The original Mini Cooper is one of the most iconic cars ever, and while I had always appreciated the retro, chic designs of modern Minis, I had never sat behind the wheel of one of the stylish hatchbacks. However, I recently took a brief test drive of a 2019 Cooper S 2 Door, and enjoyed myself immensely, adding several more reasons for me to admire the contemporary interpretation of this British icon.
While the current Cooper looks a bit bloated, especially in 4 Door form, and cheap in the base trims, the S model’s aggressive bumpers, flashy wheels, and faux hood vent gave the diminutive hatchback a more assertive presence. The interior design was quirky, with a unique circular motif appearing in the infotainment screen design, air conditioning vents, and standalone instrument gauges behind the steering wheel. Lots of leather and metal-finished touch points produced a premium feel, and I found the seats comfortable, with the low driving position making me feel one with the car.
Driving the Cooper S was an absolute blast. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, the 207 lb-ft of torque at just 1350 rpm gave the Cooper zippy acceleration, and the engine’s 189 hp allowed the S to continue pulling strongly as I neared highway speeds. While modern Minis are gargantuan compared to their 1960s grandfathers, the two-door Cooper still felt small next to the colossal SUVs that dominate roads today. The Cooper S also handled brilliantly, with weighty steering providing solid feedback and the tightly-sprung suspension supplying good grip through corners. The Cooper’s agility and relatively small footprint gave the hatchback a nimble, go-kart-esque feel, which was reinforced by the powerful brakes. However, the brakes also proved a bit touchy in stop-and-go traffic, and the tautness of the suspension meant the ride wasn’t the smoothest, with every bump of Pittsburgh’s deteriorating roads clearly communicated into the cabin.
Despite the harsh ride and grabby brakes, the Mini Cooper S was a joy to drive, with lively, heavy steering and a sporty suspension. Coupled with retro looks and almost endless customization, from racing stripes to rally lights and checkered-flag mirror caps, the Cooper S is a great compact choice for the motoring enthusiast.