There are some automobile designs that are so classic yet so representative of their time that it is difficult to understand how they would find any success in the modern world. Whether it is because they captured the spirit of the era they were produced in, or whether it is because they were a response to a specific need of that period, the fact remains that so much has changed in the interim that it would be unlikely that they could connect with the same audience had they been built yesterday.
Specialty coupes are a perfect example of this phenomena. While there is no arguing the beautify and grandeur of the two-door Cadillac cars of the late 1950s, they would be automotive disasters should the company attempt to bring them back as part of their current lineup due to their enormous size and radical styling. At the other extreme of this personal coupe situation is the MINI Cooper, the pint-sized British automobile that captured the hearts of the world thanks to its incredibly tiny dimensions and dead-on handling. Unfortunately, in present-day North America such a tiny size does not have the same appeal as it once did in 1960s and 1970s England, and the common wisdom is that the original MINI would be a tough sell outside of Europe.
BMW, however, saw things a little bit differently. While they recognized that they had a considerable opportunity on their hands to capture lightning in a bottle for the second time with the Mini, after their acquisition of the Rover Group, they also knew that some kind of compromise would have to be made between its original incarnation and the demands of 21st century automotive design. They key was to ensure that the new vehicle, re-dubbed the MINI, was able to grow in terms of size to the point where it offered modern safety and comfort but was still small enough to provide the visceral driving experience sought after by collectors.
The end result was a spectacular marriage of engineering and heritage, a vehicle which kept the wheels at the four corners of the automobile and managed to achieve dimensions that were subcompact without becoming a caricature or sacrificing utility. The MINI Cooper was released to great fanfare in 2002 and has been a strong seller for BMW ever since then thanks to its combination of fun driving and excellent fuel economy. This article discusses the best used coupe available from MINI.
2002 - 2007 MINI Cooper
At first glance, the 2002 - 2007 MINI Cooper would seem to be a pitch perfect interpretation of the original Mini, a small car with all of the correct proportions. While the new MINI Cooper is indeed sized below compact, it is not until the new and old generations of the vehicle are parked side-by-side that it becomes clear just how much the 2002 - 2007 edition dwarfs the 60's icon. This makes most car fans appreciate the vehicle even more, as its styling is impressively able to make this size difference disappear when seen on its own.
Another excellent method employed by the MINI Cooper to provide a feeling of sprightliness can be found from behind the wheel. With a curb weight around 2,300 lbs, the MINI Cooper is incredibly responsive when thrown through the corners, and its front-wheel drive architecture meshes perfectly with its short wheelbase. There are two editions of the Cooper available when it comes time to decide on a performance level. The base MINI is powered by a 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 115 horsepower and 110 lb-ft of torque. The Cooper S trim adds a supercharger to the mix, along with a few other suspension goodies, and power is boosted to 163 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. In 2006 a Cooper S GP model was available that jazzed things up to 214 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, making this the quickest used MINI available. Power rose across all models in later years, and the supercharger in the S was replaced by a turbo for 2007. The Cooper S benefits from either a 6-speed manual or paddle-shifted automatic transmission, depending upon the model year, and the standard Cooper uses a 5-speed manual or a continuously-variable automatic.
The interior of the 2002 - 2007 MINI Cooper, as with the original, is much larger than most drivers would think. Leather seats are available, as are other premium features such as automatic climate control, and vinyl and cloth seats are no-charge options. Adults will find the rear seats to be acceptable for short trips, making the MINI a perfectly well-suited city car with road trip possibilities if the number of passengers are restricted to two.
The 2002 - 2007 MINI Cooper is a unique used coupe that still draws attention no matter where it goes.