Are you in the market for a fun, fast hatchback? Well, MINI has you covered. It offers the excellent Cooper S as an entry-level performance hot hatch with the more hardcore John Cooper Works available if you want just a little more.
The manufacturer clearly felt there was a gap between these two cars though, leading to the introduction of this — the Cooper S Works 210. It follows on from the MINI 210 Challenge Edition of 2016, but is now available in three-door, five-door or convertible series production. We’ve got the five-door here.
The Cooper S Works 210 starts life as a standard Cooper S before being fitted with extra goodies on the dealer end rather than at the factory. It gains a John Cooper Works tuning kit, aerodynamic upgrades, and a rather fantastic free-flowing exhaust with a Bluetooth control to toggle ‘track mode’ on or off.
What the car doesn’t get is of equal importance – it sits on an unchanged Cooper S chassis, which could be a very smart move. The standard car isn’t exactly cossetting, but it makes for a brilliant hot hatchback for daily use.
The Works 210 offers, as the name suggests, 210bhp from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. — a boost of 18bhp over the standard Cooper S, and that extra power is noticeable.
The best bit is how accessible that grunt is. The Mini isn’t so powerful that you have to be gentle with it on tighter roads. In fact, it’s totally possible to have an awful lot of fun while remaining within the speed limit. The free-flowing exhaust is rather loud and juvenile – sure to make some grin but shrinking violets will more than likely cringe at its array of crackles and gurgles. However, get out onto the motorway or open roads and the exhaust settles down to a refined drone.
Ride & Handling
All MINI's have driving dynamics that would shame many a so-called ‘hot hatchback’ – and unsurprisingly the Works 210 furthers that. The tight body and wheel-at-each-corner stance endows it with the famous ‘go-kart feel’ that MINI enjoys shouting about, while the weighty steering is reassuring when stringing together faster bends. It doesn’t feel quite as well sorted as a Peugeot 208 GTI, however – the current king of FWD hot hatches
Adjustable driving modes alter throttle response, damper stiffness and steering weight, but while the extra pep of Sport mode is endearing, the over-heavy steering and stiffer dampers don’t add a whole lot to the road experience. The car is at its best in Normal mode most of the time, where the firm ride is admittedly still noticeable — although that’s masked somewhat by very comfortable seats.
Interior & Equipment
Much like its exterior, the MINI's interior is stylish, but a little fussy in places, feeling like it suffers form-over-function when it comes to a few aspects.
The charming central speedometer of earlier MINI's has been replaced by a rectangular screen shoehorned into a circular housing.
You can’t argue with the quality on offer. BMW’s ownership of MINI shows best in the solid dashboard, reassuring thunk of the doors and the solidity of the switches. Everything feels as though it’s built to last.
As standard, you get air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB radio. Stump up the extra cash for either of the two available infotainment systems and you’ll get sat-nav, but the lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is noticeable. A tasty extra comes with the free-flowing exhaust. Nestled into one of the cupholders is a Bluetooth controller which turns the pipes to extra loud. Marked ‘for track use only’ the added noise is equal parts deafening and hilarious.
You’re looking at a base price of £22,115 for MINI Cooper S Works 210, which is pretty well priced in comparison with its rivals, although equipment levels aren’t quite as generous as other offerings.
As for fuel economy, you’re looking at a claimed 48.7mpg figure which isn’t unreasonable for a performance-focused car.
The MINI Cooper S Works 210 really does feel like the sweet spot in the Mini hatchback range, mating the looks and power of the John Cooper Works model with the more forgiving everyday dynamics of the Cooper S. It’s certainly a hot hatchback you could use as a daily driver. The brand’s endless personalization options also offer you the ability to tailor the car exactly to your liking.
Model: Mini Cooper S Works 210
Power (bhp): 210bhp
Torque (Nm): 300Nm
Top speed (mph): 146
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
MPG (combined): 48.7
Emissions (g/km): 136
Road tester: Tom Wiltshire