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  • [SC REVIEW] MINI Cooper S 3-Door LCI Test Drive: Poised Yet Playful

    Special thanks to Plaza MINI for sponsoring this article.

    First Impression



    The Mini is rich with history, and over its lifetime since 1959 it has gone through so much, from being a small, usable, yet fun city car, to being a plucky-Brit race car in David among Goliaths battles, to terrible British management that results in itís acquisition by BMW, the Mini has gone through it all.

    Much like other legendary sports cars with a large following such as the Porsche 911, the Mini has itís purists. Whatever it does, there will be those that donít agree, simply because it isnít what it used to be. Anyway, the MINI brand has now become more than just a motoring icon, it is now a lifestyle.





    A big criticism on the F-series Mini when it came out was on how, wellÖbig it is, and you have to admit, it is big, even when compared to the R-series Minis. That said, upon closer inspection, the Mini still looks kind of small. On the road it does look big, but when itís on itís own and on closer look, it still looks pretty compact, and looks rather good as well. It looks more grown-up, if you will.

    Driving Experience





    Now, obviously new Minis are not going to be as small as the original Ė people are getting bigger anyway. As a result, the engine has become bigger and more powerful as well; this 3-door MINI Cooper LCI (itís a facelift version) had a 2.0L twin-scroll turbo inline-four engine from BMW, churning out a healthy 192 horsepower, paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, making it capable of doing 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds. The engine is the same as the pre-facelift version, although with small changes on the turbocharger to make it more fuel-efficient.





    We drove the Mini around Gading Serpong which is where the Plaza Mini showroom is located, where we had enough space to test out itís performance, but also still enough traffic and uneven roads that we can see what it feels like on the typical Jakarta roads.

    Performance-wise, that engine pulls away to 100km/h effortlessly. Put it in Sport mode and the throttle response is incredible, it pulls away rather quickly, and in Sport mode the exhaust would burble and crackle during the overrun, lovely.









    If youíre after speed, itís definitely going to be faster than competitors such as the GT86 and the Mazda MX-5, and it would give the Golf GTI a run for itís money. One weird issue we had was that when we tried to pull away from a stand still to 100km/h in manual mode, the gearbox would lag when changing up from 1st to 2nd gear; flick the paddle shift and the RPM would drop for nearly a second and then it would engage the 2nd gear rather roughly as if it was a manual gearbox. This happened twice during both stand-still starts that we did, but on full-auto mode this didnít happened.

    Speaking of the gearbox, the dual-clutch system is a new addition in this facelift version, the old one had a sport-automatic 6-speed. Anyway, the MINI Cooper S has a wet-clutch system instead of a dry-clutch, and it was really smooth to use in traffic. The gearbox wasnít jerky during stop-start traffic, and it didnít roll back on hills, generally you wouldnít really notice that it was a dual-clutch gearbox.



    During normal driving in Sport mode the car feels rather stiff, and for our older audience, it might be slightly uncomfortable; the springs are stiffer, the steering wheel is a bit heavy for normal driving, and throttle response is a bit too responsive, which makes the car feel a bit jumpy, like a college student that havenít slept for three days working on their thesis. However, put it in Green mode Ė essentially itís eco mode Ė the car becomes more relaxed. The ride wasnít as crashy, the steering wheel becomes lighter and more pleasant to use for normal driving, and the throttle response is much more relaxed, but still enough response and power from the engine to overtake slow drivers with confidence should you want to.







    However Ė quick review on that Countryman S Ė if you want something more comfortable, go for the Countryman S. The suspension is a lot more comfortable, steering is also lighter but it still has the same drivetrain, so you still get the same power and the same sort of performance. The looks might not be for everyone Ė definitely not for me Ė but it is a more refined everyday car with better comfort, and of course, very usable rear seats.





    Back to the 3-door Cooper S, the somewhat uncomfortable ride wouldnít really be big deal for our younger audience, or for our older audience with spines made out of granite. The car is still completely usable for everyday use, especially if you donít mind cars that are slightly uncomfortable, and you donít have to worry about going over speed bumps as the ground clearance is also very good.



    There are three things we would like to highlight about the way this car drives: first, how stable the car was at speed. Even at bends the car remains stable at high speeds, and despite the bumpy roads, the Mini remained poised. Handling was good as well, thereís minimal body-roll, and you can still chuck it into a corner like a good hot-hatch, although the steering could use a bit more feel and feedback.

    Second, there was torque steer. Put your foot hard down and the carís steering would sometimes pull to the right or left, this is torque steer; the engine has so much torque that it affects the steering as you accelerate. Depending on your views, this can either be a good or bad thing, but we rather like it, it gives the Mini an unhinged and somewhat ferocious character about it. In a way, it can be described as poised, yet playful.



    Third, is the driving position, which we really like. It feels like youíre in a cockpit, and you get a good view of everything around you and it doesnít feel awkward at all, unlike say a Scirocco. You sit comfortably but can still feel everything around you. Also, the Mini felt surprisingly small to drive. Large as it may be, the Mini still feels compact and small to drive, you can still confidently squeeze it through Jakartaís back roads. Well, most of it anyway.

    Other than that, the 3-door Cooper S is comfortable (enough), with decent and entertaining amenities; the air-con works wonderfully on a hot day, the 6.5inch entertainment screen is now a touch screen and you can do all sorts of things from listening to the radio (díoh), storing songs in it (it comes with a 200GB storage), and even viewing statistics such as how much horsepower and torque youíre using when driving. Also, connecting your phone to itís system is so easy even youíre grandparents can do it, and best of all the screen is very responsive whether you use the touch screen or the knob. There are also other things such as a sunroof, but there are no electric seats, which is only available in the bigger models such as the Countryman and Clubman.

    Owning Experience

    At this point you might be interested in knowing the more boring stuffs, such as prices, taxes, options, etc. Well, hereís what we can tell you:



    Prices for the 3-door MINI Cooper S LCI starts at 905,000,000 IDR on the road, where, more or less you will get the spec of the car that we drove with 13 color options (our favorite being Chili Red and this Starlight Blue). Whether thatís pricey or not, itís up to you to decide. It might sound really pricey for a hatchback, but then this is more of a sports car and itís actually quite reasonable, considering the performance and itís features. Not to mention the service that Plaza MINI aims to give is equally, if not more luxurious than itís German counterpart. Tax? Well that of course depends on where you live, as well as how many 2.0L cars (progressive tax) that you own amongst other things, but expect your yearly tax to be anywhere between 11-15 million IDR.









    Optional extras meanwhile range from things such as the side mirror covers, fog lamps, to a range of OEM wheels. Other accessories such as fog lamps, stickers, and side vents are available as well, and fitting time can take anywhere from three days up to 45 days, which depends on the availability of the product that you want. For example, if you want to fit John Cooper Works wheels which are available right now, at most it will take three days. If the product has to be ordered from the South-East Asia headquarters, it can take anywhere between 2 Ė 3 weeks, and if it has to be ordered from the German headquarters, youíre going to have to wait up to 45 days.

    Now, some of the more keen drivers within you would have been asking the same question: is there a manual available? Sadly, no, theyíre not bringing in any of the manual versions, so itís dual-clutch or no game for the Cooper S. The dual-clutch of course still very good, but a manual would really give it that hot-hatch feel.





    Much like other European cars, MINI offers warranty and inclusive service packages; thereís a 5-year inclusive service package, things such as oil changes and other regular services are covered for five years. Thereís a 3-year warranty that covers costs for repairing factory-fault issues, and of course thereís a 3-year tire warranty, so within three years should your tires gone flat because of nails or have a bump, MINI will change it free of charge, with options ranging from Continental, Bridgestone, and even Pirelli among a few more options.



    Other things you might want to know is the depreciation, and if you like browsing secondhand cars in your free time, you would know that MINIs hold their value very well. We did a quick research and after five years of ownership, a 2013 Mini would still hold around 55-60% of its value, which is better than most other European cars. Finding a buyer shouldnít be too hard either should you want to resell it, as MINIs are liked by pretty much everyone, from teenagers, petrolheads, and even soccer moms.

    Speaking of which, this also means that you donít need to be afraid that youíre going to hangout on your own, as there are tons of MINI communities. Thereís the Indo MINI Club, Miniowncom, amongst other, and these communities often hangout with the classic community as well such as Jakarta Morris Club and Indo Coopret Registry, should you be interested in getting into classic Minis.

    Conclusion





    Rather than a hot-hatch where it feels lively and rebellious, the modern MINI feels much more grown up, it feels more poised; it feels like a sports car. Itís fast in the straights and very stable at high speeds, like a good sports car. The car doesnít feel like itís encouraging you to take a sharp corner at the speed of light with one wheel on the air, but it can still do it should you want to. The equipment and the refined build-quality also makes it feel more grown-up, but despite all this, itís still capable of a spirited drive.









    Itís not as hardcore as itís rivals, itís more laid-back and more grown-up, but it can still be exciting should you want it. As weíve said: itís poised yet playful. Itís a good all-rounder sports car, and yours truly slash resident Mini-aficionado Hafizh approves of this car, despite my initial doubts.

    Ratings

    Performance 8/10

    Comfort 7/10

    Desirability 9/10

    Owning Experience 8/10

    Speed Creed Rating 8/10



    Photo by: Glen Sullivan, Brilian Sungkharisma, Hafizh Rizqi Pratama