The brand-new model--Mini Cooper capitalized on the Mini's heritage but was part of a new brand under BMW stewardship.
The Checkmate interior includes uniquely patterned cloth and leather sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a high-gloss dashboard panel. Dynamic Stability Control, fog lamps and an exclusive wheel-and-tire package are also included. English leather upholstery is newly optional, and roof and hood stripes are now available in silver.
The modern Mini has a square shape that's similar to the original's. All four wheels are positioned at the car's far outside corners. Short overhangs result in a wheelbase that's only 4 feet shorter than the entire length of the vehicle.
Standard wheels hold 15-inch tires, but 16-inch run-flat tires are optional. The Cooper can be equipped with a contrasting-color roof. A sunroof is optional.
Up to four people can fit inside the Cooper, which provides more interior space than its exterior dimensions suggest. Options include a navigation system, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, rear parking sensors and heated front seats. Cargo space is 5.3 cubic feet but expands to 23.7 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded.
The front-wheel-drive Cooper uses a 115-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that teams with a standard five-speed-manual gearbox or an optional Steptronic continuously variable transmission.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain-type airbags and all-disc antilock brakes are standard in the Cooper hatchback. Dynamic Stability Control is optional.
Fun takes center stage with the Mini Cooper. Tight, quick maneuverability is its No. 1 attribute. This little hatchback clings to the pavement as if it were magnetized. But ride quality, which can get pretty bouncy on uneven pavement, is another story — especially when it's equipped with run-flat tires.
Despite very short bottoms, the optional sport seats are comfortable and supportive. The mirrors are a bit small, and the front seat lacks grab handles.