What it is
Just a few short years ago, BMW-owned Mini made a splash on these shores with the reintroduction of the 1960’s iconic two-door Cooper, a thoroughly modern interpretation of the original. Ever since its launch, this contemporary iteration has been a sales success because of its cute factor, unique design, unrivaled character, and kart-like handling.
That being said, even the Mini Cooper can grow a bit long in the tooth if not updated every now and then. And so it is that a slightly larger, more powerful, and slightly massaged 2007 Cooper arrives in February. Exterior changes are so subtle that it’ll require actually stopping at the dealer for a close look rather than glancing over at the Mini lot during a 50-mph drive-by on the way home from work. Even then, it might be hard to notice the front end that’s been extended by 1.5 inches and the belt line that sits 0.71 inches higher than on the 2006 model. Mini suggests that these increased dimensions, coupled with larger wheels, add “muscularity” and “maturity” to the list of Cooper attributes (or maybe someone has tired of being the cute, girly, effeminate ride?)
There may be something that looks askew about the lights, a point which will bother you until comparing the 2006 and 2007 Mini side by side. You’ll notice that the 2007 headlight assemblies incorporate the signal lights, as well as mildly tweaked taillights, above which are thin vertical panels mounted to the pillars for aerodynamic purposes. The grille has also been worked over, but again, position and vertical bar placement are hard to notice unless you’re making a point to hunt down the changes.
In the end, the overall appearance remains unmistakably Mini Cooper with just enough stretching here and bulking up there to make a second look and brief investigation worthwhile.
Pricing has not been announced, though Mini will say that buyers of the 2007 Cooper may choose from a variety of additional exterior colors – Mellow Yellow, Oxygen Blue, Sparking Silver metallic, Lightning Blue metallic, and Nightfire Red metallic. A Chromeline Package adds – surprise, surprise – chrome exterior accents, while an interior lighting package allows the driver to adjust backlighting anywhere from orange to blue.
Why it matters
Even so, every model needs to remain fresh in prospective buyers’ eyes. It was no doubt a difficult task for Mini designers to maintain a package that continues to spur sales while simultaneously blending in contemporary tweaks. But it had to be done, especially considering all of the new and redesigned competitors on the market. Think Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen GTI, for example – neither may offer the exclusivity of the Mini, though each boasts more power at similarly affordable base prices.
What’s under the hood
Under the 2007 Mini Cooper’s new skin is a MacPherson strut front suspension working with rear aluminum track control arms to manage the ride. As one may expect, front and rear stabilizer bars are standard. For sportier (read: harsher) road manners, an optional suspension includes firmer shocks and springs. Speed-sensitive steering makes for low-effort guidance around town while dialing in a heavier, more responsive feel at speed on the highway or on twisty switchbacks. For those who want the Mini to react before they even touch the steering wheel, a sports button ponies up even more steering response (for the more gullible among us, that’s a slight exaggeration). A four-wheel antilock brake system features vented rotors in front, solid rotors in back, as well as electronic brake force distribution, and Cornering Brake Control (CBC). Also included are Brake Assistant, which adds braking pressure in emergency situations, and Hill Assist, technology that briefly prevents manual transmission-equipped Mini Coopers from rolling back on start up. The whole package sits on 15-inch alloys wrapped in 175/65 tires, or in the case of the Cooper S, 16-inch alloys fitted with 195/55 rubber. Buyers may go one further by opting for 17s and 205/45 tires. Run-flat road grabbers are available, while a tire pressure monitor, stability control, and traction control systems are standard fare.
For 2007, Mini claims that the freshened Cooper will feature the quality interior bits it so desperately needs. In addition, the cabin offers its share of design changes, including a larger center speedometer incorporating radio and navigation system functions (if equipped), and wider footwells availed thanks to a slimmer center instrument stack. There’s also a start/stop push-button ignition along with standard front-side and side-curtain airbags.
What Mini says
Maybe a better approach is to guess what the 2007 Mini Cooper is saying to potential buyers. Our guess goes something like this: “I’m still possibly the cutest car you can buy, only now I’m a little bigger, kind of like the back side of the North American buyer I’m trying to lure into showrooms. Plus, I’ve got more available power under my bonnet, and added interior features to make day-to-day life a bit more pleasant and safe.” And in an effort to support Mini officials’ whole masculine push, make sure to read the Cooper’s comments in your best Dirty Harry voice.
Photos courtesy of Mini