MINI has marketed the “go-kart feel” idea, and it continues in this Seven Edition Cooper S
Car enthusiasts get all up-in-arms about certain things. The short list is as follows; electric power steering, the inevitable death of V8 engines, electric handbrakes, and the slow but sure weight-gain of all of our favourite cars. Yes, I know, cars need to be made safer, and people are demanding more interior space and storage, but the reality is even the smallest cars look like they have eaten too many twinkies compared to their predecessors. Take for example BMW’s M cars. Many people have called the new M2 the actual successor to the older M3, because they are about the same size. The new M3 (reviewed here) seems rather inflated in comparison. But few cars seem to get enthusiasts riled up more than the new MINI models because, well, they aren’t exactly “mini” anymore.
When Austin and Morris merged 1952, and produced the first MINI in 1959, one of the names that was marketed was the “Austin Seven.” Back then, the MINI, was, in fact, very small. It was one of the first cars to have a transverse front engine/front-drive layout, and did away with the need for a drive shaft. This made room for four passengers in a very small package. Today, MINI has chosen to remind us of this heritage and has produced the 2018 MINI Cooper S Seven Edition. This car intends to pay homage to the original Austin Mini, even if the four door version was not nearly as small as the car it wants us to remember.
The Seven Edition, which costs an extra $2,400 (as tested total price: $38,440) comes with a rich “Lapisluxury Blue” paint job and a pair of silver bonnet stripes. You also get some Seven Edition badges on wheel wells and door sills, and some other styling cues on the interior, such as some nice tartan on the seats and some rich brown accents on the doors and dash. Overall, it’s a handsome package, which no doubt, would look better as a two door. However, as far as MINI special editions go (and there have been a few in the past several years), this is a rather nice one. You are able to get several other paint colours on the Seven, and even though these colours can be optioned on other Minis outside of this special edition, if you want the silver stripes, silver roof, silver mirrors and special badging you need to pay the extra for the Seven Edition.
Sadly, this Seven Edition does nothing to improve the way the car drives. It is entirely an aesthetic package. But since my tester was the Cooper S, it’s not like the car was in need of any performance improvement. In fact, having not driven very many MINIs in the past, I was quickly reminded why these have such a following. It’s phenomenally fun to drive.
My tester had the automatic transmission ($1,400) and an 189-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. Even though the John Cooper Works (reviewed here) comes with more punch, make no mistake, this MINI is plenty quick. If you are back and forth between base model or the S, then make sure you give the S a good go on the highway or backroads. Because even though mine was fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission and not the manual, I still looked forward to finding a chance to run up through a few gears. The shifts are very quick, and the manual shift mode (no paddles unless you get the Sport-Auto package) kept me entertained in between stop-and-go stints on my commute. The upshifts are deliberate and the downshifts satisfying. The powertrain was a strong point in the Cooper S. Very minimal lag from the turbo, predictable and deliberate delivery of torque, and good sound from the exhaust.
Sport Mode, which you select with a cleverly integrated ring of trim around the shifter, sharpened the steering and the drive train, and allowed the gears to run out a bit further before shits. I found that it made a noticeable difference in the way the car reacted to driver inputs. Also, the LED ring display in center of the dashboard changes to red, and a cute little display reads out “Let’s motor hard!”; an endearing little touch. In fact the center instrument ring is full of personality; displaying your mini wearing sunglasses, measuring how much “excitement” you are experiencing and the like.
The menus are fairly easy to navigate using the controller on the centre console (similar to BMW’s iDrive), and the screen is large and clear. No complaints. Actually, I have very few complaints about the interior at all. It’s spacious, comfortable, and well designed. The MINI-Yours Sport Leather steering wheel (a no brain-$250) looks fantastic and is comfortable to use. My tester had the “Essentials” package ($1,300) which included heated seats, extra lights and a panoramic sunroof. The sunroof was actually a highlight, because for some reason it’s one of the few that I have seen in a car that extends in front of your head, so you can glance upwards and actually see sky.
For a while, MINI has marketed the “go-kart feel” idea, and it continues in this Seven Edition Cooper S; a little go-kart illustration pops up in sport mode. The reality is, nothing feels like a go-kart, except, well obviously, a go-kart. However, the Mini Cooper S comes pretty dang close to capturing the stiff “four-square” attitude of a solid chassis go kart. The Seven Edition feels like it has a very small front end, and presents a low slung, rock-solid attitude on the street. As far as front wheel drive cars go, this one quickly became one of my favourites. Even in four door guise, the Cooper S feels chuckable and playful; there wasn’t one second of the week that I longed for RWD or AWD.
I refuse to complain about things like the small trunk space or poor rear leg-room, because this is a MINI! It’s supposed to be small. And since this particular one with Seven Edition badging, hearkens back to the original Austin Seven, ironically, the only thing I would want it to be is smaller and less practical. If I were to buy one, I’d take the three door, and the manual. However this car as tested, with four doors, auto transmission, and cool badging will make plenty of MINI fans happy.