in the Mini hatch and this heightens the car’s go-kart like character.

There is a downside to this. While small, rear visibility can be difficult making paring a little harder than you would expect. A reversing camera is an option that we think is a must have.

Safety

The 2017 Cooper S hatch has a Euro NCAP Five-star safety rating.

The Cooper S has electronic stability control, six-airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and cornering brake control as well as features like dynamic traction control and electronic braking force distribution control. It has an indicator for the run flat tyres fitted as standard, as well as rear park distance control. A reversing camera is an optional extra and was not fitted to this car.

Autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist functions are not available on this model.

Cost of ownership

The 2017 Cooper S hatch is priced from $42,900 with a six-speed manual transmission, and the test vehicle was fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission for an additional $3000. Options available include the $450 JCW rear spoiler, the $500 roof rails in matte black, the $1500 cloth and leather sports seats, and the $2700 Mini navigation system.

Cooper S hatch owners may have a body coloured roof and mirror caps except for chili red that is solely reserved for the high-performance 170kW Mini John Cooper Works hatch. Another option is a black roof and mirror caps or a white roof and matching mirror caps, which is more suited to the primary-coloured models such as red or blue.

Mini uses an electronic maintenance system which means the car’s computer will tell you when it's due for servicing at the dealership. This feature plus free servicing for the first three years of the car’s life provides a huge saving for new Mini owners.

Note: This was reviewed as a new vehicle.

Details

Price

$51,050

Engine

2-litre 141kW/280Nm

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

Safety rating

Euro NCAP Five-star

Servicing

12 months or 25,000km, first three-years complementary

Spare wheel

None – run flat tyres fitted

Warranty

Five years

Fuel economy

5.8-litres per 100km

Fuel type

Premium

Length

3820mm

Width

2495mm

Height

1414mm

Turning circle

11 metres

Image gallery


Robert Barry
Robert Barry
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

I've been reviewing cars, vans, utes, trucks, and almost any other contraption with wheels and an engine since 2003. My dream car is a classic W123 series Mercedes-Benz 280CE.

Opinions are my own and not those of Trade Me.