2011 Mini Cooper S

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Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche, Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler. All pioneers in the automotive world. But this list would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of Sir Alec Issigonis, the man most responsible for the design of the original Mini.

Issigonis once famously said, “When you’re designing a new car for production, never, never copy the opposition.” Sage advice, we’d say, as the Mini – a true clean-sheet automotive design, with its transverse engine, front-wheel drive and sparse seating – went on to become one of the most successful vehicles in history. And its name and likeness continue to live on in the form of the modern-day Mini Cooper, Clubmanand, most recently, Countryman.

Despite the similarities from one modern generation to the next, the BMW-owned automaker is quick to point out the myriad of changes made to the Cooper for the 2011 model year, not the least of which are improvements to the engine and transmission options, resulting in more power and improved efficiency.

So, the logical question is: Do these changes make a better Mini, or are they so minor (or is that Minor?) you won’t even notice?