For 2007, the MINI Cooper has undergone extensive revamping. The changes include an evolutionary transformation to the body design, an all-new interior, and a new 4-cylinder engine. Also upgraded were the suspension, transmission, steering, and braking systems, which were massaged to produce improved drivability. Overall the MINI has been slightly bumped up in length, and the MINI Cooper S performance version is a bit more muscular looking to differentiate it from the base Cooper trim level. A quick-look reference point is the air intake scoop that's integrated in the hood of the S model only.
Look up the word cute in the automotive dictionary, and you'll find a picture of the MINI Cooper. This once-only British mighty mite has caught on in the States, and is extremely popular among younger buyers. BMW, MINI's parent company, claims it's the best-selling small car in the premium segment.
The MINI is available in four different models: Cooper and Cooper S coupes, and Cooper/Cooper S convertibles. The design differences from the 2006 model are many, but are mostly subtle. The grille is a single-piece unit now, and the turn signals are integrated with the headlights. It's also about 2.4 inches longer overall, which not only provides more space in the engine compartment, but meets the new pedestrian safety standards. The Cooper S sits almost 1 inch higher-again, hard to differentiate from the base Cooper. There are more noticeable changes inside, including a more integrated cockpit that retains the MINI trademark large center speedometer. Knobs and switches are now more user-friendly.
For 2007, a new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that makes 172 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque powers the Cooper S, but the torque can reach as high as 192 lb.-ft. at full throttle thanks to a burst of overboost from the turbo. The base Cooper's 1.6-liter naturally-aspirated engine makes 118 hp an 114 lb.-ft. of torque, but features many technologies from BMW's high-zoot engine management systems. Both engines are matched to standard 6-speed manual transmissions, but a 6-speed automatic is available on both as an option.
The Convertible gets a new Sidewalk package that includes special wheels, interior trim with English leather sport seats in malt brown, and a special Sidewalk sport leather-wrapped steering wheel. For those who want more performance, the John Cooper Works kit adds upgraded brakes, a limited-slip differential, and other go-fast goodies.
The MINI Cooper competes in the Compact Conventional segment, which consists of 20 models. Buyers in this segment look for fuel economy, reliability, and safety, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Avoider StudySM and the Escaped Shopper Study.SM
The top sellers in the segment during calendar year 2006, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM were the Toyota Corolla (328,699 units sold), Honda Civic (316,638), and Chevrolet Cobalt (211,449). The MINI Cooper sold 39,171 units in 2006, a decrease of 4 percent compared to the previous year. Other models offered in the Compact Conventional segment include the Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Jetta, and Saturn Ion. Joining the segment in 2007 are the Pontiac G5, Suzuki SX4, and Volkswagen Rabbit.