Is a Used 2007-2013 R56 Mini Cooper S Reliable?

Used 2007-2013 Mini Cooper S reliability article highlights:

  • The 2007-2013 R56 Mini Cooper S is turbocharged rather than supercharged, but it’s also faster, lighter, and more refined than the R53, yet still just as fun to drive
  • A used R56 Mini Cooper S is prone to oil consumption, bypass valve, carbon deposit, and high-pressure fuel pump issues, though 2007-2010 models with N14 engines also have timing chain tensioner and VANOS flaws
  • Well-maintained R56 Mini Cooper S models can be reliable, with the 2011-2013 models being the most reliable, especially the 2013 one

Although it’s not the hottest hatch on the market, the Mini Cooper S can still show come corners a thing or two. But even before prices went crazy, these pocket rockets weren’t exactly cheap. Fortunately, a used Mini Cooper S, such as the 2007-2013 R56 model, is significantly more affordable yet roughly as fast as the 2022 one. However, used Minis can sometimes be problem children for the unprepared. So, does that mean the R56 Cooper S is best avoided, or can it be reliable enough to live with?

The R56 Mini Cooper S ditched the supercharger but got slightly faster and easier to live with

A teal 2007 R56 Mini Cooper S driving around a mountain road
2007 R56 Mini Cooper S | Mini
2007-2013 ‘R56’ Mini Cooper S
Engine1.6-liter ‘N14’/’N18’ turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower172 hp (2007-2010, N14)
181 hp (2011-2013, N18)
Torque177 lb-ft
TransmissionsSix-speed manual
Six-speed automatic
Curb weight2704 lbs
0-60 mph time6.2 seconds

Supercharger fans were likely a bit sad when the R56 Mini Cooper S replaced the shorter R53 model in 2007. And a few more might have initially dismissed the move to electric power steering. But while the spicy Mini is more (gasp!) conventional, it’s also more powerful and slightly lighter. That makes it faster than its first-gen incarnation, as well as roughly as fast as the 2022 version. And don’t worry, the EPS remains quick and accurate with decent feedback levels.

In addition to the speed gains, the R56 Mini Cooper S also introduced some extra refinement. Compared to the R53, it has nicer interior materials as well as better ergonomics. Furthermore, the manual is easier to row. Also, while the optional Sport Suspension Package comes with an extra-firm ride, poor pavement no longer threatens to dislodge your fillings. That’s thanks to the redesigned and lighter-weight suspension components, which offer a surprisingly supple ride in standard form. And regardless of the suspension choice, the R56 lives up to the go-kart cliché.

Although it is slightly longer than the R53, the 2007-2013 R56 Mini Cooper S doesn’t have a significantly larger interior. However, besides the improved ergonomics and materials, a used second-gen Mini Cooper S also offers some welcome modern technology. Dynamic stability control, for example, was standard from day one. And by 2013, the R56 came standard with traction control, hill assist, Bluetooth, and multiple power outlets.

N14 vs. N18: Engine choice matters when it comes to used R56 problems

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Because the R56 Mini Cooper S is based on the non-turbocharged 2007-2013 model, it has many of the same problems. So, for the sake of expediency, this section will focus on the S-specific issues.

Firstly, used Mini Cooper S models from this generation have some oil-related issues. The 2010-2013 ones have a particular reputation as oil burners, though all R56s tend to consume oil rather quickly. And while the N18 engine is less prone to this, it has a complication over the earlier N14 engine, ECS Tuning reports. See, some of these oil-burning problems are tied to stuck-open PCV diaphragms. And though the N18’s PCV is more durable than the N14’s one, it’s also integrated into the valve cover, making it harder to service.

But whether you rank problems by volume or severity, used R56 Mini Cooper S models with N14s are worse than ones with N18s. In addition to stouter VANOS systems, the N18 also doesn’t suffer from the N14 ‘death rattle,’ Lohen says. The N14’s timing chain tensioner is notoriously fragile, and if it breaks, it can destroy the engine’s top end. Also, while both the N18 and N14 can develop carbon buildup on their valves, the N14 is far more prone to it.

However, some R56 Mini Cooper S problems strike both engines. The high-pressure fuel pump can fail in both the N14 and N18, for example, though it’s more common in the N14. In addition, the plastic turbocharger bypass valves in both engines commonly fail, which causes acceleration problems and warning lights.

Should you avoid a used 2007-2013 R56 Mini Cooper S?

A blue-with-black-stripes 2013 R56 Mini Cooper S at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show
2013 R56 Mini Cooper S front 3/4 | Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Given these problems and where the R56 Mini Cooper S lands in the problematic Mini year range, are used second-gen models still worth buying? Well, that depends.

Yes, a poorly-maintained one with an N14 engine is a risky decision at the best of times. However, it’s worth noting that some second-gen Mini Cooper S problems are age-related, rather than due to poor design. Modern replacement parts are generally tougher, too. Also, keep in mind that the N18 engine addressed several of the N14’s shortcomings. And there are multiple ways to remove engine carbon deposits.

In short, a well-maintained 2011-2013 Mini Cooper S is generally reliable, more so than a 2007-2010 example. But if you’re really worried about reliability, limit your shopping to 2013 models. And don’t forget the pre-purchase inspection.

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