The Truth About Cars » Cooper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 02 Aug 2014 03:20:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Cooper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Vellum Venom: MINI Cooper Hardtop (2012) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vellum-venom-mini-cooper-hardtop-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vellum-venom-mini-cooper-hardtop-2012/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 12:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=689618 The end of the year, the end of an era for a famous British Marque.  Let’s get crackin’ before the ink on the vellum dries for the (all new) 2014 model. Everyone knows this face, it’s Brand Recognition 101.  Or maybe 202, as the original MINI (the 100% British one) was redesigned even less regularly/extensively […]

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The end of the year, the end of an era for a famous British Marque.  Let’s get crackin’ before the ink on the vellum dries for the (all new) 2014 model.

1Everyone knows this face, it’s Brand Recognition 101.  Or maybe 202, as the original MINI (the 100% British one) was redesigned even less regularly/extensively than the BMW-owned MINI.  Perhaps not even Ford’s iconic Mustang remained this true to form.  The MINI’s snout sports a traditional grille and round headlights on a small canvas, but the bumper could be any modern car.

The proportions are right.  The elements are well-formed and harmonize together quite well.  Just like it’s always been for this brand.

 

2

Both grilles work well together, the bottom opening is almost a mirror reflection of the top, as it pushes into the air dam’s real estate much like the grille’s forcible entrance to the bumper. Well thought out and clean!

3

And even though this is a small and (somewhat) cheap car where corner cutting is acceptable, well, this lower grille is a rather fancy casting.  The solid portions of the egg crate are deeply recessed, so it takes a while to see the mass-market cheapness.  Add the chrome strip in the middle and perhaps you’ll never even bother to notice this doesn’t belong on a high dollar 7-series BMW!  Well…

4

If the grille didn’t slide down into the bumper, the MINI would be surprisingly devoid of panel gaps.  That’s the beauty of a clamshell-style hood: the insurance industry may hate replacing these in a minor accident, but the way the hood and fenders blur into one panel is a work of fine art.

5

MINI’s always had the coolest headlights in its class, if not one of the coolest designs for any budget. Just the right amount of chrome inside the lense (not swept back into functionless blingy real estate) so there’s room for an expensive looking outer chrome ring: a modern interpretation of vintage Jags, Ferraris, etc.

More kudos for not using the chrome signal light body (or the cap for the headlight) for a branding opportunity. That notion’s been played out. And there’s a nice corporate logo on the hood if you think this might be a Ferrari.

6
OMG YES CLAMSHELL HOOD. But seriously, note the reflection of the lights above: there’s a subtle fender flare from the headlights on back.  It’s beautiful.  It is really such a sin to want more affordable vehicles with fewer breaks in the body for the singular reason of aesthetic delight?

7

A cheap(ish) car with expensive old world craftsmanship: the chrome trim around the clamshell is another subtle reminder that you coulda bought a more car for the money at damn near any other dealership…except that you actually wouldn’t!

8The Bayswater Edition replaces the standard logo with something straight outta 1981.  I think I have the same pattern when I crank up Giorgio Moroder on my Pioneer cassette player’s VU meter. But still, this mini billboard (get it?) should be binned for straight sheet metal around that light. Cleaner is better on a vehicle with a clamshell hood with such a racy cutline!

9

Oh yes, I did say racy.

10

MINIs are all about customization to an owner’s needs, and the Bayswater definitely appeals to my inner Max Headroom. But wait…do I see…

10_1

No DLO FAIL!  Even better, the black A-pillar blends nicely into the greenhouse, while that chrome trim continues around the side.  The three blue panels, the clamshell hood, the cowl paneling (for lack of a better phrase) and the door cut lines aren’t necessarily minimal, but they work well together.

If only the clamshell’s end point was the same as the front door’s beginning point like a C4 Corvette!

11

While that backslash on the clamshell is a MINI hallmark, using another horizontal line above this rocker moulding instead lets the clamshell go all the way back to really spice up the package.

Then again, the (rear hinged) hood probably wouldn’t open if that request came true…damn you reality check!

 

12

The gloss black wheels are a unique touch, only because the leading edge of the spokes and the rim’s lip is polished.  The wheel’s lines are logical and symmetric, so this bit of color ingenuity is certainly welcome and not outstanding like a black eye on a pretty face.13

So much for logical!  Perhaps employees of New World Pictures approve, yet both mirror skullcaps should be the same color.  This is nonsense, and not that systematic failure endemic of a failed organization nonsense that brought us the Pontiac Aztek…it’s just plain silliness with no value on an automobile.

Whatever graphical theme the Bayswater name implies, this isn’t how you do a gray and blue color scheme.

14

Although it might look better if both mirrors were that french gray instead of radioactive blue…what say you?

15

Invisible B-pillar that lines up well with the door cutline.  Unlike the CTS coupe, MINI did a fantastic job hiding pillars under glass.  Also note the chrome trim that started on the clamshell continues apace.

16
Sure, this is a round and cute vehicle.  But the round theme is more of an ovoid, and the negative area behind the door pull should emulate the shape seen in the headlights.  Or the ovoidness seen here in the door cutline.  This is “too round”, if such a thing is possible.

 

17

No A-pillar. No B-pillar.  No C-pillar. Be it wrapped in glass or covered in gloss black, the MINI does a fantastic job looking far more expensive than anything else at this price point.  All it needs is (illegal) limo tint and the greenhouse would look like a pillarless space ship! Very cool, very much approved.

Cute proportions, charming interplay between design elements, short overhangs and cheap yet expensive detailing.

This is why people love the MINI: staying true to it while advancing the game.  This is what us Panther Love/RWD American Sedan fans wanted.

18Retro gas caps usually look out-of-place (SN-95 Bullitt Mustang) but if there’s one mainstream machine that needs one…and it’s a clean and flowing design elegantly recessed into the body.

 

19_1Just like the side profile, the MINI’s rear greenhouse looks surprisingly sharp with this chrome strip.  The glossy C-pillar helps, as does the black roof.  A brighter roof color to accentuate the attention to detail in the glass work and pillar trimming is actually preferable! Whether or not the Union Jack treatment is needed is always up for debate.

20

Like many small hatchbacks, the C-pillar has a ridge to keep the cute little MINI tracking straight in stiff cross winds on the highway.  Supposedly these details matter, consult your local Aerospace Engineer if you don’t believe me.

21

Another aero touch: the spiraled antenna on the roof.  It’s surprisingly tall for such a small car. Or perhaps the MINI-ature dimensions are why it seems small!

21_1

Speaking of, the reflector/marker lights both front and back must be placed on the wheel arches because there’s simply no other place available! Short overhangs have their benefits!  22_1

Because of poor lighting at my “test” vehicle’s location, here’s a stock photo showing the Bayswater from the back.  Note how low the side view mirrors sit (at least on the Euro spec model) and the stilt-like tire width.  This model also has a different bumper (with fake grilles) and a central exhaust, which sells more exotic performance than the wrong-wheel-drive MINI can possibly produce.

22Logical cut lines for the hatch and bumpers. A complete chrome “belt” at the base of the greenhouse.  Chrome rimmed lights and something that only works on British cars like MINIs and Jags: a chrome mustache above the license plate that both adds English charm and is a handy place for a grab handle and license plate lighting.

23

The sleek rear wiper arm is another modern touch that proves that classic designs can always live to see another day…or millennium.

24

While not as punchy as the headlights, the logical use of chrome inside and the upscale chrome rim outside are hallmarks of good vintage British design.  25Last and perhaps least, the central lighting pod with backup lights, and used for a rear fog light in Europe (maybe America too?).  It, just like the front grilles, extends into the black lower valance to continue that theme.  All of which is in very good taste, at any price.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a lovely New Year’s Eve…and beyond!

 

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Los Angeles 2013: MINI Unveils 2014 Cooper, Cooper S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-mini-unveils-2014-cooper-cooper-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-mini-unveils-2014-cooper-cooper-s/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:12:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658490 MINI’s new Cooper and Cooper S aren’t so mini anymore — which is wonderful for the backseat occupants in your life, for starters — but the BMW brand had done its best to maintain the spirit. Under the bonnets are either a three-pot pushing 134 horses out the front gate with 162 lb-ft of torque […]

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2014 MINI Cooper S 01

MINI’s new Cooper and Cooper S aren’t so mini anymore — which is wonderful for the backseat occupants in your life, for starters — but the BMW brand had done its best to maintain the spirit. Under the bonnets are either a three-pot pushing 134 horses out the front gate with 162 lb-ft of torque or, for the S, an extra cylinder helping to produce 189 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, with either engine paired to a six-speed manual or automatic.

2014 MINI Cooper S 05 2014 MINI Cooper S 04 2014 MINI Cooper S 03 2014 MINI Cooper S 02 2014 MINI Cooper S 01 2014 MINI Cooper 05 2014 MINI Cooper 04 2014 MINI Cooper 03 2014 MINI Cooper 02 2014 MINI Cooper 01

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Review: 2012 MINI Cooper S Countryman All4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-mini-cooper-s-countryman-all4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-mini-cooper-s-countryman-all4/#comments Sat, 11 Aug 2012 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454503 MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because […]

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MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because the German owners of the iconic British brand have decided American domination hinges on making the biggest MINI yet. Enter the MINI Countryman. Or as I like to call it, the MINI Maxi.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The outside of the Countryman is full of firsts. It is the first MINI with 5 doors, the first MINI with available AWD, the first MINI longer than 13-feet. And the most dubious honor of all, the first MINI to weigh over 3,000lbs. To be exact, our Countryman S All4 weighed in at 3,220lbs. MINI fans will note this is 655lbs heavier than a two-door Cooper S. The MINI maximization makes the Countryman look like somebody was inflating a MINI balloon and forgot to say “when.” Your opinions will vary, but this overinflated MINI is quite attractive to my eye. From the perky round headlights to the signature hood scoop and the optional sport stripes, nobody will confuse the Countryman for anything-but a MINI.

Interior

A logical shopper would look at the Countryman and assume four doors equals five seats. Not so fast. Keeping with MINI tradition, the Countryman is a four passenger vehicle at heart, and on the lot. A quick search revealed that between the four local MINI dealers, only six of the 134 Countryman CUVs were equipped with the $250 fifth seat option. Availability aside, the middle seat should be thought of as an “emergency” seat due to the narrow proportions of the Countryman. Adding that fifth seat causes another unexpected problem: no rear cup holders. You see, the Countryman uses an interesting center “rail” system that normally stretches from the instrument panel to the rear seat backs. The rails allow you to snap-on various accessories like storage boxes, phone holders, sunglasses storage and most crucially; cup holders. Family minded shoppers should keep in mind that the rear door pockets won’t hold fast-food style sodas. In compensation for the rear amenities, the Countryman offers three times the cargo space of the Cooper with the seats up (16.5 cubic feet) and twice with the seats folded (41.3 cubic feet.)

As with all MINI models, a low rent headliner coexists with snazzy switches, rich leather upholstery, a thick rimmed steering wheel and an occasional smattering of hard plastics. Style rather than luxury is what MINI is all about, as is made most obvious by the ginormous “Disneyesque” speedometer/infotainment/HVAC vent cluster. Practical folks will find the switchgear positioned too low in the dashboard for comfort (it’s an eyes-on-the-road nightmare), but the look is undeniably swish and unlikely to bother the MINI faithful.

Infotainment

Frugal shoppers should skip this section as MINI infotainment price tags are far from mini. All Countryman models start with MINI’s AM/FM/XM/HD Radio/CD unit. Should you want some iDevice love and a Bluetooth speakerphone, add $500 to your tab. An additional $500 (or $250 if you planned to get the armrest anyway) gets you the MINI Connected system sans nav. MINI Connected is BMW’s iDrive (circa 2011) adapted to the smaller screen and MINImalist controls. As with BMW’s iPhone app, you can Tweet, Facebook, stream internet radio, Google, and view some extra “sport” themed instrumentation on the LCD.

MINI takes “the app thing” to a new level with “Dynamic Music” and “Mission Control.” Dynamic Music plays digitized, beat-heavy, music that changes as you drive. Speed up and the tempo increases while the system adds more instruments. Flip your turn signal on and cymbals start ringing out of the speaker on the side that you’re indicating. Mission Control plays canned phrases in stereotypical British accents in response to driver inputs. Floor the MINI and the system says “fulllll throttle!” Press the Sport button and several canned voices have a conversation about sporty driving. While it is entertaining for a day or two, I can’t imagine owners using this app daily.

Like a gateway drug, once you have MINI Connected, it’s hard to say no to the $750 nav up-sell. Once you have the nav, the $750 Harman/Kardon speakers aren’t a huge leap. After all that’s been added, your MINI sales rep will tell you “if you select the Technology Package you can add the parking sensors for half price” ($250.) Total up-sell: $2,750. “Ain’t technology grand?

Drivetrain

Under the hood you will fine the same engines as the rest of the MINI lineup. The base 1.6L engine is good for 121HP and 114lb-ft. As you would expect, pitting 121HP against 3,000lbs results in leisurely acceleration. Our tester was the “Cooper S” which means direct-injection and a turbocharger have been added to bring power up to 181HP and twist to 177lb-ft from 1,600-5,000RPM. MINI’s turbo engine employs an “overboost” feature to bump torque to 192lb-ft from 1,700-4,500RPM under certain conditions for a limited time. Either engine is mated to a standard 6-speed Getrag manual or an optional 6-speed Aisin automatic.

Once you’ve selected the option box for the turbo engine, you have access to the $1,700 Haldex AWD system dubbed “ALL4.” The system is essentially the same as other Haldex implementations and uses a wet clutch pack in place of a center differential. The clutch unlocks during low-speed maneuvers for better handling feel, locks completely during hard acceleration, and varies the connection depending on traction requirements. MINI tells us the system is programmed to keep the clutch pack connected more often than competing systems to improve feel.

MINI has confirmed that 2013 will bring some JCW love to the Countryman. The engine will be the same 1.6L direct-injection turbo as the S model, with the boost cranked to the maximum. MINI has yet to release power figures, but expect it to slot in around 220HP.

Drive

Expectations are important in drive reviews. If you expect the Countryman to drive like a regular MINI despite having AWD, seating for five and a large cargo area, you’ll be disappointed. When the road gets twisty, the Countryman responds exactly like an AWD MINI that’s been jacked up a couple of inches and gained 26% in weight. That being said, expecting the Countryman to handle like a Cooper means you’re missing the point. Compared to the premium CUVs on the market however, the MINI is small, nimble and tight in the corners bringing the classic MINI feel to a CUV. The ride height increase and greater suspension articulation make the Countryman lean in corners but the tradeoff is the ability to tackle some soft-roads when required.

The addition of the Haldex AWD system takes away the perverse pleasure I find in torque steer, but enthusiast drivers will appreciate the change. Enthusiast drivers will also appreciate the fact the ALL4 system makes the Countryman far more neutral than the other MINIs when applying throttle in the bends. Don’t get me wrong, this MINI is still nose-heavy and will head for the grass like a wild horse if you push it too hard, but I wonder what a JCW Cooper hatch with AWD would be like.

MINI has never been known to make fast cars, they make quick cars. As you would expect, 655lbs more car, an additional passenger and twice the cargo causes forward progress to fall from swift to average. A run to 60 took 6.89 seconds with overboost and 7.3 without, which is about the same range as a Camry… Hybrid. Ouch. If you have a need for more speed, MINI has announced that 2013 will bring a JCW Countryman that will hit 60 in a claimed 6.6 seconds, or 0.6 seconds slower than a V6 Camry.

When the Countryman arrived, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. As MINIs go, this thing is huge, but as crossovers go, it’s quite MINI. If you want a German vehicle with British styling, mild off-road prowess, four doors and four seats, this is the vehicle for you. It’s also the American-sized MINI destined to introduce the brand to a wider variety of shoppers. There are only two problems. The first is price. While the Countryman may start at $22,450, the S should be the real base model at $26,050. Why get the CUV if you don’t get AWD?  We’re up to $27,750. Add the minimum in gadgetry and you’re over $30,000. With pricing like this, styling becomes the only reason to buy a MINI Countryman over BMW’s own internal competition: the BMW X1.

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MINI provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.46 Seconds

0-60: 6.89 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  15.38 Seconds @ 88.8 MPH

Average fuel economy: 24.9 over 248 miles

 

2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior,  Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, Driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, dashboard, MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, dashboard, MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, MINI Connected controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, door panel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats folded, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman S-011 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats folded, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, all 4 logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, Cooper logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, MINI Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, speedometer and MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2011 MINI Cooper S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2011-mini-cooper-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2011-mini-cooper-s/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2011 19:49:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=405937 Ever since I test drove the original Honda CRX a quarter-century ago I’ve been a big fan of small cars. In everyday driving I’d rather have a small car with limited power than a large car with a lot of it. And yet I’ve never quite connected with the MINIs I’ve driven. Perhaps I just […]

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Ever since I test drove the original Honda CRX a quarter-century ago I’ve been a big fan of small cars. In everyday driving I’d rather have a small car with limited power than a large car with a lot of it. And yet I’ve never quite connected with the MINIs I’ve driven. Perhaps I just needed more time in the seat? To find out, I recently spent a week with a MINI Cooper S—a small car with plenty of power.

More than anything else, styling distinguishes a MINI from other small cars. The car’s iconic exterior provides people who would never buy a Fit or a Fiesta with a reason to buy a B-segment hatchback. The tested car’s $500 “spice orange metallic” exterior was further distinguished with a $250 “MINI Yours Tattoo, Funky” graphics package. A MINI’s interior is even more highly styled than its exterior, though one must wonder if the styling in this case helps or hinders sales as ergonomics and ease of use were clearly low on the list of the designers’ priorities. The idiosyncratic controls are different from those in any other car, are in few cases intuitive, and often require more steps than they ought to. The most irritating: after my aging Motorola phone (a very popular model when new) was connected via Bluetooth, I had to hit “okay” five times to accept the MINI’s requests for data transfers every time I started the car. Perhaps the Smartphone Integration is smarter when paired with a more intelligent phone? The speedometer at the top of the center stack is too large and too close to the driver to serve any purpose aside from decoration; there’s a digital speedometer in the tach so the driver can actually tell how fast the car is going. The sliding armrest is too easily and too often bumped backwards when working the shifter. Some of the materials are decent, but many are a lower grade of plastic than the car’s $27,000+ price might suggest.

A MINI’s driving position is similarly unique. You sit lower than in today’s typical small car and well behind an upright windshield. While this lends the car a different, more retro feel compared to run-of-the-mill subcompacts, it also blocks traffic signals until one learns to stop well short of the white line. Otherwise, visibility is very good all around, thanks to thinner pillars than the contemporary norm. The sport buckets provide good lateral support, but comfort is compromised by a headrest that juts too far forward. The seat recliner is located on the inside, where it is hard to reach. The rear seat in the standard MINI hatchback isn’t intended for frequent use by adults. Even my tenth-percentile eight-year-old son complained that it was tight back there. Need more rear seat room? Then step up to the three-door Clubman or four-door Countryman. Cargo room behind the seat is similarly limited to a single row of grocery bags. Nevertheless, by sliding the front passenger seat all the way forward and tipping its seatback I was able to squeeze a bicycle into the car with just the front wheel removed.

Earlier Cooper S’s had supercharged engines, but the blower was replaced by a turbocharger when the car was redesigned a few years ago. Though in years past this would have meant more lag before the boost kicks in and less low-end power, the MINI’s 1.6-liter four largely avoids these traditional disadvantages. One reason: the turboharger is small and a twin-scroll design. The torque peak of 177 foot-pounds runs all the way from 1,600 to 5,000 rpm, with the horsepower peaking at 181 at 5,500. As with other turbocharged engines, the low torque peak is a little deceiving. It’s easy to stall the engine pulling away from a dead stop with the AC on, and there’s a little lag at low rpm. But from 2,500 on up power comes on so smoothly and in such a linear fashion that it’s not even obvious that the engine is boosted. Just strong. Hit the redline in first at WOT, shift, and the engine slams the car forward upon engaging second—the boost is right there, waiting. And yet this engine doesn’t feel as explosive or as smooth as the newer, 188-horsepower direct-injected 1.6 in the Nissan JUKE.

The six-speed manual shifter, dressed in an odd narrow boot and topped with an uncomfortable knob (style uber alles again), feels a little crunchy and reverse can be difficult to locate. It’s still better than any transmission without a clutch. Fuel economy is impressive given the level of performance, with EPA ratings of 27/36 and trip computer reports of 30 to 35 in the suburbs and 40 on the highway. Expected better from such a small car? Well, the MINI Cooper S might only be 146.8 inches long and 66.3 inches wide, but it tips the scales at 2,668 pounds, seven more than the 178.3-by-69.9-inch Hyundai Elantra. Which should at least partly assuage any safety concerns—this isn’t any tin can.

The JUKE’s engine might feel more powerful, but the MINI’s chassis is far more capable of putting its power down. Get even moderately on the gas mid-turn in a front-wheel-drive JUKE, and the inside front tire breaks traction. Do the same in the MINI, and the car rockets out of the curve. A lower center of gravity and better suspension geometry no doubt contribute, but the MINI’s more sophisticated, seam-free traction control system deserves much of the credit.

The MINI’s quick steering feels firm in normal mode, but provides limited feedback and makes the car seem larger and heavier than it is. Hitting the “sport” button further firms up the steering, but the chassis then feels less agile and the steering more artificial without providing more nuanced feedback. I prefer “normal” in all but the most aggressive driving. A shame, as the chassis is otherwise a match for any other front-driver’s, and far better than the JUKE’s, with the precision, balance, composure, and strong responsive brakes that make twisty roads a delight. Unless the road happens to be bumpy, in which case the chassis maintains the selected line but ride quality borders on harsh even without the optional sport suspension. And if you like your cars quiet, this isn’t your car. But then you probably knew that already.

The tested car listed for $27,700 when fitted with the sport package, keyless access, heated cloth seats, and the too clever by half phone integrator. Knock off $250 if you can do without the funky tattoo and another $500 if you can live with a more basic Bluetooth system.

Until the half-foot-shorter, four-inch-taller FIAT 500 Abarth arrives, the significantly larger VW GTI is the Cooper S’s closest competitor. It’s not possible to equip a GTI to a similar level, as MINI lets you order options a la carte (for more of that retro flavor) while VW forces you into the $5,530 Autobahn Package if you must be able to start your car without touching the keys. Xenon headlights require either this package or the navigation system. Do without these features and the GTI checks in about $1,500 below the Cooper S. Adjusting for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool reduces the difference to about $900. Add the Autobahn Package and the VW comes in $3,000 higher than the MINI, but adjusting for its additional features reduces the difference all the way back to about $600. So the Cooper S and GTI are close in price. A MazdaSpeed3 undercuts the MINI by about $1,000, so it’s also in the same ballpark (unless you opt for the $6,100 John Cooper Works package on the MINI to get its straight line performance closer to the Mazda’s). A Nissan JUKE SL, on the other hand, lists for $2,500 less than the MINI, and adjusting for feature differences pushes the gap beyond $4,000.

The MINI Cooper S is certainly fun to drive. But so are the GTI, JUKE, and MazdaSpeed3, all of which can be had for the same or significantly less money. The MINI’s compact dimensions and relatively light weight should lend it a more agile, more tossable character than the others, but this advantage is compromised by the car’s heavy, somewhat artificial steering. Even after a week in the car, this steering came between the MINI and me rather than tightly connecting us. In a midsize sedan this steering would be okay, even better than okay, but a small, powerful hatch deserves a livelier, chattier system. It’s the thing I most wish MINI would improve. (Mazda tends to do the best in this area.) Not that the MINI’s secondary controls don’t also need improvement, as they are among the most difficult to use in any car. A less avoidable weakness: the minimal rear seat and cargo space. If you want a small car with a sporty driving position, these are going to be part of the deal. Add it all up, and there’s only one big reason to get a MINI over the larger, more powerful, better outfitted, and/or less expensive alternatives, and that’s style. Love the look? Then there’s no substitute.

MINI provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Cooper S rear seat Cooper S cargo Time to earn that name... Big sale on cereal Cooper S front Cooper S side Cooper S rear quarter Cooper S rear quarter 2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Cooper S interior Cooper S engine

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: MINI’s Growing Family Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-minis-growing-family-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-minis-growing-family-edition/#comments Thu, 10 Jun 2010 16:53:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358638 MINI’s new six-model lineup gets an early preview, as the Cooper, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster meet up outside MINI’s plant in Oxford, England. The Countryman SUV won’t arrive in the states until February 2011, with the Coupe and Roadster following by six and 12 months respectively.

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MINI’s new six-model lineup gets an early preview, as the Cooper, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster meet up outside MINI’s plant in Oxford, England. The Countryman SUV won’t arrive in the states until February 2011, with the Coupe and Roadster following by six and 12 months respectively.

The post What’s Wrong With This Picture: MINI’s Growing Family Edition appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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