They say all good things must come to an end. Well, I’ve spent three glorious months with our Mini Cooper S long-term loan and it’s time for us to part ways.
It starts from $41,200 plus on-road costs, as a six-speed manual, although ours has lots of expensive options on it, making it $54,600 plus on-road costs.
Based on my experience with the car, it’s pretty easy to forget the price of the Cooper S once you’re in the driver’s seat (although, mind you, I say that without having had to actually shell out the $54,600 myself).
Still, I haven’t become so attached to a car in quite some time – three months didn’t feel nearly long enough. But that’s not to say the Mini Cooper S is a perfect all-rounder, or even a perfect compact car at that...
Space and size
One of the main questions we had was whether the Mini’s size was manageable for tall people, families or people with a lot of baggage (not the emotional kind).
The three-door Cooper S measures 3.85m wide, 1.41m tall and 1.72m wide. So what’s that like for adult passengers? In short, front seat occupants will be fine, but getting in and out of a car that’s lower to the ground is always a bit of an athletic feat. Those six-foot and above might find front head room a little limited, but no more so than in other cars.
It’s the back seat where things become untenable – getting in and out without an extra pair of doors is unpleasant, and trips longer than five minutes would be painful for adults.
As for families? The Mini has ISOFIX points on the two outside seats, but actually getting a child seat in there can prove challenging. With no passenger in the front seat, you can slide it forward to accommodate a child seat, but trying to install the damn thing is a hassle with no rear door to improve ease of access.
In short: it is possible – but you’ll only want to do it once.
I discovered that the Mini’s 211L boot will, surprisingly, accommodate a set of golf clubs if you fold the rear seats down, while the removable floor will allow for more depth should you need it.
Infotainment and tech
Meanwhile, the suite of safety and infotainment tech available ticks boxes, but some key features are only available as part of an expensive option pack.
For example, seat heating for front passengers will cost you an extra $2300 as part of the optional Climate package (which also adds a sunroof and rear privacy tint), while adaptive cruise, adaptive headlights, semi-autonomous parking assist, folding mirrors and tyre pressure monitoring fall under the $2400 Convenience package.
Standard safety features, meanwhile, are limited to a forward-collision warning, an anti-lock braking system, live speed-limit information, autonomous emergency braking, six airbags and dynamic traction control – plus a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.
The Mini’s size obviously makes it a perfect candidate for urban dwellers and the straightforward infotainment system, complete with wireless Apple CarPlay, perfectly matches this ‘girl (or boy) about town’ feel.
Unfortunately, Android Auto users will be let down, with no plans to introduce this function to Mini's range.
Otherwise, the infotainment interface is easy to use and practical, but with a sense of fun – and it can be paired to Mini’s Connected app for ultimate car-driver connectivity.
The app is certainly handy to have, but I found some of its more impressive features – remote locking and unlocking and remote ventilation to be specific – could be slow to work, or occasionally could not work at all, timing out or failing to load.
Driving the Mini is the best part of owning the Mini. It’s got so much power for its size and acceleration comes in quick bursts with audio effects to match.
The engine is punchy and pairs perfectly with the dual-clutch transmission, steering is sporty and direct and becomes particularly enjoyable in sport mode and at higher speeds, while the lower centre of gravity leaves you feeling secure and stable.
The trade-off is you’ll feel a bit more of the road’s roughness in the cabin and, of course, you won’t get as much visibility and ride height as you would in a compact SUV.
I found combined fuel economy in the Mini was higher than quoted, averaging 9.5L/100km over the course of my loan, compared to the promised 5.5L/100km, but it’s fair to point out my driving skewed urban towards the end of the loan due to lockdowns. Mini quotes 6.8L/100km as a purely urban-use figure, for reference.
The idle-stop system is also not as smooth as it could be and can prove jolty in stop-start traffic.
Finally, while I didn’t encounter any major mechanical or technical issues in my time with the car, it did develop two separate and distinct rattles, but neither developed into anything more than a pesky noise.
As part of the optional Multimedia Plus package ($2000), you can access a three-year subscription to Mini's concierge service, which allows you to access a personal assistant via phone to locate nearby points of interest, receive local recommendations or contact emergency services on your behalf.
You can buy upfront scheduled servicing cover for your Mini for five years or 80,000km, whichever comes first, from $1495 in total.
Meanwhile, every new Mini comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – a prohibitive time period not uncommon in the premium car space, but certainly lagging behind other mass-market competitors.
All in all, the Cooper is an expensive yet surprisingly practical daily driver full of pep, personality and fun factor. I miss it already.