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Cooper works better than ever. Image by James Jenkins.

Cooper works better than ever
A week with the new MINI Cooper confirmed our first impressions; it's even better than before.


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#02#BMW's MINI adventure has been a massive success. Sales figures continue to climb, with a predicted 20% growth expected for the new model, and the distinctive small car is literally everywhere on our roads. It's one of those cars that are loved by almost everyone; young, old, male and female, the MINI is a sales sensation that effortlessly straddles the market demographics thanks to a well structured range and excellent core abilities and style.

The fact the MINI was so good left BMW with a slight problem when it came to replacing it; the original 'new' MINI was so right that it was hard to pick significant fault with the reinvention of the brand. Even many old school Mini fans were converted to the new brand and the marketing was absolutely spot on. The basic product was so capable it made the whole thing rather too easy and painless; if only someone within Rover had been blessed with the same vision and foresight.

That is history now though and the MINI's emergence and subsequent success has established it as a firm favourite with almost universal approval, including here at The Car Enthusiast (the editor even bought one!). Little surprise then to find that the new MINI is, at first glance, almost identical in appearance to the last. There are differences, but you need to see the cars side by side for the changes to become obvious; the grille and headlight treatment being the most obvious, along with some growth in each dimension.

At the end of the day it would have been very difficult for BMW to make big changes to the original and why should it? The new MINI was embraced en masse and the raft of options and personal touches you could specify have created a cult car. Changing these key strengths was never on the agenda for the new car; more attention to detail and eliminating the weak links was the obvious remit for the engineering team responsible for the re-launch. At the top of this list would have been the engine. When you have an industry-leading engine line up like BMW's, the Chrysler sourced 1.6-litre engine in the old car stood out somewhat.

This unit was found lacking towards the end of its life, being noisy and asthmatic and lacking in refinement and power, certainly in the non-supercharged formats. In our reviews it was a constant negative and many owners we spoke to found it the same, taking some of the sparkle off the package; not enough to put a buyer off, but it was at odds with the rest of the car. BMW has addressed this by fitting one of its own engines in place. The new Valvetronic-equipped 1.6 is a much more capable powerplant. Still not the final word in propulsive perfection, it is nonetheless more powerful, refined and economical than the old unit. #p##03# It isn't the power that leaves a lasting impression; it's the way in which it is delivered smoothly and with little mechanical strain. 0-60mph in 9 seconds and a 125mph maximum don't sound great in isolation, but the way in which the performance is delivered in a fun and fuss-free manner (via beautifully weighted controls and a noticeably slicker gearshift) is a major plus point.

BMW's new engine makes an appreciable difference to the driving experience; much more at one with the rest of the car. It was always fun to hustle an old MINI. The new one now actively encourages you to do so with a more willing and less strained persona. The new chassis is sharper than old, but retains the balance and agility we so enjoyed.

Body control remains composed under duress and the car really feels at home in every context we exposed it to, be it bumpy back roads or (what passes in the UK for) smooth motorway. Overall, it's great fun and if anything it has a slightly more mischievous side than that of old, moving around more than the old car once set free of the ESP leash and letting the keen driver explore the limits without ever threatening to bite back or punish.

Interior touches have been further improved as well, but again it's evolution and tinkering rather than a radical tear up. Much of the layout will be familiar to existing owners but almost all areas are improved, be it the weighting of a control, the material or the position of the switchgear. Some of those lovely toggle switches now nestle in the head lining enabling the driver to perform mock pre flight checks like a pilot - although that may just have been me. Also, the switch that allows the ambient interior lighting to be switched between red, blue and green is the kind of subtlety that many prospective owners will love to have in their cars.

In summary, it's obviously fair to say that we like the new MINI very much. BMW has taken what was a very capable car and broadened and deepened its talents to carry it to a much higher level. It remains a premium product in the small market, but deservedly so. It's hard to think of another car that stirs such emotions and is as desirable as the MINI; the fact it is also so capable makes it even harder to resist. It was a very good car before; it's even better now.
2007 MINI range overview

ModelUK (£ on-the-road)Ireland: (€ on-the-road)
MINI One£11,625€21,350
MINI Cooper£13,025€24,400
MINI Cooper D£14,190€26,400
MINI Cooper S£16,000€29,650

Dave Jenkins - 8 Jun 2007    - MINI road tests
- MINI news
- Cooper images

2007 MINI Cooper specifications:
Price: £13,025 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Top speed: 126mph
Combined economy: 48.7mpg
Emissions: 139g/km
Kerb weight: 1065kg

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 MINI Cooper. Image by James Jenkins.


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