I've had this car for approximately 2 years and am a very happy and satisfied owner. It's a 2007 R56 (2nd gen) MINI Cooper finished in "Sparkling Silver Metallic" (A light champagne gold colour) optioned with the Chrome Line package.
This car is a testament to the philosophy that a car does not have to be powerful in order to be fun to drive. The naturally aspirated 1.6L engine (co-developed with Peugeot) is more than enough for motorway stints given the light weight of the car. More importantly, the steering and handling cannot be praised enough. The steering provides excellent feedback and is fiendishly accurate- just point the car where you want to go and it goes there with no questions asked, while always keeping the driver informed of what the front wheels are doing.
The handling is similarly impressive and can only be described as (the cliche is true) go-kart like with exceptional agility. There is no wobbliness or body roll whatsoever. The steering, handling and grip from the tyres combine to give great confidence in driving regardless of the situation and endow the car with a cheerful personality.
The unique steampunk interior builds on the loveable personality established by the Cooper's strong driving credentials. Any ergonomic issues presented by the large, centrally located speedo are negated by the presence of a clearly visible digital speedo in the tachometer. Power window and central locking switches positioned low in the centre console present only minor inconveniences. The interior on my particular car is enhanced by the part leather, two-tone beige and black combination and tasteful chrome highlights such as the door handles, glovebox opening button and chrome aircraft style toggles for the map lights, fog lamps and window switches. The switchable three colour mood lighting works a treat at night and add an extra dash of personality and class. The boot size is small (adequate for a couple of backpacks but no more) but this can be offset by the flat folding rear seats. The car can seat two medium sized adults in the back, but is not appropriate for everyday four person stints.
The car has has an average fuel economy of approximately 9.7L/100km based on regular driving on hilly urban terrain, and requires a minimum of 95 octane fuel. My car has travelled 45,000 km thus far, and there have been no reliability or durability issues whatsoever. Build quality and overall finishing is very solid and of a high quality.
A Japanese small car may be more practical and spacious. A Korean small car may be cheaper to own and run. Those cars may appeal to the head, but this car appeals to the heart.
The many tangible merits of this car combine to create an intangible feeling far greater than the sum of its parts- a uniquely special joie de vivre that puts a smile on your face as soon as one gets in, and heartache when one locks the doors at the end of the day.
This car is an expression of the joy of driving. Truly a car for car enthusiasts.