2010 Mini Cooper Camden Edition

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

Doctor, I heard the voices again this morning...

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