2008 MINI Cooper
The original Mini Cooper
was conceived of in 1957 in England at a time when gas prices had begun to soar as a result of the Suez Canal Crisis, and people feared that fuel gulping cars would be a burden on their already tightening pocketbooks. Ironically, 2008's car buyers are being faced with the same worries, making the new rendition of the Mini Cooper all the more relevant in our changing economy. When it debuted in 2001, directly after production cessation of the original model, the Mini showed the U.S. market that small cars could still be fun and practical, especially in urban environments. Though it has been through some updates since then, with a moderate refresh for 2007, the Cooper remains a present-day icon with a sporty, go-kart-like drive, a unique exterior design and surprisingly roomy interior. Our needs for a small, fuel-sipping car will continue to grow, and the Mini will be there to answer our every demand.
What's to Like
The design, a modernized version of the well-loved original, is classic in its own right, blending new styling techniques with the recognizable features of the past. Its 3 years or 36,000 miles of free maintenance will help reduce the overhead cost of owning a new car, and its BMW build quality gives you reassurance about your Mini’s future.
What's Not to Like
The Mini’s über-customizable interior and exterior is wonderful, until you look at the price tag and realize that an armrest costs $250. The retro styling of the instrument panel chooses aesthetics over functionality, and button placement is unintuitive.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The Cooper fires up gently after pushing the start button, engine humming quietly in anticipation of the drive. Its passive start belies the incredibly sporty nature of this hatchback, delivering the same Monte Carlo Rally winning performance of the past. A six-speed gearbox allows easy flicks through the gears and the car accelerates mightily considering its 1,150 pounds and 118 horsepower. Though it never feels underpowered, freeway passing might require dropping the Mini into a lower gear than normal to produce adequate pull. For an increased throttle response and quickened shifts, Sport mode, a button located next to the shift knob, does the trick. The Mini’s low “bulldog” stance makes up for its light weight and keeps the hatchback grounded as it corners around the tightest hairpins. Suspension can be a little rough around town as it’s suited for more aggressive driving, but get the Mini up to speed and you’ll feel how responsive it is, especially pared with the rigid body frame that reduces body roll around turns.
Engine and Drivetrain
The front-wheel drive Cooper is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 118 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Mini houses an electronic throttle, another bit of BMW technology, ensuring the correct amount of throttle opening is sent to the engine when your foot touches the accelerator.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
What isn’t an option on the Cooper? The brilliance of this car is that it is infinitely customizable. Options like a Union Jack roof or checkered floor mats can add up quickly, but you get both an interior and exterior that is exactly to your liking, however quirky that may be. For those who might feel claustrophobic in such a small car, the optional double-paned panoramic sunroof will make a huge difference. Optional run-flat tires will allow you to drive to that auto shop 80 miles away if you get a flat; and a navigation system, integrated into the centrally located speedometer, will provide you with directions to find that desperately needed auto shop.
Key Technology Evaluation
The hill assist system is primarily aimed toward city dwellers (especially San Franciscans!). Available with the stability control option, it provides ultimate usability around town by holding brake pressure for three seconds when on an incline to prevent rolling back. Speed sensitive windshield wipers come standard, and the ever-courteous Cooper will automatically start the rear wipers if you put the car into reverse while the front wipers are on. In the event of an accident, the doors will unlock and the hazards will turn on. If the airbags have also deployed, the Mini will cut off the fuel pump as well.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
This gas sipping city car gets a stellar 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway in the manual and 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway in the auto, beating quite a number of hybrids at their own fuel-saving game and achieving a ULEV-II emissions rating. With its long sixth gear and 13.2-gallon fuel tank, you shouldn’t have any problem squeezing out 400-mile or more trips after a jaunt to the pump.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
It may be the second smallest car in American (the Smart
now holds the number one spot), but this car is anything but tiny on the inside. 5.7 inches of cargo space with the seats up – enough for two medium sized suitcases - and 24 cubic feet with the seats down gives the Cooper owner plenty of usable storage. The telescoping steering wheel helps people of all sizes sit comfortably in the driver’s seat, and there is a large amount of headroom, even in the back.
At just 145.6 inches long the Mini is, well, mini, naturally. After a minor refresh for the 2007 model, the headlamps, bumper and hood were all updated but the design is still very much reminiscent of the original Mini styling, from the oversized headlamps to the wide mouthed grille. The sporty looking hatchback comes in ten body colors and has optional black or white hood stripes.
Market Segment and Pricing
An $18,700 starting price, might be a little higher than other small hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Rabbit
and the four-door Mazda 3
, but the price hasn’t seemed to give Mini buyers pause, and rivals can’t match its size. A convertible Cooper is available starting at $22,600 and an S version comes in at $21,850. Options for all Minis can easily add a couple thousand dollars to the base price.
What We Think
With gas prices on the rise, the Mini is a perfect option for those who don’t want to compromise performance with a hybrid, but still want money saving practicality. Even more utilitarian than its predecessor, the Mini Cooper sports a winning design, inside and out. Under the hood, it’s every bit the go-karting hatch that we expect it to be, but technology options and top-of-the-line safety features keep you feeling comfortable and secure while driving this little firecracker.