Mini CooperMini Coopers are known for their quick, precise handling, but some owners have complained of steering problems that may lead to a crash, prompting a federal investigation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun looking into complaints of power-steering failures in 80,000 Mini Coopers from the 2004 and 2005 models years, after receiving 54 complaints that "allege a loss of power steering assist due to power steering pump failure," the agency said Tuesday on its website.

"When the power-steering assist stops working, it requires increased force to steer the vehicle. Some drivers reported experiencing difficulty while trying to steer or control the vehicle," NHTSA said.

A spokesman for Munich, Germany-based BMW, which owns Mini Cooper, said the company will provide regulators with information it's seeking, Bloomberg News reported.

The probe into Mini Coopers is the latest investigation into steering issues by NHTSA. On Sunday, Hyundai Motor said it was voluntarily recalling nearly 140,000 Hyundai Sonata models from the 2011 model year for loose or improperly assembled connections on steering columns. The defect may make the cars hard or impossible to steer, possibly leading to a crash.

In August, the agency began a preliminary investigation into 2010 Kia Soul models after receiving a complaint about a complete loss of steering. That investigation involves about 51,000 vehicles.

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