Hey everyone. Two months later, and would like to offer my initial thoughts on the car switch.
For background, I let go of a 2006 STI with 90k miles for a 2010 Mini JCW Convertible with 27k miles.
I'd like to keep my thoughts in the frame of reference of bone stock cars, which is pretty much how I had my STI and still have the Mini. Actually, the STI had a kartboy short-shifter, but that's it.
STI certainly looks more aggressive, stands out in a crowd with the dual spoilers. Mini looks much more reserved, and doesn't stand out so much. The STI was Aspen white, Mini is Chili Red. The red does give some visual pop. However, the Mini is near invisible to cops, street racers, and the like.
Not really a competition here. STI is a 4 door sedan with a proper trunk, Mini loses a lot in convertible form. Front seat space is comparable if not a bit more comfy in the Mini, but rear seats and trunk are hands down to STI. Carrying stuff isn't a big deal to me, so this was a moot point. Still...
My Mini came spec'ed with full leather, heated seats, all the goodies. Both cars have auto-climate control. The Mini has some odd design choices, such as the dinner-plate speedo and a curiously placed volume knob. The STI is a standard double-din where the Mini is clearly more integrated. However, overall quality, comfort, ergonomics, gadgets, go to...
Let's face it, Subaru's have lots of little rattles and strange noises, and the Mini convertible has some audible creaks as well. My STI had a funny rattle on partial throttle going uphill, but I could never trace the source. The Mini I sometimes wish didn't creak so much when I accidentally hit a pothole, where the STI was largely quiet.
Keep in mind here we are talking stock parts. No aftermarket exhausts, intakes, BOVs, etc and so forth. In stock form, the Mini sounds so much better than the STI did. The STI exhaust was always a bit quiet, wasn't very audible in the cabin, and I always felt that such a car should be a bit more vocal when you mash the gas. The Mini JCW exhaust is awesome. Super quiet when cruising, but barks loudly when the gas gets stepped on. The car is tuned to snap/crackle/pop/burble when you lift off the gas, and it gives it so much character. For OEM sound...
I sadly never autocrossed the STI, never had the time. So I will compare them both on spirited road driving. Again, two wildly different platforms. 1 diff vs 3, FWD vs AWD. The STI was much more stable and composed, the Mini needs some attention. In the Mini, on the gas in a turn, hitting an expansion joint or a road imperfection will cause the car to jump, and you need to be ready to catch it. The STI just kept going where you wanted being steered with one hand. However, that led it to being a bit boring, in my opinion. The Mini is a much more involved experience. The STI biased toward understeer with the all-seasons I had on it, the Mini behaves similarly with the runflats that are still on it. Both turn very nicely, rotating predictably. I have not had the Mini in snow yet, and I'd bet the STI would win there. But, for nice weather on tarmac...
On stock pads, brake feel is by far better in the Mini. Front brakes are only .3" smaller, and stopping considerably less weight.
The Mini gives up some ground in pure HP/torque as well as power to weight. STI had 300hp/300lbft and the mini has 208hp/207lbft. STI had a curb weight of 3,351 pounds, the convertible mini is 2,877. For the street, the Mini is much easier to play with without risking losing your license. Turbo lag is much shorter in the Mini. The STI is still quicker off the line and faster in a straight line.
Let's face it, more people can identify an STI than they can a JCW Mini. The racing and rally heritage of the Subaru is much more well known. However, where the STI got lots of thumbs up from drivers in modded cars or other cars in class (Evo's, etc), the Mini gets it from people all over. People randomly walking by as I'm washing the car complement the Mini, where the STI received no such feedback. I haven't quite picked out why that is yet. The JCW badge is really one of the only ways to reliably pick out that the Mini isn't your standard Mini, where the STI was much easier to pick out from a distance. Both cars get complements, but from very different groups of people.
So that brings my tally to 5 for the mini, 2 for the STI, and two draws. I think that accurately describes my feelings as well, where I am much happier with the Mini. If I missed a crucial area for comparison, let me know.
Cue the "who are you again" and "we dont care" comments in 3..2..1...