The 2008 MINI Cooper may not look new, but in 2007, the British hatchback was completely redesigned (the Convertible was not; TheCarConnection.com covers it separately). With the new design come new engines, a better ride, and a richer interior.
It takes an expert to pick out the differences between the 2008 MINI Cooper and the first-generation car. The headlamps blend into the body better, the rear side glass panels are a little more tapered, and the shoulders on the rear fenders are slightly more pronounced. Good thing--the MINI's iconic shape doesn't need a complete reinvention.
Edmunds calls the MINI Cooper “stylish,” replete with “British charm” and “retro British style.” AOL Autos likes the 2008 MINI Cooper’s "distinctive bulldog appearance." For 2008, Kelley Blue Book points out the Cooper MINI receives a series of refinements that evolve the shape, "including headlamps mounted to the body instead of the hood, rear side glass...and a taller hood." In the end, describing a MINI is rather pointless since it’s one of a kind, or as Cars.com stresses, “no car is quite like a MINI.”
Inside, the Cooper has more obvious changes, including a slimmer center stack of controls, a much bigger speedometer that now contains audio controls, and a Start button. The first thing occupants will notice is the large, center-mounted speedometer. ConsumerGuide doesn't appreciate that the "speedometer forces drivers to divert their eyes from the road," but also notes the MINI Cooper offers "a small, redundant digital speedometer in the tachometer face." Similarly, they complain "many dashboard gauges and controls sacrifice functionality for 'retro' style." Edmunds says “the modernistic interior is a design student's dream” but “an ergonomic specialist's nightmare,” with its dozens of buttons and switches that look and act differently than what’s become the norm in compact cars.
In the end, TheCarConnection.com rates the MINI Cooper’s styling a perfect 10 because it’s an instantly recognizable reiteration of the classic—and few cars are as evocative and true to their heritage as this one.