Mini has released many new models in the past two years, but its bread and butter has always been the Cooper and it still remains a high priority. Updates to the Mini Cooper have been coming steadily every year since day one. The R50 Cooper that started the revival for the company in the United States was utilitarian compared to these new models and had left much to be desired.
For 2011, the car receives some minor updates that will help keep it viable until a replacement model is introduced. Refinement is the one word that we would use to describe the new model and that does not mean it is as refined as its BMW cousins, just refined enough for a Mini. The refresh may only be minor, but it is helpful to this car in every way.
Hit the jump for more details on the 2011 Mini Cooper.
Classic Mini lines still prevail in the 2011 Cooper and the designers have not taken too many liberties with the retro feel. A list of standard features come on the exterior including 15” five spoke wheels, chrome grill, and daytime running lights for the Cooper – 16” rib spoke wheels, black mesh grill, and body color sport bumpers for the Cooper S.
Many different options exist and Mini customization can be quite fun. I own a 2005 Mini Cooper R50 and have added many small exterior pieces straight for the Mini website. John Cooper Works parts and body kits are available as well as mirror housings with the British flag, chrome gas cap covers, rally racing lights, and decals for the roof.
For 2011, Mini has added some nice performance pieces to the exterior including functional brake ducts in the lower grill. Not only do these look cool, but by being functional lend a practical aspect to the application. The front end look has been further defined by new lighting. Xenon headlights with a unique design and washer system now sit proudly over the wheel arches. New lights also make an appearance at the rear and they have more of a BMW feel than ever.
When we look at the interior of the updated Mini, and especially the 2011, I want to go and sell my 2005 immediately. The simplistic retro feel of the Mini One is cool for about five minutes with feelings quickly turning into frustration. The updated speedometer remains in the center of the stack and includes the integrated radio. Navigation is an option and it sits directly in the middle of the whole chrome ring housing. If you opt for the Navigation, than the speedometer is moved to a double cluster setup above the steering wheel. This may sound odd, but it is actually one of the most popular aftermarket pieces that Mini sells.
Updated and more cushioned seats are found in the 2011 and sport seats are an option. The leather is of a higher grade, perhaps it’s just real leather this time, and seat piping is available. In order to receive the upgraded seating upholstery you must get the Lounge Leather Upholstery with Corresponding Color Line option for $2,000, but we think it is money well spent. A few more budget friendly options include Piano Black trim in the dash for only $250 or English Oak for the same price.
The engine compartment receives some upgrades for 2011 including a bump in power. For the Cooper, the engine remains a 1.6-liter 4 cylinder unit producing 121hp at 6,000rpm and 114 lb-ft of torque at 4,250rpm. Attached to a Getrag manual transmission this can get the Mini to 60mph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed over 126mph. While this is not jaw dropping performance, the little Mini is quick and feels nimble on its feet due to its small size and light weight. Zipping down the freeway in and out of lanes is one of the things this Mini does best and it’s fun in the curves too.
Increases to the Cooper S are more significant lending an extra 9hp over the 2010 model. When talking about cars with 400, 500, or more horsepower than an additional 9 is basically a gimmick, but in a Mini it becomes crucial. The reworked motor is essentially the same as the base Cooper’s with a turbocharger attached. It now produces 181hp at 5,500 rpm and 177 lb-ft of torque at 1,600-5,000rpm. With the increases to engine performance, freeing up the rev limiter and transmission tuning for the Cooper S – the new John cooper Works model will have its work cut out to remain in the lead as the driver’s Cooper of choice.
For 2011, the Mini Cooper range begins at $20,100 and the Cooper S at $23,700. Both models are available as the hatchback or as a convertible with will easily run over $30,000 with a few options thrown into the mix. It’s not cheap, but the Mini is one of the best performing and most economical cars on the road getting 37mpg on the highway and 29mpg in the city.
Several competitors fall in the same category as the Cooper, but none really match it on all levels. The Audi A3, BMW 1-series, and Mazda 3 all attract a different set of buyers and have similar specs to the Cooper. BMW feels the 1-series is pulling buyers away from its more expensive 3-series more than it’s hurting the Mini product line. Audi has a similar philosophy, but the A3 does have similar fuel economy and price points so it would be an option to consider. Mazda, on the other hand, brings an economical car with good performance to the table and might appeal to those on a budget wanting to have some fun as well. With a base price of $15,800, the Mazda is a good fit for those who are either not fully infatuated with how the Mini looks or those who need a bit more size and space. Overall, the Mini attracts a crowd all its own with owners who truly end up loving their cars. They are distinct, customizable, performance oriented, and practical – which makes them hard to beat for the price.