2010 MINI Cooper Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 8, 2009

The 2010 MINI Cooper/Convertible runs the gamut from smart econobox to thrusty sports convertible-all with unmatched driving feel and expertly interpreted styling heritage.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the latest MINI Cooper, Convertible, and Cooper S hatchback to bring you this hands-on road test. In the companion full review, editors studied reviews from reputable Web sites, and have compiled opinions and quotes to help you find the best MINI shopping information possible. TheCarConnection.com also compared the MINI Cooper and Convertible to other vehicles, to give you choices when it comes time to buy.

The 2010 MINI Cooper/Convertible returns for the latest model year unchanged, and to enthusiasts that's perfectly fine. The MINI Cooper lineup brims with personality and a timeless flair, and in any version-hatchback or convertible, base or turbo or John Cooper Works-it's a delightful car to drive. With a base price of $19,500 for the Cooper hatchback, $23,000 for the Cooper S hatchback, $24,950 for the Cooper Convertible, and $27,850 for the Cooper S ragtop, it competes against the likes of the Volkswagen New Beetle and the Mazda Miata, making possible inroads with Ford Mustang shoppers.

For this year, or really since the hatchback was revamped in 2008, the MINI Cooper's styling hasn't changed much. And it doesn't need to-it's a picture-perfect homage to the original MINI, though it's grown considerably larger for the modern era, with its 15-inch wheels outsizing the original 10-inchers, and the higher front end couching all sorts of safety gear. It's a little kitschy-the smiling grille, the wide patches of chrome, the bug-eye headlamps-and utterly endearing. Convertibles lose the roofline that sets the MINI's wedgy stance, but the top design apes it closely, and a wide band of chrome at the shoulder line is a smart touch. Cooper S models get a slightly bulged hood to accommodate their turbochargers-and of course, all MINIs can be personalized with a dizzying array of paint colors, decals, fabrics, door and dash trim pieces, and body add-ons. Inside the MINI Cooper has a dash that's wild with circles, winged shapes, chromed switches, and a 160-mph speedometer sitting dead center, not in front of the driver. It's interesting to look at, but less enjoyable to actually use-at times, clever overkill, and that's before you add your own color and trim scheme to the fray.

MINI's charming driving personality shines through the clutter. The base engine is a 118-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder, which MINI claims will push the Cooper to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, and to a top speed of 126 mph (124 mph in the Convertible). The base engine in the MINI Cooper has highway fuel economy of up to 28/37 mpg, dropping 1 mpg highway with the Convertible. It's fine for puttering around town, with enough urge to merge deftly into highway traffic. The Cooper S models upgrade to a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with 172 hp, which drops 0-60 mph times to 7 seconds flat and raises the top speed to 139 mph (or 1 mph less with the Convertible). Fuel economy dips to 26/34 mpg. For enthusiasts, the turbo engine's the obvious choice; it's far livelier, with a rorty induction growl, as well as turbo whine and thrust on demand. The dealer-installed John Cooper Works kit raises the turbo's output to 189 hp and torque, at times, to 200 lb-ft; 0-60 mph times fall here to 6.5 seconds. A six-speed manual is standard on the MINI Cooper, while a six-speed automatic is an option; it's offered with a sport-shift option that adds paddle shifters to the Cooper S. 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-and it just feels better in tune with the MINI's mission.

Review continues below

A front-driver, the MINI Cooper sits on front MacPherson struts and a central-arm rear axle in back. It's an unusual design for a small front-wheel-drive car, but it helps the MINI's ride smooth out a bit while maintaining its tossable handling. Even on the sport-tuned suspension with 17-inch wheels, the ride improves noticeably. The Cooper's electric power steering could use a little less zip and a little more realistic feel, but it's pretty good, as far as these systems go-so long as you don't punch the Cooper S' sport button, which makes the steering feel darty. Fifteen-inch wheels and tires are the standard rolling stock, but 16- and 17-inch wheels are options; the Cooper S has standard run-flat tires, which degrade its ride quality a bit, inducing some impact harshness and nervousness over rough roads.

Two passengers will fit well in the 2010 MINI Cooper and Convertible, while back-seaters have every reason to complain. Even six-footers will find the driver's chair supportive, with plenty of head- and legroom. The tilt/telescoping steering wheel helps a lot, as do the sculpted, high-back seats. The front seatbacks get scooped out, but they can't help much when it comes to backseat room. That remains a place for occasional riders in a good mood-especially in the convertible, which feels even narrower at the shoulders with the top stacked behind. The rear seats fold and lock down to boost cargo space from 6 cubic feet to 23.3 cubic feet, and there's a two-position shelf to divvy up the space. The Convertible has a cargo pass-through and a dual-piece tailgate that opens wide to carry a reasonable amount of luggage. Visibility, though, is an issue even in the ragtop; even without passengers, rear headrests cut into straight-back visibility on the Convertible. Hatchback drivers will see little out of the MINI Cooper's tiny rear window, too.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are standard on the MINI Cooper lineup, and the Convertible has pop-up roll bars that deploy along with airbags if a rollover is detected. Traction control is an option on the Cooper S models; it has its own off switch for sporty driving decided by your limits, not some computer's. Hill Assist helps owners launch the car safely on inclines. The MINI Cooper gets mostly four-star crash ratings from NHTSA and a five-star rating for rollover resistance; the convertible hasn't been tested. Notable safety options include xenon headlamps, parking sensors, and run-flat tires.

The base MINI Cooper and Convertible don't provide comprehensive standard equipment, but the options and custom-detail offerings from MINI let drivers tailor their cars to an exquisite degree. Each MINI Cooper includes a round keyfob that takes the place of a metal key, and an on-off ignition button; ambient lighting; power windows, locks, and mirrors; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack; and on convertibles, a fabric power-folding roof that opens and closes in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 18 mph. The ragtop also has an Openometer, a gauge that keeps track of how long the car's roof has been down. A premium 10-speaker stereo is optional, as are a difficult-to-use, joystick-controlled navigation system, a USB iPod interface, and Bluetooth connectivity. And of course, MINI offers a huge list of paint, trim, and tuning options-everything from a Union Jack decal for the roof, to painted wheels, to the John Cooper Works package of turbo, suspension, handling, braking, and wheel/tire upgrades.

10

2010 MINI Cooper

Styling

The 2010 MINI Cooper/Convertible perfectly reinvents its sheetmetal heritage, but the interior's plastic-fantastic controls need work.

The 2010 MINI Cooper/Convertible returns for the latest model year unchanged, and to enthusiasts that's perfectly fine. The MINI Cooper lineup brims with personality and a timeless flair, and in any version-hatchback or convertible, base or turbo or John Cooper Works-it's a delightful car to drive. With a base price of $19,500 for the Cooper hatchback, $23,000 for the Cooper S hatchback, $24,950 for the Cooper Convertible, and $27,850 for the Cooper S ragtop, it competes against the likes of the Volkswagen New Beetle and the Mazda Miata, making possible inroads with Ford Mustang shoppers.

For this year, or really since the hatchback was revamped in 2008, the MINI Cooper's styling hasn't changed much. And it doesn't need to-it's a picture-perfect homage to the original MINI-as it "brims with character," ConsumerGuide says, though it's grown considerably larger for the modern era, with its 15-inch wheels outsizing the original 10-inchers, and the higher front end couching all sorts of safety gear. It's a little kitschy-the smiling grille, the wide patches of chrome, the bug-eye headlamps-and utterly endearing. It's "available in mild, medium and caliente flavors," states Autoblog, "officially designated as the Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works edition." Cooper S and JCW models get a slightly bulged hood to accommodate their turbochargers-and of course, all MINIs can be personalized with a dizzying array of paint colors, decals, fabrics, door and dash trim pieces, and body add-ons. Convertibles lose the roofline that sets the MINI's wedgy stance, but the top design apes it closely, and a wide band of chrome at the shoulder line is a smart touch. In all, it's a spot-on recollection of older MINIs, and though MyRide slams its "clown-car styling," Edmunds simply loves the "endearing retro styling."

Inside the MINI Cooper has a dash that's wild with circles, winged shapes, chromed switches, and a 160-mph speedometer sitting dead center, not in front of the driver. It's interesting to look at, less enjoyable to actually use-at times, clever overkill, and that's before you add your own color and trim scheme to the fray. Motor Trend points out the "questionable ergonomics" of the interior. ConsumerGuide says "many dashboard gauges and controls sacrifice functionality for 'retro' style," including the speedometer and the tachometer, which is "partially blocked from view." MyRide agrees; that speedometer "may be a great styling element, but in practice it constantly reflects the outside world and suffers from noticeable parallax error."

9

2010 MINI Cooper

Performance

The 2010 MINI Cooper is entertaining to drive no matter which model, but the JCW model is extreme.

The MINI Cooper's charming driving personality shines through in all its hardtop and convertible forms.

The base engine is a 118-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder, which MINI claims will push the Cooper to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, and to a top speed of 126 mph (124 mph in the Convertible). The base engine in the MINI Cooper has highway fuel economy of up to 28/37 mpg, dropping 1 mpg highway with the Convertible. It's fine for puttering around town, with enough urge to merge deftly into highway traffic. Motor Trend testing reveals "a base Cooper can reach 60 mph in approximately 8.5 sec." Autoblog finds the "entire MINI range is reasonably quick."

The Cooper S models upgrade to a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with 172 hp, which drops 0-60 mph times to 7 seconds flat and raises the top speed to 139 mph (or 1 mph less with the convertible). Motor Trend clocks the Cooper S at "6.7 sec" to 60 mph. The dealer-installed John Cooper Works kit raises the turbo's output to 189 hp and torque, at times, to 200 lb-ft; 0-60 mph times fall here to 6.5 seconds. The turbo versions have amazing thrust, but with consequences: Car and Driver's reviewers feel the "torque steer from a stop or when powering out of a low-speed corner is bonkers." Fuel economy dips to 26/34 mpg. For enthusiasts, the turbo engine's the obvious choice; it's far livelier, with a rorty induction growl and turbo whine and thrust on demand.

A six-speed manual is standard on the MINI Cooper, while a six-speed automatic is an option; it's offered with a sport-shift option that adds paddle shifters to the Cooper S. 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-and it just feels better in tune with the MINI's mission. ConsumerGuide warns "S models with [the] automatic transmission suffer jerky shifts and occasional harshness," while the base Cooper with the automatic "kicks down promptly for more passing power." As for the manual, Edmunds calls it "one of the easiest gearboxes to master, with snick-snick shifts and a light and compliant clutch," and Car and Driver says "the manual gearbox remains a pleasure to use."

A front-driver, the MINI Cooper sits on front MacPherson struts and a central-arm rear axle in back. It's an unusual design for a small front-wheel-drive car, but it helps the MINI's ride smooth out a bit while maintaining its tossable handling. Even on the sport-tuned suspension with 17-inch wheels, the ride's improved noticeably-but it's still a bit too harsh. Motor Trend says the MINI is rightfully "famed for its 'go-kart' handling," while MyRide calls it "responsive to a fault" with "quick and immediate" steering. The ride quality suffers as tire size and horsepower rise, though. ConsumerGuide warns that "MINIs suffer from a firm, choppy ride over anything but glass-smooth pavement," and MyRide contends the MINI's "party-all-the-time nature starts to get a little grating" during long commutes. Edmunds recommends that you "pass on the hard-core sport suspension and bigger wheels option unless you need the extra performance for track days." Fifteen-inch wheels and tires are the standard rolling stock, but 16- and 17-inch wheels are options; the Cooper S's tires are run-flats, which contribute to its worse ride. Autoblog piles on and warns "rough pavement finds its way into the passenger compartment with minimal damping." Automobile merely states that the MINI has "firmer than necessary suspension settings."

Stopping is a happier story, as Car and Driver admires the MINI's "always-there brakes."

7

2010 MINI Cooper

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 MINI Cooper seats two in fine comfort-but adults won't fit easily in back, and build quality remains an open question.

Two passengers will fit well in the 2010 MINI Cooper and Convertible, while back-seaters have every reason to complain.

Even six-footers will find the driver's chair supportive, with plenty of head- and legroom. The tilt/telescoping steering wheel helps a lot, as do the sculpted, high-back seats. Up front, ConsumerGuide reports that the MINI Cooper's "generous seat travel and a high ceiling accommodate even large occupants," and MyRide adds that "tall drivers needn't worry about space in the MINI." Edmunds agrees that "neither headroom nor legroom is an issue" for those riding closest to the windshield. ConsumerGuide does point out that "the convertible's wide center console restricts knee space for taller drivers," although they call the front seats "firm and supportive."

The front seatbacks get scooped out, but they can't help much when it comes to backseat room. That remains a place for occasional riders in a good mood-especially so in the convertible, which feels even narrower at the shoulders with the top stacked behind. The MINI Cooper's second row offers "nearly nonexistent legroom," according to Edmunds, while ConsumerGuide feels that "knee space is tight even with front seats set back partially; it disappears with them fully rearward." MyRide calls the backseats "a joke." The convertible "is a bit more snug" in the rear, Autoblog reports, and "with the front passenger seat pulled forward, a small-framed passenger can fit, if only for short trips."

The rear seats of the MINI hatchback fold and lock down to boost cargo space from 6 cubic feet to 23.3 cubic feet, and there's a two-position shelf to divvy up the space. MyRide disses the MINI hatchback for "an amazing lack of storage space." ConsumerGuide notes that, "aside from large map pockets in the doors and a two-tier glovebox, interior storage is meager." Edmunds reviewers also point out that "trunk space behind the rear seat is severely limited, but folding down the 50/50-split rear seat creates a useful square-shaped cargo area." The Convertible has a cargo pass-through and a dual-piece tailgate that opens wide to carry a reasonable amount of luggage. The top doesn't fold into the trunk but rather sits atop the rear of the car, which leaves 6 cubic feet of cargo space "whether the top's up or down," Edmunds says.

Noise is another issue: Edmunds calls the 2010 MINI Cooper "an amusement park ride on wheels, albeit a noisy one," and ConsumerGuide agrees that "wind and road noise grow intrusive at highway speeds."

In terms of quality, fit, and finish, many reviewers find the opposite of TheCarConnection.com's experience. Kelley Blue Book calls the interior "truly one-of-a-kind," while ConsumerGuide notes "solid workmanship" and MyRide observes, "everywhere you look, the MINI exhibits very good build quality." Taking a step closer, MyRide says the MINI's materials and finishes are "all over the map," and notes "the squeaky, flimsy center console." TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven more than a dozen MINIs over the years, and most examples have exhibited creaks, squeaks, and groans even under the 10,000-mile mark. Those observations aren't universal-Autoblog attests their MINI Cooper S Convertible "felt solid and showed no signs of rattles, squeaks or cowl shake"-but are found frequently in long-term tests of the MINI lineup.

8

2010 MINI Cooper

Safety

The 2010 MINI Cooper hatchback crash-tests well and has good visibility; the convertible's untested, with some significant visibility problems.

The 2010 MINI Cooper hardtop has been crash-tested by both major testing authorities in the United States, and the results are slightly above average for the class.

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) gives the MINI hatchback four out of five stars for front-impact protection, five stars for driver-side collisions, and four stars for passenger-rear-side collisions. The low center of gravity helps the hatchback earn the agency's highest five-star rating in the rollover risk category. In tests performed by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), the 2010 MINI Cooper earns the top score of "good" in the frontal offset impact category and a second-best rating of "acceptable" for side impact collisions. The MINI Cooper Convertible has not been crash-tested.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are standard on the MINI Cooper lineup, and the Convertible has pop-up roll bars that deploy along with airbags if a rollover is detected. Traction control is an option on the Cooper S models; it has its own off switch for sporty driving decided by your limits, not some computer's. Hill Assist helps owners launch the car safely on inclines. Motor Trend lists the MINI's "Alphabet Soup full of standard electronic aids including ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC and Hill Start-Off Assistance."

Notable safety options include xenon headlamps, parking sensors, and run-flat tires.

Visibility, though, is an issue even in the ragtop; even without passengers, rear headrests and the folded top cut into straight-back visibility on the Convertible. Hatchback drivers will see little out of the MINI Cooper's tiny rear window, but otherwise it has panoramic field vision. MyRide says driving the 2010 MINI Cooper "is like driving a fishbowl, partly because you get a lot of attention, but also because it's so easy to see out of," thanks to the fact that the "pillars are thin and virtually disappear," while the "rear seat head restraints are tucked down next to the seatbacks." Car and Driver comments that "rear vision in the new [Convertible] is still pretty lousy," especially with the top up.

9

2010 MINI Cooper

Features

The 2010 MINI Cooper/Convertible is your canvas-just be careful of how much you spend on paint.

The base MINI Cooper and Convertible don't come with comprehensive standard equipment, but the options and custom-detail offerings from MINI let drivers tailor their cars to an exquisite degree.

Each MINI Cooper includes a round keyfob that takes the place of a metal key and an on-off ignition button; ambient lighting; power windows, locks, and mirrors; and an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack. Kelley Blue Book reports "the 2010 MINI Cooper's standard equipment includes a push-button engine stop/start, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and MP3 capability, [and] air conditioning." Edmunds adds that "full power accessories" are standard across the lineup.

On convertibles, a fabric power-folding roof opens and closes in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 18 mph. The ragtop also has an Openometer, a gauge that keeps track of how long the car's roof has been down. The styling across the lineup is virtually identical, however, and all three models boast a convertible top that Road & Track says "can be fully opened in just 15 sec. at speeds of up to 20 mph." Autoblog reviewers find that if you "press the switch above the mirror...the portion of the roof above the front seats slides back," leaving the rear roof in place but opening up the cabin directly above the front occupants. Cars.com reports that the 2010 MINI Cooper Convertible comes with "standard power windows and locks, plus keyless entry," along with "standard air conditioning with a climate-controlled glove box."

A premium 10-speaker stereo is optional, as are a difficult-to-use, joystick-controlled navigation system, a USB iPod interface, and Bluetooth connectivity. And of course, MINI offers a huge list of paint, trim, and tuning options-everything from a Union Jack decal for the roof, to painted wheels, to the John Cooper Works package of turbo, suspension, handling, braking, and wheel/tire upgrades. It's what ConsumerGuide calls "a dizzying array of personalizing accessories."

While many of the options are available individually, Kelley Blue Book notes that some packages are offered as well, including a Premium Package that adds "steering wheel-mounted controls, power glass panoramic sunroof and automatic air conditioning." Kelley Blue Book also states that the "Convenience Package includes [a] universal garage remote, Bluetooth connectivity or Hi-Fi radio, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and center arm rest." Edmunds reviewers list some of the other options available for the 2010 MINI Cooper, such as as "xenon headlights, cruise control, rear park assist, front and/or rear foglamps...heated seats, heated power-folding mirrors."

The only problem with the options? They inflate the price of the already-expensive 2010 MINI Cooper lineup rather quickly.

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May 12, 2015
For 2010 MINI Cooper

I love the fuel saveings,handeling&preformance,fun to drive,my children are grown,so me and my mini hit the road for adventure,Love it

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Love my mini,I would buy another ,fuel saveings,quick awsome handeling.Sporty,fun,dependable.love it
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