Early in 2002, a modern front-wheel-drive Mini arrived in America under BMW auspices, though it's manufactured in Britain. Minis come in regular Cooper and Cooper S trim levels; the S model holds a higher-powered supercharged four-cylinder.
For 2006, a new Checkmate package features an exclusive exterior appearance with decals and hood stripes. The Checkmate interior includes uniquely patterned cloth and leather sport seats and a high-gloss dashboard panel. Fog lamps, Dynamic Stability Control and an exclusive wheel-and-tire package are also included. English leather upholstery is newly optional.
Mini continues to offer the high-performance John Cooper Works tuning kit, but it now comes as a factory-installed option, complete with a sport brake kit and a limited-slip differential. The kit includes a higher-speed supercharger compressor with coated rotors.
A Mini Cooper S Convertible went on sale in September 2004 as a 2005 model.
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Despite its bigger dimensions and more contemporary appearance, the modern Mini reflects the square shape that characterized the original. All four wheels are positioned at the far outside corners. Short overhangs result in a wheelbase that's only about 4 feet shorter than the entire length of the vehicle. A rear spoiler is standard.
The Cooper S comes with standard 16-inch run-flat tires or optional 17-inchers. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are optional, and many Minis are sold with a contrasting-color roof.
Up to four people can fit inside the Cooper S. Leatherette upholstery is standard, and cloth or leather is available. A navigation system is optional.
Under the Hood
The supercharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder in the Cooper S delivers 168 horsepower and teams with a Getrag six-speed-manual gearbox or a six-speed-automatic transmission with paddles for manual-shift capability. Mini says the Cooper S can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds. Engine output with the JCW tuning kit grows to 207 hp and 180 pounds-feet of torque.
All-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain-type airbags are standard in the hardtop Cooper S. Dynamic Stability Control is optional.
Fast-moving fun describes the Cooper S. You get tight, quick maneuverability and sizzling performance. These little hatchbacks cling to the pavement as if they're magnetized. Ride quality is less appealing, though the Cooper S's ride seems less harsh than the base Cooper's with run-flat tires.
Only enthusiasts need to consider the higher-powered Cooper S; its impact is most noticeable at relatively high engine speeds. Performance with the JCW tuning kit isn't enormously stronger than that of a regular Cooper S.
Despite very short bottoms, the sport seats are comfortable and supportive. The backseat is quite comfortable and offers abundant headroom; however, legroom is minimal when the front seats are positioned rearward.
Cooper S Convertible
When the Mini Convertible went on sale in September 2004, it became the smallest soft-top model in the U.S. market.
Both supercharged Cooper S and regular Cooper Convertibles are offered. The Mini's fabric top can be rolled back 16 inches to serve as a sunroof. Equipped with a heated glass rear window, the fully insulated top opens in 14 seconds. Aluminum roll hoops behind each rear seat feature integrated head restraints. Convertibles have a reinforced frame and include side-impact airbags for the front seats. Dynamic Stability Control is optional. The drop-down tailgate is fitted with external hinges.
The Cooper S Convertible feels a lot like a go-kart. A small tug on the wheel yields instant directional changes. You're kept aware of suspension activities, but the ride isn't bad for run-flat tires.
Compared to a regular Cooper Convertible, the big difference in engine response comes when passing or on upgrades. Exhaust sound is much more noticeable and can hurt sensitive ears. The convertible's sunroof is innovative, but it yields annoying wind noise. Back to top
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