Likes/Dislikes – 2003 Mini Cooper S

Two weeks ago we sold our dark silver metallic 2003 Mini Cooper S. We owned it for just over a year during which we put about 12,000 miles on it. When we got it it had 2,600 miles on it at the ripe age of 3 years old (850 miles/year, 71 miles/month), so it’s almost as if we had it since it was new. In fact, it still smelled like a new car when we sold it and it was 4 years old at that point.

I thought I’d do a run down of what was good about the car and what wasn’t so good…

The good parts…

  • The car was an absolute blast to drive… It really does feel like a go-cart…
  • The design of the car is flawless. Unlike the New Beetle which pales in comparison to the original Beetle, the new design of the new Mini is as good as the design of the original. It’s both current and timeless…
  • People smile when they see the car and other Mini drivers often wave when they see you.
  • You really can get 4 adults in the car provided you put the tall people in the back seat. (If you put the tall people in the front seats there’s absolutely no leg room in the back.)
  • The rain sensors for the windshield wipers were excellent. Our 2000 GTI has problems when it’s just raining lightly despite having a way to adjust the sensitivity. The Cooper S didn’t have a way to set the sensitivity, but always seemed to get it pretty much right.
  • It retains it’s value pretty well. We sold our Mini for $18,500 and it was 4 years old and out of warranty. The original sticker price was around $26,000, so it depreciated 29% in 4 years.
  • It had no mechanical problems while we had it. There were rattles and squeaks, the windshield developed stress cracks twice, and one of the tires wore out, but the basic mechanics of the car worked great.
  • The zenon headlights were great.
  • The car can be configured with daylight running lights (contrary to recent claims by VW). It’s just not the default setting (which is a bit stupid on a small car that can use the visibility).

The not so good parts…

  • The fit and finish wasn’t so great. Despite the fact that the car was pretty heavy, a lot of the parts on the car seemed cheaply made. When I told the guy at Mini of Manhattan that I wanted to get rid of some of the rattles before I sold it, he commented “Anyone who has a problem with rattles shouldn’t be buying a Mini.”
  • The “premium” Harmon Kardon sound system was underwhelming. The biggest irritation was the frequent rattling of the door at moderate volume levels.
  • You can’t adequately block out the sunlight from the panoramic sunroof. Why they only provide a mesh pull screen I’ll never know – it just doesn’t do the job. (Curiously, the Audi A3 S-line we test drove recently had the same problem.)
  • If you don’t set the trip computer to “Range” (which tells you how many you can go without running out of gas), chances are you’ll miss the little red light that tells you you’re out of gas since it’s in the center of the dashboard in a place you’re not usually looking.
  • While it was fun to drive, you always felt like you had to push the engine for it to be fun. The dealer told me to keep it above 3,000 RPM when I was doing the test drive and that pretty much sums up how you have to drive the car. Much less than 3,000 RPM and you have very little power.
  • Since you had to push the engine over 3,000 RPM to get power, the gas mileage was worse than you’d think. It averaged 28-29 MPG. By comparison our 2000 GTI VR6 gets 29-30 MPG and has a considerably more powerful engine.
  • There’s no spare tire – the car has run-flat tires. This means you can only go so far when you have a flat before you find/buy a new tire. I guess it’s not all bad, but it made me a bit nervous.

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