in 2011 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $14,004 - $23,958
Original MSRP: $19,400 - $34,300
MPG: 29 City / 37 Hwy
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2011 Mini Cooper Performance

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

With powerful engine choices and precise handling, the 2011 Mini Cooper packs a lot of car into a tiny package.

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

  • "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

Test drivers have always liked the Mini Cooper’s performance capabilities. It’s  known for holding its own on the highway. And if you’re into performance, try the Mini Cooper S or the John Cooper Works models.

For 2011, the Cooper gets even more power. The engines are still the same 1.6-liter four-cylinders from 2010, but now the Mini Cooper pumps 121 horsepower and the Mini Cooper S delivers 181.

The John Cooper Works edition has a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 208 horsepower, which makes it among the strongest engines in its class. The John Cooper Works is only available with a manual transmission while the Cooper and Cooper S models offer a standard six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available.

According to the EPA, the base Cooper with the manual transmission gets 29/37 mpg city/highway, which is very good for the class. The Cooper S with an automatic gets 26/34 mpg. 

  • "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 Mini Cooper boasts excellent handling dynamics. Reviewers particularly enjoy the its cornering abilities, saying the steering has a great feel and excellent response.

The Mini Cooper may be too stiff for some drivers. For something a bit smoother, test drive the Volkswagen Golf. It offers a smooth ride.

  • "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

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