With the Mini still capable of generating smiles on both owners and passersby five years after the introduction of the first generation model, the completely new 2007 Mini Cooper still thankfully displays the same insouciant appearance and offers the same fun-loving performance.
To meet European environmental and mileage requirements, BMW designed a completely new engine for the 2007 Mini Cooper in cooperation with Peugeot. It produces approximately the same horsepower as before: 120 in the Cooper and 175 in the Cooper S. But the devil lies in the details. A turbocharger in the Cooper S in place of the old supercharger produces 177 pound-feet of torque from 1700 to 5000 rpm, significantly improving the sportier model's performance.
The new engine, as well as new European pedestrian safety standards, required that BMW redesign the front panels. To maintain overall design integrity, the stylists chose to tweak the contours of all other panels. Nevertheless, without the old model to compare, most observers would have difficulty spotting the changes. The Mini still is most aptly described as looking like a cheery English bulldog.
There are changes in the headlamps and turn signals, now mounted on the chassis instead of attached to the hood, but they retain their large oval shape. Combined with the broad grille, chrome on the Cooper and black mesh on the Cooper S, the car has the same smiley face as before.
The interior has been redesigned to increase space, but continues to pay homage to the Mini heritage. The speedometer, now larger than ever, is still placed prominently in the center of the dashboard, with the tachometer conveniently mounted behind and moving with the tilting steering wheel.
Though the Mini is still the smallest four-passenger car on the road in North America, the interior is large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers in comfort, and the rear seats are actually functional, if not capacious. With the hatchback and folding rear seats, the car can even haul reasonable amounts of gear.
Recognizing that the Mini appeals to a broad range of buyers, from young single professionals to golden-age retired couples, BMW has responded with a quantum increase in styling options, with choices not only in upholstery style, material and color, but also in trim panels, accent panels, and ambient lighting.
With the long list of optional upgrades, buyers can easily go from the economy-level entry price, promised to be increased only slightly from 2006, right up into the near-luxury class, but BMW quality may convince many customers that's a reasonable trade-off.
The 2007 Mini Cooper hardtop is available in the 120-hp Cooper ($18,050) and turbocharged 175-hp Cooper S ($21,850). (The convertible, unchanged from the 2006 models, is available in 115-hp Cooper and 168-hp supercharged Cooper S form.) The hardtop Minis are four-seat, three-door hatchbacks. All models are front-wheel drive, with transverse-mounted 1.6 liter four-cylinder engines.
Both hatchback models come standard with six-speed manual transmissions; a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic controls is optional ($1,350).
The Mini Cooper hardtop with conventionally-aspirated engine comes with air conditioning, CD stereo with six speakers, wired for auxiliary input and 6-disc CD changer, power windows with auto-down, power locks, remote keyless entry with electronic signal transmitter in place of the ignition key, and rear wiper standard. Standard wheels are 15-inch alloy with tubeless tires, and the car is fitted with a spare tire and wheel; 16 and 17-inch wheels are optional.
The Mini Cooper S is equipped with a turbocharged version of the same engine, stiffer Sport suspension, performance exhaust system, and 16-inch alloy wheels; 17-inch wheels are optional. Exterior design details, including a black grille inset, hood scoop, rear bumper insets and prominent rear spoiler wing (optional on the Cooper), distinguish the S from the Cooper.
Options include the Cooper Sport Package ($1,400), which adds to the Cooper the rear spoiler, sport seats, 16-inch wheels with performance or all-season tires, front fog lamps and white or black bonnet stripes if desired. The Cooper S package adds 17-inch wheels with performance or all-season tires, Xenon headlights with power washers, and black or white bonnet stripes if desired. A limited slip differential ($500) can be added to the Cooper S. The Premium Package ($1,400) adds multi-function sport steering wheel with wood or leather trim, front-opening twin-glass electric sun roof with front and rear shades, and automatic climate control with carbon filter and an integrated control that replaces the separate temperature, fan, and A/C controls. The Convenience Package ($1,400) adds universal garage door opener, keyless access that allows the driver to unlock the car and start the engine with the keyless transmitter in a pocket or purse, auto-dimming rearview mirror, center arm rest, rain sensor and auto headlights and mobile phone readiness. A Cold Weather package ($300) adds heated headlamp washer jets, heater mirrors, and heated seats. A navigation system ($2,100) is also available.
Safety features on the new hardtop models include passive front and rear crumple zones and side-intrusion protection, six airbags, ABS anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Cornering Brake Control. The new Brake Assistant on both models detects emergency operation of the brakes, and builds up maximum brake pressure as quickly as possible. Dynamic Stability Control is optional on both models, and Automatic Stability Control + Traction (ASC+T) with on-off control is optional on the Cooper and standard on the Cooper S. Hill Assist start-off assistance is a feature of DSC, activating the brakes when starting on an uphill ascent to prevent the car from rolling back.