I spent a world of time comparing the Cooper to the Mazda Miata.
They're both great cars, fun to drive and easy to buy and own.
I think I would be happy with either car but the Mini has the "cute factor" over the Miata.
9,000,000 Miata owners can't be wrong but it also makes it somewhat ordinary.
The Cooper "S" is incredibly fun to drive, especially in a mountain state like Colorado.
The 6 speed automatic transmission is great.
I do a lot of in-city driving and during test drives found the 6 speed manual to be quite a chore, clutching, shifting etc. I'm 65 years old so that affected my comfort level as well. I love the Mini's scary-fast acceleration, it's mountain handling (it dares you to push its handling limits) and the deep bucket seats that keep you stable during driving.
It looks great, handles perfectly and makes each trip out a pleasure.
While Mini prides itself on tradition I think the controls and dash could be reorganized.
There's just something counter-intuitive to reaching for the dash to roll the windows up or down!
The placement and function of the road and fog lamps is somewhat confusing but probably because I don't use them that much.
The sound system is arcane and could use a simple Motorola radio/CD player!