I know, I know. Mini Coopers have traditionally been ignored in the car community due to the fact that-other than its distinctive size and design-it’s mostly uncomfortable and not as practical as a hatchback should be. Even the car that I tested-with only 38 cubic feet of cargo space, compared to a Focus ST of its year which had 45 cubic feet-you could barely fit a small television, and the comfort level in any seat in the vehicle is absolutely abysmal. With the driver’s seat in my normal driving position (I’m 6′ 2″), there is no way I could sit behind myself without dislocating my knees every time the car hit a speed bump. No wonder you don’t see too many of these cars on the road, right?
Then again, perhaps I’m judging this car with too harsh of a lens. I guess I do have to remember that, at the end of the day, it is a Mini after all. The name of the brand provides a pretty good excuse for the aforementioned issues. With that in mind though, throughout my test drive I found myself constantly wondering, what kind of person would be so inclined to spend enough money to feed a family of 8 for a year on car that can’t even fit the whole family? With the base price of right around $30k at the time, once you add a few desirable options, you’re looking at a price tag of a brand new Golf GTi or a fully loaded Focus ST, and then some. Both of those cars are packed with more technology, neither of them look like a catfish debating whether not it wants to bite the worm floating 7 inches away, and oh, they can both fit a family of four AND their camping equipment for a weekend.
So what makes this car so appealing? The main thing that caught my immediate attention was the track mode button. It’s a factory option, and it is absolutely brilliant. Once engaged, the already peppy Mini opens up the throttle a bit more and the 228 hp engine really starts to push out everything it has. The optional Track mode button does take up a cup holder, but this is more of a track car than anything-you weren’t planning on grabbing two medium Cokes from McDonald’s, were you? Because if you were, you’re out of luck; though I guarantee you that this is an option no one will ever regret, as the burbling and popping generously surrounds the air whizzing by-oh, the sound is glorious. I test drove the automatic gear box, which turns out is the transmission you want; especially if you’re like me and will be taking the car to the track.
For being a BMW product though, it left some to be desired. Let me elaborate.
The steering feel, for example, felt a bit too light, and perhaps a bit under-responsive. Maybe I was slightly spoiled from driving my 335i all the time, but I’ve always praised BMW for having the most superior steering feel. The Mini felt like it wasn’t up to par with what I expected from the performance version of the Mini Cooper, though I suspect it might be due to the fact that the Mini was trying to compromise for daily city driving.
Moving away from the performance aspect of the car, the interior of the Mini surprisingly felt quite grown-up. Most everything was covered in nice leather. The additional red stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and the gearshift was a nice, elegant touch as well. Nothing felt like it was about to rattle off. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention those fighter plane-like switches for the ignition, traction control, and the heated steering wheel-they were definitely my favorite part of the interior, which gave it an aggressive look as if to say, “I know I’m small, but I can drive like a big boy too!” Most importantly, the fact that the tach was where it’s supposed to be instead of being tacked on to the center console was much appreciated, as that was probably one of my biggest pet peeves with these Mini’s. With the red-font tach and even a lap timer, the Mini felt like a proper track car, especially from the driver’s seat.
With that said though, the rest of the car almost seemed unnecessary; it’s not like you’ll be driving with a passenger 99% of the time if you’ve made the decision to buy this car, as the passenger will probably be suffering from chronic back pains after a 20 minute journey to the grocery store and back, because, like I mentioned earlier, there is NO WAY you are fitting any more than one and a half WWII amputees in the back seat-which will at least be a good thing as they probably can’t feel much pain in their backs’ or legs’ anyway.
All in all, regardless of the fact that I have been making fun of the car this entire article, I do believe the Mini Cooper S is a great one; under the right circumstances. If you’re an aspiring boy racer who likes to go out to the track every other weekend and thrash around in a small but nimble Rottweiler of a car, then I would absolutely encourage your to go ahead and make the purchase (given that you hate every other hot hatch in the market right now). However, if you’re looking for a small daily driver that you can drive into Seattle and take your girlfriend out on dinner dates in, I would look elsewhere. And trust me on this one, you’ll save a pretty penny on your chiropractor visits a bit down the road!