2007 MINI Cooper Page 1

kia Sportage racing 2

kia Sportage racing 2

The new MINI is coming next year — and TheCarConnection has driven it.


Though it isn’t in final production form just yet, the new MINI has broken almost all of its covers. BMW, MINI’s parent company, organized a Driving Dynamics Workshop for the new MINI that will bow on September 28 at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris. TCC was one of the first publications to get behind the wheel of the second-generation, BMW-bred Cooper.



Though it looks very similar to the first version — these final photos have some tape disguising that BMW will remove for the vehicle’s Paris introduction — the second generation of the modern MINI gets a new body to go along with its new powerplants and upgraded interior.


The new body design was a must. Stricter safety standards in the near future will impact all vehicles sold in Europe. And in the MINI’s case, it meant that the nose of the Cooper had to be raised to create more space between the front end and the engine. The new regulations posed a challenge for the MINI, which stays true to the original design and proportion unveiled with the current car in 2001.


The new nose is not only rounder but also higher. Consequently the beltline is 0.7 inches higher. Overall height is unchanged, so the car’s glass areas are slightly smaller. The new MINI has grown 2.4 inches longer, but the wheelbase has stayed the same. 


Cooper-ating with the French


The MINI’s new engines come from a new family of four-cylinders developed with the PSA Group, parent of Peugeot and Citroën. The technology comes from BMW, while PSA had major input in production engineering and purchasing. All MINI engines will be built in the BMW Group Engine Plant in Hams Hall in Great Britain, while PSA will build their engines in France.







Initially the MINI will be available as a Cooper with the normally aspirated powerplant with 120 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque. It incorporates BMW’s Valvetronic technology, with variable valve lift. The Cooper S gets a turbocharged engine with direct gasoline injection. It delivers 175 hp and has 177 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm. Under acceleration, torque is briefly boosted to 192 lb-ft by a small increase in turbocharger pressure — a so-called “overboost” function. Charge pressure is limited by a wastegate to 0.8 bar and starts at 1400 rpm to reduce turbo lag. The turbo is cooled by both oil and water.


Both engines come standard with a six-speed manual, while six-speed automatic transmissions will be available. Optional on the those versions will be a Sports switch, which will allow faster gear shifts, either by the stick or with the paddles on the steering wheel. A mechanical limited-slip differential will be offered on the Cooper S.


The new MINI uses electromechanical controls for its power steering assist. It also has a sport setting for more spirited driving.


The Cooper’s suspension has been redesigned. MacPherson struts in the front are teamed with a central-arm rear axle, an unusual design for small front-wheel-drive cars.


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Nimble nanny


Pontiac Piranha pic

Pontiac Piranha pic

The new Cooper reveals its nimble, precise driving feel within just a few laps of Holland ’s Zandevoort track. Steering into corners feels very precise, and understeer is blissfully minimal. Steering feel is excellent.


The Cooper S provides even more driving fun, although on the racetrack we would have liked a little bit more oversteer to work through long bends. There, the Cooper’s stability control cuts in a bit too early. In short corners, we were able to overcome the system’s protective reflexes. With less yaw reaction, the car is less nervous than the outgoing model and the overall impression is that it is much more mature and very communicative. You feel exactly what the car is doing.


Our criticisms were stronger with the six-speed gearbox, which needs a better barrier between the gears and the reverse and could be more precise as well. And again in this generation, the Cooper S with the optional 17-inch wheels rides very firmly but was noticeably more capable on the track. Our drive stayed on the track, so you’ll have to check back with us for our impressions of the MINI’s daily-driver feel.


Pitch imperfect


Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse

The MINI’s new 1.6-liter four-cylinder performs very nicely. With a lot of torque available at low revs, it’s very lively. But the performance is matched by the turbo version’s high-pitched whine, a prominent noise at almost any speed.


The new engines are not only powerful, but also very fuel-efficient. In the European cycle, MINI estimates fuel economy of about 39 mpg for the Cooper, and 34 mpg for the Cooper S.


Though some interior panels were disguised from us until the Paris press program, the MINI’s interior seemed comfortable, with a little more room. The new Cooper’s seating position is easier to optimize, now that the steering wheel has a telescoping column. New sport seats with sculpted backs provide more knee space for rear passengers, although the interior measurements have not changed. However, even though the wheel wells have grown and the suspension has been reconfigured, the Cooper’s cargo area sports about 0.35 cubic feet, thanks to reshaped plastic liners in the hatch.


Base European versions of the new Cooper will come standard with 15-inch wheels. The Cooper S will get 195/55-16 run-flat tires, as well as bigger brakes.


The new Cooper and Cooper S should reach the North American market next spring. The MINI One — the base version with approximately 70 hp — may follow by the end of 2007.

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