2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Mini Cooper

Just looking at it, it’s difficult to believe that the 2007 Mini Cooper has been completely redesigned – but in fact the new Mini Cooper doesn’t share a single body panel with the 2006 Cooper. It’s not really surprising that BMW didn’t want to change the Cooper’s styling: it’s been a very successful car for the company – and with the addition of the convertible and the upcoming Mini Traveller, BMW is expanding its customer base.

The subtle design changes to the 2007 Cooper were driven mostly by the need to meet stricter safety regulations. The 2007 Cooper and Cooper S hatchbacks are 60 mm (2.4 in.) longer, mostly in the front, which improves frontal crash protection. (The 2007 Cooper received five stars in the Euro NCAP frontal and side impact crash tests). As well, the hood is higher to meet new pedestrian collision standards – the space between the engine and the hood has been increased so that pedestrians who might be struck in a collision have fewer injuries.

Though the headlights and grille look almost the same, the headlight covers are larger and are now attached to the body rather than the clamshell hood. The turn signals are now located inside the covers rather than on the bumpers. In profile, the window line rises slightly towards the rear of the car, creating a slight wedge shape. And at the rear, the taillights are larger.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

Still, honestly, I prefer the styling of the first generation (2002) Cooper – I thought it was already big enough – especially when compared to the original 1959 Austin Mini! A ‘bigger Mini’ seems like an oxymoron to me. The bigger it gets, the further away it is from the original concept. But I guess when you consider the extra safety benefits, the compromises for 2007 aren’t too bad.

Under the hood, changes to the 2007 Cooper include a revised 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with BMW’s “Valvetronic” variable valve timing, and some new mechanical bits including camshafts, crankshaft, water pump and oil pump. Horsepower is slightly higher (118 vs 115) but the biggest improvement is in city fuel economy which drops from 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg Imp.) to 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg Imp.) Also new is a standard six-speed manual transmission replacing the five-speed manual, and a new six-speed automatic “Steptronic” transmission replacing the continuously variable transmission.

Cooper S models get a new turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine replacing the old supercharged engine. Horsepower is up to 172 from 168 but notably, maximum torque is delivered much earlier: 177 lb-ft @ 1600 r.p.m. vs 162 lb-ft @ 4000 r.p.m.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

Pricing hasn’t changed for 2007: Cooper and Cooper S hatchback models start at $25,900 and $30,600 respectively – the same as last year’s models. 2007 Cooper and Cooper S convertibles are also similarly priced, but they retain the old bodystyle until the new one arrives in 2008.

My test car, a standard Cooper hatchback, was equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission with ‘Steptronic’ manual shifting capability (which includes ‘paddles’ behind the steering wheel) ($1,390); a black roof (no extra charge); and black hood stripes ($130).

My car also had the Sport Package ($1,900) which includes 17-inch run-flat tires (although mine had 16-inch winter tires) and alloy wheels, front sport seats, roof spoiler, dark roofliner, white side turn signals, and a ‘Sport’ button to improve performance.

In addition, my car was equipped with the Premium Package ($1,900) which includes a dual glass sunroof, heated front seats, rain sensing wipers and auto headlights, trip computer and auto dimming rear-view mirror.

Total price including Freight and A/C tax came to $32,815.


Interior impressions

For a small car, the Cooper’s interior is surprisingly roomy, made possible in part by its upright windows and flat roof. There are four seats, not five, and rear passengers have adequate headroom but minimal legroom. A new rear suspension design has freed up a little more rear legroom and trunk space.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

The optional sport seats in my test car were covered in a durable, smooth black “leatherette” material that resembled Volvo’s T-Tec. It looks easy to clean and felt comfortable on my back during my week of driving. The sport seats have extra raised thigh and side bolsters which hug the body when cornering, but they do make it harder to get in and out of the seats. Both driver and front passenger seats are manually height-adjustable.

The front passenger seatback tilts forwards and the seat moves forwards to allow rear passengers to get in, but it’s still awkward, particularly getting out. Once in, rear adult passengers have pretty good headroom (up to about 5’10”) but legroom is tight if the front seats are positioned for the same-size person sitting in the front seat.

The new ignition key is a round, plastic fob with buttons for remote locking and unlocking of the doors and the hatchback. Inside the car, the fob is inserted in a slot, and to start the car, the driver must then press a Start/Stop button. I’m not sure I like this new system better than the traditional ignition key, but I did prefer the way the new round fob fitted in my pocket.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

The new dash has a larger, central speedometer than in the previous Cooper – to me it resembles one of those airport radar screens – however, the bottom half of the gauge is taken up with audio controls – including an orange display for date, time, and radio channels, and a bunch of pre-select buttons and a tuning dial. Strangely, the radio’s on/off button and volume control is located separately lower down on the centre dash underneath the CD player. The standard audio system, which has six speakers, sounds great.

Under the volume dial is the heater which has unusual vertical dials for fan speed and temperature. In between them is a round dial for ventilation functions, but it’s difficult to read the markings from the driver’s seat.

At the bottom of the centre stack are buttons for the front seat heaters (with three temperature selections), and retro toggle switches for power windows, front fog lights, door locks, and rear fog light. A small open storage bin is located at the very bottom, and the glovebox is opened by a new chrome button just to the right of the speedometer. Overall though, there aren’t a lot of personal storage options in the Cooper.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

In front of the shift lever are two cupholders, and there are two more at the back of the centre console behind the handbrake lever. Buttons for “Sport” mode and “DSC off” are found just in front of the shift lever.

The tachometer is once again on top of the steering column, and it includes an illuminated display with outside temperature, time, distance to empty, odometer and trip odometer. At night, all the instruments are illuminated in a bright orange colour.

Acres of bright, silver coloured plastic trim can be found on the dash and doors, and instrumentation – together with the oversized speedometer, it looks almost cartoonish and exaggerated for a trendy visual effect.

The Cooper’s small steering wheel has a thick leather rim and is tilt and telescopically adjustable – it features controls for the radio/CD player/telephone and cruise controls on the spokes. The Steptronic transmission paddles are just behind the wheel.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

The optional sunroof consists of a tilt and slide glass panel over the front passengers, and a separate rear glass sunroof over the rear passengers that tilts up, but doesn’t slide back. Both sunroofs have perforated see-through sliding sunshades which permit sunlight to enter even when they are closed – I would have preferred the option of blocking out the light altogether. One disadvantage of the sunroofs is that they reduce headroom because of the lower headliner – I would estimate by about 25 mm (1 in.).

The 50/50 folding split rear seats are very handy for transporting extra cargo, as the trunk is very small. However, the seats don’t fold flat with the trunk floor and don’t flip and tumble. Still it’s handy to have them.

A new more compact multi-link rear suspension design adds about 7% more trunk space behind the rear seats bringing trunk volume up to 160 litres (5.6 cu. ft.), which is still pretty small. The trunk features handy detachable netting to secure loose items.


Safety

The Cooper is loaded with active and passive safety features: six airbags, front and rear crumple zones, side impact door reinforcements, four adjustable head restraints, four three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, and crash sensors that cut off the fuel flow, disconnect the battery, unlock the doors and turn on the lights after a collision.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

Active safety features include stability and traction control, cornering brake control, four disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake force distribution and Brake Assist; bi-xenon headlights with automatic-on and headlight washers, heated mirrors and windshield washer jets, rear wiper with washer, and tire pressure monitoring system.

And on Coopers equipped with a manual transmission, a Hill Assist system prevents the car from rolling back on a hill when starting off. In terms of safety, the Cooper is probably the best-equipped small car on the market.


Driving impressions

With its flat roof and upright windows all around the car, the 2007 Cooper hatchback offers great visibility to the front, sides and rear. However, the upright front windshield has one disadvantage – if you’re stopped at a traffic light, the forward-leaning roof sometimes prevents you from seeing the traffic signal unless you lean forwards. I encountered the same problem on the first generation Cooper.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

Parking the Cooper is easy, not only because it is small, but because the rear window is basically where the end of the car is; plus the front corners are fairly easy to see from the driver’s seat. The electro-hydraulic speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering offers more assist at slow speeds and firms up at highway speeds for stable tracking and quicker response. But while quick and responsive, it feels somewhat artificial to me, though better than in the previous Cooper.

The 1.6-litre 118-hp four-cylinder engine doesn’t feel underpowered driving around town. Throttle response with the six-speed automatic transmission from a standing start is quick, and 30 to 50 km/h sprints are also satisfactory. Mini claims a 0 to 100 km/h time of 10.4 seconds with the manual transmission – that’s about a second slower than the previous Cooper with a manual transmission, probably due to the increased weight of the car. The new six-speed automatic transmission definitely performs better than the previous CVT transmission and my guess is that acceleration times are better too.

On the freeway, the engine is fairly smooth and quiet: at 100 km/h in top gear, the engine does 2300 r.p.m. and at 120 km/h, it does 2900 r.p.m. The major cabin noise is wind noise coming from the front windshield area.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

Though I prefer manual transmissions, I did enjoy the optional six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission in my test car. Gearing off the line is just right, allowing quick starts, and shifts are smooth and well-timed. The transmission shifts down automatically as you coast to a stop, or when braking while going downhill to help slow the car. But with just 118 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 114 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm, there is a definite lack of mid-range torque, such as when pulling out to pass on the highway.

However, the optional Sport mode (which is part of the optional $1,900 Sport Package) transforms the Cooper’s performance by adjusting transmissions shifting points higher, injecting an extra dose of power, and firming up the steering. Press the Sport button next to the transmission lever, and the Cooper seems to leap off the line, changing up automatically at about 4000 rpm instead of between 2000 and 3000 rpm. Acceleration feels much quicker and the car sounds and feels much sportier. My only complaint is that the engine revs higher when cruising creating more noise in the cabin.

The six-speed Steptronic transmission can be changed manually by selecting the manual shift gate with the shift lever and then pushing forwards to shift down and pulling back to shift up. This can also be done with the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. There’s one paddle on each side of the wheel, and they both do the same thing: push forwards with your thumb to shift down, and pull backwards with your fingers behind the steering wheel to shift up gears. Like some other manumatics, I would have preferred to shift down with the left paddle and shift up with the right paddle.

Personally, I found the paddles a bit too far away for my thumbs – but that will depend on the size of the driver’s hands. Generally, I preferred to shift with the floor shifter. Shifts are quick and easy, with no clutch action needed. If you forget to shift down as you come to a stop, the transmission will do it for you so the engine won’t stall. A rev limiter will prevent you from inadvertently over-revving the engine.

2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper
2007 Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

On the freeway, the Cooper has a comfortable ride, feels very stable, and tracks very well at high speed. The suspension is fully independent with a new rear multi-link design replacing the previous Z-axle. However, the suspension is a bit firm over pavement cracks, and I experienced some clunking noises coming from the rear end when going over bumps.

The new Cooper’s forte, as with the last one, is handling. Cornering is flat with high levels of grip, even with the winter tires on my test car. Handling limits are so high it’s unlikely you’ll ever lose control on a dry road. On a wet road, the first sign of trouble is a gentle understeer that’s easily controllable. The Cooper is great fun to drive on a twisty road, and the brakes (four discs with ABS and Brake Assist) are also superb. Traction control and Stability Control are standard, so a loss of directional control in the snow for example, can be averted automatically by these systems.

The optional rain-sensitive wipers speed up and slow down depending on the intensity of the rainfall, but in light drizzle conditions often encountered here on the west coast, they sometimes scrape across an almost-dry windshield making rude noises in the process.

Competitors for the Cooper are difficult to pin down: there are no other 120-hp luxury hatchbacks on the market. In terms of size and performance, I’d say the Cooper is similar to the Honda Fit Sport, Toyota Yaris RS and Hyundai Accent SR, though those vehicles don’t offer as many luxury features.


Verdict

The redesigned 2007 Mini Cooper offers better crash protection, improved fuel economy, and a new six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, but the new interior remains cartoonish and even less user-friendly.


Pricing: 2007 Mini Cooper


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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Competitors

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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Mazda3 Sport hatchback
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Suzuki SX4
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Toyota Yaris RS hatchback


Crash test results


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