The Mini became famous in the early 1960s when it began to win world-class rally races with its frontengine and front-wheel drive layout. In 1993, the aging Rover Mini Group was purchased by BMW of Germany. The best engineers from Mini and BMW have designed a new Mini for a new century. Both the Mini Cooper and the Cooper S are two-door, hard-top sedans that seat four. The 2007 Mini is an allnew car from the prior model sold in 2006, yet it looks substantially the same. You need to park them side by side to see the subtle differences. Oddly, the convertible model is the old edition lacking in power and refinement.
Fuel-sipping More Efficient
The new 1.6-liter engine in the Cooper and the Cooper S increases fuel economy about four miles per gallon and returns three more foot-pounds of torque at a lower rpm. A surprisingly responsive 6-speed manual transmission is standard, and a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters replaces the continuously variable transmission.
The new S Model becomes turbocharged instead of supercharged, which appears to be more efficient and consistent for this car. The on-demand water pump is skillfully designed and a great energy saver.
A Style Big on Safety
The new Mini's headlights have been changed to better disperse light. Upfront, instead of a parking light and fog light below each headlamp, there is a single light with an upper and lower portion doing the same job as two. The rear lights are larger and safer. Standard, as always, is a sidecurtain airbag that comes down from the ceiling, as well as front and side airbags built into the front seats. The glass area and visibility of the Mini is outstanding and adds to greater safety.
The tachometer has been placed directly in front of the driver so you can easily keep that engine in the sweet spot to have the most control. At the bottom and center of the white tachometer are a number of warning lights as well as an information panel. Above the center console is a larger speedometer, and the center of the speedometer has a number of indicator lights as well as a whimsical fuel gauge reminiscent of the petals of a daisy. While we found the Mini's instruments to be clear and pleasing, how they are positioned might be distracting for some drivers.
The driving controls are BMW easy and intuitive. Controls feel tight and crisp in their response. In front of the gearshift on the center console, a button says Sport. Pushing the button changes the character of the controls as you use themâ€”the steering becomes quicker, your accelerator pedal sensitivity is increased, and automatic shift points are changed.
A Premium Small Car
The Mini offers custom-built design. Available in 10 colors, for no additional charge, you can have the roofs and mirrors a different color. The sunroof is almost the full length of the interior, called twin-glass, and is the next best thing to a convertible. The interior and exterior are more customizable than most cars. The 2007 Mini comes with a choice of regular or sport seats, heated seats, and seven different types of fabrics. The optional leather in Lounge Redwood Red is available for $1900. A variety of different interior themes like chrome interior rings, including speakers and door handles, are available.
Measuring in at less than 146 inches long, the 2007 model is a full 30 inches smaller than what most of us consider a small car, the Honda Civic. Yet it offers luxuries closer to that of a BMW 750 sedan. If you let your imagination run wild, a car that starts at about $18,000 can end up at $30,000.
It will take 8 to 10 weeks to deliver your Mini, so plan ahead to custom order your original, personally designed vehicle. You can build your Mini by going online to www.mini.com.
Whether you're in the market for a high-end economy car or a sports car for $30,000, go test drive a Mini and see how thrilling a high-economy, premium, small sports car can be.
Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent research reporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.