Cars that get good gas mileage are always dull behind the wheel, right? Not so, says the MINI Cooper. Born from BMW in 2001, the Mini has been hugely successful since its introduction. Growing into a second generation in 2007 the Mini continues to evolve and delight owners with its’ cute good look, razor sharp handling, not at all unimpressive performance, and its respectable fuel economy. Add to that the Mini is the most customizable car in its class and you have the recipe for a vehicle which will continue to sell well for years to come. Most options that come in packages can also be ordered individually, so the possibilities for personalization abound. The mini is available as either a hatchback or a convertible, and three trim levels.

The standard Mini is powered by a 118 HP 1.6 liter four cylinder engine. A six speed manual is standard with a six speed automatic transmission being offered as an option. The S model uses the same drivetrain but adds a turbocharger to the engine, bringing power up the 172 HP. A John Cooper Works edition does even better bringing the Turbo four’s power up to 208 HP.

Bodystyles: Hatchback, convertible
Engines: 1.6L I4, 1.6L turbocharged I-4
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Models: Standard, S, John Cooper Works (Cooper, Clubman)

The Mini continues into 2010 with minor tweaks, including a standard multifunction steering wheel and cruise control. Also new are two limited-edition models — the Mayfair and the Camden. The latter features Mini’s interactive Mission Control.

The Mini features the same tidy, cute good looks as it did upon launch nearly a decade ago. The coupe can take on quite an aggressive appearance with a few factory options or the optional JCW trim package.

Inside, the Mini isn’t quite so bright, with a little too much form and not enough function. While interior materials and quality are decent enough for the price, the layout of switchgear and other controls often causes head scratching.

On the road, the standard Cooper features lively, if not rapid, acceleration and quick steering that gives the impression of a large go-kart. The Cooper S is even more so, with its turbocharged engine and stiffer suspension, though torque steer is common. Beware though, the Cooper is relatively firm to begin with and in ‘S’ tune, can be quite harsh. The extended-wheelbase Clubman offers the most composed, comfortable ride of the group.

All MINI Cooper Coupe and Clubman models feature standard front, side, and side curtain airbags. The Mini Convertible features front and side airbags. Stability control and traction control is standard in all Minis.

Mini Cooper: 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway (manual); 25mpg city/33mpg highway (automatic)
Mini Cooper S, Mini Cooper S Convertible, MINI Cooper Clubman S: 26 mpg city/ 34 mpg highway (manual); 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway (automatic)
Mini Cooper Clubman: 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway (manual), 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway (automatic)
Mini Cooper Convertible: 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway (manual), 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway (automatic)
John Cooper Works (Cooper, Clubman): 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway

  • Nimble handling
  • Classic style
  • Fuel efficient, rev-happy engine
  • Clubman practicality
  • Average automatic
  • Quirky interior
  • Options get pricey quickly
  • Wrist-breaking torque steer

Mini drivers smile for a reason

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