Share This Article

BACK TO BASICS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Aug 9, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

BACK TO BASICS

By JOHN GRAFMAN

This is crazy! I was expecting nothing less than the latest Mini product to rock the earth, the John Cooper Works 200 horsepower Mini. Instead, we somehow found ourselves in the base model. How did this happen? Who did we piss off at Mini, or is this a karma thing for some other meaningless sin of days gone by. True, this is not what we had in mind. Yet, this is everything it should be and more.

Our staff really enjoyed this ride. No one wanted to give it up. Sure you can use the Mini - just as soon as you pry the keys form my cold, dead hands. This isn’t our first time with the import and we hope it won’t be our last. This vehicle by its very nature can’t accommodate everyone’s’ needs all the time. However, this car does have something for everyone to fall in love with. Take your pick. As a fashion statement, the Mini is so cool. As an economy car, the Mini delivers with great fuel economy numbers. As a sporty car, this thing handles far beyond what most would expect. As a new car purchase, this can rival many other used car purchases from a perspective of affordability. Inner city parking problems are much less of an issue. Need a car to fit a six-footer in? Again, this car can easily handle it. Of course, back seat legroom reduces to the size of a Zippo.

I did have a few acquaintances that initially weren’t warm to the looks of the car, but even they could find virtues to adore. Now, I can’t see my parents owning one, but even they would have to admit that it does have its place and usefulness. The bright paintwork and choice of roof flags at no added cost make this car stand out in spite of being hard to see due to its size. The car turns conventionality on its ear. Even if the shape isn’t your cup of tea, you still have to give it high marks for making the most of what it has to work with. From the inside out, the design is refreshing and definitely not the same old thing. I found the center speedo was out of the way and I didn’t refer to it much (like I ever do!). An airy feeling abounds for a car this small. The packaging is wonderful. Only a few details really show their actual material cost, but what can you do? The car is inexpensive. Dollar-for-dollar, the Mini doesn’t overtly show just how affordable it is nearly as much as most. Top it off with a stereo / CD that cranks, and it makes it a rather welcoming environment. Hopefully, all the painted plastic surfaces don’t get worked over the years, as it would really mare the effect of the faux metal surfaces and structure. The poorly designed cup holders do deserve mention for their aggravation factor. Mini doesn’t allow enough vertical clearance underneath the center stack. The aft center console cup holder is among the best ever, but can’t be reached effectively by either of the front passengers. Hey, nothing’s perfect.

SUVs of the woolly mammoth variety don’t stand a chance against the nimbleness of the Cooper. I squirted between two haphazardly and illegally parked mastodons on a one-way street in Orange County that backed up traffic for several less agile vehicles. Chalk up another for the car. David 1, Goliath 0. But all these facts and figures and obvious design cues are blatant. As much as we can expound on them, I’d rather cough up the real dirt. If you are looking to read something like “a wheel fell off while driving or the Mini is a rattletrap,” give it up. BMW, who makes this little coupe, knows what they are doing. Actually, they made this car too good. The appeal may differ, but the purity of driving can rival some of their more expensive products. The Mini does portray a youthful, playful image. In truth, this car is always looking to show off its sure footedness. The manual works very intuitively - beyond what I would have expected. Essentially, the whole car behaves in very much the same manner. Kind of reminds me of that favorite, magic surfboard that knows where to go nearly before you do. The Mini becomes one with the driver. The car can sense your inclination and is eager to comply.

We skated this overgrown go-kart all over the town. Of course, we as always would have liked to see more power. A back-to-back comparison would have either vindicated or dismissed the true need for a Cooper S or the John Cooper Works model. As fate would have it, we had the chance to live and breathe with this base model and get under its skin and let it get under ours. I find it hard to ask for more in a car than what the Cooper has to offer at this price. The word fun now has a new synonym, Mini.

About that karma issue, maybe we haven’t been nearly as bad as I thought… I’m sure the Cooper will change all of that!

Find more on the Mini Cooper at www.miniusa.com

Vehicle specifiacations Name of vehicle: Mini Cooper Price: $ 16,975 (Includes D&H) Engine type: 1.6-liter overhead cam (OHC) 16 valve inline 4cyl. engine Horsepower: 115 hp @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 110 @ 4,500 Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual transmission, Equal-length drive shafts Front suspension: MacPherson strut front suspension Rear suspension: Multi-link rear suspension Wheels and tires: 15” alloy wheels, 175/65R-15 all-season tires, 7-hole design 15” alloy wheels, 175/65R-15 all-season tires 8-spoke design Alloy wheel – all available in white Brakes: Front: Vented disc Rear: Solid disc Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Corner Brake Control (CBC) Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) Overall length: 142.8 inches Overall width: 66.5 inches Overall height: 55.9 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 2,524 lbs. (manual), 2557 lbs. (CVT) EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 28/37-mpg (25/32 CVT) premium unleaded required 0-60 mph: 8.5 (manual)

You Might Also Like These Articles:

woodland auto display paso robles racecar nascar sprintcar

A California Coastal Car Caper

volkswagen art car jetta mountain alltrack

#TBT: Five Volkswagen Art Cars

toyota supra 3.0 premium grey car misty night

Car Review: 2021 GR Supra 3.0 Premium

quattro book group b rally car

Book Review: Quattro

917 restaurant waiter food burger

917 (K)afe