2008 Mini Cooper Review

by : Brian Sy

If small cars have to be cheap, style-free appliances to make it in America, someone forgot to tell the makers of the Mini Cooper. This former British icon has been a hit since its 21st century resurrection, and its one-of-a-kind look is only one reason. Honestly, the market seems to embrace it more for its credentials as a real performance machine.

Consider that more buyers choose the turbocharged, 172-horsepower Cooper S over the 118 HP base Cooper, and the 6-speed stick over the 6-speed automatic. These things rarely happen, but then, it's rare to see a car with such super-small-size, cat-quick steering, and BMW chassis tuning. At times it almost feels agile to the point of feeling twitchy (and the ride is a tad firm), but for the most part, the Mini's all about good times behind the wheel.

With its $20K starting price and fuel-sipping 1.6-liter engine, the Mini is even practical, so long as your transportation needs never exceed two humans. The back seat simply has nothing to offer anyone with legs, and the trunk is too puny to handle more than one guy's luggage. Fold the back seat down, however, and the Mini becomes a roomy two-seater - one that can park in spaces where no other car would fit. Anyone seeking a more normal-sized car can opt for the nine-inch-longer Mini Cooper Clubman, though it's still smaller than 95% of the cars out there.

Probably the only thing wrong with the Mini Cooper - aside from its arguably high MSRP - is the interior design, which was made gimmicky, overwrought, and anti-functional for the sake of style (or BMW's idea thereof). Another thing to keep in mind is that the convertible models still use the rougher, Chrysler-designed engine from the original Mini.

If none of that bothers you, join the club.

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