CARS

hot hatch pace with a dash of practicality

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This all sounds like a car that will deliver almost hot hatch levels of performance, which it mostly does. Certainly you could never call a Cooper S slow, particularly in the way it pulls so hard from low revs (peak torque comes in from just 1,250rpm), or can be made to surf along so rapidly on its mid-range torque.

What’s missing is any incentive to rev the engine out, which is surely part of the fun of driving a hot hatch. The shift of the six-speed manual is a little too notchy to be truly satisfying as well, which again is the kind of thing you would overlook if the car wasn’t so obviously designed and priced to compete with the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST.

The handling is very Mini-like, with steering that feels overly heavy but brilliantly direct, and a front end that darts to your chosen trajectory with what at first is almost alarming urgency. Tune in to this and the Mini 5-Door soon becomes almost every bit as endearing as its three-door sibling, not to mention grippy enough to cover ground extremely quickly.

It is fun, too, but the major problem here is that you can say all of this about the cheaper Cooper model, which thanks to its lighter three-cylinder engine also has an even sweeter ride and handling balance. True it’s not as fast, but if you can live with that it’s the more satisfying car to drive over typically bumpy British roads.

For us then, it’s the Cooper that remains the Mini of choice, be it in three-door form or as a £700 more expensive five-door. As we said, long gone are the days of the simple Mini…

THE FACTS

MINI 5-Door Cooper S

TESTED 1,998cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive

PRICE/ON SALE £21,335/now

POWER/TORQUE 189bhp @ 5,000rpm/221lb ft @ 1,250rpm

ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds

TOP SPEED 146mph

FUEL ECONOMY 33.6mpg/43.5mpg (EU Urban/Combined)

CO2 EMISSIONS 148g/km

VED £205 first year, then £140 per year

VERDICT We’d argue that the three-cylinder Cooper is the better car due to its sweeter ride and handling, but if you want the hot hatch experience this Cooper S mostly delivers, complete in five-door form with some useful extra practicality.

TELEGRAPH RATING Three out of five stars

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