Of course you know what this car is - the shape is Mini right through. This one however, is the new Mini Cooper S. It is longer, wider and pancaked to the ground like a Mini should be. The grille is now more oval-shaped, the headlights feature LED rings and there's the deeper front bumper and signature bonnet rally scoop. The Cooper S sits on 16-inch alloy wheels. More interestingly though, it's 1998cc twin-scroll turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine is 400cc bigger than the unit it replaces, making it the largest-capacity petrol engine ever to be offered in a Mini hatchback. It is, however, 7kg lighter than the old powerplant.
Power is up by 8bhp to 189bhp, but more apparent is the increase in torque, which rises by 2.07kgm 28.4kgm at 1250rpm. Mini claims 0-100kph of 6.8sec and a top-speed of 230kph, making the new Cooper S a respective 0.2sec and 6kph faster than its predecessor, in its six-speed automatic guise. Inside the thoroughly redesigned cabin, there is a nicely proportioned leather-bound steering wheel, unique instrument graphics, more equipment and more supportive seats. But it feels very much a Mini in here - large windows, retro toggles and all.
It drives like a proper Mini too. It's sporting nature is noticeable from the moment you fire up the engine. Sporty as ever, in the city, we found it to be a lot more mature too in that it's well, less manic, than the older Cooper S. It's a lot more of an everyday car now. But give it the beans and the S takes off - it revs hard and revs quick. It sounds rather sporty too with a nice blip from the exhausts as you lift off the throttle. India will get the automatic Mini, and on the new Sport automatic gearbox, shifts are really quick. Thankfully, the BMW-like pull-push paddles have made way for more intuitive +/- ones.
The added performance and responsive nature of the contemporary underpinnings make the new Cooper S fun, fast and nimble. But it is also more mature, and the steering, now featuring speed-sensitive assistance as standard, is lighter in feel but accurate and satisfyingly direct. In Sport mode particularly, you get a steering that will follow your smallest input and reward you with a highly involving drive. Oh and it will slide too, albeit within the safety net of the plethora of safety systems.
However, even though the ride is smoother than that of the outgoing Cooper S and has a slightly more forgiving feel, it remains quite firm and our test cars 17-inch wheels didn't help matters either. But the new Cooper S does come with adjustable dampers so you can soften things a wee bit - just don't expect it to be very cosseting.
If you cherish driving or are an existing Cooper S owner (or someone who can stomach its Rs 25 lakh-plus price-tag), chances are that you're going to love this third-generation model.
It has been improved in every key area and is undeniably more fun to drive. Still, if you're seeking simple everyday usability in a no less entertaining car, the born-again Cooper may well fit the bill. It will be in India around Diwali.
We also drove the standard Cooper, a car you can think of as the level headed of the Mini siblings. The big news is its adoption of a new three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine (similar to the one on the BMW i8). Mini claims it's way more efficient than the outgoing Cooper but what really took us by surprise was the level of refinement. There are no vibrations to speak of and its quiet too. Turbocharging and a whole host of technology from BMW's bag of tricks find their way here and they seem to do a splendid job. There's a lag-free and clean delivery of power and you can drive it hard too. Just don't expect it to sound spectacular - that three-cylinder thrum is always audible. Sound apart, there's little else wrong with the Cooper. Still, if you can, get the S for the true Mini experience.