MINI Cooper MkI (2001)
With comfortable, well equipped cabin, 2001 car is a world away from original, although its retro styling both inside and out remains faithful to forebear.
Few brands, if any, command the loyalty and enthusiasm that the Mini generates in its followers, so relaunching the classic model was a massive undertaking. The job of coming up with a Mini for the 21st century wasn’t taken lightly, and new owner BMW considered a host of designs for its long-awaited comeback – from clever space-saving models in the spirit of the original to retro reworkings of the existing vehicle.
Take one look at the end product and it’s clear which approach the firm preferred – and the resulting sales hit shows it got things right. With cute looks, a unique cabin, sharp dynamics and a premium price tag, the MINI was a car without a rival – and an instant success.
The savvy marketing campaign provided a huge list of cosmetic extras which were inspired by classic Mini features. This gave buyers the chance to make a real individual statement by choosing everything from Union Flag roof decals to bigger wheels and upgraded interior trim, just to give their car a personal touch. This approach has been copied by rival firms ever since, but the MINI got there first.
With its zippy engines, powerful Cooper and supercharged Cooper S models, as well as an economical diesel variant, there was a MINI for every occasion – but the newcomer wasn’t without compromise. Not only did it look like its famous predecessor, it shared the cosy rear seats and tiny boot.
Innovative aftermarket add-ons such as a clever and affordable all-inclusive servicing package set the MINI apart from its peers and helped to establish the brand’s now market-leading residual values.
That explains why even the cheapest, earliest examples will still set you back £3,500 today.
The rebirth wasn’t universally popular with diehard Mini fans, but without the incredible showroom success of the 2001 car, models such as the later JCW, Clubman and Cabriolet wouldn’t even exist. The Oxford-built hatchback was also responsible for introducing a whole new generation of buyers to the Mini legend, which explains why this machine is the highest-ranked modern car in our rundown.
In this review
- 1IntroductionWe rank and rate the best and worst in exclusive 12-car shoot-out.
- 2Ex-Works Monte Carlo Rally MiniMonte Carlo Cooper was specially kitted out for endurance rallying, and boasts additional dials and controls. It still wears competition stickers with pride.
- 3Original Mini Minor (1959)Superb packaging gives space for four adults, although seats are tiny. Practical touches have become design classics, while on-road experience is sheer fun.
- 4MINI Cooper MkI (2001) - currently readingWith comfortable, well equipped cabin, 2001 car is a world away from original, although its retro styling both inside and out remains faithful to forebear.
- 5MINI JCW World Championship 50Special-edition JCW 50 pays tribute to F1 title-winning team of 1959 and bears the signature of racing legend John Cooper. It also features raft of racy upgrades.
- 6Clubman Mini 1275 GTReworked Mini GT clubman has boxy nose, 1,275cc powerplant, a more luxurious cabin and fresh instruments.
- 7Mini ClubmanFunky Clubman builds on Sixties’ rear barn-door set-up With a unique side arrangement to allow easy access for those in the back. Attention to design and engineering detail is true to original car’s revolutionary concept.
- 8Mini TravellerMinimalist, Colour-coded interior and dependable if diminutive engine give estate all the charm of the standard mini, but Traveller’s larger boot and barn-style rear doors ensure added practicality and versatility.
- 9MINI GP WorksHigh-performance Works gp ensured the first-generation new MINI went out in style, thanks to sporty body mods, stripped-out cabin and potent powerplant.
- 10Mini MkII (1967)It may have been touted as all-new, but 1967 MkII still features spartan principles of its predecessor, including sliding windows, simple door handles and a basic dash
- 11Mini MigliaEye-catching Miglia racer’s low ride height and super stiff suspension give it incredible cornering ability. Inside, carbon fibre dash and modern race instruments provide a touring car feel.
- 12Rover Mini CooperModel shares the same cramped driving position as the original, and familiar Cooper badging ensures it looks the part.
- 13ERA Mini TurboWith potent engine and sporty modifications, ERA MINI Turbo had all the ingredients for success, but appeal of fastest classic variant was hit by recession and sold in small numbers.