Your friendly neighbourhood runabout
Driving a MINI Cooper S is about craving people's attention. Otherwise, folks who look for a flexible, friendly runabout would happily make do with a Toyota Yaris!
That's because the MINI Cooper, especially the S variant, is also about passion and emotion. After all, who in their right mind would pay as much money per square foot only to wind up in a cramped interior riding on a harsh sport suspension (optional)? Is said harshness a must-have carry-over from the original MINI?
Brand aficionados seemingly couldn't care less as they keep buying MINIs in droves. According to Automotive News, the iconic city car nearly outsold the Ford Mustang in Canada last year (4,501 vs 5,232). South of the border, the MINI found more than 45,000 takers. In both countries, sales numbers are up from the previous years.
Melting pot of rivals
How does one define the 2011 MINI Cooper S in objective terms? Well, this four-wheel germ has limited size, a hatchback body style, a four-cylinder engine producing close to 200 horsepower and a hefty price tag of $30,850. Given these parameters, there's a large melting pot of substitutes, whether you go with your brain or heart.
The list includes the 3-door Volkswagen GTI and Volvo C30 T5, the Nissan Juke SL (the lone 5-door, 4-wheel drive model in the bunch), the Honda Civic Si and BMW 128i as well as the Scion tC. The latter is rather cute on the outside and its naturally-aspirated engine is one horsepower short of the MINI's turbocharged mill. Of course, MINI enthusiasts will quickly remind you that the Japanese has nowhere near the aura and charisma of their beloved Brit.
Minor cosmetic changes
While the overall shape of the modern MINI (the brand was purchased by BMW in 1994 and the car debuted in 2001) remains basically unchanged, details tell a slightly different story.
The new Cooper S boasts redesigned bumpers, LED taillights and chrome-ringed rear fog lights. The front fascia encompasses sizable air intakes for superior front brake cooling. And of course, it's impossible to miss the large functional hood scoop announcing the force-fed engine underneath.
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