2003 MINI Cooper Reviews

2003 Cooper New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The new Mini Cooper is more fun than a carnival ride. Both models handle like sports cars and the Mini Cooper S can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. It's adorable and affordable, starting at just $16,425. Engineered by BMW, it is executed superbly and looks and feels like a quality piece inside and out. 

The new Mini Cooper lives up to the promise of its bulldog stance, legendary performance, and enthusiastic press reports. BMW has successfully melded the German and British car cultures, reaching back to the 1960s for the automotive icon of mod London. The new Mini has as much in common with the British car Americans loved in the '60s as the New Beetle has in common with the old Bug. The Mini Cooper has been reinvented for the 21st century and has returned to the U.S. much bigger and much better than the original. 

Mini Cooper is the shortest car sold in America, but it's larger on the inside than on the outside. It totes four adults in surprisingly good comfort, even leaving room for stuff. Like all BMWs, it comes with advanced safety features and innovative engineering. Like the original, its uses front-wheel drive and a transverse-mounted (sideways) engine. But BMW employed a sophisticated suspension inspired by its rear-wheel-drive cars for superior handling, particularly on bumpy, curving roads. 

BMW priced the Mini with an appreciation for real-world pocketbooks yet endowed it with a visual and physical opulence that ratchets up its value quotient. For 2003, there are no major changes. 

Mini Cooper was named 2003 North American Car of the Year by a jury of 49 independent automotive journalists. 

Lineup

Two models are available: the 115-horsepower Mini Cooper and 163-horsepower Mini Cooper S. Both are four-seat hatchbacks. The engine is mounted transversely and drives the front wheels. 

Mini Cooper ($16,425) comes standard with a high level of equipment, including a sophisticated anti-lock brake system and six airbags with head protection for front and rear passengers. Also standard: air conditioning, CD stereo with six speakers, power windows with auto-down, power locks, remote keyless entry, and a rear wiper. It comes standard with a five-speed gearbox and 15-inch alloy wheels. 

Cooper S ($19,425) adds a supercharged version of the same engine, a six-speed gearbox, stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars for flatter handling, 16-inch wheels, and a lot of special exterior trim. Inside, the S adds sport seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. 

Mini allows buyers great leeway in making the car their own. Color options outnumber those in a bag of jelly beans and can be topped with a roof that's either body-colored, black or white. (White is traditional.) Checkered flags and flags of different nations are available as giant roof decals, including the classic Union Jack and the Star-Spangled Banner. Wheels can be white or silver. Order our Mini in classic Red with the traditional white roof or the equally traditional Union Jack. Silver gives the Mini a classy Aston Martin look. 

Major options include a Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT ($1250), automatic air conditioning ($300), and a Harmon Kardon Sound system ($550) with eight speakers. Other options are grouped into packages: The Sport Package ($1250) includes Dynamic Stability Control, rear spoiler, fog lamps, sport seats, and larger alloy wheels. The Premium Package ($1250) includes sunroof, automatic air conditioning, on-board computer and cruise control. The Cold Weather Package ($500) provides heat to the seats, mirrors, and windshield-washer jets, along with rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming mirror. Other options include leather seats ($1250), Xenon headlamps ($500), and a navigation system ($1600). Many of the features on the Cooper S can be added to the regular Cooper. Mini customers can build their car online (at miniusa.com) with colors, options, and accessories. 

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