2008 MINI Cooper Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 MINI Cooper didn’t need change, but change has done it some good.

TheCarConnection.com's editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 MINI Cooper to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts also drove the MINI Cooper to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2008 MINI Cooper may not look new, but in 2007, the British hatchback was completely redesigned (the Convertible was not; TheCarConnection.com covers it separately). With the new design come new engines, a better ride, and a richer interior.

It takes an expert to pick out the differences between the 2008 MINI Cooper and the first-generation car. The headlamps blend into the body better, the rear side glass panels are a little more tapered, and the shoulders on the rear fenders are slightly more pronounced. Good thing--the MINI's iconic shape didn't need a complete reinvention. Inside, the Cooper has more obvious changes, including a slimmer center stack of controls, a much bigger speedometer that now contains audio controls, and a Start button.

The standard engine for 2007 is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder delivering 120 horsepower, enough to get the new MINI to 60 mph in just over 9 seconds. The S version gets a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter engine developing 175 horsepower, sufficient for 0-60 sprints of about 7 seconds flat. The base engine has highway fuel economy of up to 28/37 mpg. It's great, but the turbo is far livelier, with an induction growl and turbo whine. A six-speed manual is standard, while a six-speed automatic is an option. The manual is a pleasure to row, much more so than the old gearbox. The gearshift has a longer throw, but its heft and response are much finer.

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The 2008 MINI Cooper's suspension teams MacPherson struts in front with a central-arm rear axle, an unusual design for small front-wheel-drive cars. Even on the sport-tuned suspension with 17-inch wheels, there's a noticeable improvement in ride response. The new electric power steering is pretty good as far as these systems go, but there's an artificial feel that's contrary to everything else about the MINI.

Long rides will be much more comfortable in the 2008 MINI Cooper, thanks to better seats. Three levers let drivers and passengers maneuver their seats into optimal positions, as does the telescoping steering wheel. The sculpted seatbacks give rear-seaters marginally more room for knees, even though interior dimensions haven't changed. The backseat remains a place for occasional riders in a good mood. Even without passengers, rear headrests cut into straight-back visibility.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are standard on the MINI Cooper S. Traction control has its own off switch for sporty driving decided by your limits, not some computer's. Stability control is available. The MINI Cooper gets mostly four-star crash ratings from the NHTSA and a five-star rating for rollover resistance.

10

2008 MINI Cooper

Styling

The 2008 MINI Cooper faithfully reproduces an iconic shape for today’s drivers.

The 2008 MINI Cooper may not look new, but in 2007, the British hatchback was completely redesigned (the Convertible was not; TheCarConnection.com covers it separately). With the new design come new engines, a better ride, and a richer interior.

It takes an expert to pick out the differences between the 2008 MINI Cooper and the first-generation car. The headlamps blend into the body better, the rear side glass panels are a little more tapered, and the shoulders on the rear fenders are slightly more pronounced. Good thing--the MINI's iconic shape doesn't need a complete reinvention.

Edmunds calls the MINI Cooper “stylish,” replete with “British charm” and “retro British style.” AOL Autos likes the 2008 MINI Cooper’s "distinctive bulldog appearance." For 2008, Kelley Blue Book points out the Cooper MINI receives a series of refinements that evolve the shape, "including headlamps mounted to the body instead of the hood, rear side glass...and a taller hood." In the end, describing a MINI is rather pointless since it’s one of a kind, or as Cars.com stresses, “no car is quite like a MINI.”

Inside, the Cooper has more obvious changes, including a slimmer center stack of controls, a much bigger speedometer that now contains audio controls, and a Start button. The first thing occupants will notice is the large, center-mounted speedometer. ConsumerGuide doesn't appreciate that the "speedometer forces drivers to divert their eyes from the road," but also notes the MINI Cooper offers "a small, redundant digital speedometer in the tachometer face." Similarly, they complain "many dashboard gauges and controls sacrifice functionality for 'retro' style." Edmunds says “the modernistic interior is a design student's dream” but “an ergonomic specialist's nightmare,” with its dozens of buttons and switches that look and act differently than what’s become the norm in compact cars.

In the end, TheCarConnection.com rates the MINI Cooper’s styling a perfect 10 because it’s an instantly recognizable reiteration of the classic—and few cars are as evocative and true to their heritage as this one.

9

2008 MINI Cooper

Performance

The 2008 MINI Cooper charms drivers with athletic handling and more than adequate power.

The 2008 MINI Cooper exists because drivers want to have fun. And, as Cars.com points out, “The Cooper is, above all, fun to drive.”

The standard engine for 2007 is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder delivering 120 horsepower, enough to get the new MINI to 60 mph in just over 9 seconds. For 2008, the base MINI Cooper features a 1.6-liter engine rated at 118 horsepower that moves the lightweight hatchback with respectable ease. Edmunds determines that while MINI claims a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds, "it feels even quicker, especially compared to the previous coupe." Kelley Blue Book remarks the MINI Cooper has "adequate acceleration but needs to be shifted down a gear or two to maintain speed when driving uphill on the freeway." Edmunds adds, “despite its modest power numbers, the base Cooper hatchback's engine provides more than enough gusto for most buyers.”

The S version gets a turbocharged edition of the 1.6-liter engine developing 175 horsepower, sufficient for 0-60 sprints of about 7 seconds flat. It's great, but the turbo is far livelier, with an induction growl and turbo whine. However, reviewers note few faults with the MINI Cooper S and its 172-hp, supercharged version of the Cooper's four-cylinder engine. Kelley Blue Book telegraphs that this version "provides ample power with virtually no lag" and offers "quick and worry-free merging or passing maneuvers." Cars.com agrees: “The turbocharged S model has plenty of power and almost no turbo lag, making moot our concerns that the change from a supercharger to a turbocharger would change the character of the car.” Edmunds reports, “The turbocharged version found in the Cooper S, meanwhile, is terrific, providing particularly strong acceleration when the special 'overboost' mode is active.” (Overboost provides brief periods of extra power from the turbocharger.)

A six-speed manual is standard, while a six-speed automatic is an option. The manual is a pleasure to row, much more so than the old gearbox. The gearshift has a longer throw, but its heft and response are much finer. The only complaint that seems to arise here is from ConsumerGuide, who notes "S models with automatic transmission suffer jerky shifts and occasional harshness." Edmunds reports the automatic comes with “manual shift control.”

The base engine has highway fuel economy of up to 28/37 mpg, while the EPA says the Cooper S fuel economy ranges from 26 mpg city to 34 mpg highway.

The 2008 MINI Cooper gets much of its driving fun from a suspension that teams MacPherson struts in front with a central-arm rear axle, an unusual design for small front-wheel-drive cars. Even on the sport-tuned suspension with 17-inch wheels, there's a noticeable improvement in ride response in the Cooper. While the new electric power steering is pretty good as far as these systems go, there's an artificial feel that's contrary to everything else about the MINI. ConsumerGuide claims "MINIs turn on a dime with outstanding steering response." Road & Track contends that the "MINI's well-tuned suspension...offers a firm but comfortable ride." Conversely, ConsumerGuide remarks that the 2008 MINI Coopers "suffer a firm, choppy ride over anything but glass-smooth pavement. However, only an S with optional 17-inch tires is really harsh over bumps." Edmunds says “responses to driver input are quick, and the Cooper sucks its driver into the experience, delivering lots of feedback through the steering wheel, driver seat and pedals,” but notes its “somewhat stiff ride quality.” Cars.com, like other sources, calls the brakes “confidence-inspiring.”

7

2008 MINI Cooper

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 MINI Cooper has a surprising amount of room in front, but a crowded dash and a noisy ride cut into the fun.

The 2008 MINI Cooper hatchback provides a surprising amount of interior space, with a reasonably well-outfitted interior that’s confusing to operate and prone to squeaks and rattles.

“The Cooper line is much roomier inside than people expect,” Cars.com leads off. For a very small car, the 2008 MINI Cooper offers a surprising amount of room for front occupants. Kelley Blue Book points out "those riding in the front seats enjoy excellent head and legroom." ConsumerGuide notes "seats are firm and supportive but mounted too low for easy entry and exit." Long rides will be much more comfortable in the 2008 MINI Cooper, thanks to improved seats; three levers let drivers and passengers maneuver their seats into optimal positions, as does the telescoping steering wheel. “Even those taller than 6 feet will find a comfortable seating position,” Edmunds observes.

The sculpted seatbacks give rear-seaters marginally more room for knees, even though interior dimensions haven't changed. The backseat remains a place for occasional riders in a good mood. “With those tall folks up front, though, rear seat leg space is practically non-existent, even if headroom is ample,” Edmunds reports.

Quality is a major source of discontent with reviewers from around the Web, including TheCarConnection.com’s editors. The redesign of the MINI’s interior has style, but its look makes for a cluttered set of buttons and knobs inside; “the audio controls are bunched confusingly into the huge center speedometer, and both manual and automatic climate controls are also poorly designed,” Edmunds says. The “center-mounted speedometer” also incorporates an “optional navigation system,” Cars.com reports, piling more complexity on the layout. Edmunds adds, “both manual and automatic climate controls are also poorly designed,” and “numerous squeaks and rattles seem to be a Mini hallmark.”

8

2008 MINI Cooper

Safety

The 2008 MINI Cooper scores big in safety.

The 2008 MINI Cooper performs well in crash tests and is equipped with a fair amount of standard safety gear.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Cooper four stars for front-impact protection, and five stars for driver-side impacts, while side rear impacts get four-star protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awards the Cooper a “good” rating for front impacts and “average” for side impacts.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are standard on the MINI Cooper S. Traction control has its own off switch for sporty driving decided by your limits, not some computer's. J.D. Power appreciates that "both driver and front passenger...are protected by dual-stage deployment 'smart' frontal and seat-mounted side air bags." In addition to the typical assortment of airbags, the 2008 MINI Cooper also boasts several electronic stability aids to assist drivers and help prevent accidents. Stability control, however, is an option.

9

2008 MINI Cooper

Features

MINI has gone out of its way to make just about any conceivable feature available as an option on the 2008 MINI Cooper.

According to reviewers, one of the most appealing aspects of the 2008 MINI Cooper is its customizability.

Standard on all models are “15-inch alloy wheels, a selectable Sport setting for steering and accelerator response, full power accessories with auto up/down windows, air-conditioning, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, multicolor mood lighting, a tilt-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack,” Edmunds reports. The Cooper S adds 16-inch wheels and sport seats.

ConsumerGuide concludes "MINIs are reasonably priced, brim with character, and are available with a dizzying array of personalizing accessories." Edmunds acknowledges the abundant list of options by saying that "the options list is substantially larger than the car itself, with features available a la carte and within packages." Your Cooper could have a Union Jack flag on the roof and white-painted wheels, if that's what you want.

Some of the MINI Cooper's most notable optional features include the panoramic sunroof and rear parking assist, as well as heated leather seats and a navigation system. Keyless entry, Bluetooth, HD radio, satellite radio, iPod connectivity, and cruise control are all available.

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April 14, 2015
For 2008 MINI Cooper

Great & Fun car to drive.

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Drives like a go kart, great mileage fun, fun, fun.....
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8.6
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Styling 10.0
Performance 9.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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