2013 Mini Cooper S Hatch
2013 Mini Cooper S Hatch
2013 Mini Cooper S Hatch. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jacob Black

I am a pretty excitable bloke. I’m also a huge fan of pocket rockets. I have driven an old Mini in the past, including one kitted out with a historic racing setup, and I’ve long been a fan of the brand. I hadn’t yet got myself into a turbocharged Mini Cooper S though – until now.

Regular readers will recall me waxing lyrical and pretty much losing my mind over the Volkswagen Super Beetle some time back. It was that which prompted Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony to make sure I had my run in the Mini. “You’ll love it even more,” he said.

Oh. My. Goodness. He was right.

Within minutes of leaving BMW’s headquarters in my British Racing Green Cooper S tester I was grinning from ear to ear. By the time I pulled up to the Autos.ca offices, I was so excited I did a happy dance.

Why? Well maybe it was the sudden surge of effortless acceleration as I drove out onto a highway ramp. Maybe it was the way my expectation of a loud, buzzy rev-box was totally rejected by the Cooper S. Where I expected harshness and fuss, there was pure, smooth, grunt. At 110 km/h the Mini was only turning 2,200 rpm – not bad for a little fella.

Maybe it was the fact that the steering wheel is not so much connected to my hands, as it is directly to the central nerve cluster in my brain that fires out the signals for “left” and “right”.

Or maybe it was the brakes. Oh, the brakes. Stab. Stop. Chuckle. Repeat.

It could have been the JCW aerodynamic body kit that made this thing look like a cage fighter, but it definitely wasn’t the instrument display and switch cluster. Those are like the horrible shirt your hilarious friend always wears out; they’re the quirky excess that is mildly irritating if you let it get to you.

I didn’t. Instead I found the button marked “Sport” and pressed it. Then I selected a lower gear. “Bark, burble” went the Mini. “Squeeee,” went its nerdy driver. Yes. I really did say “squeee”, then I rang my wife (using the voice commands and Bluetooth connection) and went “squeee” down the line, and then I changed down again, so she could hear the exhaust sound. She was too busy laughing at me to hear it. Probably because I was geeking out like a teenage girl at a Hanson concert.

2013 Mini Cooper S Hatch2013 Mini Cooper S Hatch
2013 Mini Cooper S Hatch. Click image to enlarge

But back to the switches in the centre console. At first the tubing that separates all the toggles is charming, and adds to the race-car atmosphere of the cabin, but not long after that it becomes too messy. There just isn’t enough room in here to muck about with garnishes like that. Without those, the toggle switches are actually really cool. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but maybe BMW/Mini could take some cues from Scion in that regard. Lose the over-done separators but leave the toggles. I was also left confused by the placement of the power window button, but that’s just me.

Mini’s iconic centre-mounted speedo is not going to be around much longer, but in this model it also housed a large touchscreen for the navigation and BMW’s human-machine interface system. There is a lot of information here, and it’s fun to explore, but the iconography is not intuitive, largely unhelpful and downright ugly. I am hopeful that the the refresh address this system in the upcoming 2014 Mini, but I won’t hold my breath.

Subjective complaints aside, the system is fast, has a lot of information, is as easy as any smartphone to use and has neat technology like text-to-voice, which I find important.

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