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MINI Cooper : Used

MINI Cooper : Used
Apr 6, 2014
MINI Cooper : Used
by Justin Pritchard ,
Model: 2006 to 2013 MINI Cooper Hatchback / 2007 to 2013 MINI Cooper Convertible

Vehicle Type: Hatchback / Convertible

The Verdict: MINI Cooper models from this generation will appeal more on fuel efficiency and fun-to-drive factor than low running costs and all-out reliability.

For maximum confidence, shop as new a model as your budget will allow, as improvements were made to address some issues as production went on. Using high-quality engine oil, and changing it more frequently than advised by the owner’s manual, is another great way to protect from potential issues.

Used MINI Cooper Pricing: Pricing varies vastly here, given the numerous model designations, special editions and body styles — though $7,500 seems to be the starting price for an earlier, higher-mileage Cooper, with a newer John Cooper Works Convertible pushing past $40,000.

2011 MINI Cooper S front view
Photo: Luc Gagné

Used MINI Cooper History/Description: The second-generation MINI Cooper was available in a plethora of trim grades, body styles and variations, which launched initially in 2006 with others phased in over the following years. Before long, generation 2 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.

Equipment included Bluetooth, navigation, push-button start, multimedia connectivity, mood-lighting, oversized sunroofs, xenon lights, heated leather seats, automatic climate control, and plenty more.

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-horsepower range, this figure increasing towards and beyond 180 in turbocharged “S” or “JCW” models, respectively. The ‘ALL-4’ designation is MINI-speak for All-Wheel-Drive which was available on a few model variants.

2011 MINI Cooper S rear 3/4 view
Photo: Luc Gagné

What Owners Like: Giggle inducing handling, 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. Sportier models have collected some complaints about a rougher ride, and some owners wish for a more potent factory stereo system.

2011 MINI Cooper S trunk
Photo: Luc Gagné

Used MINI Cooper Common Issues: There’s 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 trouble.

Oil consumption may contribute to the timing chain tensioner issue on earlier turbocharged Cooper engines, too. Some owners report heavy oil consumption, others report none, and most debate how much oil consumption is considered ‘normal’. Apparently, a revised valve cover with redesigned oil-separation passages helped fix some of the mysterious oil consumption problem.

Going with a turbo model? Be sure it’s been treated to frequent, on-time, high-quality oil changes-- as these are vital to long-term turbo health. Signs of a bad turbo include smoke (particularly at idle when the engine is warm), sporadic performance under hard acceleration, and oil leaks out of the turbo housing, possibly into the ‘charge pipes’. Note that the Mini’s turbocharger can be easily accessed for a mechanical inspection since it’s bolted to the front of the engine.

Many owners have reported premature clutch failure, so be sure to drive the manual-equipped MINI you’re considering while ‘feeling’ for signs of slippage or ‘biting back’ from the gearbox while changing gears. Bad water pumps, which were addressed by a recall in some countries, may also be an issue—so have a mechanic take a look on a pre-purchase inspection.

2011 MINI Cooper S engine
Photo: Luc Gagné

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