2002 MINI Cooper Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
March 31, 2002

New Mini, My Mini (3/31/2002)

Despite the shopworn bleatings of Madison Avenue and the very premise of whole ranges of adult videos, small can be satisfying. Witness the miniskirt, Mini-Me, or my personal favorite, the Frosted Mini Wheat. (Mini reviews are also good, but hang on for the next 1373 words anyway.)

While we’re tallying compact goodness, allow me to add on the 2002 Mini Cooper. At once flirtatious and frugal, it’s a small-car come-on that can be savored without much compromise or guilt.

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It does so with more than a wink and a nod to heritage and that makes the new Mini a rare and real enthusiast event. Think about its competitive set: the Focus telegraphs its hipness and the PT Cruiser breezily evokes the past, but neither will make your dad wax nostalgic for the days when he had real human hair.

The Mini’s in a whole different realm: it cajoles you into thinking that British cars always were sprightly, tossable, and exceptionally well built. Which, I am told by experts, they weren’t.

The Mini has a long and storied history that you probably know already. If not, try www.google.com. The last three years have been pretty fascinating, too. Picture this: a relative of the original designer buys the brand through a German company that hires and fires him, only to hang on to the Mini rights in a fire sale. There’s also a Rolls-Royce involved. You just can’t get this stuff on Days of Our Lives without having to also take on an evil twin.

Today, the Mini is a subdivision of those friendly folks at BMW, but the cars are actually built in Oxford, England — by, we presume, hordes of Rhodes Scholars who finally have real jobs.

Guts and glory

On with the guts of the story. That means a virtual walk around it, which if geometry serves, should take about a quarter of the time it would take to tour a Caddy DeVille. First off is the size. Mini engineers and marketers (they’re actually fully grown) told us that their vehicle is shorter than a Geo Metro, one of which we encountered later as if by accident. It’s true, the Mini is smaller. And, oddly, it smells better.

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