The Mini Cooper S can be polarizing with its style over substance cabin and harsh, performance-oriented ride, but with a list of options longer than the car itself, it's easy to make the Cooper your own.
The Mini is back for 2010 and as small as ever. Actually, not much has changed for Mini since we reviewed the 2007 model, but does the aging Cooper stand the test of time?
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172-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo
Under the Mini's clamshell hood is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs an impressive 172 horsepower. Turbo lag is an issue at low speeds, but once it gets going (or when in Sport mode), lag is less of an issue.
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Steering and handling
With so much power going through the front wheels, torque steer is unavoidable. Fortunately, the Mini's quick steering helps to mitigate much of the lateral movement. When in Sport mode, the steering and throttle responses are sharpened.
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The Mini turns 50
Our Cooper S is a Mayfair edition, one of two special editions celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mini nameplate.
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Brown on brown
The Mayfair edition features special brown metallic paint, brown interior, and brown pinstriped winglet mirrors and dash trim.
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The Mayfair also features upgraded xenon headlamps, driving lights and fog lights, and white turn signals.
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As a hatchback, the Mini offers a degree of utility. You'll have to choose between hauling people and hauling cargo, but at least you have the choice.
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The Mini has a short wheelbase, which makes it easy to rotate in the turns and easy to park. However, the wheelbase also makes the Mini's ride quite harsh over potholes and expansion joints.
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The Cooper S' EPA fuel economy estimates come in at 24 city and 32 highway mpg. Even after a week of Sport mode flogging, we still managed to stay within that range.
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The Mini's interior is where opinions vary wildly. For some, it is one of the most beautiful interior designs on the road. For others, it's a disorganized mess of scattered controls.
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The Mini's dinner-plate-size speedometer also houses most of the controls for the audio system.
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However, the volume control lives in a completely different location. Squint and you'll be able to see the knob below the CD slot.
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Behind the steering wheel, the tachometer has its own set of indicators.
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Fortunately, the steering wheel controls are simple and easy to understand.
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To the driver's right are the cruise control buttons.
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Audio and Bluetooth
Audio and Bluetooth hands-free controls are on the driver's left side. The Bluetooth system uses voice command, but it doesn't automatically import contacts from smartphones.
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As part of the Bluetooth option, the Mini also gains a USB port with iPod connectivity.