THE RIDE: Two-door, four-passenger 2007 Mini Cooper S sports coupe.
DOWN THE ROAD: Redesigned for 2007, the Mini Cooper S is 2.3 inches longer than its predecessor. But don't be alarmed. It still is a Mini, available in four trims. Calling the ride in this little one agile would be an understatement. With a peppy engine built in France, transmission from Germany and final assembly at Oxford, Great Britain, the Mini truly is an entertaining car to drive.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine cranks out 172 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 177 pounds-feet of torque at 1600 rpm. Mated to a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, the Mini sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. So, watch out as you put the pedal to the metal. An electric, speed-sensitive power steering makes it effortless to maneuver through rush-hour traffic. Switch on the sport mode, punch the gas and you can have a little more pep and vitality in the drive. McPherson struts on the front axle are complemented by a multilink rear so the car can pitch through corners with poise and confidence. The 11.6-inch front and 10.2-inch rear brake rotors are up to the job.
LOOK & FEEL: Even more prominent than the hexagon radiator grille and air intake scoop atop the engine are large circular headlights. The rear fascia flaunts centered dual tailpipes, vertical taillights and a large air intake. Chrome surrounds are visible on the grille, headlights, taillights, door handles and the rear lid handle. When you take a seat, don't expect to find the instruments and gauges in the usual places. For instance, staring into the driver's face is a revolution counter while the speedometer is in the middle of the dashboard. Retro-style toggle switches look cool as do the vertical rotary knobs for climate control. Chrome trim also is sprinkled on the instruments, round air vents, cup holders and stereo speakers. To take off, insert the key fob in the ignition and press the start button.
SAFETY FIRST: Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic brake distribution with cornering and brake control.
OUT THE DOOR: $21,200, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Opt for the $1,900 Premium Package, which will fetch you a multifunction three-spoke leather steering wheel with cruise controls, dual-pane panoramic sunroof and automatic climate control. The Dynamic Stability Control system for $500 can only further boost the car's safety capabilities.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 195/55R16 run flat; wheelbase, 97.1 inches; length, 145.6 inches; weight, 2,546 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; highway, 36 mpg; city, 29 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: "Let's motor," says Mini. We say yes, let's do it. Loaded with standard safety features, the reasonably priced car is quick on its feet. And in an era of rising gasoline prices, it touts commendable figures of 36 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in the city. Few vehicles on the road today can beat that.