Getting old is crap – my opinion anyway. It’s one of my biggest fears. My parents didn’t have to spend much time slowing my rush to grow up. I was quite happy without the responsibilities of adult life or worrying about my peppering beard and my new inability to pull all-nighters and survive on coffee and motivation.
In the motoring world, an ageing product is quickly quelled by making a new one. Or is it? The problem is that even when a new car is born, the old one is left on our roads. It’s left to age and pay homage to its dynasty. Some cars have done that awfully. Not MINI though. While MINI’s revival has at times sprung a few odd-ball, off-shoot models (Paceman, that’s you), they’ve managed to build a quirky, exciting and fashionable brand. MINI is cool, whether it fits your lifestyle or not.
This new Cooper S 5-Door Hatch hasn’t changed much, but that’s no bad thing. The updates are entirely aesthetic and you’d be hard pressed to tell the differences. Front LED Lights are different. Better. The rear may not be your cup of tea though (pun intended.) The rear taillamps are Union Jacked LEDs and they’re very creative – but if you have any vague hatred for the flag, then tough. You get what you get. It’s an odd standardisation by MINI. I’d have expected it would be a personalisation option if anything, with the mirror caps, roof graphics and racing stripes.
That said, that trademark fun factor remains with a strong focus on driver-enjoyment and connectedness. The steering gives notable feedback from those jostling front wheels, nicely weighted for sporty driving. The unchanged 141kW power unit is matched to a near-perfect 8-speed double-clutch transmission and together they snap, crackle and pop in perfect harmony.
The interior of the Cooper S is all drama and flashing lights. It’s a solidly crafted interior, detailed to the hilt with British touches (yes I know) and brilliantly crafted switchgear. It’s tactile, solid and weighty, brimming with comfort technology, safety and driver assist features. You can see and feel where the money has gone – and it’s a lot of money. MINI is criticised at times for being overly expensive, but its value can be counted from the moment you step into its cabin.
However you felt about the traditional hatchback MINI 18 years ago, you will probably still feel about the new Cooper S. That’s because in 18 years, MINI has aged well. Gradually, artfully transforming and improving the product and yet retaining that same fashionable, trendy and cool vibe for which the brand is known. It’s perfect for the up and coming generation who have an image to uphold, yet just as good for pepper-bearded, sleep-deprived fathers who may be entirely uninterested in the sensitivities of their image but still want to feel good about what they drive. That bit doesn’t get old. Avon Middleton
- Price R459 870 OTR / R598 479 (as tested)
- 1998cc, 4cyl turbo petrol, FWD, 141kW, 280Nm
- 5.4l/100km, 123g/km
- 0-100km/h in 6.5secs, 235km/h
- Tester’s notes: Traditional Values. Millennial Principles.