Mini has matured well since its birth in 1959, and the Cooper S 60 Years Edition is proof of that
60 years of Mini: Cooper S is polished and youthful Mini has matured well since its birth in 1959, and the Cooper S 60 Years Edition is proof of that ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

I must be getting sappy with age, but it feels nice to drive a car which marks its 60th year at the same time as its driver. Especially if the car is well built and drives well.

The Mini Cooper S 60 Years Edition happens to be just that car. The test unit in British racing green, with a special 60 livery outside and inside the car, is a tasteful commemorative effort. Not too garish or tacky.

Having a 60 logo projected onto the floor when you open the door is a nice touch.

The variant here is a five-door - practical and yet as sporty as the three-door. This, in itself, is a small treat, as I have not driven a five-door Cooper S hatch. The last Cooper S hatch I drove was a three-door, in 2014, when this generation of cars was first introduced.

That reminder, by the way, was from Mini agent Eurokars. No one can remember such details, much less someone of my vintage.

But I do recall that the car was a huge improvement from the previous generation model, especially in terms of refinement.

The 60th anniversary car is just as impressive. Perhaps more so, considering how so many cars seem to display no improvement except in the area of infotainment.

The Cooper S has bling trappings such as LED lights and Mini Connected (an electronic concierge), but it is still very much a driver-centred machine.

The moment you slide into the driver's seat, you feel at home. The seat holds you in place, but not in an overbearing way. The steering wheel is grippy, and responds quickly and smoothly. It conveys calmness even at a frantic pace.

The helm's connection to the chassis is strong and unwavering. The car is stoutly sprung, giving it a wonderfully dynamic trait. Yet it is not too jiggly. You can drive fast for a spell without feeling frazzled.

This is the Mini's strong suit. The car moves in a frequency which makes enthusiastic drives exciting but not tiring. The current generation car betrays not even the tiniest squeak or rattle as it powers its way across less-than-perfect surfaces here.

It is now fitted with a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. It feels silkier and quicker than the previous six-speed torque converter gearbox. The revs pile up almost seamlessly, which is always a good thing.

But the car is not quicker than before. Tuned for better efficiency, it now clocks a 6.8-second century sprint, versus 6.7 previously. But top speed is 2kmh higher at 235kmh.

To reduce its long-leggedness, tap the sleek and wonderfully tactile BMW-style gear lever to the left to get into Sport mode.

It is here that you also get the most aural stimulation. The car has a rich and mature exhaust note - not the pop-and-crackle boy-racer playback some cars offer, but an equally stirring rendition you might associate with distant rolling thunder. To have more immediate access to that thunder, drive with a window down. The controls are now by the door.

Everything you see and touch in the cabin is finely finished, befitting a car that has traversed six decades to attain polish and sophistication, and yet retains the youthful vivacity that makes it special.

Happy birthday, Mini.