2014 Mini Cooper GP
2014 Mini Cooper GP. Click image to enlarge

Review and Photos by Justin Pritchard

“Check out this pimped out Mini!”

The Mini Cooper GP is a playful-looking little rocket hatch – but for a bunch of 12-year-olds cruising by on their scooters, it has unbelievable visual stopping-power.

Words like ‘mint’ and ‘sick’ were subsequently tossed across the tester by its crowd of passing fans, one of whom looked in the window and advised his buddies that it was “stick” (manual), which was, also, “sick”.

There’s hope for today’s youth, yet.

The pre-teen scooter posse was on the right track. I’m a big dude and I haven’t been a teenager for over a decade – but I’ve always loved the Mini Cooper because it’s a little car that’s big-time fun to drive, packs head-turning looks and delivers hilariously-entertaining handling.

2014 Mini Cooper GP2014 Mini Cooper GP2014 Mini Cooper GP2014 Mini Cooper GP
2014 Mini Cooper GP. Click image to enlarge

Stepping this all up a few notches is the new Mini GP – which drops a new top-dog performance Mini in above the John Cooper Works model by adding track-spec tires, brake calipers from the BMW 1M performance car, and a set of lowered shock absorbers with stiffness drivers can adjust with a special wrench. It’s decaled up as if it was about to tackle a rally stage, fitted with a carbon-fibre hatch-wing, a rear splitter, and grapefruit-launcher sized centre exhaust pipes. There are even functional brake-cooling ducts up front, painted in red, to add further performance and street-smart flare.

And, the folks at Mini have even deleted the cruise control, yanked out the back seat and ditched the spare tire provisions to save on weight. A big red structural brace ties each side of the rear cargo area to the other, too.

So, yea. Serious machine. And the styling and specification list come off as if some British teens got their hands on Mommy’s Visa and took a standard Cooper S on an all-expenses paid trip to Go-Fast Goody Land.

If I’ve ever driven a little front-drive machine that felt so ready to hit the racetrack, I don’t know what it was. The 1.6L four-cylinder turbo engine cranks out 211 horsepower here – which, in a car you could park on your kitchen table, makes for some potent acceleration. Drivers can expect 0-100 km/h in the six-second range, alongside snorty exhaust sound effects that are delightfully inappropriate blurting out of such a tiny backside.

2014 Mini Cooper GP2014 Mini Cooper GP2014 Mini Cooper GP
2014 Mini Cooper GP. Click image to enlarge

Full throttle acceleration is potent, robust, and delivered with a slight steering-squirm that communicates a tremendous urgency towards consumption of the pavement ahead. Drivers can watch that acceleration via Cooper’s trademark centre-mounted foot-wide speedometer, which sits above the shifter for the six-speed manual gearbox.

This, of course, is the only gearbox offered on this machine – and reinforcing the GP’s intentions, the gearbox is light and slick and feels smoothest when drivers upshift quickly. But not too quickly. Anything more than a brisk gearchange gets the electronic throttle computer to cross its arms and give you the stink-eye for unduly straining the driveline. I miss throttle cables.

2014 Mini Cooper GP
2014 Mini Cooper GP. Click image to enlarge

But the electronics enable some fine-tuning of the GP performance experience – for instance thanks to a GP traction control setting which allows more wheel spin and later system intervention, as well as a Sport mode, which sharpens up various system responses.

But all of that full-rip acceleration and fast shifting is far from the best thing about the GP.

What is, is the absolute immediacy with which it reacts to all driver inputs. Steering, for instance, is free of that touch of slack you’ll find in the steering system on virtually every other car on the road. Cooper GP turns hard, “right now”, with even the slightest torque applied to the steering wheel by the driver. This supports a delightfully mischievous effortlessness when ripping up twisty lengths of road. And that steering has a heaviness to it, so it doesn’t feel all fake and hyperactive – but rather playfully locked on.

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