Click above for a high-res interior walkthrough of the R56 MINI Cooper

Since being revived back in 2001, the MINI brand has been nothing short of a design icon. But, as is the case with many slaves to fashion, it turns out that the brand's latest models may have a serious case of function following form, at least according to a set of "User Experience Specialists" from the folks over at User Centric.

The team's gripes center around the Cooper's interior design, which famously places its gigantic speedometer front and center in the dashboard. That central gauge holds many of the user interface controls, and the entire cluster gets low marks on their usability scale for its slew of tiny poorly-labeled buttons and counter-intuitive audio controls. A second set of controls exists directly in front of the driver on the tachometer, and it, too, gets low marks for its poorly labeled controls which are mounted on a stalk to the left of the steering wheel.

For a few more takes on the current car's ergonomic shortcomings, be sure to check out of past reviews of the 2007 MINI Cooper S and its slightly larger stablemate, the 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman, or check out our captioned gallery below. No matter, the MINI still manages to win friends thanks to its amusingly tossable nature, its impeccable driving dynamics, and its irrepressible cuteness.

R56 MINI speedometer
  • R56 MINI speedometer
  • BMW has seen fit to place the MINI's gigantic speedometer right in the center of the dash. A slew of double-sided buttons control audio features.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • We like the placement of the tachometer directly in front of the driver, but the most important part of the rev-range is almost always obscured by the steering wheel. Further, we wonder why its secondary controls are confusingly located on a stalk to the left of the steering wheel.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • This small series of buttons are hinged at the center and control various functions depending on what mode the audio system is in. Their Chiclet-size and close proximity to each other occasionally make them hard to use.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • Oddly, the volume control knob for the audio system sits alone under the slot-loading disc drive, far away from the rest of the audio controls.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • This series of buttons and toggle switches control various functions, including the climate control, windows, locks, and auxiliary lighting. Directly above is the audio system's volume control knob.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • The view from the back seat shows how stylish the R56 MINI's interior appears.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • The pair of four-way pads on the steering wheel offer loads of functionality and look good, but they can be easily confused for one another.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • This may be the largest speedometer in the history of the automobile. It fits the cheeky theme well, but it's a bit large, even for our tastes.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • We wonder why the audio system's volume control know is so lonely. Don't be surprised if you unwittingly grab the similarly-sized and shaped knob above it, only to get a nasty surprise.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • The MINI's center console is the least stylish piece in an otherwise handsome interior. It's also all too easy to activate the window dip-switches when grabbing your Venti-sized Starbucks.
R56 MINI Interior
  • R56 MINI Interior
  • The unlabeled two-sided buttons have different functions depending on what menu is displayed above them. It's a clever idea that has been executed more clearly on other vehicles with larger screens.

[Source: User Centric]

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