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2011 Mini Hardtop Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: Owner Pros and Cons by subjectb

Member4904

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Introduction

Having had good experiences with reliable, economic Japanese cars, as well as having a terrible experience with one European brand, I had my reservations when considering a MINI. But after two years of driving, I'm still smitten with my Cooper S.

Reviewed: 2011 Mini Hardtop

2dr Hatch turbocharged 181hp 1.6L I4 6-speed manual FWD

Why the 2011 Mini Hardtop?

Fuel economy

The marketed fuel efficiency ratings are somewhat accurate. In city driving, I'm getting the "rated" 27 mpg. That rate, however, decreases as idle times (red light, stop sign, stuck in traffic, warming up the engine, etc.) increases. The 36 highway mpg can only be achieved if you stick between 65-70 mph, even on sixth gear. Regardless, getting relatively high fuel efficiency from a car that such a joy to drive is one of it's best selling points.

Exterior styling

The fact that it's a MINI says a lot about exterior styling. The new MINI is far cry from the iconic classic that inspired its design. Depending on point of view, the new MINI is either a "cute" car or and edgy one. Regardless, it tends to be well received among drivers who appreciate style and are less concerned with utility. Certain design elements be improved or done away with completely. The exterior chrome trims was too "bling-bling" for me. The first customization I did with my MINI was to "black out" the chrome trims. (The MINI online community will help you with this, if you're interested.)

Powertrain performance

Don't be fooled by it's looks. It's a drivers car. Despite it's meager sized 1.6 liter engine, the MINI Cooper S has an impressive 0-60 time of 5.4 secs., thanks to the turbo charger and the lightweight chassis. The Getrag six-speed manual transmission has been described as "bulletproof." So far, after two years of driving, it is living up to that description. The combination of a peppy engine and well-matched transmission makes the MINI an excellent driver's car. Even at sixth gear, you can still feel an umph when you step on the gas. The Cooper S does suffer from a discernible turbo lag and the gear ratio can be improved. I suspect BMW tamed the gear ratio a bit too boost fuel efficiency.

Audio & nav systems

Most of my music listening happens in the car these days, so I opted for a model that came with a premium Harman-Kardon audio system, which provides excellent sound quality. Some claim that despite it's premium price tag, the premium audio lacks premium bass. I can only agree with the part about the price. The iDevice connectivity is must for me, as most of my music library is stored that way. Strangely enough, although connectivity is available with the premium sound option, a place to secure your iDevice lacking.

Interior styling

The interior is even more stylish than the exterior. I personally love the racing-inspired toggle switches, tachometer and bucket seats, as well as the interior illumination that change colors on command and the over-sized speedometer. I'm not too crazy about the faux carbon fiber trims, and the audio controls took some getting used to. Models that do not come equipped with certain options will have "missing" toggle switches. For example, mine did not come with rear fog lights, and so the toggle switch meant for its operation is not there. Yes, it makes sense. But it could annoy those of us who are anal about symmetry.

Why Not the 2011 Mini Hardtop?

Quietness

Road and wind noise gallore! Two years of ownership and I'm still noticing it, especially at highway speeds. Some say it's the lack of sound deadening features, while others blame cheap aftermarket tires. I'm also starting to hear creaking noises from the back.

Ride smoothness

Automotive journalists have complained about the rough or "sporty" ride of the MINI. If you're a 65 year old suffering from chronic back pain, then the MINI is not for you. Otherwise, the ride quality is tolerable. Think of it as being connected to the road. Although, when I upgraded the stock suspension to an aftermarket coilover by a reputable brand and switched the OEM runflat tires with conventional radials, the ride quality improved. Now, my wife complains more about the road noise than the sporty ride.

Rear seat room & comfort

Small children, petite women and Hobbits may sit in the back on short trips. Otherwise, forget it. It's a MINI!

Tires

Having no room for a spare, full size or otherwise, MINIs come with runflat tires that could withstand punctures for "fifty miles." Hopefully, you could find a service station within that distance. And when you get there, hopefully runflats are in stock and that you have enough money for a replacement. I ditch them almost right away in favor of less expensive, more comfortable, performance tires--mind you. I carry a Slime emergency tire repair kit that seals and inflates, just in case.

Reliability & durability

In two years of driving, I have not experienced any mechanical breakdowns with my MINI. Even then, I still have reservations regarding its reliability. So far, there have been two recalls on this particular year and model, one involving a failure that could result in a fire! In addition, an intermittent problem with the low oil pressure sensor and an unexplained check engine illumination has caused me to loose sleep at one point. While these have all been fixed under warranty, I worry about the out-of-pocket cost of maintaining this baby.

Conclusion

The MINI's innovative, albeit polarizing, styling suits the young, vibrant, hip crowd that it is marketed towards. But don't be fooled by its cute size and quirky looks. The Cooper S is a drivers car. Although, it might not be for drivers who frequent Costco or are card-carrying members of the AARP.

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Response from Member6145

12:45 pm August 6, 2014

I agree with your review. I loved the power, the stereo, the handling and the fact that it doesn't look like everyone else's mini.

However, I had horrible reliability issues. I bought mine used in March 2012 with 13k miles. Within 2 years and 9k more miles I've experienced the following: fuel pump going out, a/c condenser dying, 2 seperate oil leaks and a dead battery. My nearest dealer was almost an hour away making it a real hassle to take it in under warranty. I finally got rid of it. I miss my mini but not the problems.

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