2011 MINI Cooper S 2dr Hatchback (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
It's hard to believe the Mini Cooper S is only rated at 181 horsepower, it feels like more. After driving the standard Cooper hardtop the difference was night and day... if you can't afford the S, don't drive one.
I also have a Lotus Elise & have been driving both up the same canyon road to observe the differences. The Lotus corners quicker/flatter, but the Cooper launches you out of a corner with more low end (turbo) thrust. Its power is in the midrange and it flings you forward from around 3,000 RPM. What a blast. It leans a bit while cornering but stays neutral when you hit the gas so you don't need to enter a turn super fast to maintain speed. Great fun, great car.
Power band, build quality, gas mileage, side sun visor, golf clubs fit in the back (at an angle).
Exhaust pop/burble is interesting in sports mode, but is a bit strange as the engine is otherwise quiet.