Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The $15,000 Question: Mini Cooper

File:MINI (MkII Hatchback) (front), Kuala Lumpur.jpg

Like the Miata, the BMW version of the MINI Cooper suffers from an identity crisis.  It seems as if it is mostly driven by women over 50 or old men of small stature who fancy tweed driver's caps and think of themselves as middle aged.  They would drive Porsches if they could afford them.  They eat bran for breakfast to manage their cholesterol and keep themselves regular, dawdle along in the right lane, and are in no particular hurry unless they are speeding home to catch a rerun of NCIS on basic cable.

These facts explain why the majority of MINI's for sale are automatics.  But even so equipped, it is a delight.  $15,000 will buy you a good used MINI Cooper that's only a few years old and has less than 50K miles.  That same amount of cash will also buy a higher mileage turbocharged Cooper S or a very clean 2002-2006 model with the supercharged engine.

The MINI Cooper is one of the few cars that can be endlessly customized.  Between the long list of factory options and dealer accessories, almost no two are exactly alike.  There is also a long line of aftermarket suppliers that can turn any MINI from mild to wild.  And it has a racing pedigree stretching back almost fifty years to the Monte Carlo Rally.

Compared to the original Austin Mini in last week's post, the BMW MINI suffers from Acromegaly syndrome.  But as a modern compact car with premium content, it is a distinctively styled standout and a cure for the Common Corolla.                    

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