It seems like just yesterday that I headed up to the (then brand-new) MINI dealer for some initial test drives. I recently dug up my initial test drive review of the MINI that had been posted three years ago today on some now dead forum. I thought it might be an interesting read for all those who have been new MINI fans since before the beginning:
First off I was surprised at how capable and flat out fun the base Cooper is. It’s almost fun enough to forget about the S entirely. Especially considering I could probably get one next week. With the S I’ll be waiting until June (as I unfortunately found out today). The Cooper’s main weakness in my mind is the 45-70 acceleration. You must be “involved” with the transmission to get to 70 quickly. But that’s part of the fun as well. The Cooper I drove had the 16s and was definitely more harsh that my 325ci with 17s. But keep in mind it wasn’t rough. It also didn’t have the sport seats. I literally had to hang onto the wheel while cornering! It would seem the sport seats are a must have option for all those who drive in a “spirited” fashion and plan on buying a Cooper.
The S was very nice. However it didn’t “feel” as quick as I had expected off the line. Because of the smoothness of the power it felt a bit laid back where I would have expected otherwise. The steering in both cars put my 325ci to shame. When I got back into it after the drives for the first time the steering felt very isolated and numb. Overall I was shocked at the lack of difference between the MC and the MCS in everything but 30-60 mph acceleration.
Another thing that hits you when you see the MINI for the first time in person is it’s presence. It’s such a strange thing for such a small car to have so much presence.
Again I have to stress there was a lot less difference between the Cooper and the S than I had imagined. I think some people will happily go for the Cooper (despite the HP disparity) after they drive it. My wife certainly wants me to (she wants something asap). Still not sure though as I’ve been wanting the MCS for awhile and the price difference isn’t really an issue. That being said the difference between the two is a lot less than the 50hp would suggest and the Cooper is much more compelling after the test drives considering the timetable of when we could get one.
For those curious – we actually ended up getting a Cooper as opposed to an MCS due to what happened later that night. On our way down to St. Louis to visit some friends, we were involved in a pretty bad head-on collision with someone who didn’t yield for a left-hand turn. We were okay but my wife’s classic Volvo 760 (yes the biggest and boxiest ever made) was not.
Because of that we needed a car pretty quickly and after the test drives it was obviously going to be a MINI. However as luck would have it a pre-spec Cooper with our ideal spec was due at the dealer in just a few weeks. Initially I had planned to sell it after a few months of ownership to get an MCS (the car I had originally wanted). But after almost three years of ownership I have yet to bring myself to part with that original Cooper. Which incidentally celebrated it’s own 3rd birthday a few weeks ago.