2002 MINI Cooper
Few cars in a lifetime strike such an emotional chord as the 2002 Mini Cooper, BMW's reincarnation of the beloved British hatchback that typified the exuberant Sixties.We recently drove both versions of the new Mini that are being marketed in the United States, including the base model, which starts at $16,300, and the higher-performance Cooper S, with a supercharged four-cylinder engine and a $19,300 base sticker.The Mini is defined not only by its boxy shape, but by its racy color schemes. We first drove a "liquid yellow" Mini with a white top. Our Cooper S was "chili red" with a white roof and matching white wheels. Buyers can also opt for a black or body-color roof or one painted with either an American flag or the Union Jack.Our test Cooper S, priced at $21,450, came with such options as dynamic stability control, sport seats, fog lamps, rear spoiler, 17-inch run-flat tires, xenon headlamps and steering-wheel audio controls.Despite our gooey feelings toward this newcomer, one of us isn't completely sold on it.She: I loved the Mini and I was stopped by more men and women who said things like "How much is this? That's great! I'm going to get one for my 16-year-old daughter." Wrong. My advice: Test drive the Mini on the highway, preferably next to a big semi- or full-size SUV, before you put your little darling behind the wheel. This car is adorable, but way too small. The Mini Web site says "the SUV backlash starts now," but it sure didn't feel like it from behind the wheel of that Mini, especially when you're next to a big Cadillac Escalade or Ford Excursion.He: I couldn't believe the people in SUVs who honked at me or gave me the thumbs-up as I drove the Cooper S from New York to Michigan. And I really cracked up at the guy in the parking lot who asked if I was buying one. I told him that I couldn't talk you into it, and after some thought, he replied, "Well, you could always get a new wife."She: The Mini is probably more expressive than a lot of husbands. It's almost like a little pet or a baby. You look at the "face" and it has an expression of innocence and surprise. You just want to wrap it up in a receiving blanket. Without a doubt, this is the most emotionally appealing car of the year.He: That's disgusting. We're talking about an inanimate object here, aren't we? I look at the Mini, and I just want to drive the heck out of it. I really had no problems with the car on the freeway -- at least not until I hit those brutal Michigan potholes. The Mini is certainly spunkier and lots more fun to drive than a PT Cruiser or a Beetle, and it seems to get an even bigger rise out of people. But so far we've only talked about the superficial aspects of the car -- the intangible side. What really gets me is that the Mini is so darn entertaining to drive. Just a couple days after I got home from New York, I jumped back into the Cooper and headed up north to do some trout fishing. That little car handled just as well on the dirt two-trackers in northern Michigan as it did on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Although I have to admit that, with two pairs of waders, fly rods, tackle box, duffel bag and guitar, there isn't much room for more than two people.She: It looks like the Mini designers had some fun with the cockpit, which has almost as much personality as the outside of the car. That big speedometer in the center of the dash bothers me, because it forces you to take your eyes off the road. But the little, old-fashioned toggle switches in the center are cute. I'm not sure I like that weird, streaky finish on the plastic trim inside. But it feels cozy and snug in there.He: The fact that the Mini is still built in Oxford, England, didn't bother me, despite the British reputation for shoddy quality -- not until I got a closer look at the sloppy stitching on the seat backs and discovered a loose drop rail on the edge of the roof. I'm not sure if you chalk that up German engineering or British workmanship.She: In a perfect world, where all the other cars on the road were the size of Beetles and PT Cruisers, the Mini would make eminent sense. Until then, better hang on to your SUV, for self-defense if nothing else.2002 Mini CooperAnita's rating: (above average)Paul's rating: (world class)Likes: Strong emotional appeal. Responsive steering. Cabin has lots of personality. Handles like a go-kart. Can park anywhere. Draws an unbelievable amount of attention. Great two-tone color scheme. Good standard safety features, including side air bags and antilock brakes.Dislikes: Not much rear-seat leg room. Limited cargo space. Quality is a little rough in places. Weird finish on plastic trim in cabin. Disproportionate size leaves you exposed to larger vehicles. Center speedometer forces eyes off road.Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, four-passenger, two-door hatchback.Price: Base, $19,300; as tested, $21,450 (inc. $550 destination charge).Engine: Supercharged 1.6-liter I-4; 163-hp; 156 lb-ft torque.EPA fuel economy: 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway.12-month insurance cost, estimated by AAA Michigan: $1,104.00 (Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)Where built: England
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||April 15, 2002|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||September 1, 2002|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||August 31, 2002|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||July 17, 2002|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||June 2, 2002|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||May 25, 2002|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||April 7, 2002|
|Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||March 20, 2002|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit News||April 4, 2001|
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