by: Mike Ginsca,
Beetle, Model T, Corvette. As soon as you say one of those model names, even non-gearheads will know what you’re talking about. Mini is another one of those names where almost anyone in the world will know what type of car it is. The Mk1 Mini started life back in 1960 and has been an iconic British staple since. In 1994, BMW Group bought Mini and relaunched it into the Mini Cooper that we know today.
Engine – The base Mini Cooper receives a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine with 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. This Cooper S model receives a more traditional 2.0L inline-4 cylinder turbocharged engine with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. If you’re wanting for more power, the John Cooper Works model is available with 228 hp. But behind the wheel of this mid-level Mini Cooper S, you’re not really wanting for more power. It has just enough for a small front-wheel-drive car that weighs in at 1,220 kg. The peak torque is available from a ridiculously low 1,350 rpms and is sustained until 4,600 rpms where peak horsepower takes over. This low rpm peak torque translates into a “kick in your back” feeling when you mash on the throttle in Sport mode. Before you know it, you’re doing triple digit speed numbers as the 2020 Cooper S can hit 100 km/h (62 mph) from a stop in 6.7 seconds.
Being a small car with a small turbocharged engine, fuel economy is pretty good. In a city, the Mini Cooper S can get up to 8.9 L/100km (26.4 mpg) and on a highway it can get 6.6 L/100km (35.6 mpg).
Transmission – If you were hoping to have some old school fun with a manual Mini Cooper, you’re out of luck. The only transmission available with the Cooper or this Cooper S is a 7-speed dual clutch. The 2020 JCW Cooper is also only available with an automatic but it is an 8-speed automatic. Despite not having a 6-speed manual option for the Mini Cooper S, this 7-speed dual clutch is the next best thing. Shifts are smooth in the normal drive mode and increase in quickness when in Sport mode.
Clutch engagement in the normal drive mode is also smooth but in Sport mode, engagement is more abrupt. This makes for quick off-the-line acceleration in dry conditions but as you can tell from the photos, there were no dry conditions during my time with the car. The clutch engages too quickly and abruptly in Sport mode for driving through snow. It induces a lot of wheel spin when trying to set off from a stop.
Braking – Like many other sporty cars, the 2020 Mini Cooper S can stop very quickly. Under normal driving conditions, very little pedal pressure is required to bring the car to a stop. When driving more enthusiastically, the pedal remains firm. The only time the brakes feel a bit grabby and hard to modulate smoothly, is when they’re cold during winter mornings. Automatic emergency braking is available on the Mini Cooper S as part of the Driver Assistance Package.
Handling – The original Mini was renowned for its ability to go around corners while carrying a lot of speed and making quick direction changes. Government safety laws have forced manufacturers to make cars bigger and heavier but the 2020 Mini Cooper S is still a fun sports car on a twisty mountain road. Its relatively light weight and short wheelbase allow it to turn quickly around corners. Switch on the Dynamic Traction Control and the computer will individually brake the inside rear wheel around a corner to induce more turning. This was very evident during the snowstorm we had here in Vancouver as the back end of the car would step out of line whenever I made a sharp turn at an intersection. Disclaimer, this was much more evident in the snow because tires slip more easily on snow. On wet or dry pavement, the system will still brake the inside rear wheel but it doesn’t make the rear end of the car lose grip and get out of control.
Ride Comfort – The suspension of the Cooper S is tuned a bit more firmly than other compact cars. It is a sports car after all. But coupled with the short wheelbase, the ride of the Mini Cooper S is a bit harsher than in other sports cars. You’d be fine taking the Mini on a long trip but you may not feel as relaxed at the end of that trip as if you were in a Mazda MX-5 for example.
Interior Space – The front seats of the Mini offer quite a lot of space. At 6’4”, I have plenty of leg and head room in the driver’s seat. The rear seats, however, have little to no space. They feel like the seats that you’d get in a convertible. Coincidentally, the Mini Cooper 3-door is offered as a convertible. Cargo space with the rear seats up is 211L (7.45 cu-ft) and with the seats folded is 731L (25.8 cu-ft).
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The Mini Cooper is quite well insulated from outside noises. Yes, there is some tire noise that intrudes into the cabin when on a highway but it would be quieter if the tires are all-season or summer. The exhaust note is relatively subdued for a sporty car but at higher rpms, you can hear from time to time a small pop & burble during upshifts.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – While the 2020 Mini Cooper S is not available with blind spot sensors or lane departure warning, it does come standard with 8 airbags throughout the cabin. Also, as mentioned earlier, automatic emergency braking is available as an option.
For convenience features, the 2020 Mini Cooper S can be equipped with heated seats, navigation system, Apple CarPlay and bluetooth connectivity (no Android Auto), heads-up display, parking sensors, backup camera, wireless phone charging, panoramic sunroof, and automatic climate control. The only convenience features that are missing in my opinion are steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and a heated steering wheel. But other than that, the Cooper S can be equipped with features that most consumers want and need.
Exterior Design – While the overall size of the Mini Cooper has grown over the years, the shape and design is still reminiscent of the original Mini. The sloping clamshell hood, round headlights, flat back, and very short rear overhangs are characteristics of the old Mini. However, there are modern touches such as the LED headlights and fog lamps, the panoramic sunroof, and LED taillights that are in the shape of the Union Jack. The exterior design is unmistakably Mini despite the overall larger size.
Interior Design – A few classic design cues are sprinkled throughout the cabin as well. The center of the dashboard would house the speedometer and other gauges in the original Mini. In the new one, it still has a circular design that is reminiscent of the old but it houses the infotainment screen and a few quick access buttons. In front of the driver is a speedometer with a small tachometer to the side of it. I would personally prefer it if it were a full analog tachometer with a digital speedometer readout. The tachometer on this Mini Cooper is just a bit too small to see when shifting while driving more enthusiastically. But other than that little niggle, the overall look and feel of the interior is very good.
With a starting price of $28,890 CAD ($27,400 USD), the 2020 Mini Cooper S offers a lot of fun for less money than the likes of the Mazda MX-5 or Volkswagen Golf GTi. Sure, in the base trim there is no navigation or keyless access or LED headlights to name a few. But you still get the peppy engine, heated seats, panoramic sunroof, backup camera, and one of the most iconic cars ever made.
Thank you to Mini Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mini.ca