Now on sale for five years, it’s come time for the core Mini models to get their second refresh, ready for 2021. This comes 20 years after the launch of the original new Mini, so how significant of an update are we talking?
As above, it’s a refresh, not a whole new generation. That means a dusting of aesthetic and tech updates while retaining the core F56 platform. On the outside, at a distance, not all that much has changed about the Cooper S, which we’re going to focus on.
Get up close, or get it side-by-side with the previous iteration, and all becomes clear. There’s a new hexagonal snout with more body colour and new side scuttles with LED indicator strips. The fog lamp functionality has also been integrated into the lights, which now come with a gloss black housing as standard. Where the fog lights used to be, there are now ‘air curtain’ intakes, for improved aerodynamics. At the back, the body colour insert theme continues, with a new fog light for good measure. There are new wheels too, including the 18-inch ‘pulse spoke’ items pictured. Optional too are three new colours – rooftop grey, island blue and zesty yellow.
The ‘same but newer’ feel continues on the inside, with new air vents. The Cooper S has had a digital update courtesy of the Mini Electric, with the five-inch instrument cluster screen carrying over. The 8.8-inch central display with a refreshed UI is also standard.
Looks and cabin aside, what’s the score in terms of performance? Well, if you were expecting a GP-lite, borrowing a bit of poke from the 300PS monster hatch, you might be disappointed. The 2021 Cooper S models go unchanged, with 178PS (131kW) from their 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines. The three-door will still hit 62mph in 6.8 seconds and 146mph flat-out. Manual transmissions remain standard across the Mini range, minus the Electric version.
Completely new to the mini is adaptive suspension, featuring ‘continuous frequency-selective damping’. In lay terms, changes in the road surface can be detected so the damper can slacken, or tense-up in response, doing so in between 50 and 100 milliseconds. The result should be a better ride on rough surfaces and a sportier feel when you’re driving enthusiastically. The boring numbers say that “damping forces can be reduced by up to 50 per cent”.
In short, then, the Mini is lightly updated but remains the lovable fashionable hatch it always was. Now up to snuff with new tech and nipped and tucked looks, this should tide it over before the fourth-generation arrives in the next few years.