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July 29, 2013

Small Footprint With Lots of Sparkle: MINI Cooper S

2013-Mini-CooperPeople always ask me what my favorite car is. And I always answer tactfully, “Whatever I am driving this week.” If pushed, I concede to the one vehicle I’d have in Manhattan, the MINI Cooper S.

Why? It will park anywhere, gets great gas mileage and has enough power to move ahead of traffic on the New Jersey turnpike. And I’m taken by the MINI’s retro look.
MINI takes on a skater
MINI races a skater

My latest MINI experience was driving the 2013 MINI Cooper S hardtop (four seats and two doors) in pepper white paint with green bonnet stripes, carbon black checkered cloth seats, a leather wheel, 16-inch black wheels, a rear spoiler, and a Harman/Kardon sound system.

Our destination: Long Beach Island, New Jersey. “The Jersey Shore.”

The drive: The S stands for supercharged and the MINI S packs plenty of power for a little guy. At its heart is a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine (181 horsepower and 177 pound feet of torque) with a 0-60 mile per hour time of 6.7 seconds for the automatic version. One can either use the sport mode or Formula 1 inspired paddle shifters for a stiffer drive. Basically, it was difficult keeping this baby to the speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike.

All said -- the steering, brakes, and drive are responsive and flexible. The only drawback -- the MINI is bumpy on cranky city streets. But sex appeal wins over all. The mpg for our automatic was 26 city/34 highway.

The look: The 2013 MINI Cooper S stays true to its original 1950’s form with a happy face flanked by large circular headlights, a contrasting roof and go-kart proportions with wheels placed at the four corners.  

MINI looking chill
MINI chilling on the street

Inside: The cabin centerpiece is a huge speedometer—the MINI trademark — where the 6.5-inch infotainment display is located. Between the two front sport seats there are two large sized cup holders and a streamlined center covered compartment to hold cell phones and keys. Bluetooth, USB, and an iPod adapter come standard.

What I love about the MINI is the deco-inspired interior – the way that the outside paint repeats on the inside, the comforting round shapes of the dials, the toggle switches and adjustable vent controls. The front has plenty of room for adults; the six-way adjustable seats get you in the perfect position for driving. The anatomically correct headrests took some getting used to, but I got the knack of it quickly and my neck felt so comfortable. As for the back seat—OK, you can get a big person to sit there for a short bit but it would be the best fit for mini kids. 

Talking about space: So how much stuff can one actually get into a four-person MINI? The answer is plenty. With the back seats flipped down (24 cubic feet) we easily fit a bike, a couple of soft suitcases and a few bags of wine and groceries. With the seats up you have 5.7 cubic feet.

Options: MINI can be configured in a variety of materials that include natural woods, hand-sewn leathers, chrome surrounds and ambient illumination. There are over 10 million potential customization combos, with 100’s of accessories so customers can trick out their wheels in numerous fashions.

MINI on the water
MINI's day at the beach
Honorable mentions: This summer MINI USA partnered with Miles Ahead to launch the MINI Performance Motoring School at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Miles Ahead is the only driving school in the 104-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway licensed to conduct driver training on its grounds. The school consists of performance driving instruction from internationally accomplished professional race car driver, and offers the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a 2013 high-performance MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop.

For more details about the MINI Performance Motoring School or to reserve a spot in one of the summer sessions, go to the Miles Ahead website at

Vehicle pricing starts at $23,300. Our version cost $29,000 including destination.

Bottom line: A small footprint with lots of sparkle!



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