2005 Cooper New Car Test Drive
BMW got the resurrection of the Mini right. Being a third larger than the original, this thoroughly modern Mini could hardly be a slavish copy of that Issigonis-designed vehicle in which everyone from rock stars to the Royal Family (all behind darkened windows) darted about London in the swinging '60s of the century past. Nonetheless, designer Frank Stephenson caught the sassy, can-do attitude of the first Mini and made the new one a striking statement in style when it was introduced in 2002 as well as an e-ticket carnival ride. Not to mention a serious vehicle that can tote more than seems likely, can dry out wet pavement with its excellent handling and can stimulate more smiles than a precocious three-year-old at a grown-up party.
And that's just the Mini Cooper. The Mini Cooper S is even more fun with its higher levels of performance, though you're hardly 'settling' with the base model.
In both models 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 as endearing as a bulldog (which inspired the design).
Furthermore, with its multitude of passive and active safety systems, the Mini Cooper has been called the safest small car on the world's highways. All this starts for less than $17,000.
That's if you can find one. The reception of the new Mini has exceeded expectations. The number of BMW dealers who sell the Mini is being expanded, however, though slowly and meticulously to assure, BMW says, that its standards continue to be met. For the same reason, changes since 2002 have been incremental, refinements and added options more than anything.
For 2005, however, Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S are available as convertibles. All models get a few interior enhancements for 2005, including new interior lighting, storage space and new trim options. Revised headlamps and tail lamps and a new grille subtly freshen the looks of the 2005 Mini. The Cooper and Cooper S get new manual gearboxes with revised gearing for improved acceleration, and the S gets a slight bump in power to 168 horsepower.
The 2005 Mini Cooper comes in two model designations: the 115-horsepower Mini Cooper and 168-horsepower Mini Cooper S. Either is available as a convertible. The hardtop Minis are four-seat, three-door hatchbacks, with front wheels driven by a transversely mounted 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. All models come standard with a manual gearbox.
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 Sport Package ($1350) includes Dynamic Stability Control, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, sports seats, and 16-inch alloy wheels with run-flat performance tires.
The Mini Cooper S ($19,899) 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. No automatic is available.
The Mini Cooper Convertible ($20,950) and Cooper S Convertible ($24,400) are equipped similarly.
Like a favorite action-figure toy that needs more costumes and paraphernalia, the Minis have a long list of factory options and color combinations. The 2005 convertibles are available in a new Hot Orange (like spiced pumpkin pie) and Cool Blue. 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, a Star Spangled Banner. You can finish your Mini with white or silver wheels. Mini customers can build their car online (at miniusa.com) with colors, options, and accessories.
Stand-alone options include automatic air conditioning ($300), a Harman Kardon stereo with eight speakers ($550), leather seats ($1300), xenon headlamps ($550), a navigation system ($1700), and Dynamic Stability Control ($500). Other options are grouped into packages: The Premium Package ($1350) 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.
All 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 and New Car Test Drive recommends getting it.