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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By Jim Flammang
April 30, 2003
Vehicle Overview Fans of the British-built Mini hadnt seen one officially imported into the United States since 1967. In March 2002, a brand-new Mini arrived in America that capitalized on the Minis heritage and also created a new brand.
BMW announced Mini pricing at Detroits North American International Auto Show in January 2002: $16,300 for the base Cooper, which is covered in cars.coms Compact Car Buying Guide, and $19,300 for the sporty, more powerful Cooper S (excluding the destination charge). Prices for 2003 have risen by $125 because Minis have new interior trim choices. A Sirius Satellite Radio is optional for the 2003 model year.
Developers emphasized fun, but they also wound up creating the shortest car sold in America. Its not about size; its about character and charisma, says Product Manager Kevin Philips. High-performance versions of the original Mini had been produced, paving the way for the current front-wheel-drive Cooper S, which uses a supercharged engine.
Designers selected the 1967 Mini Cooper as their starting point for the new model. Despite its increased dimensions and more contemporary appearance, the modern Mini has a squarish shape thats similar to the original. All four wheels are positioned at the far outside corners a theme that also harks back to the first Mini. Short overhangs yield a wheelbase thats only 4 feet shorter than the entire length of the vehicle.
Measuring an inch longer overall than the regular Mini Cooper, the Cooper S comes with standard 16-inch run-flat tires or optional 17-inchers. A sunroof is optional, and many Minis come with a contrasting-color roof.
Four occupants fit inside the Cooper S, which has an interior configuration that is similar to that of old Minis. The current model provides more interior space than its exterior dimensions suggest. Leatherette upholstery is standard, and cloth or leather is optional. A center-mounted speedometer is also reminiscent of the one used on the original Mini, and the tachometer sits atop the steering column.
Options include a navigation system, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and heated seats. Cargo space is 5.3 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
The supercharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine in the Cooper S delivers 163 horsepower and 155 pounds-feet of torque; it mates to a Getrag six-speed-manual gearbox. Mini claims the Cooper S can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.
Six airbags are installed, including BMWs Head Protection System. Dynamic Stability Control and all-disc antilock brakes are standard.
Fast-moving fun is the word for the Cooper S. In addition to sizzling performance, you get tight, quick maneuverability. These little hatchbacks cling to the pavement as if they are magnetized. Ride quality is less appealing, though the Cooper S actually seems to ride less harshly than a base Cooper with run-flat tires.
Only enthusiasts need to consider the higher-powered Cooper S, whose impact is most noticeable at relatively high engine speeds. The Getrag six-speed gearbox in the Cooper S is even sweeter than the base five-speed transmission.
Despite the very short bottoms, the sport seats are comfortable and supportive. The backseat may look uninviting, but its actually quite comfortable with abundant headroom. But legroom is still minimal if the front seats are positioned rearward.