Despite 'our' Mini having been returned to its maker for a little while now, there remain occasions that its presence is sorely missed. It just suited every single task we needed it for it (track work notwithstanding, because we couldn't find time); not only that, but it came to the PH Fleet as a Mini, and therefore probably not as revered on these pages as a 'proper' hot hatch. That the car confounded expectations has ensured the memories are that much fonder.
Because while we knew it would have a smart interior, be very high quality and distil lots of big BMW feel into a small package, nobody was quite sure whether the Mini Works 210 could deliver on hot hatch fun. It certainly needed to, what with the B-segment competition it faced (and continues to come up against). There was the extremely positive Autocar road test to go from, of course, but it's always nice to verify these things for yourself.
As it happened, the Mini became a car that was driven with sport mode engaged, the naughty exhaust on and the throttle pinned. Always. The cheekiness, zest and vigour that many assumed now eluded a modern Mini was present and correct in this car, even if cars like the Mini GP1 proved the fun factor could be upped further still. For 2018, though, and with the expectations buyers now have (even for small cars), the Mini felt like a very smart dynamic compromise.
It could do fun and fast as well as refined and relaxed, which made it the perfect companion for all sorts of journeys. Puncture snafu aside, there were no problems. The service was still many thousands of miles away. It always did more than 30mpg. While the Bluetooth connection occasionally dropped out (and CarPlay would have been nice), the infotainment was good and still ahead of the competition. The Mini was really well suited to everyday duties, yet interesting enough to ensure it never made them mundane.
In fact, with YB17 FKG now gone, I've taken to spotting Minis in the street, such is my newfound (and slightly odd) enthusiasm for the car. Does it have 17-inch wheels, rather than the 18s that spoil them? Is it a Cooper S, a Works 210 or a JCW? Wonder if they've gone for the passive dampers, or the optional adaptive ones? Should I ask? If there's a Mini Challenge on the public road soon, a car I was keen on if not enthralled by a couple of years back, there's going to be some serious fanboying to witness.
A natural extension - well, I think it is - of looking out for cars on the street is looking at them in the classifieds too, which also helps counter those accusations that the Mini is too pricey. This brand new Works 210 is less than £25k with a similar spec to 'ours', while this 66-plate car looks great value: less than 7,000 miles, one owner and nicely optioned (because everyone seems to love primer grey at the moment), at £19,490. And while there are more powerful, larger hot hatches on offer (and for similar money), how often do you now hear about cars being too big and too fast? As Ben contested in one of his 208 updates recently, there's something inherently right for Britain about 200hp, 1,200kg hot hatches - the size to speed ratio just seems to work better than those 350hp 'superhatches' that hog the headlines. So why not pay a bit extra for the Mini to do that in nicer surroundings?
It's fair to say, therefore, that we were pretty keen on the Works 210, and that it feels absolutely worthy of consideration even in a tremendously competitive sector. It isn't the most practical hot hatch, and neither, it must be said, is it the very fastest, but by delivering so emphatically across the board it is extremely likeable. Especially with that exhaust. If you're in the market for a supermini hot hatch and attracted to the newer offerings, the Mini must still be in contention. Just how competitive it really is we'll hope to find out when the Fiesta ST, Polo GTI manual et al are in the UK - I suspect it might do quite well.
Car: 2017 Mini Cooper S Works 210
On fleet since: January 2018
Run by: Matt
List price new: £19,994.40 (As tested £28,344.40 comprising £475 for Melting Silver metallic paint, £300 for Mini active from 12/06/17 to 11/06/20, £1,695 for Works enhanced kit, £75 for John Cooper Works sport leather steering wheel, £375 for variable damper control, £80 for black bonnet stripes, £120 for Anthracite roof lining, £220 for sun protection glass, £215 for front seat heating, £2,710 for Mini hatch tech pack, £2,000 for Chili pack for JCW sports pack and £85 for LED headlights with extended contents)
Last month at a glance: Cheerio then, Mini, and thank you - it's been a giggle
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