First drive: Mini Cooper S Works 210
Mini has brought out a new car to slot in between the Cooper S and the racy John Cooper Works – the Cooper S Works 210. AOL Cars gets behind the wheel to see how well it fits into Mini's existing range.
What is it?
Mini has been a 'go to' brand when it comes to fun hot hatches for years. It has the excellent Cooper S that provides accessible performance and the hardcore John Cooper Works. There wasn't really a gap between these two models but Mini is excellent at creating niches for itself, which is how we've ended up with a Cooper S Works 210. It follows neatly on from the track-ready 210 Challenge Edition from 2016, although the Works is available as a three-door, five-door and a convertible. We got behind the wheel of the five-door version.
The Cooper S Works 210 starts out in life as a Cooper S, and then is fitted with extra kit at Mini dealers, rather than at the factory. It gains a tuning kit from the John Cooper Works, aerodynamic upgrades and a throaty free-flowing exhaust that is controlled by Bluetooth.
The chassis remains the same as the Cooper S, which is a wise move considering the model's everyday usability.
What's under the bonnet?
As its name suggests the Works 210 produces 210bhp from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. That's an increase of 18bhp over the standard Cooper S, and while it might not sound all that significant, the extra power makes a noticeable difference.
One of the best things about it, though, is just how accessible its performance is. It has just the right amount of power so that you don't have to be gentle, which allows for a lot of fun in normal speed limits, and is solid proof that more power doesn't necessarily mean more fun.
The free-flowing exhaust won't be for all, though. While it bring smiles to some faces as it pops, bangs and crackles, it will irritate as many as it will thrill. It's worth noting that you can turn the exhaust down via Bluetooth to more 'everyday' levels, and that when you're cruising it settles down to a refined drone.
What's it like to drive?
Minis are some of the most fun hot hatches around, and the Works 210 is no exception. The tight body control allows for that 'go-kart feel' that Mini raves about, while the well-weighted steering is reassuring during hard cornering. It doesn't quite feel as sorted as the Peugeot 208 GTI – our current favourite front-wheel-drive hatch, though.
You can adjust the drive modes to change the throttle response, damper stiffness and steering weight. While the extra pace of Sport mode is thrilling, the over-heavy steering doesn't really add anything. For this reason, you're best leaving it in Normal mode, and while the ride might still be firm, it is the best balance between comfort and sportiness.
See also: Mini adds Brit-themed upgrades for 2018
See also: Road test: Mini Countryman S E Hybrid
How does it look?
The quirky and iconic three-door Mini is definitely the best-looking in the range. Unfortunately, the five-door model, while adding extra practicality, does harm its looks. It begins to look stretched, and ungainly from some angles – the oddly-sized and cramped rear doors is the main cause for its ungainly looks.
Elsewhere, it retains Mini's style that is implemented across the range. This means it gets big circular headlights with daytime running lights and lots of chrome.
The differences over the Cooper S are the gloss black 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as the John Cooper Works aero kit. While these are options on the Cooper S, buyers will no doubt appreciate getting them as standard.
What's it like inside?
The interior is much like the exterior – stylish but overly fussy.
Mini has kept the circular central display that used to house the speedo, but has now installed a rectangular infotainment display somewhat awkwardly into the round housing. The speedo and rev-counter have also now been put behind the steering wheel, which means that for drivers of a certain height, they can be quite awkward to see.
You can't deny the quality of the interior, though. It feels very well-built, solid and even the reassuring thunk of the doors closing and the mechanical feel to the switches all feel like it was built to last.
What's the spec like?
Mini is pretty stringent when it comes to the Works 210's equipment list – you don't even get a colour infotainment screen as standard.
What you do get is air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. If you pay the extra cash you can get the screen fitted to our test car that includes satellite navigation. It's a worthy option box to tick, although it still misses out on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
You do however get the fantastic free-flowing Bluetooth exhaust as standard. It's operated by a removable controller stored in one of the cupholders and makes the exhaust very loud and throaty, although it is marked "for track use only".
The Mini Cooper S Works 210 slots into a niche gap in the Mini range and becomes the sweet spot in the hatchback line-up.
It would make a fantastic everyday hot hatch, especially with its accessible performance. Unless you need the practicality of the five-door model, though, the three-door model's quirkier and less-awkward looks make for a better choice.
Model: Mini Cooper S Works 210
Base price: £22,155
Model (as tested): Mini Cooper S Works 210 5dr
Price (as tested): £22,755
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Max speed: 146mph
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds