OK….I think we all know by now that the Mini is a funky little ride…just dripping with personality. Their new 4-door hardtop doesn’t change a bit of that….it just gives you a welcome two more doors and six inches of length.

What you may not realize, tho’, is that this new Mini 4-door…in Cooper S trim….has three distinct different personalities all rolled up in it’s still stubby and easily-parkable 158” length.

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It’s a true performance machine.

It’s a genuine luxury car.

And surprisingly, it’s an economy car. One of the most personality-filled economy cars on the road today. But more on that in a moment.

Let’s talk about the “go”. Today’s standard Mini starts in the very low $20’s and has a 1.5 liter twin-turbo three cylinder engine. Yes….a three….putting out 134 horses…and good for a claimed 129 top-end.

The Cooper S…for just $3,400 more…will get you, among other things, a 2.0 liter twin-turbo four with 189 HP and 145 MPH. Put this kind of power in a lightweight, nimble frame…give it a silky-shifting 6-speed stick…and just try not to smile!

Even going uphill in sixth, the Mini Cooper S surges ahead effortlessly.

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And this “go-cart” handling that you always read about? If you’ve driven a Mini, you know. And if not, you’re in for one very happy surprise. There’s a reason you don’t see many Mini drivers cruising in the right lane with cell phonies jammed in their ears. And it’s the same reason so many of them seem to be smiling. Remember….Mini’s “Daddy” is BMW. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say.

Now…as for who those drivers are, Mini seems to have pulled off the rare feat of building an equal-gender-opportunity vehicle. Both women and men seem to love their Mini’s in equal number.

As for the “luxury” part, Mini was one of the first to prove that “luxury” doesn’t have to equal “large”. In what’s become expected Euro-procedure, it’s easy to turn a 25K window sticker into a 35K drive-out, but when you do, you’ll have a personalized machine that frankly, has more features and far more flair than you’ll find in the typical 35K European sedan. Oversized alloys, dual sunroofs, premium audio, heated leather and more are all optional upgrades. Put all that into the Mini’s distinctive interior with its’ expected round gages and its’ unexpected ambient lighting that appears when you adjust the temperature or radio…it’s toggle-switch vs.push-button ignition….its’ aircraft-type reading lamps….and you’ll have a ride that’ll stand out from all others.

And that’s Mini’s strength. It’s personality. And Mini backs up that personality with performance. It’s rare that you can have the level of cachet, performance, comfort and economy that Mini offers for mid-$20’s to mid-$30’s.

Economy? Yes….you get that, too. Around town I got right at 30MPG, and on a road trip going with the flow…a very fast flow…I got 34.5. Pretty good for an economy car….surprisingly good for a luxury ride….and darned decent for a performance machine.

Mini’s new 4-door hardtop has room for 5…in theory. Four will be a lot more comfortable, but that’s true in a Mercedes S-Class, too.

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For just $1,000 more than Mini’s two-door, the 4-door hardtop has the same clean lines of the original, and six more inches of rear-seat / cargo room. In my opinion, that spells “bargain”.

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