victory in the hot hatchback market, placing rivals in an inescapable fix. The car is a version of the 170bhp supercharged Cooper S with a series of styling accessories added. Part of the appeal of the MINI is the ability for buyers to personalise their car with the wide range optional trimmings that are available and all the Checkmate does is offer a fully accessorised Cooper S at a reasonable price.
That price, by the way, is £17,635 and its significantly more than the £15,495 you pay for a standard Cooper S model. Many of the cars that roll off dealers forecourts, however, change hands for well above £16,000 once the customer has been seduced by the contents of that glossy options brochure. In this context, the Checkmate doesnt look bad value. It features exclusive Space Blue metallic paint with Checkmate chequered decals on each wing just behind the front wheelaches whether these represent a chess board or a chequered flag is open to debate.
17" Flame alloy wheels also serve to spice-up the exterior and there are silver mirror caps that tie-in nicely with a roof which is decked out in the same colour. The Checkmate also does away with the MINI Coopers traditional bonnet stripes in favour of a giant U-shaped decal which highlights the Cooper S trademark letterbox bonnet scoop. Lighting is well catered for with xenon headlamps and a set of fog lights at the front.
"All the Checkmate does is offer an already accessorised Cooper S at a reasonable price"
Inside, there are further additions to the standard trim. The Checkmate benefits from special Checkmate cloth and leather interior trim, a three-spoke sports leather steering wheel, floor mats (so therell be no haggling with the salesman for those), passenger seat height adjustment, the storage compartment pack, manual air-conditioning, an on-board computer and the interior lights pack. The Checkmate package is largely cosmetic but one feature that will appeal to people also interested in the cars performance is the limited slip differential. This is available as an option on the standard Cooper S and it works to enhance the cars driving dynamics by directing torque to the wheel that is best able to deploy it onto the road.
This helps powerful front-wheel-drive cars achieve greater traction under acceleration and boost handling fluidity. The MINI Cooper S Checkmate is certainly powerful. 170bhp is still a highly respectable output even in the current power-crazed hot hatchback climate and its an exceptional amount of shove to draw from a 1.6-litre engine.
That supercharged powerplant is capable of catapulting the car from rest to sixty in 7.2s on the way to 138mph. All of which would be useless were the basic car to be incapable of capitalising on all that power. But of course it is.
If you've driven a standard MINI, then youll already know about the excellence of the standard chassis: so good in fact that it would have been a waste not to further exploit the whole set-up. The Cooper S package does that brilliantly. Clamber underneath and youll spot BMWs Z-axle multi-link rear suspension, now made even more responsive with reinforced anti-roll bars on both axles and firmer springs that balance the increased engine output and lower the cars centre of gravity. This produces optimum road contact and cuts down on the kind of body roll you get when taking bends at speed.
The excellent weight distribution (63% on the front wheels and 37% on the rear) also helps here. The first thing many will notice about the interior will still be the centrally mounted speedometer, although look closer and youll see a feature unique to the Cooper S a six speed gearbox. Otherwise, the interior isnt far removed from the other MINI models and thats no bad thing. Access to the rear is still horrendous, although the laughable boot of the original Mini has been replaced by a more practical hatchback arrangement capable of carrying a decent amount of luggage.
Some rather cheap silver-painted plastics are used in the interior, as the original aluminium fittings were ditched on the grounds of cost. Still, whats important is that under the skin, the Cooper S boasts all the post-millennial must-haves, including ABS, CBC (cornering brake control) and EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution). In addition to this, BMWs lauded ASC+T (a combined traction control system) is included. Unfortunately, the DSC Dynamic Stability Control system is a pricey extra which should be standard.
All right, so the MINIs chassis is very good but in this car, youll soon develop such confidence behind the wheel that ridiculous cornering appears on the agenda sooner than you may at first credit. The MINI Cooper S Checkmate is a handy solution for buyers who want an up-spec MINI Cooper S but would rather not trawl through the never-ending range of MINI accessories picking out the ones they would like. The car looks the part and is hard to fault mechanically. It should deliver fun in abundance along with that cheeky style that sets MINI apart from the pack.
Pricing also looks sensible, so you wont need to be a chess grand master to understand the appeal of this Checkmate.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
CAR: MINI Cooper S Checkmate special edition
PRICE: £17,635 - on the road
INSURANCE GROUP: 16
CO2 EMISSIONS: 202g/km
PERFORMANCE: Max Speed 138mph / 0-60mph 7.2s
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 24.8mpg (urban) / 41.5mpg (extra urban) / 33.6mpg (combined)
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front and side airbags, ASC+T, ABS with EBD
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height 3626/1925/1396mm
And Then We Gave It The WORKS Treatment
Source: Andy Enright Yahoo Cars
We Loved The First MINI Cooper S Works Edition And The Latest Version Ups The Ante Still Further.
There's an age old saying in boxing circles that a good big un will always beat a good little un. It doesnt always hold true however, especially when you're driving the Goodwood race circuit in a 400bhp BMW M5 and trying to shake a 210bhp MINI Cooper S Works from your tail. Down each of the Goodwood circuits straights, the M5 could inch inexorably away but through each twisty section, the MINI would close the gap back, registering an identical lap time to the German super saloon. Its safe to say that this very special hot hatch punches well above its weight.
When the MINI was first launched, you could choose between the sedate One and the Cooper, which provided a touch more by way of pep - but not too much. Sales soared but word on the street was that there was more to come from the MINI chassis. Much more. Sure enough, in summer 2002 we got our first glimpse of a MINI with an intriguing letterbox-shaped aperture in its bonnet: the MINI Cooper S had arrived, bringing supercharged performance and transforming the warmed-over runabout into a genuine hot hatch contender. This model really caught the imagination of the MINI fanatics and it flew out of the showrooms but forced induction only opened the door to a whole host of go-faster masters to offer performance upgrades for the Cooper S. Only one of them is backed by the factory and its the real deal. John Cooper Garages boosted the cars power output from a respectable 163bhp to a decidedly hairy chested 200bhp.
"With 210bhp on tap, this MINI can face down some serious sporting machinery"
Realising that the gripers possibly had a point that that the MINI chassis could certainly cope with even more power, a revised John Cooper Works offering was quickly prepared at the company's West Sussex Garages base. In addition to the existing Works package, theres a freer flowing air filter with an inlet flap that opens above 4,500rpm so that the engine can gasp great lungfuls of cold air, injectors that will throw correspondingly large slugs of unleaded into the cylinders and a tweak to the engines electronic control unit that together add up to another 10bhp. Even without gunning the car from cold, its easy to notice the sharper throttle response and the way that the revised gear ratios mesh better with the engines power delivery. One criticism of the old car was that when accelerating from a standing start, it took a few seconds for the engine to really plug into the meat of the power curve.
In those first few seconds, decisive advantages are lost, especially on a race track with slow chicanes to interrupt the flow. The latest Cooper S still doesn't give an instant low-down wallop, but as long as the car can deploy its power cleanly, its no longer quite so breathless. Traction, however, is an issue in a front wheel drive tot with this much grunt. Give the Cooper S Works the full treatment off the line and you'll see the traction control light blinking furiously.
In the wet, its even more pronounced, with even moderate getaways from T-junctions and roundabout entrances provoking the electronic nanny into action. Its an unusual entity, the Cooper S Works. Not strictly speaking a model in its own right, its more an upgrade package for the Cooper S devised by MINIs perennial partners in crime at John Cooper Works, but the work is now done on MINIs Oxford line for an extra £3,600 on top of the £15,495 asked for a Cooper S. So, what that additional outlay get you? Aesthetically, you're looking at special Works 18" alloy wheels and a particularly fetching set of Works sports seats. Not to mention the John Cooper Works badging liberally smattered around the car. Of much more importance is the havoc that the John Cooper tuning kit wreaks under the MINIs skin. Top speed becomes a rapid 143mph and the 0-60mph time is lowered to 6.
4 seconds: youll also get impressive in-gear performance thanks to 181lb/ft of torque at 4,500rpm. The good news for existing Works Kit owners is that they wont need to chop their car in if they want the full quota of 210bhp. Instead they can have an upgrade fitted (new air filter intake system, injectors and calibration) at John Cooper Works, or any other official MINI dealer, at a cost of £335 (inc. VAT) + one hours labour fitting time.
Both the new kit and upgrade are fully approved by MINI which means that vehicle warranty and MINI tlc service pack remain unaffected. Granted, they wont get the benefits of the revised gearbox, but for the additional power, it looks money well spent. After all, its not just a backyard hop up kit. Every component of the John Cooper Works is the result of years of development work and innumerable road tests.
The gutsy performance and first-class handling are testament to 150,000 road miles of durability testing and 20,000 miles of high-speed testing undertaken by experienced and exacting engineers. It has been put through its paces in 35-degree heat and a freezing minus 20 degrees. Few of us require many excuses to get behind the wheel of a MINI Cooper S and the Works edition makes the experience even more intense. With 210bhp on tap and the option of suspension and brake upgrades also offered, this MINI is not cheap, but you get what you pay for.
Will it succeed? Lets just say that it has better than a punchers chance.