RE: Mini Cooper S (R56): PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Mini Cooper S (R56): PH Used Buying Guide

Thursday 18th January

Mini Cooper S (R56): PH Used Buying Guide

Everything you need to know about the turbocharged second generation Mini



The first generation of BMW Mini Cooper S was defined by its supercharger, which added both performance and a distinctive whine. For the second generation Cooper S, though, Mini had to look to turbocharging to hit the right emissions and economy figures, as well as improve ability. As a result, BMW struck a deal with PSA to share its turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol motor, which could also be found in the Peugeot 207 GTI. This certainly didn't bother sales of the MINI, which soon found plenty of eager buyers thanks to 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. It could also eke out a gallon over 40.9 miles of mixed driving while emitting 164g per kilometre of CO2.

Those were decent numbers for 2007, but if you wanted to go more quickly in your new Mini, the company had the answer in the form of the £1,095 John Cooper Works kit. It came with a sports exhaust, free-flowing air filter and reworked ECU for a new total of 192hp, helping the JCW from 0-60mph in 6.6 seconds and on to 144mph.


However, the full JCW Cooper S pitched up in early 2008 with 215hp. Better breathing and a revised cylinder head - based on the Mini Challenge race car - took it from rest to 60mph in 6.5 seconds and up to a top speed of 148mph. These Works versions also came with 17-inch cross-spoke alloy wheels with run-flat tyres, which were not to everyone's taste as they made the ride very firm. A six-speed manual was standard on all Cooper S and JCW models, with the option of an automatic. You could also pick from hatch or convertible, as well as the Clubman.

A mild facelift in mid-2010 brought improvements to the cabin quality, as well as a standard auxiliary-input connection and the option of MINI Connected to pair with iPhones. These later models are generally reckoned to be a little more robust and less prone to some of the R56's reliability issues. All are entertaining to drive though, and an early R56 Cooper S can now be bought from £3,500 for high milers with a decent early JCW version starting at around twice that with the full 215hp engine.

Inspired? Buy a Mini Cooper S here



Bodywork and interior

The panoramic sunroof can become juddery in action or stop working altogether. Main dealers will charge as much as £3,000 to solve this with an all-new sunroof cassette, but specialists can fix it for £250.

The air conditioning evaporator can fail, which is expensive to fix as much of the engine bay has to be dismantled to access it. Reckon on a £500 bill. First signs of this being a problem are white dust blowing from the air vents.


Engine and transmission

Gear shifts can become sloppy with the lever not sitting centrally when in neutral. This is due to a worn cup in the linkage that's quick and easy to fix.

The timing chain tensioner is a known weak spot and can fail on cars even with low mileage. A precaution is to keep the oil level topped up to maximum, which needs monitoring as the engine can use a litre every 1,000 miles. A longer term solution is a replacement plunger that's longer and has a stronger spring. These tensioners were fitted as standard on cars from 2011-onwards, but you still need to keep a close watch on the oil level. If the car develops a timing chain rattle, deal with it early and it will cost you around £600 at an independent specialist.

Carbon build-up in the N14 engine used in these cars causes hesitation and poor idling. It's a common problem, but can be dealt with by a de-coke that blasts the back of the valves with powdered walnut shells to remove the carbon deposits safely and quickly. Specialists can carry out this process for around £200.

Coil packs can fail, leading to reduced power and misfires.

Check any car made between 2007 and 2011 has had the recall work carried out on the water pump. This was necessary because the pump's electronic circuit board could fail and cause the pump to overheat and potentially cause a fire.

Crankshaft oil seals have been known to fail without warning.

Head gasket failure can be caused by the gear change linkage rubbing on a coolant pipe with the subsequent coolant loss leading to the gasket giving up.

Failed oil seals on solenoids can let oil track up the wiring and into the ECU, which requires a new ECU at a cost of around £2,000 from a main dealer to fit.


Suspension and steering

If you want to fit larger wheels or improve the steering feel, Lohen supplies a solid bush replacement for the standard rear item in the front wishbones. Each new bush is £170 and you'll need two.

Lowering springs are around £200 for a set of four, while a full Bilstein kit is £800 and includes new shock absorbers.


Wheels, tyres and brakes

The rear discs on the Cooper S and JCW wear out more quickly than you might expect. It's not uncommon for them to need replacement at less than 20,000 miles.

Anyone using their car on track days would be well advised to upgrade the discs and pads with those available from specialists such as Lohen or 1320.


Mini Cooper S R56 - Specifications
Engine 1598cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission 6-speed manual/auto
Power (hp) 184/215@/5500/6000rpm
Torque (lb ft) 177/192@1600-5000rpm
MPG 48.7/40.9
CO2 136/165g/km
Price new £15,995/£20,500
Price today £3,750 upwards
Author
Discussion

Dr Interceptor

Original Poster:

4,846 posts

128 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
It's always worth having this image to hand, to help distinguish between the N14 engine and the later and improved N18.

The engine change didn't fall with the facelift/LCI, so if you're looking at one, lift the bonnet to check which engine it has.



Although sometimes the plastic cover on the N18 isn't fitted, in which case it looks like this.



The routing of the breather tube to the right hand side of the engine is the thing to look for.

mon the fish

907 posts

80 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
IMO always go for the facelift with N18 if you can, much less problems. Good little cars, we have a late R56 and it's very much more BMW than the first gen - better as a daily but lacking the character of the R53

justa1972

114 posts

69 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
I knew about the timing chain issue so bought a car that had been fitted with the revised part that is supposed to solve it.

10 months later and it happened again so I was faced with a bill for £900 - then the AC went so i got rid.

Not a happy experience!



Krikkit

12,721 posts

113 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Annoyingly, because you've got to be eagle-eyed on oil levels, both generations had absolutely dreadful near-unreadable dipsticks! Why they thought a giant coiled one rather than a nice easy-to-read solid rod would work better is a mystery.

Dr Interceptor

Original Poster:

4,846 posts

128 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Krikkit said:
Annoyingly, because you've got to be eagle-eyed on oil levels, both generations had absolutely dreadful near-unreadable dipsticks! Why they thought a giant coiled one rather than a nice easy-to-read solid rod would work better is a mystery.
But at least it didn't have to bend through 90 degrees (and eventually snap) like on the R53.
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Maracus

3,392 posts

100 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Had our '60' N18 Cooper S Auto for over 4 years now, didn't want an N14 version due to the perceived risk of the tensioner failing. Bought it at 28k from a Main Dealer @ 3 years old, now on 69k.

I've changed the oil in between services as well, although it doesn't ever need topping up.

Apart from consumables, ours has needed a new HPFP (a common weak point) and a parking sensor.

MINI Servicing is well priced for 'older' MINIs now with their fixed price servicing.

They are marmite, but I prefer it to the later F56.





Edited by Maracus on Thursday 18th January 10:01

MrC986

2,077 posts

123 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
I think the observation I have from my ownership is that they need to be looked after with regular oil level checks. Mine had the fuel pump go on it not long after I bought it (a private sale) and with the exception of a slightly damp rocker cover gasket (poorly fitted when changed previously), mine has been a great car. They are very tuneable, though like all turbo charged cars, need some TLC to help with their longevity.

If you can find one that has been well looked after with all the receipts and enthusiast owned, it'll be a good start!

TheAlastair34

96 posts

60 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Does the fuel pump failing give any warning or does it just stop working?

Ive a N18 Clubman JCW done 10k in it now and its been great, good on fuel uses no oil and is fun to drive, did take a little while to get used to the steering which is very sensitive to say the least!

Maracus

3,392 posts

100 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
TheAlastair34 said:
Does the fuel pump failing give any warning or does it just stop working?

Ive a N18 Clubman JCW done 10k in it now and its been great, good on fuel uses no oil and is fun to drive, did take a little while to get used to the steering which is very sensitive to say the least!
Takes a few extra turns when starting, then the 'half power' light comes on sporadically, but will reset when the ignition is turned on and off.

Eventually, the pump will fail.

I got mine changed for around £300 at a Main dealer with a bit of a discount, but apparently they are more now?


MrC986

2,077 posts

123 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Maracus said:
Takes a few extra turns when starting, then the 'half power' light comes on sporadically, but will reset when the ignition is turned on and off.

Eventually, the pump will fail.

I got mine changed for around £300 at a Main dealer with a bit of a discount, but apparently they are more now?
Mine showed early signs of HPFP failure with lumpy starting from cold and was intermittent. Having used web research it was apparent what was causing it and indeed BMW kindly stuck the price of the replacement part up by quite a significant amount just before I needed a new one! - in the US BMW Mini admitted it was a problem I understand and changed them FOC, but over here we had the usual poor treatment that many manufacturers like to give us, which is "there's no known problem" with them once they are out of warranty.

I've had mine 2 years now and it never fails to put a smile on my face when I drive it (mine's a 2nd car) and had a good deal of upgrades done.

pphillpot

184 posts

160 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
The high pressure fuel pump is pretty common it seems. Went on mine last year sending the car into reduced power every now and again. The price was substantially more than £300 now, but I got a fair chunk of back through a goodwill gesture from BMW.

It's a good fun car though!

I'm selling our R57 now actually if anyone's tempted after reading the article ;o)

pmhadley

6 posts

58 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
I bought a second hand 2005 plate Cooper. Who ever ordered the car ticked every factory option including sat nav, panoramic roof, media pack etc. I bought it as I was moving to London and didn't want a car loosing money on the drive. I have to say, I am very impressed with the car. It now has 104k on the clock. I bought a litre of oil when I got the car over 4 years ago and stil have half left. Cheap to service, not a single major issue, only coil packs due ot mileage and serice. It still gets ave.38.6mpg on the motorway!! I will pass it on to my niece next year for her first car. Cheapest and most reliable car I have ever owned!!

WCZ

5,506 posts

126 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
having owned one before imo i'd go for the JCW as the S feels slow and underpowered - just my opinion.

these are easily tuneable though

Dr Interceptor

Original Poster:

4,846 posts

128 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
pmhadley said:
I bought a second hand 2005 plate Cooper.
2005 will have been a 1st gen R50/R53 - different to the article. Still a nice little car though.

SykesAJ

16 posts

71 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
MrC986 said:
Mine showed early signs of HPFP failure with lumpy starting from cold and was intermittent. Having used web research it was apparent what was causing it and indeed BMW kindly stuck the price of the replacement part up by quite a significant amount just before I needed a new one! - in the US BMW Mini admitted it was a problem I understand and changed them FOC, but over here we had the usual poor treatment that many manufacturers like to give us, which is "there's no known problem" with them once they are out of warranty.

I've had mine 2 years now and it never fails to put a smile on my face when I drive it (mine's a 2nd car) and had a good deal of upgrades done.
Mine did the same this year. Fell off my chair at the price - MINI wanted about £1100 to fix it. Took a LOT of back and forth for them to pay 50% of part, still ended up north of £600 job.

Still a good car though.

MrC986

2,077 posts

123 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
WCZ said:
having owned one before imo i'd go for the JCW as the S feels slow and underpowered - just my opinion.

these are easily tuneable though
Given there are fewer proper JCW cars around, a Cooper S with a decent tuning package will easily outperform a JCW and if you add either a decat or sports cat and an uprated intercooler with a stage 2 map, circa 240-250bhp is capable. Admittedly a JCW has an improved turbo so if you want to chase outright bhp, then yes its the better choice. The big issue is the cooling which is why tuners recommend a decent uprated intercooler (normally about x3 larger than the normal one). The other thing as mentioned is the dreaded "coking up" of the engine.

1Rb

206 posts

87 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Fantastic steer and definitely worth spending the extra to get an N18 to avoid the foibles of the N14. Definitely don't echo earlier comments that the S lacks pace, feels plenty quick enough.

If any one is interested in a Black 60 plate, good spec, 50k miles FMDSH and just had rear discs and pads done, give me a shout!

Hothouse

24 posts

22 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
Have an '09 (N14 engine) jcw Clubman. Great package and is a very useable 2nd family car compared to hatch. Just back from a 1000 mile round trip way up north with 2 adults, 2 kids and dog plus bags. Faultless in snow with a pair of all weather Vriedstiens.
If had done homework better, might have waited for a later N18 as we have had number of issues discussed in thread, but hey the jcw clubman is very rare (only 219) so might still be looking. Test drove later F56 and no comparison. Keeping our clubby, faults and all.

Gavin Clark

3 posts

58 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
I have a 2008 R56 (not sure which engine, but possibly N18 looking at the above photos). we've had no real issues with it other than getting through oil at an alarming rate. I thought we may have an issue but the buying guide above says about you can get through 1 litre every 1000 miles (which is about right). Be warned though: even though oil runs low, the low oil alarm doesn't always come on (the engine gets a bit growly and then you know to top it up).

We have the panoramic twin sunroof and have had no real problems with it yet, although a minor glitch last year leads me to believe we may experience a problem later this year.

I used to find the ride too uncomfortable; minor pot-holes would nearly break my wrists. But I swapped the run-flat tyres for a reasonable set of "normal" tyres (Yokohama) and it's transformed the car into a comfy everyday pocket rocket.

There's plenty out there, so if you're interested in one, find the best one you can afford in the colour & wheel combo you want, and allow £300 to swap the tyres, and keep an eye on the oil level.

HJMS123

980 posts

65 months

Thursday 18th January
quotequote all
MrC986 said:
Given there are fewer proper JCW cars around, a Cooper S with a decent tuning package will easily outperform a JCW and if you add either a decat or sports cat and an uprated intercooler with a stage 2 map, circa 240-250bhp is capable. Admittedly a JCW has an improved turbo so if you want to chase outright bhp, then yes its the better choice. The big issue is the cooling which is why tuners recommend a decent uprated intercooler (normally about x3 larger than the normal one). The other thing as mentioned is the dreaded "coking up" of the engine.
For outright BHP it may out perform a JCW but doesn't the JCW come with a good electronic slip diff? Having owned three FWD hot hatches and the last two without diffs I wouldn't want another FWD car with over 200BHP without one again. The body kit, exhaust, strengthened block and bigge turbo etc would also be a nice bonus if it was getting mapped.

Edited by HJMS123 on Friday 19th January 08:58