MINI Cooper S

Exclusive

MINI Cooper S, 2018, five door, front
MINI Cooper S, 2018, five door, side
MINI Cooper S, 2018, five door, rear
MINI Cooper S, 2018, interior
MINI Cooper S, 2018, display screen
MINI Cooper S, 2018, instrument panel
MINI Cooper S, 2018, three door, rear light
MINI Cooper S, 2018, 3D print dashboard
MINI Cooper S, 2018, 3D print dash

IT may be owned by a German company but MINI has always been proud of its British heritage and it doesn't take long with the latest version to become acutely aware that it still is.

The Cooper S for example - driven here - had the Union Jack in different guises all over it.

From tiny stud buttons in the leather upholstery emblazoned with the flag to a Union Jack badge on the steering wheel. The pattern on the rear of the leather front headrests also featured it as did the red glass of the rear lights.

So follow one home at night and it's hard not to notice you are behind the latest version of a true British motoring icon.

And every time you open the driver's door after dark you will be reminded of that fact as the word MINI is illuminated on the road where you step out.

The latest generation five door Cooper S Exclusive model tested - there's also a Cooper S Classic and Cooper S Sport in the new line up - is a Cooper S like no other.

In fact it's a Cooper S that has grown up, in more ways than one.

Not only is it longer than earlier models and the current three-door version but it now feels a much more mature car.

You still get the same go-kart-like steering, superb handling and performance that the MINI has always been known for right back to the original model but it's now less harsh.

The ride is still firm and sporty but in Mid mode - there's also Sport and eco to select - it's definitely taken on a softer edge giving it a more executive saloon feel.

It's a factor that will appeal to a more mature driver who thought he or she had grown out of Cooper S driving because of the hard ride of the little car but will now be tempted back for the extra comfort.

And it's an affluent sector of the market MINI can't afford to ignore given the cost of optional extras available. My £25,000 test car has a price tag of well over £30,000 with a few tasty features added.

These included everything from a head-up display and heated front seats to a Harmon Kardon Hi-Fi system and a £2,000 Navigation Plus pack which - amongst other things - increased the size of central display screen the from 6.5 inches to 8.8 inches.

As its name suggests the Exclusive model is an up-market Cooper S with a very stylish interior featuring full leather upholstery, a leather covered steering wheel and plenty of chrome work both inside and out.

Build quality is superb, with doors that close Rolls-Royce-like with the gentlest of pushes from just two inches away.

And on the road the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is a smooth, seamless dream to use but at the same time delivers instant response when you need to speed things up.

This model also comes with paddles behind the steering wheel for a more sporty drive and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face when you use them while in the harsher but more responsive sports mode.

The extra inches on the five door means it's a more useable model when it comes to luggage, especially as there's a useful double floor boot.

With the rear seatbacks in place there's 278 litres of space available (211 in the three-door) and 941 litres (731 in the three-door) with the seatbacks lowered.

FAST FACTS

MINI Cooper S Exclusive

Price: £25,030

Mechanical: 192bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 6.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 49.6

Insurance Group: 29

C02 emissions: 129 g/km

Bik rating: 29%

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

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