In March 2002, a brand-new model arrived in the U.S. that capitalized on the Mini's heritage but was part of a new brand under BMW stewardship. Fans of the British-built Mini hadn't seen one officially imported into the U.S. since 1967.
Even though the regular Mini Cooper performs energetically with its 115-horsepower four-cylinder, avid enthusiasts inevitably crave more power. For them, the company also offers the Mini Cooper S, which has a supercharged, 168-hp four-cylinder. (The Cooper S is covered separately in the cars.com Research section.)
For 2006, a new Checkmate package features an exclusive exterior appearance with side decals, hood stripes and a rear spoiler. The Checkmate interior includes uniquely patterned cloth and leather sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a high-gloss dashboard panel. Dynamic Stability Control, fog lamps and an exclusive wheel-and-tire package are also included. English leather upholstery is newly optional, and roof and hood stripes are now available in silver.
A Mini Cooper Convertible debuted for the 2005 model year.
(Skip to details on the: Cooper Convertible)
The modern Mini has a square shape that's similar to the original's. All four wheels are positioned at the car's far outside corners. Short overhangs result in a wheelbase that's only 4 feet shorter than the entire length of the vehicle.
Standard wheels hold 15-inch tires, but 16-inch run-flat tires are optional. The Cooper can be equipped with a contrasting-color roof. A sunroof is optional.
Up to four people can fit inside the Cooper, which provides more interior space than its exterior dimensions suggest. Options include a navigation system, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, rear parking sensors and heated front seats. Cargo space is 5.3 cubic feet but expands to 23.7 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded.
Under the Hood
The front-wheel-drive Cooper uses a 115-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that teams with a standard five-speed-manual gearbox or an optional Steptronic continuously variable transmission.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain-type airbags and all-disc antilock brakes are standard in the Cooper hatchback. Dynamic Stability Control is optional.
Fun takes center stage with the Mini Cooper. Tight, quick maneuverability is its No. 1 attribute. This little hatchback clings to the pavement as if it were magnetized. But ride quality, which can get pretty bouncy on uneven pavement, is another story — especially when it's equipped with run-flat tires.
Defying its modest 115-hp output, the Cooper's four-cylinder engine delivers plenty of zest, but response in the middle gears at low speeds occasionally falters. Only the most ardent enthusiasts need to consider the higher-powered Cooper S, whose performance impact is most noticeable at relatively high engine speeds. The Cooper's five-speed-manual transmission and clutch make an excellent team.
Despite very short bottoms, the optional sport seats are comfortable and supportive. The mirrors are a bit small, and the front seat lacks grab handles.�
The Mini Cooper Convertible is the smallest soft-top model available in the U.S. Its top-up styling mimics the Cooper hatchback, as does the delightful driving experience. Convertible versions of both the regular Cooper and the supercharged Cooper S are offered.
The Cooper Convertible'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. A tonneau cover isn't needed because the top folds behind the rear seats. Aluminum roll hoops behind each rear seat feature integrated head restraints.
Convertibles have a reinforced frame and include rear parking assist and side-impact airbags for the front seats. Dynamic Stability Control is optional. Cool Blue and Hot Orange colors are exclusive to Convertibles.
Performance is just about as impressive in the Cooper Convertible, though you might occasionally wish for the Cooper S's supercharger when passing or trudging uphill. Quick steering is even more noticeable with the top down, which is when this soft-top really feels like a go-kart. Though it's quiet with the top up or down, the Convertible can exhibit unpleasant turbulence when the sunroof is open. Though choppy on urban surfaces and rougher pavement, the ride is pleasant on smooth roads, if short of perfect. Back to top