Small Size, Big Excitement
There is no doubt about the Mini Cooper being so irresistible, yet the editorial team kept putting the prospect of a test drive aside to give way for sportier and more luxurious cars. But its “cutesy” factor made it about time to get behind the wheel of the Cooper.
And so we did. Our test car came in blue, with the new 1.6 liter turbo engine and 172 horsepower and the 6-speed manual transmission. It is a different type of car than the original version, though blessed with the neoclassic lines resembling the original project.
The original Mini (the one driven by Mr. Bean) was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis and launched in 1959, and stayed in production until 2000. If you wonder how the car got “Teutonic” blood, this is how it happened: when BMW failed to succeed with the Rover Group in late 1990s, the German carmaker kept the rights to the Mini Cooper of the new millennium. That was quite a smarts move that still pays. It enjoyed instant success after the first units left the Oxford plant in 2001.
The previous Cooper S had a supercharged engine with fewer horsepower and those who drove the previous version will see the difference on how the engine responds, if pressed hard. The Mini is capable of reaching 60 mph in 6.5-seconds, not bad for a car that’s almost “green”.
One of the features I enjoyed most about the Mini is the sport mode, making the car revving faster than on the “regular” mode. Of course this will penalize the fuel consumption, but since the car is capable of averaging around 36 miles per gallon on highway, a few instances in “sport mode” should not bother one or two of your tree- hugger friends.
Despite being from BMW, the car shows its British heritage. The Cooper S still retains design elements of the Morris version and the transmission sound in second gear reminds one of the old MG’s transmission “whistle”. The exhaust note transported me to the time I owned a second generation VW Golf GTI 16 valve.
Even though it’s bigger than the last Mini, the car is still small when compared to the average car on American roads. The interior still combines a surplus of neo-classic steel and plastic accents. Oh, and the speedometer is even bigger than before! The radio and air conditioner controls remain as complicated as before. The driver will need to get used to his or her unusual position. Once the inconvenience is overcome, you will enjoy the radio’s magnificent sound.
The Mini offers adequate space for its size…even in the back seat. However, there is something that I could not overcome: the ride. It is particularly harsh on irregular pavement, especially if one is traveling in the back seat. You feel every bump but, hey, at least you will get the 7 series suspension.
Putting that aside, the enjoyment is certainly assured, especially on twisty roads. For an investment of $28,000-30,000 you get a hot hatch that’s good on gas, attractive, “retro”, and exceedingly cute. Believe me, you won’t get bored of this car.