2006 Mini Cooper


This week we’re looking at the 2006 Mini Cooper. Jay Leno has been doing jokes about 27 young people jamming into this little car. Remember when that was a big deal in the 1960s with the VW Bug and phone booths? Well this Mini Cooper reminds me a lot of the New Beetle in ride characteristics albeit an even smaller feel.

Friend Ken who owns one says it’s a bucket of bolts after a year. Ken, you can’t be serious. “Ok”, says Ken, “… it’s not that bad but more rattles than I expected”. Owning, driving and repairing European cars for many years I have to wonder if the rattles have anything to do with it being assembled in Britain .

45-55 percent of the Mini Coopers parts are from Great Britain and15-25 percent are from Germany . Its Chrysler/BMW joint-venture Pentagon engine is from Brazil . Final assembly is in Oxford , England , at a plant famous for its Rovers. And the car is sold in America through 56 “BMW Group” dealers.

The standard Cooper, with a base price of $16,850, is powered by a 16-valve 1.6-liter 4-cylinder (115 hp). The Cooper S is $3000 more with a supercharged and intercooled 163 hp engine with a Getrag 6-speed trans.

Interesting Technology –

When you consider this innovation you will come to the same conclusion I did especially if you’re either very old or a student of history. We seem to have come full circle from solid tires to pneumatic tires (invented by John Dunlop 1888) and now back to “kind of” a solid rubber tire again.

Tire reviewer Vince Bodiford (www.theweekenddrive.com) discussed this tire with me recently. Vince says he thinks the Tweel is interesting, but doubts its mass market possibilities. In his article in Consumers Digest he didn’t entirely dismiss the tire, but only mentioned it as a curiosity. He says, “The best new inflation technologies are run-flat tires, and nitrogen-gas inflation instead of air. Run-flat tires offer a margin of safety and “limp home” ability, and nitrogen offers less pressure loss, less interior moisture and it has been used in racing for year.  He has concerns with the structure of the Tweel, or any non-pneumatic tire. He points out that gas filled pneumatic tire’s have better vertical and lateral load carrying ability where the load is spread across the mass of the gases very evenly which better supports the tire and provides superior driving dynamics.”

Nice to see tire companies making such bold attempts at change.



                  MICHELIN LETS THE AIR OUT                          The Tweel Tire. Exciting New technology.


Handling & Performance:

Solid ride but some feel it’s a little bouncy. I expected and wasn’t disappointed that it was a very BMW-like feel. The supercharged version (the S) will do 0-60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, but I found the regular 4-cylinder very lively. Turning radius is much longer than I expected.


When Britain produced the Mini it was a flop in the US but the Brits built and sold over 5 million between 1959 and 2000. BMW bought the rights to the Mini in 1995 and they hit the US market in 2002 with essentially the same design but larger and retaining the front wheel drive. The Pink Panther – Peter Sellers owned 10 of the Brit version and even Beetle Paul McCartney had one. Another interesting note is that fashion designer Mary Quant named her miniskirt after the MINI.

MINI reminds me very much of the Fiat 650. In 1998 I tested a Mercedes and a European built Ford in much of Europe . On the Poland leg I was amazed to see that seemingly every other car was a Fiat but for very practical reasons – $4 per gallon of gas that year while US prices were about 95 cents. In 2006 gas is over $7 per gallon in Europe and half that in the US . Not hard to explain the popularity of the 50 mpg Fiat 650.

Car buffs will recall before it was called the MINI, the badge was Austin or Morris. As kids we joined together and bought a Morris Minor and learned to drive – what a kick.

British race car builder John Cooper called his hot rod version the \”MINI Cooper\” which found favor for today.

Fit and Finish:

Obvious good stuff. It is as different from the original British version as the Old and New VW Beetle.


Ok I suppose, but equipped the way I like it the price shoots up to over $23,000.


Controls should fall easily and naturally to your fingertips. This isn’t the case when designers get creative and cute and fail to consider the practicality of what they’re doing. The toggle switches for the power windows are thoughtlessly placed on the dash where you have to look for them which is distracting. They should be on the doors where you don’t have to fumble around to find them. Accident reconstruction expert Merkel Weiss speaks often about distractions being the primary cause of auto accidents.

The sun visors are useless for blocking the sun on the side. I have to say to BMW those are really stupid!

Consumer Recommendation:

Unless you are nostalgic or just like the ‘pea popper’ small car feel, even the base model at $16,000 is a bit much for 36 mpg. The competition really isn’t – because this MINI is in a class of its own and you wouldn’t buy it for the same reasons you would others listed here. You will also need to consider the limited (impractical) rear seat and a very small trunk.

Recognized Competition:

Mini Cooper $14-25,000, Scion tC $16,300, Ford Focus $13-17,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $12-20,000, Acura RSX $20-24,000, Hyundai Tiburon $16-21,000, Volkswagen GTI $20,340, Toyota Corolla $14-18,000, Mazda 3 $14-19,000, Nissan Sentra $13-18,000, Subaru Impreza $18-33,000, Chrysler PT Cruiser $14-29,000 and Honda Civic $15-22,000.

Good News:

Very fun to drive, a solid ride, good fuel economy and a bit of European history.

Bad News:

See through sun screens on the sun roof, tiny seating and cargo area, stupid sun visors, lots of shifting and window controls hidden in plain sight.

Standard Equipment:

1.6 liter 115 hp 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension, engine speed sensitive power steering, 4-wheel ANS disc brakes, sport suspension and rear anti-roll stabilizer bar, 15” alloy wheels, space saver spare, dual air bags, front – side impact airbags, Corner Brake Control (CBC), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), flat tire monitor, engine immobilizer, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, anti-theft CD audio system w/ 6 speakers, speed sensitive intermittent wipers, power windows, split fold down rear seats and power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

28 City and 36 Highway MPG


MSRP $16,950.

General Info:

Parts – Great Britain – 45%, Germany – 25% incl. transmission, US/Canadian – 5%, Brazil – Engine,

Assembly –   Oxford , Gr. Britain

Class:  – Compact (Tiny)

Cars: – Cooper (from race car

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