The Mini Cooper is sporty and fun. It's practical as a two-seat car, with comfortable seats, useful cargo capacity, and an EPA-rated City/Highway 28/37 miles per gallon.
Inside, the Mini Cooper is large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers in comfort. The rear seats in the hardtop allow four adults. With its hatchback and folding rear seats, the Mini Cooper can haul reasonable amounts of gear. The convertible has less rear seat room and considerably less rear cargo capacity than the hardtop. For those who want more room there is the Clubman, which is 9.4 inches longer in overall length and 3.2 inches longer in the wheelbase. Kind of like a small station wagon, the Clubman has side-opening rear doors and, for entry to the rear seat, a single, rear-hinged door on the passenger's side.
Styling options allow owners to personalize their cars, with choices in upholstery style, material and color, and in trim panels, accent panels, and ambient lighting. Check too many options and the Mini's price can raise quickly from economy-entry to near-luxury levels, but all Minis are well equipped for what you pay.
The 1.8-liter dohc four-cylinder engine is rated at 118 horsepower and 114 pound-feed of torque in the Cooper models and, with a turbocharger, 172 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque in the Cooper S models. It is available with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. While all the Minis are very fun to drive, the Cooper S models deliver exhilarating performance and nimble handling that must be experienced to be fully appreciated.
The Mini's heritage dates back to the late 1950s, when it was conceived by the British Motor Corporation to provide the optimum in efficient, minimalist transportation. It was roomy for four adults and surprisingly comfortable. It was cheap to build, cheap to buy, and cheap to run.
But the Mini's fundamental cuteness lent it a sort of chic. The Mini was sporty and fun to drive. Soon it was adopted by celebrities such as Peter Sellers, who drove one on screen as well as off. The Mini Cooper survived multiple corporate mergers and disasters; and by the time production finally ended in the 1990s, its pioneering transverse engine (mounted sideways, rather than lengthwise, to save space) had been imitated by most automakers. BMW now owns the Mini brand, and revived the marque with an all-new car for the 2000 model year. For 2007 it was redesigned into the current-generation version. The Clubman joined the lineup for 2008 and the convertible was added for 2009. For 2010, there are no significant changes.
Of some 6 million original Minis, the best-known were the high-performance variants tuned by race-car builder John Cooper. Multiple rally and touring-car championships, including overall wins at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 and '67, assured the Mini Cooper's reputation as a small but formidable force in motorsports. The revived company plays off that heritage by offering high-performance John Cooper Works models that feature more power and tighter suspension.
The 2010 Mini Cooper comes as a two-door hatchback called the hardtop, a four-seat convertible, and a longer-wheelbase wagon called the Clubman. Two trim levels are available, the standard Cooper and the higher-performing Cooper S.
The Mini Cooper hardtop ($18,800) and convertible ($24,250) are powered by a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 118 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. Standard equipment includes air conditioning; AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, RDS, and pre-wiring for satellite radio; power windows with auto-down; power locks; remote keyless entry with electronic signal transmitter in place of the ignition key: leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel; six-way adjustable driver's seat; height-adjustable front passenger seat; split-folding rear seat; leatherette upholstery, outside temperature display, and a cooled glovebox. The hardtop also gets a rear wiper and defogger and P175/65R15 all-season tires on alloy wheels. The convertible has P195/55R16 run-flat tires on alloy wheels.
The Mini Cooper S hardtop ($23,200) and convertible ($27,150) are equipped with a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter engine, rated at 172 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, a stiffer suspension, performance exhaust system, and 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/55R16 all-season run-flat tires for both body styles; 17-inch wheels are optional. Exterior design details, including fog lights, a black grille insert, hood scoop, rear bumper inserts and prominent rear spoiler wing (optional on the Cooper), distinguish the Cooper S from the Cooper.
The John Cooper Works hardtop ($28,800) and convertible ($34,000) add a more powerful version of the turbocharged engine rated at 208 horsepower, as well as larger brakes, firmer suspension and P205/45R17 run-flat tires.
The Clubman comes in Cooper ($20,450), Cooper S ($24,050), and John Cooper Works ($31,000) versions, with appropriate levels of equipment and performance.
All models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manual shift controls is optional ($1,250) for all but the JCW models.
Personalization is a big part of the Mini experience, with a long list of options, from electronics and amenities to aero kits, stripes, and chrome baubles. An extensive array of alternative trim features is available to customize the interior to personal tastes, in terms of colors, textures and materials.
Option packages include the Sport Package ($1,250) with Sports suspension, 16-inch wheels (for the hardtop), traction control and stability control with an on/off switch, and bonnet stripes; the Convenience Package ($1,250) with rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, a universal garage door opener, an iPod adapter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and keyless access and starting; a Cold Weather Package ($500) with heated front seats, power folding mirrors, and heated washer jets; and a Premium Package ($1,750) with a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls. Significant stand-alone options include a limited-slip differential ($500), xenon headlights ($500), Bluetooth ($500), and navigation ($2,000). Many if not most of the items from the various option packages are also available as stand-alones.
Safety features on all models include dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Cornering Brake Control. Hardtops get torso-protecting front side airbags and head-protecting curtain side airbags, while convertibles add front seat-mounted head- and torso-protecting airbags and a pop-up rear rollover bar. Brake Assist detects emergency operation of the brakes, and builds up maximum brake pressure as quickly as possible. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with traction control is standard, and a version that can be turned on and off is optional on all but the JCW, where it is standard. Hill Assist start-off assistance is a feature of DSC, activating the brakes when starting on an uphill ascent to prevent the car from rolling back. Rear park assist is optional.