Mini Cooper S
The much-awaited 2014 Mini Cooper S is finally here, and it has already gained significant praise in the motoring press for its combination of speed and frugality.
But how does it compare to its diesel-powered brethren, the Mini Cooper SD?
First of all, let me start this piece by saying that the new Mini Cooper S is a much, much better-rounded car than the previous generation. It rides better, the interior is better, it sounds better, and it goes harder. If you're a current Cooper S owner, this new model is a direct upgrade.
But if you're looking for better economy with 90% of the thrills of an S, an SD might tempt you.
The new Cooper S is powered by a new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-pot, which has replaced the 1.6-litre four-pot in the old car. This new unit produces 189 horsepower and 207 lb /ft of torque - 19 bhp more but 59 lb /ft less than the 2014 SD. It will get from 0 - 62 mph in 6.9 seconds; 0.3 seconds slower than a Volkswagen Golf GTI, exactly the same as Ford Fiesta ST; but its extra capacity over the fast Ford works wonders at higher speeds, where the S pulls a commanding lead on the motorway above 80 mph.
It also helps that the Cooper S's gearing is perfect. It will hit 60mph in second gear, whereas the Fiesta ST needs third to do the same, as does the 208 GTI. As such, the Cooper S feels like a more grown up hot hatch than those competitors, on-par with the bigger, more desirable Golf GTI.
When it comes to throwing the S about, the new Cooper hot hatch is a revelation. It sits somewhere in-between the charm and playfulness of a Ford Fiesta ST and the effortless handling prowess and luxury of the Golf GTI. But, it has a charm of its own, with sharp and light steering, a wicked throttle response, a gorgeous exhaust note, and good - but not perfect - damping.
Drivers can even choose from three driving modes; Eco, Sport, and Mid.
The SD is only 10kg heavier than the S and so it shares the same handling characteristics.
When it comes to practicability, the Mini Cooper S and Mini Cooper SD are the same. They share the same cabin space, the same rear leg room, and the same boot. You get 211-litres of space in the boot with a maximum load capacity of 731-litres when the rear seats are folded down. That's way, way behind the 380-litres you get in a Golf GTI, and even lower than a Fiesta ST (290-litres), but at least the boot is deep and the rear lights don't intrude on entry space.
With a raspy exhaust note, flexible power, great handling and lots of charm, the 2014 Mini Cooper S is a match for any hot hatch on the market today. But how will fitting the same car with a diesel engine change things? Let's take a look.