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MINI Cooper S Hatchback engines, drive and performance

2006 - 2016 (change model)
Performance rating: 4.5 out of 54.5

Written by Simon McBride Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

Minis have always been renowned for their driving enjoyment and MINI Cooper S performance delivers that in bucket loads. Car buyers can choose between diesel and petrol engines depending on whether it’s need for lots of motorway miles or mostly around town.

Petrol engine

The MINI Cooper S comes with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, as used in some Peugeot models. It’s an eager performer and dishes up 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds on the dot. That’s not outrageously quick for a hot hatch nowadays, but it’s on the pace and for those who demand more alacrity from their MINI there’s always the upgrade to the John Cooper Works model.

MINI Cooper S engine

However, most MINI Cooper S buyers are satisfied with the car’s acceleration as it also offers strong in-gear pace for overtaking and flexibility. This means the driver can leave the gear lever alone on twisty roads as third or fourth gears are all you’ll need in most circumstances, or you can pop the car in sixth on the motorway and cruise with surprising refinement. Some wind and road noise will be evident, but the engine is a quiet companion.

With the six-speed manual, the Cooper S gives 48.7mpg average economy and 136g/km carbon dioxide emissions, so it’s lean and clean compared to most of its rivals. A six-speed automatic gearbox is also an option, pegging 0-62mph back to 7.2 seconds and economy to 44.1mpg, while CO2 emissions rise to 149g/km.

Diesel engine

A diesel engine in a Cooper S would have been unthinkable not so long ago, but the superb 2.0-litre turbodiesel added by BMW in 2011 is a great fit in the Cooper SD. Thanks to its generous 225lb.ft of shove delivered generously between 1750- and 2700rpm, the Cooper SD is equally adept at passing slower traffic as its petrol-powered sister model.

MINI Cooper S exhaust

It’s also no slouch off the mark, covering 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and feeling faster than this figure suggests as you work through the six-speed manual gearbox. Ease off the throttle a little and you’ll see 65.7mpg coupled to 114g/km carbon dioxide emissions.

All together, this makes the Cooper SD a strong contender, especially for company buyers concerned with Benefit in Kind payments. If you prefer the six-speed automatic gearbox with the quiet and smooth 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, economy takes a knock down to 53.3mpg and emissions hike up to 139g/km.

Parkers recommends

Whether you choose petrol or diesel for the Cooper S, we’d recommend sticking with the manual gearbox. It better suits the car’s sporty character and, in particular with the diesel, prevents large penalties in economy and emissions experienced with the auto ’box. For us, the petrol is the preferred option as the zingy turbo engine is entirely in keeping with the essence of the Cooper S.

This MINI is as good as ever to drive and offers the kind of thrills usually on offer only to owners of much more expensive cars. It’s fun to drive as it’s grippy, agile and has responsive steering. Plus, as you’d expect, the MINI is also a dab hand when it comes to town or city driving. It’s got a tight turning circle and steering that’s not too heavy.

The suspension is a huge improvement over the old car. Although the Cooper S is much stiffer than other MINIs, it’s now much more comfortable, doesn’t jar, yet still adds to the MINI’s sporty feel. An optional sports suspension pack firms the springs and dampers up further, while the sports button sharpens the steering and makes the throttle more responsive.

Normally diesel engines can feel quite heavy but the 143bhp 2.0-litre diesel (added in 2011) does not detract from any of that famous ‘go-kart’ handling. Driving the car is a lot of fun. It’s nimble, agile and the steering offers plenty of feedback for the drive. Engage the Sport button and the steering weights up and the controls become a little more responsive – a boon for enthusiasts.