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Mini Cooper S Chilli (2007)
The new R56 series Mini still has the retro looks and ‘character’ that have helped its predecessor earn a cult following. But it’s a car that delights and disappoints.
BMW’s second-generation Mini Cooper S and S Chilli now feature a turbocharged 1598cc engine in place of the previous supercharged powerplant. And our track performance measurements show that over the 400 m sprint and for in-gear acceleration, it’s noticeably quicker.
The engine offers strong, flexible performance, with torque spread lavishly through the rev range. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick shifting, with good ratios. A button operated sport mode further sharpens throttle and, unnecessarily, steering response.
With sports suspension and run-flat tyres, the ride proves harsh, with even road markers feeling unpleasant. Worse, cornering stability is upset by mid corner road blemishes that kick the Mini off-line.
BMW have endowed the S Chilli with a nimble, responsive chassis and decent grip levels. But annoying levels of torque steer, a propensity for spinning the inner front wheel if powering out of turns and electrically assisted power steering that is far too sensitive sully the whole affair.
The car feels twitchy and nervous and a chore to drive when trying to press-on.
The Mini is a four-seater, but in reality the rear has serious space limitations, as does the boot.
The cabin’s form-over-function toggle switchgear looks retro-cool, but can prove fiddly, while the large centrally mounted speedo is too far from the driver’s vision. There is a digital readout in front of the driver in the tacho.
Our test car’s door and dash inserts of ‘heavily-brushed’ finish metal looked different and appealing, though other parts of the cabin were less so, looking hard and ‘plasticky’.
The exterior paint quality, with its good gloss levels and a lack of ‘orange-peel’ effect, drew praise from a number of observers.
In the wash-up, despite our criticisms, it’s hard not to find a certain intangible appeal in the gutsy little Cooper S, even if it wouldn’t be our tool of choice. And despite the price of the car and its options, that will be enough for many buyers.
Performance, cult status
Price, expensive options, space, ride
Climate control, leather trims, CD, 17” alloys with run-flats, sports suspension, hill-holder system
Six airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist (BA), cornering brake control, and automatic stability and traction control
||Sports Under $80,000
|Price when new
|Current price range
$ - $
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||1.6-litre, turbo 4-cylinder, 16V, DOHC
||128 kW @ 5500 rpm
||240 Nm @ 1600-5000 rpm. (260 Nm @ 1700-4500 rpm in over-boost)
|Acceleration to 100 km/h
||6.9 litres/100 km (manual), 7.6 litres/100 km (auto)
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This review is based on road testing conducted by The Road Ahead. Further vehicle reviews, in-depth comparisons and coverage of consumer motoring issues can be found in the Club's magazine. Prices listed were current at the time of review and are manufacturers list prices and do not include statutory and delivery charges. Prices can vary from time to time and dealer to dealer.