Love grows where the new MINI goes...

New MINI Hatchback has grown up and matured and the Cooper S is a cracker.

New MINI Hatchback has grown up and matured and the Cooper S is a cracker. - Credit: PA

The new MINI is bigger and more grown up – Matt Kimberley, of the Press Association, puts the cracking Cooper S through its paces.

What's new?

MINI's customers told the company they wanted more refinement, more space and a more grown-up feel. This all-new generation MINI pretty much dwarfs the old one when placed side by side, but while there still isn't masses of interior space there's a hidden compartment under the boot floor for more pacticality.

This Cooper S now has 189bhp and is the only MINI Hatchback – until the SD arrives in autumn in an even larger five-door Hatchback – to use a four-cylinder engine. It has more punch than the old car and, thanks to different suspension tuning, feels a lot more stable in a straight line.

There's a new injection of refinement so the new S can sit at motoway speeds all day without being tiring. General comfort has seen a similar shot in the arm, and you get the sense the Cooper S is now a better everyday car than ever.

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Looks and image

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Okay, so the front-end styling might be a bit fussy, but the aggressive over-design here is actually aimed at men. In an animalistic sort of way the Cooper S does look good in your rear-view mirror, especially with black bonnet stripes.

The MINI hatchback's image has always been ox-strong. It's found less room to breathe over recent times with competitors closing in on the MINI's territory but, while in some ways the car now holds less sway over its target market, it's still a hugely-desirable model.

Space and practicality

Despite the new MINI's chunkier body dimensions, interior space isn't much better. There's more rear shoulder room but there's still so little legroom that for adults it's pretty much off-limits unless the driver sits really close to the steering wheel.

The boot is 51 litres larger, thanks to an under-floor compartment, but even a pair of small bags pushes the limits of the available space. Despite its new maturity it's still a car for people with no practicality demands. Two small gloveboxes are handy for bits and pieces.

Behind the wheel

The ultra-3D dashboard and centre console are Marmite features – you love them or hate them – but the dark plastics are really well screwed together for an overall feeling of premium loveliness. The displays are clear and can show about lots of different data readouts.

Refinement is astonishing. This is the quietest MINI hatch there's ever been by far. The softer suspension is a relative revelation, too, making it so much less demanding in normal driving. The changes, which also extend to the accurate but now anodyne, steering, have dulled the full-attack driving experience but it's still limpet-grippy on winding roads. The Cooper S has simply grown up and moved on.

Value for money

At £18,655 the upmarket-feeling S looks decent value, but add a few essential and desirable options and the price can approach £25,000. For many thousands less there are more entertaining drivers' cars, but none that scratch that unique MINI itch that so many buyers feel.

Who would buy one?

The MINI Cooper S is still a car to buy with the heart, so younger (or younger at heart), more impulsive or design-led buyers will snap it up as the MINI hatchback flagship. People looking for MINI style in a quick but relaxed and refined package will love it.

This car summed up in a single word – matured.

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