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#11

in 2010 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $12,116 - $21,326
Original MSRP: $18,800 - $34,000
MPG: 28 City / 37 Hwy

2010 Mini Cooper Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Drivers interested in the Mini Cooper usually consider it for one of two reasons. Either they like its puppy-cute looks, or they want a compact car that is a legitimately capable performer. With powerful engine choices and precise handling dynamics, the Mini Cooper packs a whole lot of car into a tiny package.

Most people looking at the Mini Cooper will already have their minds made up about what they want, but for those who are still on the fence, you should also check out the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3. Both cars offer more powerful base engines and more comfortable seats in the cockpit.

  • "This latest-generation Mini is easier and safer to drive quickly, benefits of changes to the suspension, the increased torque of the engine, and the electromechanically assisted steering." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Aside from a bit more scuttle shake than we'd like to see, the Convertible is much the same zippy go-kart that its short-wheelbase brother is." -- Left Lane News
  • "On the track, the Mini is certainly better than most other front-wheel-drive compact cars (and probably even better than our favorite front-driver, the Volkswagen GTI), but a little more of a rear-end-friendly attitude wouldn't hurt. Especially since the Mini's steering ratio is lightning quick." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The…Mini Cooper is an amusement park ride on wheels, albeit a noisy one. Even the base model can hold its own when the going gets twisty. It rides stiffly, however, and the Cooper S is stiffer still, so we'd pass on the hard-core sport suspension option unless you need the extra performance for track days."  -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers are thrilled by the powerful engines loaded into the various Cooper models. Although the base Cooper can definitely hold its own on the highway, performance-oriented drivers will want to have a look at the Cooper S or John Cooper Works edition models. Both of their engines deliver more than enough power to make them capable of speeding down a highway at nearly twice the legal limit.

The 2010 Mini Cooper offers three different engine choices. The first, offered on the base Cooper, is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 118 horsepower. The Cooper S offers a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that boasts 172 horsepower. Finally, the John Cooper Works edition Cooper hosts a high output turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that punches out a full 208 horsepower, which makes it among the strongest engines in its class. The Cooper and Cooper S models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but a six-speed automatic is available.

The EPA estimates that the base Cooper with the manual transmission gets 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, putting it at the head of the class behind only the Toyota Yaris, Smart ForTwo and Honda Civic Hybrid. Even the Cooper S with the automatic, which gets the lowest rating of the Cooper trims, still gets a rating of 24 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, putting it in the upper half of the class.

If you aren’t dead set on a Mini, there are other cars worth your consideration. The Volkswagen Golf offers a base engine with 170 horsepower and an utra-smooth ride. Also worth a look is the Mazda3, which has a base engine with 148 horsepower, and is widely reputed to be among the best performing cars in the class.

  • "Step on the throttle and the engine delivers seamless power to the front wheels, without the lag associated with most turbocharged engines." -- Road and Track
  • "Hit the throttle and anywhere in the rev range the Cooper S will have surprising pulling power." -- Examiner.com
  • "In Cooper S turbocharged trim with direct fuel injection, the new engine delivers very sporting performance. Its 172 horsepower is more than adequate in the lightweight Mini to generate speeds twice most legal limits, but the 177 pound-feet of torque, which can be over-boosted to 190 pound-feet for short intervals, and is available from 1700 rpm to 5000 rpm, is nothing short of marvelous." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Both engines are smooth and flexible, providing decent low-end torque. Naturally, the S zips off the line with more tenacity and it doesn't struggle to pass on the highway. The base feels a bit like it is towing an anchor, compared to the S, but the power-to-weight ratio is still acceptable given the car's 2,855 lb. curb weight." -- Left Lane News

Handling and Braking

The Cooper boasts excellent handling dynamics. Reviewers particularly enjoy the Mini’s cornering abilities, saying the steering has a great feel and excellent response.

One of the Mini’s few performance drawbacks is that its ride may be a bit stiffer than you might like. For those looking for something a bit smoother, test drive the Volkswagen Golf. It offers a genuinely smooth ride and has an upscale feel to its cabin.

  • "Despite not being an all-independent setup, the Mini suspension does a commendable job of providing near-neutral cornering balance through all types of corners while keeping body roll in check. Also, the beefed-up body structure does its part by exhibiting rock-solid stability through corners and over bumps, as well as providing collision protection." -- Road and Track
  • "Because the steering is still mechanically connected to the front wheels, this system can't be called drive-by-wire, and the driver still has a feel for the road and the car's changing cornering force can be felt through the wheel." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "You'll find a choppy ride on California's deceivingly sloppy highways, but you'll also relish every corner you can find. Mini's electric power steering truly sets the industry standard for feel and response. Not too quick, but still realistic, it provides all of the benefits of electric assist without the video game feel we've seen in pretty much every other car so equipped." -- Left Lane News