Hard to believe this cute little British Motors car has turned 60. Since those days the MINI Cooper has developed a loyal following and was purchased by BMW in 1994.
But it wasn’t until 2002 that the icon of British pop culture was available here and the love affair continues today with a comprehensive range of Coopers to choose from.
The sporty looking and handling MINI can be personalized to fit taste and pocketbook but remains on the pricey side of its segment. Rivals include the Fiat 500, VW Golf, Ford Fiesta, Mazda MX-5 Miata and its sibling BMW 2 Series.
Pros: Athletic performance, engine choices, modern cabin
Cons: Limited storage, safety equipment not standard, rear seats cramped
We spent a week with the Cooper S convertible, a cute soft top that garnered thumbs up from passersby and delivered a spirited ride.
You are sure to find the right MINI for your needs with a two-door or four-door hardtop and convertible with most available in Cooper, Cooper S or upscale John Cooper Works models. There’s more too with Classic, Signature and Iconic trim levels. On top of those choices you can further mix and match a plethora of available equipment, all for a price of course.
Engine choices include a three cylinder and a pair of four cylinder turbocharged power plants, with one sport tuned with 39 additional ponies. Two door models start at $21,900 all the way up to $44,900 for the top of the line convertible.
The sprint from zero-to-60 miles-per-hour with the mid-range engine and automatic transmission was clocked at a respectable 6.4 seconds. A six-speed manual is standard.
Our tester tipped the scales at $41,450 and while it was loaded with options there was no active safety equipment ala adaptive cruise, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert or lane departure warnings. Go figure.
For 2019 there are three new colors available, an updated logo and the addition of Apple CarPlay and wireless phone charging. No Android Auto yet.
Inside our test car was a nice place to be with soft materials throughout and a large center touch screen for navigation and entertainment. Those familiar with BMW controls will be right at home with MINI’s infotainment system. It’s a little clunky to operate at first but by week’s end became second nature.
Around town, the MINI excels with easy maneuverability in tight parking spaces, good turning radius and unlimited headroom with the power top down, an 18-second trip.
The two-stage top stops midway back to function as a sunroof. Keep the pressure on and the top folds back to rest on the rear deck.
On the highway, the convertible feels tight and the ride in true BMW fashion remains firm. Acceleration is lively off the line and there is ample power for passing. Count on road noise at highway speeds.
The convertible back seat is small with little legroom and the trunk holds just over five cubic feet, smallest in its class.
While rivals cost thousands less, MINI’s reliability, styling and heritage will be hard to beat.