2002 Cooper S New Car Test Drive
The eagerly awaited Mini has arrived with the emotional appeal of a puppy, the high-style gloss of a fashion magazine and the technological edge of a Los Alamos lab. It is adorable, roadable and affordable.
BMW has managed to meld the inherent incongruities of the German and British car culture and reached back to the 1960s for the automotive icon of mod London. The popular Mini thus reappears as the Mini, reinvented for the 21st century.
A third larger than the original Issigonis design, this Mini is still the shortest car in American parking spaces and still larger on the inside than on the out. It totes four adults and a fair amount of stuff. Though connected to its popular past, the new Mini is clearly of this century with advanced safety features and impressive engineering innovation.
BMW priced the Mini with an appreciation for real-world pocketbooks (starting at $16,300) yet endowed it with a visual and physical opulence that ratchets up its value quotient. And finally: it's as much fun as patent-leather Mary Janes with taps on the toes.
Two models are available: 115-horsepower Mini Cooper ($16,850) and 163-horsepower Mini Cooper S ($19,850). (Prices include a destination charge of $550.) (The basic 90-horsepower Mini One will not be sold in the U.S.)
Options (some at no cost) are designed to allow buyers great leeway in making their 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 all nations are in the works, starting with the Union Jack and the Star-Spangled Banner. Wheels can be white or silver.
Anti-lock brakes are standard as are six airbags with special head protection for both front and rear passengers.
Several popular performance and appearance options are grouped into three major packages, Premium, Sport and Cold Weather. The Premium Package ($1250) includes sunroof, automatic air conditioning, on-board computer and cruise control. The Sport Package ($1250) includes Dynamic Stability Control, rear spoiler, fog lamps, sport seats, and larger alloy wheels. The Cold Weather Package ($500) provides heat to the seats, the mirrors, the windshield and the washer jets, along with rain sensor and auto-dimming mirror.
The packaged options can be ordered ala carte as well: Leather seats ($1250), Xenon headlamps ($500), an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system ($550), a navigation system ($1600), and a CVT Continuously Variable Transmission ($1250) are among the options.