Pros I was getting about 36 MPG on the trip up from KC (all freeway). The steering is sublime in the twisties. There are so many nice little touches in this car, like tire pressure alert or cooled glovebox for drinks and such that I keep finding.
Cons The ride is stiff. Only get the sport package if you are a masochist. The center pillar in the back does impede vision a bit, but I just check rear and side mirrors, it works well. They took the HiFi stereo out of the premium package.
Summary I have the 2008 Clubman S with the automatic and it is quite easy to hit 100 while passing before you realize it. (I think that's a first for me.) They handle like a dream. Read the manual, it is rich with features. I huge step up from my Camry in that regard. I will probably switch out the run flats when they wear out to smooth out the ride. This is such a fun car to drive. I disagree with the Cnet reviewer on the stereo. I listened to both at some length, and the stock one is tinny and lacks oomph. The HiFi stereo is much better. Sadly it is hard to find on stock minis as they removed it from the premium package for 2009. If you are building your own and thinking of upgrading the interior, know that the Cloth/Leather and up allow you to choose color line and interior design, which saves $500 off what you would normally pay. Also you get lumbar support, which is nice, and unlke the camry and altima, it is not just a plastic board stuck in there. Though it does not have power seats, it is the first car in a long while that I won't have to get the seat customized. It is very supportive. The bolsters on the seat bottom (sport seat) make the seat feel pretty narrow, something that bothers my wife. The extra length (Almost ten inches, not six) makes a big difference in the utility of the car. We have a twelve year old, and he just keeps growing, so a mini cooper was not a good option. In my opinion the Clubman base automatic is underpowered. The Clubman base manual is fine, as are both base coopers, but the auto feels a little anemic in the base Clubman with the automatic. I ultimately went with the S and it rocks in either manual or automatic. I actually prefer the auto, as you can just jam the accelerator to the floor and hit 192 torque with overboost and just shoot out of the way of that semi coming into your lane without thinking about it. I tried all the variants (except the convertible) with all the engine/transmission combinations, and the Clubman auto base is the only one that seemed underpowered. It also has more noticeable lag when you hit the gas, something I don't find at all in the Turbo version. They have good financing right now (1.9 % for 36 months) so if you are thinking of it now is a good time. At the dealership, they were willing to give a 1000-1500 discount, so unlike last year, they may bargain a bit. Watch out for a lot of extras or crappy set ups where you pay $1000 for the sunroof when you can get the premium package ($1750 value) for only $1250. I saw a lot of that at the dealer, which ultimately drove me to get a used one, which was pretty hard to find. If you can build it yourself, it would be worth the wait. Get it, you will love it.
Pros Not bad looking
Cons Push the gas and... wait
Summary I test drove a couple of Minis recently and was unimpressed. The most immediate and glaring problem is that the "performance engine," which requires high-octane gas, doesn't respond instantly when you push on the gas. It is worse than my 4-cylinder Accord and much worse than my 10-year-old Miata. I wouldn't consider buying a car with such an acceleration lag.
The controls are laughably garish and confusing.
If you can live with 2 seats, the Miata (Mazda MX-5) is much livelier and more dramatic to drive. A better choice as toys go.