When the MINI Cooper came back to North America in 2002, it offered driving excitement and British design elements together. Since then, it has matured a lot, but it still keeps its basic design features in 2019. Small size, boxy body lines, contrasting roof, big LED round headlights are the main features which every people can recognize it from miles away.
Although BMW decided to go with different body types of MINIs, this is the original design dates back to 1960s. Yes, it should still be considered as a hot-hatch in our book. This MINI still feels like go-kart which differentiates it from the others while still having BMW features and tech. The S badge makes it the sportier edition.
To be honest, there are not many things changed in the interior lately. If you are a MINI fan, you know this interior already. The big infotainment screen placed right in the middle, gauge cluster is fixed to the steering column, infotainment controls located in a very inconvenient location where your armrest gets in the way, and a handbrake which is placed right beside the infotainment buttons and you always end up pressing infotainment buttons while you are trying it to pull the handbrake. The priority of MINI is more of the looks than being functional, and we totally get it.
Although it is made in Germany, it is harder to find the typical BMW interior quality as there are semi-hard touch plastics all around the cabin. It is still better than the competition, but if you are looking for high-quality materials or craftsmanship, MINI may not be the best option for you.
MINI is trying to be “Mini”, and you will immediately feel that there is no rear legroom or cargo space in MINI Cooper. The front legroom and headroom is not bad. Considering its small dimensions and its driver-focused design, this should not be an important problem for potential buyers.
Engine and Drivetrain
2019 Cooper S has still the same drivetrain, nothing really changed. 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged engine produces 189 horsepower and 207 ft/lb torque which BMW also uses. You can adjust the torque curve by choosing different driving modes, and we really like the Sport mode as it allows the most torque down low RPMs which makes it super fun and agile in the city. It also comes with 6-speed Steptronic transmission which shifts pretty quickly and smoothly. However, we are hoping that BMW offers paddle shifters as this is still a sporty hatchback, it definitely deserves it for sporty driving. In 2020 models, BMW ditched the 6-speed Steptronic transmission and changed it with a 7-speed Dual Clutch transmission which is more suitable for sporty driving.
Another thing that BMW should offer at least as an option with Cooper S is it also doesn’t come with limited-slip differential but stability control system mimics the limited-slip by applying the brake to the inner wheel when you are cornering. However, if you completely disable the traction and stability control, it also stops applying brakes which means you are on your own with an open diff front-wheel drive hatchback, which is not the ideal combination.
Speaking of cornering, this is one of the best parts about owning a Cooper S. It handles really well, despite having no limited-slip differential. Although it is a front-wheel drive, due to its short wheelbase, the car is always tail-happy at the limit, and understeers less than a regular front-wheel-drive car. The suspension is tuned on the stiffer side, which is good for sporty driving but not the best if you daily drive it as you have to be careful with the potholes. The steering feel is on the heavier side as well, it can get softer by switching comfort or eco mode, which I felt more natural when it was softer. Unfortunately, you cannot customize your selections, so you have to go either Sport mode for best low-mid range torque usability and best throttle response or Comfort mode for the best steering feeling but then you have to deal with delayed throttle response.
Many people would want to stay either in Comfort and Sport mode depending on their driving circumstances in a sporty hatchback and this is totally understandable. However, BMW offers an interesting quirk with MINI. In Eco mode, MINI allows you to coast when you go downhill. Normally if you go downhill and leave the car in D, it will keep the RPMs at a certain level but that means engine braking so the car will eventually slow down. However, in MINI’s Eco mode, the car decreases the RPMs almost to idling level so that the car will engine break less that means it can coast more without giving any throttle input, this is a really smart way of implementing Eco mode, despite it requires a lot of patience driving it every day especially when climbing uphill.
Our particular tester is the 60 Years Edition which is a special edition for the 60th Year Anniversary of the first MINI Cooper on the road. This unit also has the most traditional color combo, called British Racing Green and Pepper White roof & Mirror Caps as well as hood stripes. This special edition comes with special 17″ rims, Leather Steering Wheel with 60th Anniversary badge, as well as special interior surfaces, Leather Seats, 60 Years sticker on the hood and so on. You have to pay the premium to get the special edition, which costs around $6900.
MINI Cooper S starts at $27,390 and there are three different trims. There are also endless different options and color combinations. It shouldn’t be hard to get closer to $40,000 range if you choose all the options. Our tester is priced at $35,690 and we think it is not overpriced considering you are getting one of the most popular hot-hatches on the market which is made by BMW (in Germany) with great driving dynamics.