The first thing I noticed about this Mini is its adorable cream, black, and silver color scheme, which I love. The second thing I noticed is that this Mini Camden Edition talks to you! Start the car and a male/female trio starts chatting through some unseen speaker. It all starts as soon as you insert the flat round key and push the start button. Usually the woman chirps in first with some sort of comment like “All systems go!” and an admonition to fasten your seatbelt. All of them have British accents. Here’s a sampling of other conversations I got to listen to. They can be switched off, but I was curious to see how large of a conversational vocabulary is built into the car; quite large, it seems:
Male voice: “Now hold on, I’ll let you know when I’m warmed up and ready to go full tilt.”
“This is engine. I want to make an announcement. I am warmed up and really, really ready for action!”
There was light rain, which the car clearly could detect, because the woman said: “Be careful, everyone! It’s raining out!”
Male voice: “OK, here comes the rain.”
She replies: “I’m always ready for some weather.”
He chimes in: “Seatbelt checked. Happiness is driving a Mini. Letttt’s Mini!”
Other commentary: “We have ignition. The rest comes naturally to a Mini.”
“After the rain comes sunshine. Only this time, the prince or princess rides a Mini!”
“Let’s clear a view, shall we?” (after I get in the car and the windows are fogged up)
“This is the Mini in motion,” he says. “I’m in love.” He continues: “Never underestimate a Mini. I told you.”
This morning, the woman noticed that it was cold: “It’s not exactly icy outside, but it sure is chilly,” she said. He added, “I’ll be sure and let you know when I’m warmed up.” Then he says when I accelerate a bit, “Oh, my, take it easy! I’m only partially warmed up yet. I’ll let you know as soon as I’m good to go.” Shortly thereafter, he confirms, “I’m warmed up now.”
When I arrive at the office and hit the start button to turn off the car, the woman says, “Bye, take care.”
You, too, hon.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Seriously, officer; the car told me to do it. In addition to the various dialogues outlined by Joe DeMatio, Mini’s “Mission Control” can occasionally goad drivers into doing some absolutely entertaining (and likely illegal) activities. “Engine”-one of three personas that randomly pop into the cabin-cheers when you peg the throttle against the floorboard, celebrates when you hit 5000 RPM, shouts out your acceleration times, and compliments your manic driving by saying it’s like a scene straight out of The Italian Job. As if I needed more encouragement to drive like Charlie Croker…
Mission Control may be a main talking point (pun intended) of the Camden package, but I’m rather smitten with the other upgrades it throws in. I found the cream and black color scheme attractive, but it’s even more so inside-the striped dash appliqué and the shiny fabric used in the seat inserts aren’t substantial upgrades, but they do look quite spiffy. I also dig the grille badge and the old fashioned pedal set, both serving as subtle hints at the original Mini.
Sadly, I can’t defend opting for the entire package. $4500 is a lot of money for a talking toy and some spiffy duds, to say nothing of the additional $500 you’re forced to spend for one of the three colors mandated by the Camden package. Similar money can upgrade buyers from a Cooper to a turbocharged Cooper S-I promise you the extra power is more entertaining than a collection of digitized voices.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
For $4500, I could probably hire Dick Van Dyke to ride shotgun with me and reprise his role from Mary Poppins. (Seriously. Does he has anything better to do?) That would basically have the same effect as listening to this Mini drone on and on with over-the-top British enthusiasm. Although charming at first, the voiceovers soon become simply one more annoying electronic intrusion into the driving experience. Like Evan, I’d rather put that money toward a Cooper S than have some computer congratulate me on every turn and remind me to buckle my seatbelt.
Of course, you could just not opt for the extras and enjoy the Mini for what it is-a fantastic, fun-to-drive small car. Beyond the cheap thrills it provides on any back road, the Mini also does impressive work on the highway, cruising comfortably as speeds that would require a white-knuckle grip in a Honda Fit.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Yes, the talking Mission Control is pure gimmick, but it’s a novel concept in a novel car, and there’s always the off button when you’ve had enough. Interestingly, Mini has simply provided the sound files on an SD card in the upper glovebox. As my casual, half-hearted hacking proved, the Camden can also be reprogrammed to say whatever the heck you want it to say. Just pop out the SD card and drop on a few strategically named MP3 files. So while a Mini that talks like Knight Rider’s KITT may not be any less annoying, it may satisfy your inner nerd that much more. I imagine some Camden owners will eventually take the time to develop more complete packages of new voices.
As others have mentioned, $4500 seems like a steep price to pay for the Camden package, which adds seventeen-inch wheels, sport seats, foglights, premium audio, and the unique color scheme. That paint job, though, is largely lost on me, and the premium audio is ruined by the interrupting trio of digital passengers. Of course, you can’t argue with the exceptional driving dynamics of the MINI Cooper, all of which are still intact.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
This is the first base Mini I’ve driven in years, and I was very happy to sample the normally aspirated engine. Since Minis are essentially small, front-wheel-drive BMWs, they get incredibly expensive once you start adding the go-fast parts that come standard on the S and JCW cars. While the extra power can be a hoot, it’s certainly not needed. A $19,500 Mini with no added equipment is still a great ride for an enthusiast, and you won’t feel like you’re riding in an economy car. And how about that 37 mpg EPA highway rating! For once, a subcompact car has an appropriate fuel economy rating.
Mini offers the only truly premium small car on the market today. Everything from the suspension tuning to the interior materials feels distinctly upmarket, and the cute exterior is probably enough justification for a lot of people to downsize into a Mini. Just for fun, I optioned out a Mini without any concern over the price and came out a bit under $25k. The best part of optioning out a base Mini instead of going for the S is that you can skip the performance run-flat tires, which makes for a much more comfortable ride over broken pavement.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Like Phil, I haven’t driven a base-engine Mini Cooper in quite a while, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the quickness of this car. In fact, after a few acceleration runs, I wondered if I might have been driving a turbocharged Cooper S after all. Given the extreme torque steer that plagues turbocharged Minis (particularly those with limited-slip differentials), I almost prefer this cheaper, more economical, yet less powerful base edition.
This particular Camden edition, however, I’m less sure about. I tend to floor the accelerator pedal quite a bit, and I quickly got annoyed by the “Fuullll thrrotttlle!” comments from the digital peanut gallery. I also didn’t like being nagged about upshifting when I was in a traffic jam.
Still, as Evan noted, the Camden does have a very attractive black and white interior. And I can definitely understand the appeal of special editions of cars with huge enthusiast followings such as the Mini, the Corvette, the Mustang, and the Miata. They help individuals’ cars stand out, and they can make for interesting collectible footnotes years down the road. (For instance, I own a 1967 MGB/GT “Special,” which is one of less than 500 sold. It’s not really worth much more than regular MGB/GTs today, but it helps my less-than-pristine car stand out from the crowds of MGBs and other little British cars.)
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The Camden Edition exterior color scheme is a bit bland but the interior looks and feels really special. The textured seat material provides some character but doesn’t overpower the small cabin. The same goes for the striped plastic insert on the dash. It adds nice texture to the Mini’s generally plain cabin but because it’s slightly transparent it looks great and offers a nice contrast to the seat pattern.
This normally aspirated Cooper has a completely different character than the turbo. I certainly wouldn’t call it slow but it definitely lacks the urgent acceleration of the turbo and the JCW editions. More importantly, though, it lacks the torque steer that the turbo exacerbates, which I didn’t miss in my short time with this Mini. It still has the fun-to-drive factor in spades despite this Camden edition’s annoying pseudo English-accented electronic peanut gallery.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
2010 MINI Cooper Camden Edition
Base price (with destination): $19,500
Price as tested: $25,000
1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Electric power steering
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Corner brake control
Electronic brake force distribution
Tire pressure monitoring system
Dynamic stability control
CD audio system with AM/FM radio, 6 speakers
Auxiliary output jack
Options on this vehicle:
Camden package — $4500
– 17-inch alloy wheels
– Color line tech white
– Interior surface silver lining
– Sport seats
– Harman/Kardon premium sound system
Bluetooth connectivity — $500
Key options not on vehicle:
Premium package — $1750
Sport package — $1250
Cold weather package — $500
Convenience package — $1250
28 / 37 / 32 mpg
Size: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 118 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 114 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Curb weight: 2568 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch aluminum wheels
205/45R17 ContiSportContact 3SSR performance tires