I’ve always been a little skeptical about the Mini. Although I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, it’s still cute, and therefore untrustworthy. Think about it; the New Beetle isn’t exactly Volkswagen’s finest, and nor was the initial incarnation of the TT. The Smart ForTwo is miserable, and the Mercedes A-class had its issues as well (remember, crashy, rolly kinds of issues). Basically, if it’s small, and in any way bubbly or cute, I have been trained not to trust it. To top it all off, 172 horses doesn’t seem like that much any more. I have a hard time thinking of a hatch with only two more horsepower than a VW Rabbit being “hot.” Find out if the Mini proved my instinct wrong after the jump.
After a couple minutes in the Mini I no longer trusted my instinct at all. The Cooper S is rightly fast, and unbelievably nimble. In no time I found myself driving around town well over the speed limit, due in part to the engine and in part to the fact that the speedometers are retarded. Yes, there are two, one is in the well to the driver’s right, the size of a dinner plate, and has a CD player in it, and the other is tiny, digital, and almost impossible to read before dusk. If it wasn’t for my wife sitting next to me I would have never known that I was doing nearly double the limit at some points during my drive. Seriously though, this car is the perfect was to remind a person just how much power 172 horses have. Given, this only seems like a lot of power when it isn’t lugging around an overweight tub of Saab. Mini claims a 0-100 of around seven seconds, but somehow it feels a lot faster than that. I know it probably isn’t, but it feels like it.
The suspension can take it too. It really was amazing, I was immediately comfortable in the Mini. Despite the speed at which I took the little car around some corners, I was still not comfortable enough to really discover the limits of its grip. From a driver’s point of view, it truly is a brilliant car. It feels like a BMW in all the good ways, but avoids that over-teched feeling that Bimmers are currently a little infected by.
Ergonomically, however, the Mini is a bloody mess. It’s as if the car was made in Bristol by Bristol. It’s not just the speedometer that’s in the wrong place, it’s everything else too. So you’re blazing along at twice the speed limit when you decide to roll down a window or something. Your hand goes to the door, where the controls for the windows certainly couldn’t be, as that is where they are normally, so you begin to look around the cabin. After about two minutes and some scratches on the car’s exterior, you finally find the controls, which are very shiny, and will cause you to be blinded and drive into a tree, an SUV, or a grandmother. This, I’ve heard, is bad.
So, if you want to have a small, somewhat overpriced, fast car that is fun as all hell and will kill your grandmother, buy a Mini Cooper S. If you just want a small, fast, fun car, go buy a VW GTI.
Price as Tested: $35,955
Exterior Design: 7/10 Cute, but not too cute.
Interior Design: 6/10 Cute, but will kill your granny.
Engine: 8/10 Wheeee!
Transmission: 8/10 Take your pick, either will put a smile on your face.
Audio/Video: 6/10 Sounds fine, but nothing to write home about.
Value: 5/10 Who knew that cute cost so much?
Overall (Not an average): 7/10