Used Car Reviews – 2007 MINI Cooper S

Mini Cooper S. Blue Motion.
The Mini Cooper S is one of my girlfriend’s favorite cars. While she appreciates hybrids and dislikes ’80s Mercedeses and Saabs, she does have good taste when it comes to small sporty runabouts – and a blue Mini is something she’s got her sights set on. And as we walked around a Kia dealership on Sunday and noticed a freshly arrived used Cooper S on their yard, was there any holding back? I’ve tried out the previous model Cooper S a few years ago, but hadn’t yet touched the all-new-for-2007 R56. While it does look almost exactly like the older R50 at a glance, it was completely overhauled and no exterior panel is the same. And while the R50 Cooper S had a supercharged engine, the Prince PSA-BMW engine under the R56 Cooper S’s hood has a turbo. Power output is a handsome 175 horsepower, up from the older model’s 163 (not a slight figure itself); torque is 247Nm from 1600rpm onwards and the overboost function of the twin-scroll turbo helps 100km/h to come at a swift 7.1 seconds. Figures like that were nowhere near reached on our leisurely Sunday drive; the slippery roads and studded tires made sure that ESP cut in every time one tried to make swift progress from standstill, and even short attempts at overtaking-speed blasts on empty roads had the traction severely recede and the front wander a bit. Of course, with traffic lights and speed camera vans and things like other roadusers around, the Cooper S shouldn’t be pushed hard on public roads but enjoyed on closed courses instead. Nevertheless, what the Cooper S is is pure oomph; it’s a small, light car with plenty of punch and the forced induction has that eerie “pushed along by an invisible hand” sort of shove effect on you, as you stomp the largest of the shiny pedals. And, yeah, that leads us to the cabin. There’s no shape there that could be taken seriously; everything treads between thoughtful retro-futurism or something made tongue strictly in-cheek. What takes the cake is the speedo/info display that has been pilfered from a clock tower from the looks of it. The speedo needle circles the display, but the radius is so huge you really can’t monitor your speed with it, instead focusing your eye on the rev gauge on the steering column which incorporates a digital readout for speed. Add the plastic fob-key and start-stop button, and the whole car appears to be nothing but a designer toy with gadgets galore. However, what impressed me was the quality of the construction. Everything about the car felt solidly hewn, including the thick-rimmed steering wheel and the excellent shifting action complemented by the frankly huge gearshift. The only disrupting thing on our testdrive was something creaking softly in the cabin, and that was probably traceable to an interior panel that was under ideal temperature. I’d still mark a minus for the audio controls, too – with their matte silver finish they gave a feel of bargain-bin electronics instead of anything top-dollar. Otherwise, there was nothing to complain about and nothing that didn’t work – except for the navigation that remained convinced we were in another town some 300 kilometres away. The car’s bodyshell had a feeling of safely enclosing us inside, and the upright windshield with its thick A-pillars gave the sense of being inside a pillbox. The seats, by the way, resemble those in a BMW Z3 M; could they be far from them? What remains to be criticized about the rest of the car is mainly irrelevant. There’s really not much useable trunk space, except for a weekend’s baggage. One should really just flip the rear seat backs down and use the rear cabin as a cargo space all the time. But that’s not really the point of the car, and it’s nothing I would care about. There are load-haulers and the Mini isn’t designed to be one – and the Clubman wagon version just looks a bit clumsy. The exterior design remains a derivative of the classic Mini, but is taken so far it’s now closer to Mickey Mouse in car form. Like the old New Beetle or the new The Beetle, it’s fairly dumb if you’re completely serious about car design; but if you can see past the initial I-see-what-they-did-there jolly silliness, it’s not a bad-looking car. Equipped with white Barzetta alloys on winter tires, this bright blue example has 95k kilometres on its clock. As stated above, it wears those well, with plenty of life ahead of it. I would imagine a worse-made car would fare less well in our country, but especially with properly-carried out maintenance the only thing this car can show for wear is the dented front plate, cheaply taken care of. Asking price is something in the region of 17k euros, which is reasonable for it. There wasn’t a sticker price yet attained to the car, as it had only arrived the day before. I’d still call it well-priced; for that money there’s not much that is as new and as much fun.

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