Real-World Review

2015 Mini Cooper S: Real World Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2014

Although you might not realize it right away, the Mini Cooper recently received a full, top-to-bottom redesign. It sports new panels, new lights, a new interior, new engines, new features and a host of other new updates -- subtle though they may be. So what's the latest Mini like on the road? To find out, we spent a week behind the wheel of a 2015 Mini Cooper S, driving it in a wide variety of settings to see how it performs in the real world.

Still Fun to Drive

It didn't take an entire week for us to validate the Mini's most important asset: This car still offers one of the most enjoyable, pleasurable driving experiences of any new model on sale today.

While many drivers might think of the Mini as just a small hatchback, or even as a simple economy car, this isn't the case. The Mini boasts sharp, go-kart-like handling, direct steering, excellent brakes and -- in 189-horsepower Cooper S guise, like our test car -- truly impressive acceleration. In fact, we'd recommend the Mini as a more fuel-efficient alternative to such well-known sports cars as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and others.

Low Maintenance

When you think of sporty, fun-to-drive European cars, you probably think high maintenance: Vehicles such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes often have high insurance premiums, mediocre fuel economy and expensive repair and maintenance costs. Fortunately, that isn't true with the Mini.

For one thing, the fuel economy is excellent. We returned 26.5 miles per gallon with our automatic transmission-equipped test car. While that number falls slightly short of EPA ratings, we take the blame for stomping on the gas pedal at every opportunity during our week behind the wheel. Still, 26.5 mpg in a sporty, quick car like the Mini is nothing to complain about -- and drivers who don't have our lead foot may do even better.

The Mini also offers three years of free maintenance covering a wide range of items, from typical services such as oil changes and tire rotations to brake pads, brake discs and engine drive belts. This can add some peace of mind to your Mini purchase -- especially as the brand is often near the bottom in J.D. Power's reliability surveys.

Improved Interior

We're also impressed with the improved interior in the latest Mini Cooper. While the cabin still shares its same basic design with the outgoing model, it feels a lot more grown up. Material quality has improved, switchgear is better and the cabin's look and feel is more refined. Plus, we suspect most drivers will appreciate the more traditional location of the speedometer, with the huge, center-mounted circle now housing the Cooper's infotainment system.

Another benefit: As with many BMW models, the Mini offers seat-bottom extenders that help improve comfort for taller drivers. This isn't a huge deal for some car shoppers, but it's a major benefit for those who often find it difficult to get comfortable in smaller cars.

Still Too Expensive

So the Mini is fun to drive, and it offers a significantly improved interior compared to last year's model. It boasts excellent fuel economy and impressive acceleration. The only catch? It isn't cheap. Our test vehicle's MSRP was a luxury-car-like $36,000 with shipping, which is a hard pill to swallow when you're considering a tiny, 2-door, 4-seat hatchback. Admittedly, you could drop a few unimportant features off our test car -- items such as the anthracite headliner and the pricey automatic transmission. But you'd still be left paying around $32,000 for a reasonably equipped Cooper S, a big number that could buy a wide range of roomier, more practical, more powerful new cars.

Our Take

In the end, we think the 2015 Mini Cooper is an excellent car, but we're not sure if it's so excellent that we'd pay $30,000 or more for a well-equipped S model. That's especially true in the face of a wide range of powerful new competitors including the Ford Focus ST and the newly redesigned Volkswagen GTI, both of which offer more power and two extra doors. While competitors may offer a better value, few vehicles can compete with the Mini's unique styling and its immediate name recognition.

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 MINI Cooper 2-Door Hardtop
Used 2015 MINI Cooper
$14,500
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 MINI Cooper 2-Door Hardtop
Used 2015 MINI Cooper
$14,700
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 MINI Cooper S 2-Door Hardtop
Used 2015 MINI Cooper
$16,991
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2015 MINI Cooper 2-Door Hardtop
Used 2015 MINI Cooper
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Mini Cooper S: Real World Review - Autotrader