Full 2010 MINI Cooper Review
What's New for 2010
A pair of special edition packages, dubbed Camden and Mayfair, include a variety of options and unique color combinations. A multifunction steering wheel and cruise control are standard on all 2010 Mini Coopers, while the upgraded stereo is now branded Harman Kardon.
Have fun, save the planet. Now that sounds like a great plan, but cars that get great fuel economy are typically dull to drive, boring to look at and just a tad dorky. But the 2010 Mini Cooper proves to be an exception to this rule. Since being reintroduced to America eight years ago, the Mini has been one of the few ways to get great gas mileage and still look cool in the process. And its agile handling, unique character and highly customizable nature make it a winner whether you care to save fuel or not.
There are some downsides, however. Though it's tremendously fun to drive, the Mini rides stiffly (especially with 17-inch and larger wheels). Its compact dimensions make parking a snap, and even tall drivers will fit easily, but the backseat legroom is tight to nonexistent. The modernistic interior looks cool, but its controls are unintuitive and poorly placed. The convertible offers a whole bunch of fun in the sun, but its rear visibility is compromised.
The Mini's engines are undoubtedly win-win propositions, though, offering relatively rapid acceleration, particularly in turbocharged form, while averaging about 30 mpg. And the customization options are second to none in this segment. There are countless combinations of trim, engine, body style and options available, from the hatchback and convertible bodies and three engine choices to the numerous factory options and dealer-installed accessories. For 2010, the hatchbacks can be further glamorized with the Mayfair or Camden packages. Named after distinctive parts of London, they combine a number of regular options with unique wheels and special exterior and interior color combinations.
If you're looking for a small car, the Mini isn't the only game in town. Hatchback models like the Mazda 3, Volvo C30 and VW Golf/GTI, as well as convertible models like the BMW 1 Series and Volkswagen Eos, have their own sets of advantages. However, none of these exactly match up to the Mini in an apples-to-apples comparison. At the end of the day, know that if you pick a 2010 Mini Cooper you'll end up with a truly special automobile, one that allows you to have fun and help save the planet at the same time.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mini Cooper is available in two-door hatchback and convertible body styles. Each is available in three trim levels: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works (JCW).
The base Cooper comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a six-way manual driver seat, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, multicolor ambient lighting and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Cooper Convertible models add a full power convertible top that includes a sunroof feature and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Cooper's Sport package adds 16-inch wheels on the hatchback and 17-inch wheels on the convertible, foglamps, a rear spoiler, sport seats and hood stripes.
The Cooper S adds 16-inch wheels, a turbocharged engine, firmer suspension tuning, foglamps and sport seats. The Cooper S Sport package adds 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights and hood stripes. The John Cooper Works includes a more powerful turbo engine, upgraded Brembo brakes and cloth upholstery. A limited-slip differential and a firmer suspension can be fitted to both the S and the John Cooper Works.
The options list is anything but mini. There are several packages available, but their content is mostly available à la carte. Major optional features include a dual-pane sunroof, automatic climate control, heated seats, keyless ignition/entry, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo, Bluetooth and an iPod interface. Other options include different wheels, parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, different trim colors and materials, a navigation system, satellite radio and HD radio.
The new Camden and Mayfair packages include a selection of optional features listed above and add unique colors and trim. As has been the case since the Mini's debut, a multitude of dealer-installed features are additionally available.
Powertrains and Performance
The Cooper comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 118 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. As with all Minis except for the John Cooper Works, a six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. Mini estimates a manual-equipped hatchback will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined with the manual (28/36/31 convertible) and 25/33/28 with the automatic.
The Cooper S has a turbocharged version of the same engine good for 172 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle thanks to an overboost function). In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped hatchback went from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, and a convertible with the same transmission did it in 7.2. EPA estimated fuel economy is 26/34/29 with the manual and 24/32/27 with the auto.
The John Cooper Works cranks up the turbo boost to produce 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission. Mini estimates a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds for the hatchback and 6.6 for the convertible. Fuel economy is 25/33/28.
All 2010 Mini Coopers come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control and front-seat side airbags. Side curtain airbags are standard on the hatchback, while the convertible features pop-up rollover bars and larger front side airbags that extend to head height. Traction control is optional. In Edmunds braking, various Mini Cooper S models with 17-inch wheels stopped from 60 mph between 112 and 115 feet -- excellent results.
In government crash testing, the Cooper hatchback received a frontal crash rating of four stars out of a possible five. Side-impact tests resulted in five stars for front passengers and four stars for those seated in the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the hatchback its best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test, and its second-best score of "Average" in the side-impact and roof-crush tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Mini Cooper's interior layout is as head-scratching as its exterior is endearing. The pie-plate-sized center-mounted speedometer honors the Mini's past, but from a functional standpoint it's a bit silly. Meanwhile, the climate controls are awkward to use and the stereo volume control knob isn't grouped with any other audio controls -- what looks like the volume knob is actually a redundant tuning/track-skip knob. The phrase "form over function" is quite apt when describing the Mini Cooper's interior.
On the bright side, the diminutive Mini is impressively accommodating up front -- neither headroom nor legroom is an issue. The rear seat, however, is very cramped due to a virtually nonexistent amount of legroom. Trunk space behind the rear seat is severely limited, too, but folding down the 50/50-split rear seat creates a useful square-shaped cargo area.
The convertible features a tailgate-style trunk opening with an upper portion that lifts up to allow larger items to fit in the tiny 6-cubic-foot trunk. The 50/50-split rear seat folds down to expand space into the cabin. Unlike in the old Mini Convertible, it is possible -- barely -- to see out the back of the current one with the top lowered thanks to redesigned rollover hoops, though visibility is still compromised relative to other drop tops. With the top raised, rearward visibility is very poor.
The 2010 Mini Cooper is an amusement park ride on wheels, albeit a noisy one. Even the base model can hold its own when the going gets twisty. It rides stiffly, however, and the Cooper S and JCW are stiffer still. We recommend that mainstream buyers pass on the sport suspension and the larger wheels.
The base Cooper is peppy enough for most drivers, and the S and John Cooper Works variants are a wild ride -- expect some torque steer with these turbo models, though. In terms of outright speed, the JCW model is the swiftest, but the Cooper S is close enough that it should suffice for all but the most ardent Miniphile. The six-speed manual transmission is notable for its precise shifter and compliant clutch. The automatic isn't the smoothest-shifting unit in the world, but in Manual mode it responds quickly to the driver's paddle-shifted inputs.