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Drive Time drives and gives a full review of the 2009 MINI Cooper S.
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It’s hard to imagine sometimes that we’ve reached the point where consumers will gladly hand over $32,000.00 for a car that measures over a foot shorter than a Hyundai Accent. But such are the fuel conscious times in which we live. This week I’m driving the 2009 Mini Cooper S, the turbocharged version of this British-built premium small car.
I’ve driven a number of minis throughout the years with and without the turbo and some with the Mini John Cooper Works kit but most recently the clubbing, Mini’s answer to those needing more space. This car was overhauled a couple of years ago, though visual evidence of such is difficult to discern. Mini has adopted Porsche’s evolutionary design theory when it comes time to redesign. Of course Mini belongs to another German auto maker, BMW. And last year, Mini sales were off the charts good to the point where dealers ran out of them in the fourth quarter. And at the time of $4.00 per gallon gasoline, the Mini Cooper finally took center stage.
Though Americans are just coming to grips with the idea of premium small cars, Europeans have been living in this world for quite some time. The Cooper S starts at $22,600.00. For that, you get a 1.6 liter direct injected four cylinder turbo and a six-speed Getrag manual transmission driving the front wheels and netting an estimated 26 miles per gallon on premium gas. There are also 16-inch alloy wheels and performance tires and a full array of electronic safety systems and airbags. Manually adjusted cloth seats, a tilting telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry and a single disc CD player are also included, nothing all too premium or impressive about that list and thusly the options column is where many makes its money. Want this leather, that’s $2,000.00, the 6-speed auto, $1250.00, 17-inch wheels, also $1250.00, the aerodynamic body kit, also $1250.00. I think you see how a $22,000.00 Mini can quickly become a $32,000.00 Mini.
And as fun as it can be to drive with its cartoonish dimensions and its surging turbo, this Cooper S is also hampered by a brutal ride, surprisingly poor visibility and an interior which is distinguished, but not necessarily premium in feel or function. I do like the sport button which quickens the throttle response, tightens the steering and keep the automatic ready to pounce. Zero to 60 runs happen in a turbo-lagged rush, taking under seven seconds. But the sports suspension combined with these low-profile tires make for one bone-shaking ride. Hitting 23 mpg city and 32 highway is pretty good for a sporty go-kart but it requires premium gas and cargo and passenger room obviously trail its much cheaper small car competitors.
It annoys me that I have to pay $250.00 for a center arm rest that can’t even hold my easy pass and as such is the dichotomy of the Mini in general, tiny but fun, pricey yet frugal. For Drive Time on Yahoo! Autos, I’m Steve Hammes.