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Sometimes less is more. Image by James Jenkins.

Sometimes less is more
The 210bhp Cooper S Works is a final hoorah before the new MINI arrives. It gives the small car giant killing performance, but at a price.

   



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Over the past few years we've driven most variants of the MINI line-up and pretty much loved every one of them. Time has seen more options becoming available along with more modifications allowing owners to stamp their personality on their cars - not least more power. As the MINI reaches the end of this model's life cycle several range toppers have appeared.

The car tested here is the top of the range offering in terms of a mainstream MINI adventure, but it isn't cheap. The test car pictured, using the 15,520 Cooper S as a base, featured the following options: Cooper S Works Kit (2,999), Chili Pack (1,600), a panoramic glass roof (which does make a huge difference to cabin light and ambience, so is worth the extra 600) and a few other options that took the total price to 21,264 - a heady price tag for a MINI, but not without some benefits.

Thanks to the addition of the Works Kit the little 1.6-litre four-pot now packs 210bhp and performance that is anything but MINI: 0-60mph in 6.6 seconds and a 146mph maximum. The extra boost from the supercharger also equates to a useful step up in torque, further enhancing the mid-range, and unless we're mistaken, adding a little more whine to the under bonnet soundtrack.

The engine's noise is still a downside, naughty pops on the overrun excepted, as it is still a little bland and soulless. It sounds like a fizzy little engine next to the larger turbocharged units of the competition at this price, especially cars like the Ford Focus ST. Another negative of all this extra welly is the hit on fuel consumption, brought more into focus by the relatively small 50-litre fuel tank that can reduce the real world range to 200 miles in some circumstances.

On the open road the little MINI is a hoot. A sensible tyre choice of 205 section means that outright grip doesn't totally dominate the experience and you can appreciate the balance of the chassis and the added traction provided courtesy of a limited slip differential. It is a car you can chuck around on, and over its limit with no fear of harsh reprisals. Four wheel drifts and comedy cornering speeds and attitudes are the order of the day.

We found the steering to be artificially heavy and somewhat numb, but pleasingly free of the corruption of torque steer. The wheel itself remains nice to hold if a little thick in the rim. The brakes cope admirably with the extra poke, reining the MINI in repeatedly on our more torturous favourite roads. The suspension is on the firm side, as you'd expect, but well damped allowing the chassis to provide good handling with acceptable ride quality.

The interior of the car remains one of the MINI's strengths, in terms of finish and appearance, but paradoxically a weakness in terms of the space on offer. The optional glass roof allows light to flood in and adds to the feeling of space but absolute room in terms of luggage capacity in the boot and accommodation of rear seat passengers remains an Achilles' heel that the new MINI hopes to address..

Overall it's a fun dynamic package with a highly desirable image and strong second-hand residuals. The problem is that the normal Cooper S does much of the above, at a significantly reduced price. No doubt many MINI fans will buy this car as the ultimate incarnation of their iconic object of desire but hot hatch fans may well be tempted elsewhere.

At this price the MINI has to compete with the immensely talented VW Golf GTi and Focus ST, both of which offer as much performance, fun and handling, but enjoy the benefits of a much more rounded package in terms of interior space and practicality. Ultimately, for our money the Works doesn't offer enough over the standard Cooper S to justify the extra expense.
MINI hatchback UK range overview

- MINI One: 10,995
- MINI One D: 12,220
- MINI One Seven: 12,565
- MINI Cooper: 12,395
- MINI Cooper Park Lane: 15,260
- MINI Cooper S: 15,520
- MINI Cooper S Checkmate: 17,660

Dave Jenkins - 16 Aug 2006



  www.mini.co.uk    - MINI road tests
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2006 MINI Cooper S specifications: (with John Cooper Works Tuning Kit)
Price: 15,520 on-the-road (21,264 as tested).
0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
Top speed: 143mph
Combined economy: 32.8mpg
Emissions: 207g/km
Kerb weight: 1140kg

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.



2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2006 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works. Image by James Jenkins.
 






 

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