2002 MINI Cooper Review
Mini is just the name. Think huge.
I found that driving the Mini for several days (including some time on a race course) was not long enough to find the limits of its cornering ability. It kept saying more." I drove in deeper; I drove harder. The Mini simply went where it was pointed without protest. What is this? Are they paving these writhing Marin County roads in Velcro? Even when rain was sheeting down and the pavement shimmered in rivulets, the Mini felt bonded to the surface. Ah, a squeegee at no extra charge. The old Mini was as much fun as a carnival ride to drive, but much of the fun came from constant flirting with catastrophe (one wheel always lifted off the surface in hard turns). The fun in this Mini, with a body that feels as rigid as a block of maple, is in exploring its astonishing capabilities.
As one might expect from a car associated with BMW, the Mini Cooper's steering is precise and immediate, though not as light as you might expect in a small car.
The brakes (discs all around) are equally impressive, proportionally balanced as they are. Hit them hard at speed and the car feels sucked to the earth and slowed immediately by an invisible hand. None of that tiptoe-light feeling you sometimes get under serious braking. Excellent brakes can mean survival in Germany where running at ultra-high speeds on the Autobahn is interspersed with serious slowing.
The Mini suspension system (McPherson struts in front and multi-link rear) is designed to keep the car snug to the road. This means passengers feel broken surfaces, expansion joints, weathered pavement. The Mini's ride is not a velvety one, but it is a secure one. Somehow even on the roughest road, one that sets passengers popping like corn in a hot skillet, the Mini holds its direction like a gyroscope. Drivers like that. And make no mistake: the Mini is a driver's car.
The Mini Cooper's 1.6-liter four-cylinder overhead cam engine (115 horsepower) never feels deficient even if it doesn't put your head against the backrest at launch Hit the loud pedal, count to one-thousand-nine and the needle in that central circle should be passing 60. (0-62 mph comes in 9.2 seconds and top speed is 124 mph.) Fair action for a Toastmaster.
The gearing favors a quick take off (the way Americans like it). However, the Mini Cooper's five-speed gearbox leaves a longer stretch between second and third gear than expected. I found it a tad annoying, rather like a flight of stairs with one riser a little higher than all the others. Drivers should make appropriate use of the gearbox to keep themselves well positioned on the 115-hp Mini Cooper's torque curve. That's easy. It feels good and shifting is smooth.
The 1.6-liter engine in the Mini Cooper S produces 163 horsepower and 155 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It's capable of accelerating from 0-62 mph in just 7.4 seconds. (Top speed is 135 mph.) Equipped with a six-speed manual, it did not have the tall second gear feel of the Mini Cooper.
In town, the Mini is well-dressed, well-mannered, smooth to shift, easy to park and can swallow an amazing amount of Nordstrom detritus, particularly if you are alone. But the car will rarely be without company. It draws a beaming crowd wherever it is. (Some in the pack will offer you money on the spot for ownership.)"
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2002 MINI Cooper, click here: 2002 MINI Cooper.