Inside, the fit and finish is respectable for a car that costs less than $20,000, but it could use some improvement. At 5,900 miles, our press car was already showing signs of wear on the pedals, and the flimsy ashtray was broken. The driving position is excellent, with good support from the Sport seats, but I could do without the huge tach that dominates the dash in favor of a traditional gauge layout. It seems as if the designers wanted to endow the Cooper with some of the quirkiness that British cars are famous for. For instance, the tach is large enough for the person following you on the highway to read, but the radio controls are so small you need tweezers to operate them. Also, the hood release is on the passenger side, which requires a very long reach from the driving position. This was obviously put there for British drivers, but would it have really been that hard to put it on the driver's side for us?
Overall, I came away very impressed with the Mini Cooper S. I would be very interesting in buying one if it had a little more backseat and stowage space (something I need with two young daughters). For backroad driving junkies, it can provide a great fix for your cravings at a price that is hard to beat. I would also love to get this car on the track, particularly at a tight, twisty circuit like Mid-Ohio or Lime Rock. With the driving experience it provides, it's no surprise that traditional BMW tuners such as AC Schnitzer and Turner Motorsport are now offering Mini upgrades. We will also see more Cooper S's competing on the track next year, with Nuzzo Motorsports set to run two in Grand Am Cup, and several entries expected for SCCA events.