2004 Cooper S New Car Test Drive
The Mini Cooper captured the imagination of car enthusiasts when BMW redesigned it as a 2002 model. Measured by dollars to the pound this diminutive car seems a bit expensive, but measured by dollars to the grin it is a bargain. The Mini Cooper is ball, a hoot, a blast on wheels. The Mini Cooper S is even more fun with its higher levels of performance, but you're hardly settling if you buy the base model.
That's because regardless of model, the Mini Cooper delivers sports car handling and acceleration. It offers the cargo convenience of a hatchback and decent passenger seating for four, all stuffed into the shortest footprint on the road. It's a high-quality piece with BMW engineering, as solid as any German sedan. Its retro styling is chic, cute as a bulldog and cheeky as a mod London nightclub. And it's safe, with a multitude of passive and active safety systems working to protect you if the unforeseen should happen. All this starts at just $16,449. That's if you can find one.
Little has changed in the Mini since its introduction. For 2004, both the Cooper and Cooper S offer an optional three-spoke leather steering wheel, as well as Cordoba Beige leather sport seats. They also add digital speedometer readout under the tachometer and a real-time fuel-consumption meter to the on-board computer. A standard rear power point has been reintroduced, and Pepper White paint is now available on the Mini Cooper S.
A new limited-edition model has been introduced to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Paddy Hopkirk's legendary win of the famed Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 in a Mini Cooper S.
The Mini Cooper comes in two model designations: the 115-horsepower Mini Cooper and 163-horsepower Mini Cooper S. Both are four-seat hatchbacks, with front wheels driven by a transversely mounted 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. For 2004, prices for each increase by only $24.
The Mini Cooper ($16,449) comes with a high level of equipment, including air conditioning, CD stereo with six speakers, power windows with auto-down, power locks, remote keyless entry, and a rear wiper all standard. A five-speed gearbox and 15-inch alloy wheels are standard. A Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT ($1,300), is available for drivers who must have an automatic.
The Mini Cooper S ($19,449) adds a supercharged version of the four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual gearbox, stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars for flatter handling and 16-inch wheels. The Cooper S has exterior trim that distinguishes it from the base model. Inside, the S adds sport seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
From there, buyers can have a blast, or be confused, by choosing from a list of more than 30 factory options and 10 exterior and interior colors. You can choose a roof that's either body-colored, black, or white, and you can add a roof decal, a checkered flag, a Union Jack, an Star Spangled Banner. You can finish your Mini with white or silver wheels.
Stand-alone options include automatic air conditioning ($300), a Harman Kardon stereo with eight speakers ($550), leather seats ($1300), xenon headlamps ($550), and a navigation system ($1700). Other options are grouped into packages: The Sport Package ($1300) includes Dynamic Stability Control, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, sports seats, and larger alloy wheels. The Premium Package ($1300) includes sunroof, automatic air conditioning, on-board computer and cruise control. The Cold Weather Package ($570) includes heated seats, mirrors and windshield-washer jets, along with rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
There's also a dealer installed works kit that significantly improves performance and increases the price as much as $10,000 depending on specifics. Mini customers can build their car online (at miniusa.com) with colors, options, and accessories.
Both Minis come with a luxury-class list of safety features, including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, front and front side-impact airbags, curtain-style head-protection airbags for all passengers, a crash sensor that automatically unlocks the doors, seatbelt pretensioners and side-impact door beams. The Cooper S adds traction control. Both cars offer DSC electronic stability control ($500) as an option.
The Mini Cooper S MC40 ($26,500) limited-edition model is mechanically identical to the Mini Cooper, but features special paint and interior trim, racing decals, driving lights, and other features all designed to approximate the No. 37 rally car as closely as possible. Only 1,000 will be sold.