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MINI to the max

<p>Messing with an icon is treading in treacherous waters. So when BMW designed its “new” MINI it dared not change the original’s look too drastically.</p>

Cooper S looks unchanged but that’s not the case



Although hardly a single body panel is retained from the previous model, the 2007 MINI Cooper is substantially new without departing too much from the original’s visual appeal.





Messing with an icon is treading in treacherous waters. So when BMW designed its “new” MINI it dared not change the original’s look too drastically.


The targets were a new engine and reduced weight, as well as improved performance, fuel economy and ride quality.


So, although hardly a single body panel is retained from the previous model, the 2007 MINI is substantially new without departing too much from the visual appeal that made the original an instant hit.


The two-door hatchback’s basic platform is pretty much the same as before, but the hood is taller, the front fascia reworked around larger headlights, and overall length has been stretched by about 70 mm — most of the latter is up front to provide added crash protection.





Inside the MINI are new seats, door panels and an updated instrument panel with a dominant and larger speedometer.





Inside are new seats, door panels and an updated instrument panel with a dominant and larger speedometer stuck smack in the middle of the layout. The revised dash also incorporates more functions to improved functionality, such as controls for the entertainment and (optional) navigation systems. Real wood and hand-sewn leather are among the many available options if you want to add a bit of your own personality into the cabin décor.


Under the hood is an entirely new 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder engine that is both more powerful and significantly more efficient at sipping fuel. The $25,900 base Cooper model generates 118 horsepower — about five more than before — while the $30,600 Cooper S employs a turbocharger to boost power output to 172 hp. Incidentally, despite the improvements noted here, those prices haven’t changed. They’re still the same stickers as the outgoing 2006 models carried.


Our time behind the wheel was spent in the Cooper S, paired with a new 6-speed manual transmission … and it’s a winner.


The little sweetheart pulls strongly from about 1,500 revs with a broad, flat and meaty torque curve. There is even a 15-second period of “overboost” available from the turbo for added punch in acceleration, a very useful assist for two-lane highway passes.


The 6-speed transmission is slick and quick while the car’s ride quality feels perceptibly more supple than the outgoing version. Yet, characteristic of the MINI, its “tossability” and agility remain untouched, no matter how tight the turn or twisty the road.


The whimsical MINI in either Cooper or Cooper S form continues to be a refreshing sight on Canadian roads. Its combination of a well-tuned chassis, grin-generating handling plus improved performance and fuel economy make it one of the best front-wheel-drive hatchbacks available, not to mention its ease-to-park and traffic dodging urban appeal.




















2007 MINI Cooper S




  • Type: Compact 2-door 4-pass. hatch. FWD




  • Price: $30,600




  • Engine: 1.6-litre L4 DOHC Turbo




  • Horsepower: 172 @ 5500 rpm




  • Torque (lb-ft): 177 @ 1600 rpm




  • Highlights: All-new sheet metal, new interior touches, more powerful engines, better fuel economy, improved suspension.