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Lots of cars, these days, have "Sport" buttons. These are switches that change the way the car responds to the gas pedal. Sometimes they even tighten the steering and the suspension.

In most cars, you can feel a bit of difference. In the Mini Cooper S though - Yow-wee! This is a fine car to bang around the city, anyway, but press that little button and the car blasts off with a moderate poke on the gas. Once you learn your lesson, the response is immediate but predictable and smooth.

The steering, likewise, quickens, sending the car darting like a puppy with each tug on the wheel. The car is never jumpy or jittery. Befitting a BMW product, it's all well in hand.

The Clubman's extra length, which brings along an additional 221 pounds of weight, does little to hinder its jaunty nature. (Or, surprisingly, its estimated fuel economy, which remains just the same as its shorter self.)

The S version's performance wheels and tires do lead to a harsher ride around town, so be aware of that before you pick your ride.

If you're just interested in a small car, the Mini does ask for some sacrifice for its cool looks. One major upside is that the Mini Cooper has rock-solid resale value which, combined with excellent fuel mileage, keeps ownership costs low.

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Last updated March 28 2008: 9:11 AM ET

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