Rover Mini Cooper
Model shares the same cramped driving position as the original, and familiar Cooper badging ensures it looks the part.
The giant-killing exploits of Mini Coopers on the world rally scene have passed into motoring folklore, but its roadgoing namesake has had a turbulent history.
After a decade of sales success, British Leyland dropped the sporty model to cut costs, because racer John Cooper was still receiving a royalty on every car. As a result, fans would have to wait until 1990 before an official Mini Cooper rolled out of Rover’s Longbridge factory.
The newcomer lacked the original’s motorsport pedigree, but it retained the same boisterous spirit – and it certainly looked the part. Its familiar cheeky lines were enhanced with an eye-catching white roof, 12-inch Minilite-style alloys and retro chrome bumpers. Owners could customise their Cooper with bonnet stripes and racy extra lights at the front.
Inside, the later model shares the original’s remarkable packaging and cramped driving position, but it was much less adventurous mechanically. As with the standard car, it featured a carburettor-fed 1,275cc engine that developed a modest 61bhp – later examples boasted fuel injection and a 2bhp power boost.
On the road, performance is limited in either version, with the dash from 0-60mph taking a leisurely 11.5 seconds, culminating in a top speed of just over 90mph. But what the Cooper lacks in pure muscle, it makes up for in driving fun.
The unassisted steering is direct and full of feedback, while the wheel-at-each-corner stance gives incredible agility. As with all Minis, the Cooper has a firm ride, bouncing energetically even on smooth surfaces. You’re also treated to the familiar whine from the four-speed gearbox and a tuneful exhaust note.
The Cooper remained a fixture in Mini price lists until the car was phased out in 2000. By then, owners could specify a costly Cooper S Works featuring modern refinements such as a 90bhp engine, five-speed box, leather trim and even an airbag.
But like the 1990 model, it retained the same lovable character that made the 1961 original such a hit.
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)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.
- 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 Cooper - currently readingModel 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.