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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

๏ Mini ๏

In 1959, a groundbreaking new subcompact coupe emerged in England using a transverse-mounted engine and an efficient, boxy front-wheel-drive layout. It achieved truly mini-compact exterior dimensions along with a surprising amount of usable space inside. Because it was affordable, stylish, fun to drive and easy to park anywhere, the British Mini and Mini Cooper quickly achieved icon status around the world -- including the U.S., where it sold as a brief counter-culture favorite during the 1960s.The Mini is a small car that was produced by the British Motor Corporation(BMC) and its successors from 1959 to 2000. The most popular British-made car, it has since been replaced by the New MINI which was launched in 2001. The original is considered an icon of the 1960s,and its space-saving front-wheel-drive layout influenced a generation of car-makers. In the international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Mini came second only to the Ford Model T.
This revolutionary and distinctive two-door car was designed for BMC by Sir Alec Issigonis (1906–88).It was manufactured at the Longbridge and Cowley plants in the United Kingdom, and later also in Australia, Belgium, Chile, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia. The Mini Mk I had three major updates: the Mk II, the Clubman and the Mk III. Within these was a series of variations including an estate car, a pickup truck, a van and the Mini Moke — a jeep -like buggy. The Mini Cooper and Cooper "S" were sportier versions that were successful as rally cars, winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times.

After a lengthy break, the Mini Cooper returned to our shores in 2002 under BMW's direction to resurrect the legend. As before, the current Mini Cooper hatchback coupe and convertible appeal to a diverse audience. Its high style is embraced by pop stars and celebrities, while an affordable bottom line enables middle-class commoners to easily scrape together the entry-level price of admission. It's a uniquely sporting blend of classic British mini-car heritage and charm combined with precise German engineering and construction underneath.

The born-again Mini Cooper and supercharged/turbocharged Mini Cooper S are stylish, affordable go-karts for adults. As such, whether new or used, our editors prefer to option the Mini Cooper sparingly. Though available with loads of premium -- and premium-priced -- upgrades and packages, Minis are an even better value and more true to their roots with just a few options. Equipped thusly, you won't find a more satisfying subcompact hatchback or convertible for the price.

The current Mini Cooper has been redesigned for the 2007 model year. The goal was an evolutionary one, as befitting an icon. Though scarcely different looking, the Mini Cooper's mechanicals were updated to a more state-of-the-art condition, and shortcomings were addressed as well as accommodating various regulations that have changed since the last one was sculpted in the late '90s. The front overhang and nose were reshaped to be more pedestrian-friendly in the event of a collision, and the car is almost 3 inches longer than its predecessor, but the width and height carry over. Its wheelbase is also unchanged, but despite similar appearances no body panels are shared between generations. For now, it is offered as a hatchback only.

That new front end also provides more underhood space for two all-new, more fuel-efficient 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engines. The base version develops 120 horsepower and a tad less torque, while the turbocharged, direct-injected engine in the Cooper S replaces last year's supercharged engine and turns out 175 hp and 177 lb-ft of twist. Power is directed through six forward gears, with your choice of manual or automatic control.

Inside, the interior adds a bit more function to the Mini's already well-sculpted form. There's an even larger central speedo pod that now also houses the audio system controls, a tilt wheel that now telescopes and cupholders that really hold cups. Best of all, the overall cabin aesthetic is more spacious and refined with better materials, the seating more comfortable and the controls easier to reach.

Although slightly bigger, stronger, faster and demonstrably improved over its predecessor for most drivers doing the daily grind -- and a fine car that's still plenty of fun to drive -- there does appear to be a trade-off for enthusiasts: The new Mini Cooper seems to have lost something dynamically at the edge. It feels a little heavier and more buttoned-down when driven with gusto, perhaps a little less eager to be tossed into corners than the last-generation Cooper.

In 2002 the legendary Mini Cooper returned with a modern, space-efficient interior, chassis by BMW and a generous list of standard features for under 17 grand. The standard Cooper had just 115 hp, but the supercharged Cooper S weighed in with a more forceful 163 ponies. Detail improvements and color changes carried the Mini Cooper through its first few years, so even early examples look up to date and can make particularly fine used values. Expect lively handling from either model, but be aware that the suspension setup of the modified Cooper S -- though enthusiasts will love it -- might be overly stiff for some.

Previous-generation Mini Coopers from 2002-'06 tend to retain their value and outshine the competition in many ways, so they're highly sought after among used shoppers. To keep things fresh and perky in 2005 before the model run was through, the Mini Cooper updated the front and rear fascias, chopped the top off the Cooper and installed a canvas top that could be lowered in just 15 seconds. The resulting Mini convertible combined the freedom of open-air driving with the expressive, hip Euro attitude and carefree agility that made its hatchback coupe sibling so famous. For those who wanted their hatchback served up extra-hot, there was a special John Cooper Works option that upped the power to 207 horses and fortified the chassis with larger brakes.

1 comment:

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