$0-50K: 11th - Mini Cooper S

Mini claims its new Cooper S is “proper quick."

"It only needs 6.8 seconds to hit 100km/h and for the enthusiast who uses the race track, it won’t stop until there’s a mind-bending 235km/h on the speedometer."

Such spiel spawns high expectations. Particularly given how finger-licking good the Mini GP was – of course, last year’s Bang winner.

Let’s start with the engine, whose philosophy for going fast is now all torque rather than revs.

Boot it in first and you’ll notice a long ratio, but through which the engine swiftly hauls. Max torque of 280Nm at 1250rpm will do that.

But you fall off a cliff past 6000rpm and quickly discover the last 1000rpm before redline is a dead zone not worth visiting, particularly given there’s no blood-chilling exhaust note living there.

Unfortunately, while its numbers are midfield – 0-100km/h in 7.43sec (9th in class), 0-400m in 15.3sec (8th in class) and 80-120km/h in 4.22sec (6th in class) – the Bang formula is unkind to the Mini’s $36,950 price, spitting it out a pretty average 11th in class, or 16th outright. But surely the Mini is a hoot to drive on track, right? Well, sort of.

On a recent road blast, the Cooper S impressed MOTOR with a light rear end, sturdy steering and a sweet manual gearbox. But on track, and with high expectations, we were disappointed to learn the Cooper S struggles to emerge from the Mini GP’s very long shadow.

The suspension, so capable at smoothing mid-corner bumps on the road, felt too soft on track. It’s like driving a lowered Countryman.

The feeling of mass is made worse by a standard tyre that just can’t handle the cornering load. Of all the 22 cars tested at Bang 2014, the new Cooper S recorded an apex speed of 50.11km/h – stone cold slowest.

The lower grip, too, means the Cooper S is understeer prone. Once upon a time, you’d get a trophy for understeering a Mini.

Meanwhile the rear-end lightness apparent on the road doesn’t directly translate into wickedly hilarious on-track playfulness. Flick the Cooper S and it will rotate into oversteer, but in an inelegant, mildly frightening way.

Fortunately, a lack of mid-corner grip didn’t impact the Mini’s laptime, with a 1:46.3 landing it a solid sixth in class. Thank the torquey turbo donk that’s able to hurl the Mini through its long gears, reflected by a seventh-best Winton v-max of 161.37km/h.

Upon serious reflection, BMW has built a Mini that is a much, much better car than the last. It’s beautifully polished – it rides well, it’s quiet, comfortable, with a nice interior. BMW has built a superb road car but it left us lukewarm on the track.

With stiffer suspension and stickier rubber, we’re pinning our hopes of salvation on the JCW. Bring it on.

$0-50K placing – 11th
Overall placing – 16th
Judges’ ranking – 13th

0-100km/h – 7.43sec (17th)
0-400m – 15.30sec @ 154.71km/h (16th)
Lap Time – 1:46.30sec (12th)
Price – $36,950 (9th)

Engine: 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 141kW @ 4700-6000rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 1250-4750rpm
Weight: 1160kg
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Suspension: struts, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: 295mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 260mm solid discs, single-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 17 x 7.0-inch (f/r)
Tyres: 205/45 R17 Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 (f/r)

Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!

We're giving away the last great Aussie Holden V8! Enter here for your chance to win!

Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!