The term ‘novel Mini‘ is level-headed something I hear once in some time, but BMW’s reborn model of the notorious British metropolis automobile is rather of an light canine now. The Mini hatch when into production factual over 20 years ago, and in a matter of weeks, two a few years can score passed for the explanation that world debut of the R53 Cooper S at the Tokyo Motor Present.
Neatly coinciding with this anniversary, Mini launched a facelifted model of its core automobile. Nice looking to appear at what 20 years and three generations of progress appears to be relish, we brought one in every of those tweaked ‘F56’ Minis in Cooper S create to envision against the long-established R53. Namely, my R53.
Admittedly, here’s a facelifted R53, reasonably than a 20-year-light. As we’ve explained sooner than in our buyer’s data, here’s the one you’d like, as Mini made reasonably a host of quality improvements and extracted a diminutive bit extra energy from the 1.6-litre engine. It’s level-headed broadly representative of the skills delivered by the long-established, nonetheless, and pre- and publish-facelift autos also scrutinize identical.
Parked up face to face with the F56, the R53 is noticeably extra compact. Here’s mostly down to the newer automobile carrying elevated visible mass – smartly-liked wreck and pedestrian security requirements indicate it’s lots extra bulbous, with a considerably elevated bonnet and better overhangs. There’s also lots extra clearance at the front discontinuance, and that’s a factual thing. Force an R53, and in addition you immediate rep used to scuffing the nose on bustle bumps even when using them at a snail’s accelerate.
In level of truth, the F56 has grown by entirely around 150mm over the final two a few years. Even supposing other folks level-headed moan referring to the Mini ‘now not being mini ample’, it’s level-headed minute for the class, with the autos relish the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo dwarfing it. The novel Cooper S is an infinite-searching thing, too, goodbye as you bound for the ‘Sport’ magnificent. This ditches the queer physique-coloured magnificent that fills powerful of the massive grille and livens issues up with a John Cooper Works aero kit. The big JCW badge on the grille appears a diminutive bit disingenuous, though.
Below that loftier bonnet, displacement has grown from 1.6 to 2.0 litres. The supercharger is long long gone, with the Cooper S switching to turbo energy from the R56 onwards. The ‘B48’ used within the F56 may maybe possibly also additionally be veil in all forms of other Mini and BMW merchandise (and the 2.0-litre Toyota GR Supra), but here it’s in a extra modest mumble of tune, with the 192bhp figure of the pre-update automobile losing to 176.
That’s a mere 6bhp bigger than the later versions of the R53, but resulting from a boosty mid-vary and 202lb feet of torque, nearly 50lb feet bigger than the supercharged 1.6 manages, it feels considerably quicker. The trouble is, the soundtrack is uninspiring, even as a ways as inline-fours bound. The electronic throttle will doubtless be slack to stop, making for some frustrating rev grasp and an on a typical basis feeling of lethargy.
The F56 makes up for this with a graceful chassis that contains an inherent sense of steadiness and a tight quantity of traction despite the commence differential. On the restrict, it can maybe possibly also additionally be moderately naughty, giving a diminutive bit wiggle at the rear with a successfully-timed brake stab.
The electrical energy steering is nicely snappy but over-assisted, and it’s too heavy in Sport mode. You’re better off within the ‘Mid’ surroundings anyway, as the damping can rep choppy on some avenue surfaces in Sport. The latter mode also switches on an auto rev-matching feature which you may maybe be ready to’t flip off with out also thoroughly disengaging the traction preserve watch over. Speaking of gear changes, the six-bustle manual is decent ample if now not class-leading, with a pretty slick and moderately immediate shift.
In phrases of using stress-free, the Ford Fiesta ST walks at some level of the Cooper S. Its factual strengths lie in its plushness – it’s a ways posher interior than anything else within the class, even if some publish-update aspects relish the low cost-feeling novel steering wheel button pads aren’t so nice. I’ve frequently been a fan of the aircraft cockpit-style toggle switches, and the colour-changing ring around the central existing (which immediate goes red must you flip the heat up, let’s mumble) is a pleasant touch.
All of this makes for a shock when getting aid within the R53. There’s a identical total ethos, now not lower than, with a ‘floating’ binnacle at the aid of the steering wheel, toggle switches and a gigantic, spherical thing within the route of the flee (here a speedometer, reasonably than an infotainment veil), but in comparability, the quality sucks. Every little thing feels cheaper and flimsier, and on the circulation, there are creaks and rattles aplenty.
Refinement and opulent are an extended draw off – it’s powerful noisier in here, the seats aren’t as supportive, and the hurry is very company. Adaptive dampers had been the preserve of supercars and opulent efficiency stuff aid when this particular R53 was once constructed, so it uses a feature of passive shocks as a change. Stiff ones, too, with out heaps of of finesse.
The going can rep bouncy over bumpy surfaces, however the uncompromising setup does now not lower than indicate there’s diminutive within the style of physique roll. The hydraulically-assisted steering is extra natural-feeling within the intervening time, and in addition very heavy at decrease speeds, which – to be lovely to R53s as an complete – may maybe possibly also merely be that my energy steering pump is on the style out.
The pedal actuation requires extra effort, too, and the gear shift isn’t reasonably as sweet as the F56’s. Where it pulls forward of the newer automobile is internally-combusted charisma. The 1.6-litre ‘Tritec’ lump has a burly tainted engine existing (enhanced on mine thru a stainless steel cat-aid expend I spent too powerful money on), accompanied by a beautiful explain from the Roots-form Eaton supercharger. There’s a extra linear energy transport, and a miles sharper throttle response.
This isn’t an gargantuan shock – a supercharged engine from a pair of a few years ago is frequently going to be extra stress-free than a smartly-liked four-pot turbo, even with a gigantic torque deficit. What’s extra attention-grabbing is what happens must you plant it early in a corner. This now not steadily ever ends in understeer, as it would bear within the F56. As a change, the R53’s front discontinuance hooks up, digs in and helps chuck you out the other aspect of the corner.
There are a pair of causes for this abundance of traction. For a kick-off, the F56’s front axle infrequently struggles with the punchy mid-vary of the turbo engine. Secondly, this R53 has the now not obligatory mechanical diminutive-traipse differential. In reveal for you that on the novel Mini, or now not it’s miles a must to spend lots extra on the JCW. At final, it’s carrying decent tyres – a feature of Michelin Pilot Sport 4s we’re presently testing (extra on those at a later date once they’ve had a tune outing). Well-liked, top rate rubber fits this automobile nicely.
We don’t are seeking to be too down on the F56. The underwhelming engine isn’t something that may maybe possibly also additionally be helped given smartly-liked emissions regulations, and it’s miles a successfully-sorted automobile on the handling front. The pain is the hot hatch discipline is lots extra proficient than it was once when the R53 was once launched. If the style a automobile drives takes prime precedence for you, a Fiesta ST or a Hyundai i20 N will present extra thrills.
The big leaps forward made by the Cooper S lie in its useability, reasonably than outright handling genius. The R53 is extra attention-grabbing to power and in some conditions extra capable, but it definitely’s a miles much less gorgeous thing to power on a typical basis. Adaptive dampers give the F56 a ways extra bandwidth, and the quality improvements over the final 20 years reveal a galactic soar forward.
For an challenging power within the country, the R53 is in its ingredient in a draw the F56 factual isn’t. The the leisure of the time, I’d reasonably be within the newer automobile. Is that progress? I wager that relies on what you’re seeking from a hot hatch.