2005 Mini Cooper
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

When I first booked the Mini Cooper I pictured myself taking on the role of a classic cartoon character. You know the one — the big guy in the small car. That one’s always worth a laugh. I couldn’t imagine there being a lot of interior room for a super-sized guy like me (6’2″/260 lbs) to stretch out in, let alone be comfortable. Boy, was I surprised! When I slid behind the wheel and adjusted the shapely bucket seat of my test vehicle I was shocked. This car was roomier than the Cadillac STS I had played with just a few weeks prior. At least, it was in the driver’s position – this being the most important seat in the house. I was impressed.

Smile Generator

The Mini proved somewhat of a novelty in the small town where I reside, as the standard automotive fare in my neck of the woods is largely made up of overstuffed SUVs and full-sized pickup trucks. The Pepper White Mini with its twin black hood stripes, black mirrors and wheel flares, and black roof and pillars really stood out. Lots of pointing hands and smiling faces greeted me wherever I went. At the other end of the spectrum, while on a visit to see my sister in the toney Kerrisdale neighbourhood of Vancouver, the car was almost commonplace. I had never seen so many Minis in my life. I was sure I had crashed a Mini car club outing, as the little road rockets were everywhere I looked. There is no doubt that this car has exceeded expectations.

At stoplights other Mini drivers would knowingly nod, smile or finger-wave from the top of the steering wheel as I approached. I thought this type of brand-camaraderie was a thing of the past, but I guess it comes with Mini ownership.


2005 Mini Cooper
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The front bonnet lifts, headlights and all, to reveal just how well packaged the Mini Cooper is. The Chrysler-derived 1.6-litre engine is shoehorned into the tidy engine compartment. Although the Mini Cooper only sports 115 ponies, the way the car reacts to both driver and control inputs will have you believing it has more.

An all-new Gertrag manual gearbox has improved acceleration, as gearing was revised to give the car snappy response while delivering improved fuel economy. Flicking through the close-ratio gearbox, I was impressed with the Mini’s desire to pull me through corners, as the independent suspension tackled dips and bumps in the road and the free-revving 1.6-litre engine went to work. Power comes on smoothly, but the real zip kicks in between 4,000 and 6,000 rpms. BMW claims that the car’s diminutive size allows the small four-cylinder to propel the Mini from 0-100 km/h in just 9.1 seconds, or 10.4 for those cars fitted with the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic. That’s impressive.

2005 Mini Cooper
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While a little buzzy under hard acceleration, the sound is not unpleasant, as BMW has no doubt spent a lot of time and money developing the sounds that contribute to the overall aural experience of the Mini Cooper. The only distracting noises I heard during my time with the car were wind noises around the front windows while travelling at freeway speeds. This was no doubt exaggerated by stronger than normal winter winds, but is also an unfortunate side-effect of frameless window designs.


The Mini Cooper is definitely a point-and-shoot machine, as the short wheelbase and wide stance give it a go-kart feel. The variable-speed electrically-assisted power steering, along with the car’s low centre of gravity and nimble handling, make it a joy to exercise on twisty back roads or at the local autocross.

2005 Mini Cooper
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My tester had the optional “sport” package which replaces the standard 15-inch wheel with stylish 16-inch units complete with grippy Dunlop run-flat rubber. This combo helps keep the car planted to the pavement, but having the wheels set (literally) at each corner gives the car an unmatched feeling of stability that boosts the confidence of the driver. It is still possible to induce rear tire hop if you drive aggressively through tight radius turns, but this is a common trait in lightweight cars with short wheelbases and healthy power. The sensation can be unsettling to the inexperienced driver, but it only occurs when driving the car at its limit. I should point out that the car is less prone to lifting its inside rear wheel than similar hatch designs like Volkswagen’s venerable GTI.

The stiffer sport suspension made for crisp handling and precise turn-in, but be prepared to feel a few more bumps if you spring for it. This is exaggerated in the rear compartment as the back seat sits right above the axle.

This little marvel handled snow-covered side streets like a pro, as its front-wheel-drive layout gave it sufficient traction to make short work of small hills and narrow lanes.


The re-born Mini Cooper has only been with us for three years, but BMW felt it was time to freshen it up. Knowledgeable Mini fans will immediately notice the new headlights.

2005 Mini Cooper
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The shape and design of the reflectors have been tweaked to offer even better illumination from the Xenon bulbs. This trend continues at the rear as the taillights have also undergone a change: growing a little in size, but keeping with the look of the original Mini. The reverse lamps have now become integrated in the taillights, giving the car a cleaner look. A revised front bumper, grille and assorted trim pieces complete the exterior facelift.

The interior also gets a makeover for 2005, as new interior lighting (including map lights and illuminated door handles), larger armrest storage pockets and a host of new trim options help give the well laid out passenger compartment a more upscale feel. The thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel is exceptional, and is one of the most comfortable wheels I have ever had the pleasure of using. For 2005, buyers can order their Mini Cooper with the same wheel fitted with controls for both the audio system and cruise control. The controls are ingeniously mounted on the narrow spokes at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions on the wheel, and are clever four-position toggles.


2005 Mini Cooper

2005 Mini Cooper
Click image to enlarge

The Mini Cooper is not a stripped-down economy car, but a feature-laden, sporty runabout. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power locks, keyless entry, power one-touch windows, power mirrors and adjustable steering. A six-speaker CD audio system is also standard, as is a rear wiper.

My test car came with a host of optional equipment which pushed its price over the $30,000 barrier. On the inside it featured the attractive “Chrono” instrument package which moves the tachometer onto the steering column. This retro placement hearkens back to the competition Minis of the past, and the large round housing with its white face and big numbers is as cool looking as it is easy to read. Integrated within this unit is a digital information centre, relaying the status of oil pressure and temperature, coolant temperature and fuel level.

Mini offers purchasers a host of choices when dressing up their car, including everything from flashy roof murals – the Union Jack is a classic – to two-tone paint, bold striping, upgraded wheels, heated leather seats, DVD navigation and a stupendous Harmon/Kardon audio system.

Stylish Interior

2005 Mini Cooper
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The sport bucket seats fitted to my test vehicle were outstanding. They offered excellent support when G-forces were at play, as firm side-bolsters grip your torso and hold you in place. The standard leatherette material is top-notch (I never thought I would be touting vinyl), but BMW has worked its magic on this product. I was almost certain the car was draped in leather, as were my passengers. Leatherette is also less slippery than leather, which means it is better able to hold you in place when the going gets fun.

Ingress and egress is excellent as the doors swing almost 90 degrees. Even my 64-year old mother, complete with artificial hip, found getting in and out of the cozy rear compartment only mildly challenging.

2005 Mini Cooper

2005 Mini Cooper
Click image to enlarge

A low step-in height and a smooth operating slide for the front seats make stepping in and out a breeze, although she did comment that a handle (or better yet, a rear door) would make things simpler. She loved the look and feel of the contoured seat, the telescoping headrest and the airiness that came with the panoramic sunroof (part of a pricey but very cool $2,000 option package). This unique sunroof offers two panes of glass, but only the front pane opens to allow a wind-in-the-hair driving experience. Both have retractable mesh screens to offer privacy and filter light. If you live in a mild climate and enjoy the open-air driving experience, you may want to consider upgrading to the recently introduced Mini Convertible.

Cool design features like the toggle-type switches used to operate accessories like the power windows, locks, fog lamps and stability control system are mounted low on the centre stack, once again reflecting the switchgear of competition cars of the past. Little metal loops surround each toggle, protecting them from a wandering knee or careless hand.


BMW has a near legendary reputation for building safe cars, and as the Mini is under the corporate umbrella, there were no corners cut when it came to safety for the retro hatchback. In fact, the Mini Cooper is probably one of the safest cars in the world, let alone the compact segment. Anti-lock brakes are standard on all Mini models, as is the electronic brake distribution (EBD) system. An advanced stability and traction control system is present to keep the wheels on the ground, where they should be.

Front and side impact airbags help to protect occupants in the event of a crash, while curtain airbags shield passengers from flying glass and debris. Side impact door beams are also part of the design, a rare feature in a car of this size.


Visibility is excellent as the car features tall expanses of glass all around and large, oval-shaped side mirrors. The low seat height gives the car a real sports car feel, but also makes you nervously aware of the fact that most of your highway neighbours are driving oversized SUVs. As bumper after bumper slides past the windows, you quickly realize that very few people seem to wash their wheel wells.


2005 Mini Cooper
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The rear seat is a 50/50 split design and quickly folds forward to offer a near-flat floor and 670 litres of cargo room. When the hatch is deployed, a clever cover lifts via a pair of quick-release cords to allow better access to your packages and gear. It can be easily removed if you require extra cargo space, but would need to stay in your garage as it is a one-piece design and does not fold. When in place with the hatch down it acts as a rigid shelf for lighter items.

The tight trunk space would have issues with a golf bag as it is a mere 150 litres in capacity, but it is perfectly suited for small packages and grocery bags. Small items can be tucked away in a covered centre console bin, a pair of clever trays under the centre stack, a commodious glove box or enlarged-for-2005 door cubbies. The front seats also have netting affixed to their backs for maps and light items. Cup-holders are abundant, and the front ones are big enough to handle any cup 7-11 offers.


The Mini Cooper is a pleasure to drive and a pleasure to look at. The fit-and-finish is top notch and it appears that the few quality-control glitches that befell early production models have been remedied. Would I buy a Mini? Probably not, but this is more due to the fact that I look out of place in the car, although its fits me very well. Would I recommend this car? In a second. How can you argue with BMW’s legendary build quality in a competitively-priced and very economical blast-from-the-past?

Technical Data: 2005 Mini Cooper

Base price $25,800
Options $4,675 ($1,800 Sports Package – Dynamic Stability Control, spoiler, 16-inch wheels, fog lights and sport seats; $1,950 Premium Package – multi-function steering wheel, heated seats and panoramic twin sunroof; $795 upgraded Harmon/Kardon audio system; $130 Black hood stripes)
Freight $1,395
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $31,970
Type 2-door, 4-passenger hatchback
Layout Front-wheel drive
Engine 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 16-valve, DOHC
Horsepower 115 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 110 lb-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual or optional CVT
Curb weight 1,145 kg (2,524 lbs)
Wheelbase 2,467 mm (97.1 in)
Length 3,635 mm (142.8 in)
Width 1,688 mm (75.8 in)
Height 1,408 mm (55.9 in)
Cargo capacity 150 litres (21.3 cu. ft.) seats up
  670 litres (23.7 cu. ft.) seats down
Fuel consumption City 8.4 L/100 km (34 m.p.g. Imperial)
  Hwy 5.9 L/100 km (48 m.p.g. Imperial)
Warranty 48 months/80,000 with roadside assistance

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