Shopping for a new MINI Cooper?
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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
MINIs turn on a dime with outstanding steering response
A John Cooper Works edition that has 208 horsepower
downside is a harsh ride quality
Few cars manage to blend joyful driving enthusiasm with guilt-free fuel economy numbers as well as the 2009 MINI Cooper. The addition of the new 2009 MINI Cooper John Cooper Works edition only adds to the MINI's already impressive performance credentials, as this new turbocharged MINI brings the top-end horsepower above the 200 mark.
The 2009 MINI Cooper is, according to TheCarConnection.com's research, the most potent of all MINI model years. The review staff at J.D. Power reports that the base MINI Cooper is "powered by a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine making 118 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 114 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm," while the MINI Cooper S and John Cooper Works versions are significantly more capable. Edmunds observes that the 2009 MINI Cooper S "features a turbocharged version of the same engine that produces 172 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle, thanks to an 'overboost' function)," while the top-end "John Cooper Works is equipped with a revised version of this turbocharged motor that pumps out 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque (206 lb-ft via overboost)." The trio of engines is very good at motivating the MINI Cooper, and Motor Trend testing reveals that "a base Cooper can reach 60 mph in approximately 8.5 sec"; the Cooper S "does 6.7 sec" to 60 mph. Expect the 2009 MINI Cooper John Cooper Works to be even faster still.
For 2009, prospective buyers will have the choice of whether or not they want to shift for themselves. Motor Trend reviewers note that "a six-speed manual transmission is standard on the Cooper and Cooper S, while each car also can be ordered with a six-speed automatic featuring a sport mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters." However, if you want the extra performance of the John Cooper Works edition, you will need to know how to drive a manual, since that is the only transmission available on this 208-hp slot car. Reviews of the transmissions are fairly good, although ConsumerGuide warns that "S models with [the] automatic transmission suffer jerky shifts and occasional harshness." On the base model, however, ConsumerGuide says that the automatic "kicks down promptly for more passing power" when the situation calls for it. As for the manual, Edmunds calls it "one of the easiest gearboxes to master, with snick-snick shifts and a light and compliant clutch."
Many reviewers rave about the performance attributes of the 2009 MINI Cooper, which isn't surprising given its go-kart-like handling and quick bursts of acceleration. What does come as a surprise is the MINI's incredibly thrifty nature at the gas pump, where it holds its own against vehicles like the Honda Civic. According to the official EPA estimates, the base 2009 MINI Cooper should get 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with the manual transmission, while the automatic knocks those numbers down to 25/34 mpg. The supercharged MINI Cooper S returns 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with the manual and 23/32 mpg with the auto, while the turbocharged John Cooper Works edition gets 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
The 2009 MINI Cooper certainly isn't the quickest car off the line, but reviewers still love this little European hatchback for the way it carves through corners. ConsumerGuide raves that "MINIs turn on a dime with outstanding steering response" and notes "even base models corner with little body lean." Motor Trend adds that the 2009 MINI Cooper is "famed for its 'go-kart' handling," while MyRide.com says the "MINI is responsive to a fault" with "quick and immediate" steering. Unfortunately, all those elements that make the 2009 MINI Cooper so much fun to drive on spirited jaunts conspire to complicate its use on a daily basis. ConsumerGuide warns that "MINIs suffer from a firm, choppy ride over anything but glass-smooth pavement," and MyRide.com mentions that the MINI's "party-all-the-time nature starts to get a little grating" during long commutes. The stiffer suspension and harsher ride of the Cooper S and John Cooper Works lead Edmunds to recommend that you "pass on the hard-core sport suspension and bigger wheels option unless you need the extra performance for track days."
The 2009 MINI Cooper is entertaining to drive no matter which model, but the JCW model is extreme.