Mini Cooper S Works 210 is raucous, noisy fun – but don’t expect the last word in driver involvement
Mini’s strong performance heritage is alive and well in all of its models. The Cooper S Works 210 promises to split the difference between its Cooper S and John Cooper Works siblings. Tom Wiltshire arms the Bluetooth exhaust and gives it a try
What is it?
If you want a fast, fun hot hatchback, Mini has you covered. There’s the excellent Cooper S, and the more hardcore John Cooper Works. But Mini clearly felt there was a gap between these two cars, and it’s been exploited by this Cooper S Works 210. It follows on from the Mini 210 Challenge Edition of 2016, but is now available in three-door, five-door or convertible series production. We’ve got the five-door here.
The Cooper S Works 210 starts life as a standard Cooper S, and is fitted with extra goodies on the dealer end rather than at the factory. It gains a John Cooper Works tuning kit, aerodynamic upgrades, and a rather fantastic free-flowing exhaust with a Bluetooth control to toggle ‘track mode’ on or off.
What the car doesn’t get is of equal importance – it sits on an unchanged Cooper S chassis, which could be a very smart move. The standard car isn’t exactly cossetting, but it makes for a brilliant hot hatchback for daily use.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Works 210 offers, as the name suggests, 210bhp from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. That’s a boost of 18bhp over the standard Cooper S, and the extra power is noticeable.
What’s best is how accessible that grunt is. The Mini isn’t so powerful that you have to be gentle with it on tighter roads. In fact, it’s totally possible to have an awful lot of fun while remaining within the speed limit.
The free-flowing exhaust is rather loud and juvenile – sure to make some grin but shrinking violets will more than likely cringe at its array of crackles and gurgles. However, get out onto the motorway or open roads and the exhaust settles down to a refined drone.
What’s it like to drive?
All Minis have driving dynamics that would shame many a so-called ‘hot hatchback’ – and unsurprisingly the Works 210 is no different. The tight body and wheel-at-each-corner stance endows it with the famous ‘go-kart feel’ that Mini enjoys shouting about, while the weighty steering is reassuring when stringing together faster bends. It doesn’t feel quite as well sorted as a Peugeot 208 GTI, however – the current king of FWD hot hatches.
Adjustable driving modes alter throttle response, damper stiffness and steering weight, but while the extra pep of Sport mode is endearing, the over-heavy steering and stiffer dampers don’t really add anything. The car is at its best in Normal mode most of the time, where the firm ride is admittedly still noticeable. That’s masked somewhat by very comfortable seats, though.
How does it look?
Our car was a five-door model, which though it adds some practicality is detrimental to the car’s looks. In this form the Mini looks stretched, ungainly and from some angles just plain ugly.
The rest of the car keeps the cute – if contrived – styling cues of the rest of the Mini range. That means big round headlights with ring-style LED daytime running lights, lashings of chrome trim and generally rounded and cartoon-like proportions.
Setting the car apart from its Cooper S sibling are 17-inch alloy wheels in glossy black, plus the aggressive John Cooper Works aero kit. Both of these are available as options on the Cooper S, but buyers will appreciate their standard fitment here.
What’s it like inside?
The Mini’s interior is a lot like its exterior. It’s stylish, but fussy in places and it feels like it suffers form-over-function when it comes to a few aspects.
The charming central speedometer of earlier Minis has been replaced by a rectangular screen awkwardly shoehorned into a circular housing. Meanwhile, the dials have been moved to an irritatingly small pod behind the steering wheel – not the best for clarity.
However, you can’t argue with the quality on offer. BMW’s ownership of Mini shows best in the solid dashboard, reassuring thunk of the doors and the solidity of the switches. Everything feels as though it’s built to last.
What’s the spec like?
Mini hasn’t exactly chucked the kit list at the Cooper S Works 210, and as such you don’t even get a colour infotainment system as standard – baffling to most supermini buyers these days. What you do get is air-conditioning, Bluetooth and DAB radio. Stump up the extra cash for either of the two available infotainment systems and you do get sat-nav, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are sadly unavailable.
A tasty extra comes with the free-flowing exhaust. Nestled into one of the cupholders is a Bluetooth controller which turns the pipes to extra loud. Marked ‘for track use only’ the added noise is equal parts deafening and hilarious.
The Mini Cooper S Works 210 really does feel like the sweet spot in the Mini hatchback range, mating the looks and power of the John Cooper Works model with the more forgiving everyday dynamics of the Cooper S. It’s certainly a hot hatchback you could use as a daily driver. The brand’s endless personalization options also offer you the ability to tailor the car exactly to your liking.
As ever, it suffers from Mini’s usual compromised practicality – even in this five-door model, where accessing the rear seats is far more difficult than it should be. Cross-shop it with rivals such as the Peugeot 208 GTI before you buy.
Facts at a glance
Model: Mini Cooper S Works 210
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Max speed: 146mph
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
By Tom Wiltshire
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