Initially surprised by the concept of a 5-door MINI (or would that be LARGE?) Cooper, it was great to try out the new, more practical version of the hugely popular hatchback.
Not only were there two extra doors in the shell, a diesel version of the Cooper S motor was hiding under the bonnet, coupled to a six-speed Steptronic gearbox. The whole package is not like MINI of old and I was keen to try it.
Nevertheless, I dropped into the leather seat, placed the keyless-go fob in the cup-holders, rested my foot on the brake and curiously flicked the ignition switch.
The comforting familiarity of the 3-door Hatch was welcome and I was able to test the car more thoroughly than a first-drive, fumbling at switchgear and suchlike. I slotted the gear selector into sport/manual and twisted the chassis set-up wheel into Sport Mode – Maximum Go-Kart feel.
What followed was totally unexpected but positively inviting. A surge of power and rush of induction roar greeted, showing off the 170 bhp available, while sharp and precise gear changes were punched into place at the flick of my right wrist on the steering wheel-mounted paddle.
Before the approaching corner arrived, I swivelled my foot; resting it on the brakes, this time flicking my left wrist on the paddle to be handed equally pleasing down-changes. The brake pedal feel communicated a strong contact on the anchors and I was able to tap into the balance of the car as some of the weight transferred to the front.
The feedback from the steering rack remained true and provided clarity, with no interference at any point from murky torque-steer or dead-weighting. As I poured the front axle into a corner and dialled in the power, the chassis exhibited the grip it is capable of performing and I was left driving this machine; smile on face and pleasantly surprised.