MININew Cars > MINI
Introduced to the U.S. for 2002, the Mini Cooper was a revival of the original Mini that debuted in 1959 and sold in the U.S. during the Sixties. Built in Britain, as was the original, the modern-day Mini came into existence under the stewardship of BMW. From the start, two distinct versions of the modern Mini have been sold: the Mini Cooper, and the higher-performance Mini Cooper S. Starting with a coupe, the selection expanded over the next decade, adding a convertible, a performance-focused John Cooper Works edition, plus Clubman and Countryman body styles.
First manufactured in 1959, the original Mini was 120 inches long and far roomier than it looked. A transverse-mounted four-cylinder engine drove the front wheels, and Minis rode on tiny 10-inch tires. BMC (British Motor Corporation) called it "an entirely new concept in motoring." Mini was not a separate model, but cars were issued with either Austin or Morris nameplates. When cars began to reach the U.S. in 1960, the price was $1,295.
Souped-up Cooper models began to appear, and Minis could be found on racecourses as well as regular roads. The Cooper Car Company had been started, in England, by John Cooper and his father, Charles, to build racing cars for customers. Fewer than 10,000 original Minis were sold in the U.S., during 1960-67.
Original Minis remained on sale elsewhere in the world, as late as 2000. Some 5.3 million had been sold, worldwide. Late in the 1990s, the Rover Group in Britain had begun work on a modern Mini; but the revived car became reality only after BMW bought that company.
Manufactured at the original factory in Oxford, England-now heavily automated-the 21st-century Mini debuted at the Paris Motor Show in fall 2000. Nothing carried over from old Mini, but some parts were shared with BMW automobiles. Driving fun was the primary guideline.
Sales in the U.S. began in March 2002, and the Mini Cooper was named North American Car of the Year in January 2003. The regular Mini Cooper contained a 115-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A supercharged four-cylinder engine went into the Mini Cooper S. Both models had front-wheel drive. Two manual gearboxes were available, as well as a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The late Jack Pitney, then general manager in the U.S., suggested that the Mini came close to a "street-legal go-kart."
To satisfy enthusiasts who wanted something stronger than a Cooper S, Mini began to offer a John Cooper Works Tuning Kit late in the 2003 season. Tuning Kits raised engine output to 200 horsepower.
Meanwhile, a Mini convertible joined the initial coupe. Aftermarket firms started making convertible conversions early on, but the official launch came for 2005. At the New York Auto Show in April 2006, Mini announced a John Cooper Works GP (Grand Prix) kit. A hundred pounds lighter than the Cooper S; the GP-fitted edition developed 214 horsepower, but seated only two occupants.
Mini Coopers gained power along with a mild redesign for 2007. Appearance didn't change much, but every body panel was new and hoods were modified to meet European pedestrian-impact standards. Still 1.6-liter, the base engine now produced 118 horsepower, yielding up to 40 mpg. Now turbocharged with direct injection, the Cooper S engine generated 172 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, promising 29/36 mpg. By 2009, the John Cooper Works was a separate Mini model of its own, with a turbocharged engine generating 208 horsepower.
In mid-2008, a Mini Clubman emerged, built on a wheelbase 3 inches longer than usual, and measuring 9 inches longer overall. Clubmans also got a third door on the passenger side, as well as side-hinged rear cargo doors. Next came the 2011 Countryman with four full-size doors and all-wheel drive, serving almost as a micro-sized SUV. Next on the agenda are a Mini Coupe and Roadster, both fitted for just two passengers and exhibited at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in January 2012.