February 20, 2014
2009 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge
Review by Justin Pritchard
Vehicle Type: Compact hatchback or Convertible
History/Description: The second-generation new Mini Cooper was available in a confusing plethora of trim grades, body styles and variations, which launched initially in 2006 with others phased in over the following years. Before long, generation-two of the new Mini Cooper could be specified as a hatchback, a wagon, a convertible, a mini-SUV, a van, a coupe, or a roadster. Numerous engines, transmissions and powertrains were available, as were a whackload of options packages, optional features, exclusive limited-edition models, sport-tuned JCW variants, and customization touches galore.
All Mini Cooper models pack big entertainment value and uniqueness into a little package that’s easy to park, easy on fuel, and bigger inside than it looks. Plus, you can drive the trousers off of a Cooper all day long and it’ll still turn in great mileage. Equipment included Bluetooth, navigation, push-button start, multimedia connectivity, mood lighting, oversized sunroofs, xenon lights, heated leather seats, automatic climate control, and plenty more.
Many second-generation new Mini variants are available on the used market, including the Cooper (the ‘regular’ one), the Cooper Clubman (the four-door wagony-looking one), the Cooper Countryman (the jacked-up four-door wagony-looking SUV), the Cooper Paceman (a two-door sporty version of the jacked-up SUV-looking wagony one), the Cooper Coupe (the sporty two-door one with the chopped roof and speed-dispatched rear spoiler) and the Cooper Roadster (same as previous, but with a drop-top).
If you own a flower shop or bakery and need a company Mini, there’s even a ‘Clubvan’ model with plenty of room to paint your company logo up the sides.
In the interests of reducing confusion and the continued functioning of your correspondent’s typing fingers, this review will mainly refer to the Mini Cooper, though most of the points addressed below are applicable to the spin-off models and special-edition units.
2009 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge
Engines / Trim: Thankfully, the engine lineup for the second-generation Cooper is a bit easier for those new to the brand to comprehend. All units, by default, get a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and drive the front wheels via an automatic or manual transmission. Look for output in the low 120-hp range, that figure increasing towards 180 in turbocharged models, which are designated with an ‘S’. Special hopped-up ‘JCW’ models have the boost dialed up, creating even more horsepower with output pushing into the 200 range on select models. The ‘ALL-4’ designation is Mini-speak for All-Wheel Drive which was available only on the jacked-up SUV-looking wagony model variants.
What Owners Like: Handling that causes fits of laughter, very good fuel mileage, a largely comfortable ride, and sporty performance, even on non-turbo Mini’s were all reported by owners. Good visibility, fantastic maneuverability and tremendous presence on the road were all praised, too.
What Owners Dislike: Limited storage facilities, limited cargo room, limited rear-seat legroom on most models and an assortment of other size-related issues are the most common complaints. [Did these people miss the part about the car being called a "Mini"? –Ed.] Sportier models have collected some complaints about a rougher ride (Again, duh???) and some owners wish for a more potent factory stereo system.
The Test Drive: As numerous owners have reported issues with ‘premature’ tire and brake wear, begin by inspecting these components, confirming that none are worn out. Tires and brake pads should have plenty of meat left, and brake rotors should be smooth and shiny, not gouged or rusted. Ask a mechanic for help if you’re not sure.
There’s some talk on owner forums about timing chain issues with the ‘N14’ engines – namely earlier turbocharged units in this generation, from about 2007 to 2011. Apparently, an updated timing chain tensioner and some other improvements solved this issue after 2011, though shoppers are advised to be aware of the issue and check with the seller, and a Mini technician, as to whether or not the unit in question should be investigated further for signs of timing chain issues.