By KBB.com Editors
Although the MINI line-up, comprised of the Cooper and Cooper S, underwent a major redo last year, it's hard to see the changes until you get up close. The tiny cars have been an undeniable success, selling in numbers far exceeding parent company BMW's expectations. Hallmarks of the two-door four-seat hatchback's design include sporty handling, distinctive styling and more interior space than its small exterior dimensions might imply. The popularity of MINI has helped to expand America's acceptance of small cars and in many ways defined the premium small car market. Competitors to the MINI are varied and include the Volkswagen Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Mazda MX-5 and Audi A3.
If you want high style and high performance in a small package, the 2008 MINI Cooper is for you. It combines excellent handling and charming looks with a remarkable level of options available from the factory. Drivers who crave uniqueness will love the ability to tailor their MINIs to match their tastes.
If you regularly travel with more than one passenger or need lots of cargo space, pass on the MINI. Despite excellent use of the available space, it is still a very small car. Also, the MINI's ride may be too firm for those more interested in comfort than performance.
No major changes for 2008.
Driving Impressions Its light, easy-to-use clutch, responsive steering and quick-shifting transmission make commuting in the 2008 MINI a blast. In Cooper trim, the MINI has adequate acceleration but needs to be shifted...down a gear or two to maintain speed when driving uphill on the freeway. The Cooper S comes equipped with a turbocharged engine that provides ample power with virtually no lag. Peak torque is available from 1600 to 5000 rpm, resulting in quick and worry-free merging or passing maneuvers. An interesting feature is a standard Sport button which quickens throttle response, increases steering effort and speeds up shifts in MINIs equipped with automatic transmissions. The result is a car that's easy and livable during daily drives, yet with all the sporting flair you'd want available at the touch of a button.
The Sport Button is a wonderful solution that allows MINI drivers to live a double life. During daily commutes steering and throttle reactions are relaxed, making time behind the wheel less fatiguing. Push the Sport Button and the MINI transforms into a fun and focused driving machine.
The optional sunroof covers both the front and rear passengers, adding a sense of spaciousness to the interior. Only the front portion of the sunroof opens but, with the front section in the vent position, the rear section also tilts up to let rear-seat passengers enjoy the breeze.
The MINI Cooper's interior is truly one-of-a-kind, with backlit armrests in the doors, handsomely sewn seats and a bold dash featuring a huge center-mounted speedometer. For such a small car the MINI makes the most of its available interior space. Those riding in the front seats enjoy excellent head and legroom. However, rear passengers may feel cramped with tight shoulder space and limited legroom. The dash panel is stylish, but the layout can be confusing and, though the knobs and switches look good, they can be difficult to operate. Like the rest of the MINI, the interior can be customized to suit the buyer's taste with a variety of dash trim colors, seat materials and metal, wood or carbon-fiber accents.Exterior
The 2008 MINI Cooper's body looks similar to that of the previous generation but includes a number of changes, including headlamps mounted to the body instead of the hood, rear side glass that no longer wraps around the C-pillar, a simpler front bumper design and a taller hood to accommodate new European pedestrian crash standards. Despite the changes, the latest Cooper retains all of the key MINI design cues, including a contrasting roof and side mirrors, large round headlamps and bulging black fender trim. A wide range of exterior colors is available, including the choice of black, white or body-color roof paint. Further, the MINI can be equipped with options like hood and roof stripes, aero kits, wheel and tire packages and a chrome package.
The 2008 MINI Cooper's standard equipment includes a push-button engine stop/start, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and MP3 capability, air conditioning, six-speed manual transmission, color-adjustable interior lighting, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power windows and mirrors. Standard safety features include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and six airbags.
The MINI Cooper and Cooper S can be outfitted with numerous options. Although most are available as stand-alone additions, MINI combines many of its popular options into packages. The Premium Package includes steering wheel-mounted controls, sunroof and automatic air conditioning. The Convenience Package includes universal garage remote, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and center arm rest. Also available are Sport, Cold Weather and high-end Audio Packages. In addition to the options available from the factory, MINI offers a wide range of dealer-installed accessories for customers to further customize their cars.
The 2008 MINI Cooper and Cooper S both have 1.6-liter in-line four-cylinder engines. Power in the Cooper is acceptable, but the turbocharged Cooper S engine is a powerhouse, with 177 pound-feet of maximum continuous torque from 1600 to 5000 rpm, and an "overboost" feature that temporarily increases engine torque to 191 pound-feet for extra bursts of acceleration. An easy-shifting six-speed manual transmission, or the optional automatic, allow either engine to operate in its ideal rpm range, maximizing performance and efficiency.
1.6-liter in-line 4
118 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
114 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/37 (manual), 26/34 (automatic)
1.6-liter in-line 4 turbocharged
172 horsepower @ 5500 rpm
177 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/34 (manual), 23/32 (automatic)
By JRM2 on Thursday, August 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Performance, economy, comfort, looks"
Cons: "Size for 3 or more"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"By far the most fun car for the money on the road. Great traveling car, particularly on the "twisties". Very stimulating driving sensation. More GO than most of us can or will ever use. Unbeleviably roomy and comfortable for two - even for 6+ footers. Late 1980's Porsche Carrarea performance in a spiffy 2010 econo-box. One of the truly great and memorable cars of this era."
By Cordelia Cooper on Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "precise handling; quick acceleration"
Cons: "a bit noisy compared to a "luxury car""
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have enjoyed every minute of driving this car! There's no way to compare it to a "luxury vehicle"...it is a "sports car" and rides/drives like a "sports car". Don't expect to have a perfectly smooth ride. Even though it is small, it is roomy in the front cabin. It handles very well, quickly, precisely, and very fast. It is also fun and quirky."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By John on Friday, August 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"The car is zippy and fun to drive, especially on a curvy road. Having a 6 speed gives you more power and control,but it can be a bear in stop and go traffic. Because of it's small size it's easy to find parking places. That said ,because of it's small size you have to be very aware of the cars around you as you are not always in their field of vision. People in Suvs and trucks often just don't see a small car especially if it's black and silver like mine. If you want a fun ride buy it. Just make it a bright color."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By JOHN on Friday, July 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,500overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I originally bought this used in May 2011 with 20,000 miles. It is fun to drive and gets a good mileage. I get about city and highway combined at 29mpg. My only complaint are the cost of service and the noise when hitting pot holes. If you're thinking of buying a Mini Cooper, buy it new. The service costs can be compared with BMWs and Volkswagen. You've been warned. For basic maintenance like oil change, do it yourself because an average oil change is about $120. That's not even going to the Mini dealership. The oil $40 (AMAZON sells it) + filter $10. That's only $50 if you do it yourself. Overall, it is fun to drive if you do not have a big family."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Americanitis on Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Styling, handling, "fun" factor, BMW engineering"
Cons: "Reliability, BMW parts/repair $, lousy stereo"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"This is a GREAT car if you can work on cars yourself OR if you buy a MINI Next/CPO or private warranty. This is an enthusiast's car, plain and simple. If you are not comfortable doing your own repairs and maintenance, or don't know anyone who is, buy a Ford/Honda/Toyota instead. This is an AWFUL car if you buy it out of warranty and have to pay someone else to fix it. Again, if you are not comfortable doing your own repairs and maintenance, or don't know anyone who is, buy a Ford/Honda/Toyota instead. This car is one of the best-looking and driving front-wheel-drive cars on the road, period. It handles like a go-kart, and accelerates better than anything this size has the right. It feels heavy and solidly-built, has 6 airbags, and inspires confidence in traffic, or driving in town. It gets great mileage (I have the S, and NEVER get less than 30 mpg driving it hard all the time, and on the highway, I get 34 mpg without fail). Women and kids love it. I love it. When I walk out to my garage in the morning to commute to work, it literally makes me smile every time I see it. I've had it for 2 years, and it still makes me happy. Mine has the lounge leather heated seats, and most other options including the sunroof. It is flat-out a beautiful car. I replaced the stock MINI Boost stereo with MBQuart/Rockford Fosgate stuff, and that was pretty much the only design flaw: the radio is AWFUL. The upgraded HK system doesn't sound much better either, so my advice is to find one with the base Boost setup and at least add a sub. I tore everything out and re-did the whole system, and it was worth every hour and penny to do so. I also lowered the car and swapped out the run-flat Dunlaps for regular tires. It rides and handles way better. I have a can of Fix-A-Flat, a mini air compressor, and AAA instead, as the MINI S doesn't come with a spare tire. The base Cooper does. Now for the bad. This car has some well-known design/engineering/manufacturing issues. 1. The N14 engine, found in the '07-'10 r55/56/57 MCSs was manufactured with a faulty timing chain tensioner. It apparently allows too much slack in the timing chain, and as a result, allows the chain to slap around against the chain guides. Eventually, the guides break, the chain stretches, and the engine WILL fail, catastrophically, as this is an interference-type engine design. For years, MINI/BMW claimed there was no such issue, until this past year, when they finally sent out a service bulletin to affected cars' owners to repair or replace the timing setup for free. Mine was repaired by MINI at no charge, but others whose cars failed prior to the service bulletin weren't so lucky. The internet forums are FULL of MCS owners who had to replace engines at their own expense until MINI fessed up to the problem. MINI has reimbursed these owners as far as I know, but I'm sure they lost more than one customer as a result. The 2011 and later MSC has the n18 engine, which doesn't have the same issue apparently. Google "Mini Cooper Death Rattle" for more info. If you buy one, MAKE SURE this repair has been done. If not, don't buy the car, period. 2. The N14 engine is prone to oil buildup/coking on the intake valves due to the design of the PCV system design. Oil blows out of the PCV valve, through the vacuum tube, into the intake manifold, where it becomes burned onto the intake valves as it's a direct injection motor and thus gas doesn't clean off the valves as it would with a conventional injection setup. This causes acceleration hesitation, can throw engine fault codes, and worsens gas mileage, to the point that some cars have become undriveable until either being treated with Sea Foam or similar engine treatments, OR by blasting the intake valves clean with walnut shells. MINI denies this is an issue even though it's well documented on various forums. Google Mini Cooper Carbon Buildup;" you'll find plenty of stories. Mine also has had this problem. Running half a bottle of Sea Foam through the vacuum line every oil change appears to take care of it, so hopefully it doesn't get to the point where the head needs to come off and valves need replacing. The dealers know about this too, and many use Sea Foam or similar products to treat it, but MINI's official position has been silence, as best as I can tell. You can check to see if a car has this issue: take it out on the highway, get it up to 50-60 in top gear, and floor the accelerator to about 70 mph. The car shouldn't stutter or miss. If it does, it has this issue and it needs to be treated. 3. The Dunlap run-flat tires run approx $400 apiece. That's APIECE. Add to that the cost of rebuilding the TPMS sensors, and you're looking at $1500 every time it needs tires. If you buy this car, invest in a AAA membership, and swap out the RFs for regular tires. It'll be quieter, ride better, and it won't cost you $1500 for tires. You're welcome. 4. BMW repair costs. The car is designed, engineered, and built by BMW. It is VERY expensive to maintain this car if you choose to do so at the dealership. Learn to do maintenance stuff yourself, find a friend who does and will, or find a local indy Euro car garage and become friends. Also, this is a German car, and as such, requires a higher level of maintenance than your average American or Japanese car. It's just the way they are. Things on this car are wear items where they really aren't on other cars. Control arms/bushings, etc., need regular replacing on German/Euro cars and not on Toyotas, for example. Also, order your parts from Rockauto or some similar site to save BIG $$$ on parts costs. 5. BMW recommends oil change intervals of 10K-20K with synthetic oil. I think 10K is probably pushing it for a small, high-compression turbo engine. Do 5k-7.5k to stay safe. I use Wix filters and Mobil 1 0W30 every 5k-7.5k (rec'd by BMW/MINI for this car) and have no issues. You're on your own if you go 20k miles between changes. 6. The car also has a well-known issue of the thermostat temp sensor failing. When it does, it fails so that thermostat is in the "open" position which means the car is driveable so long as you can stand the CEL (check engine light) being on. The problem is that the thermostat and sensor are molded into this ridiculous Jarvic-heart-looking device that costs over $100 just for the part and is a royal PIA to reach/swap out because it's buried under a bunch of other hoses and stuff.. Mine failed at 20K miles, which, according to my research, is fairly common. So that's pretty much it: it is a great car when it's all working right, and an AWFUL AND EXPENSIVE car when it isn't. It will make you smile every time you look at it, but it will break your heart too, multiple times, and expensively. If, like me, you can work on it yourself, go for it; you won't regret it. If you get an extended warranty, go for it. It is the BEST car I've ever owned. I love how it looks, drives, smells, sounds, everything, and the good things about it FAR outweigh its issues SO FAR. BUT if you are looking for utterly reliable transportation that happens to be cute AND cannot work on it yourself and don't have patience for the typical German maintenance/reliability issues, look elsewhere, as this ain't it."
23 people out of 25 found this review helpful
By Former MINI Owner on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Too many problems
Pros: "Fun to drive. Lots of power. 32 MPG average."
Cons: "Codes: P0300 and P0304"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I owned a 2008 Mini Cooper S (6-speed automatic) for 5 1/2 years. I ended up doing a trade in as I didn't have the heart to stick a private party with my problem. A problem from day one (with only 10 miles on the car): The driver's side power window was always flaky. On occasion if I'd close it, it would automatically come back down a few inches. After 30,000 miles the major/costly problems were: 1. Excessive oil consumption. It got worse over time and in the end I was adding one quart every 1,000 miles. 2. Dead battery. The dealer charged me $300. I was told they have to enter new info into the computer...you can't just buy a new battery and replace it on your own. I still question this. 3. At 33,000 miles, four new tires at the dealer...need run flat tires. $1,100. 4. Windshield replacement. A nationally known company told me with MINI they only use OEM parts because they have had too many fit problems in the past. $600+ 5. Two flat tires. Tire shops don't want to deal with run flats. Back to the dealer and their solution was to replace not plug the tires. Tires cost $275 each! 6. Carbon buildup, more than once. 7. Failed fuel injector. It filled #4 cylinder with fuel and fuel was actually coming out of the tail pipe. $1,400 Possible damage to the catalytic converter...ouch! 8. It ran rough after starting it in cold weather. On one occasion I got the low power light. 9. Numerous check engine lights, both red and yellow. NOTE: Red means park the car and get it towed. 10. Stretched timing chain. (dealer wanted $2,000 to fix it) After some research on the internet, I have since learned that the R56 Gen 2 Mini Cooper S, from 2007 to 2010 with the N14 engine is "problematic." Happy Motoring!"
25 people out of 31 found this review helpful