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Car of the Week - September 2, 2002

2003 Mini Cooper

p>SEE ALSO Mini Buyer's Guide

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It is a real mistake to underestimate this car. A lot of big muscle cars did back when it appeared in the 60's and were downright embarrassed. A lot of European sports cars as well. The Cooper beat them all in three straight Monte Carlo rallies. Introduced last spring by BMW, it sets new standards for revivals of classics - enhancing the strengths of the original concept. A 16K base priced Cooper features as standard equipment air-conditioning, micron air filtration, remote trunk release, one-touch power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, three-point seatbelts at all four seating locations, a Harman Kardon AM/FM/CD audio system and a rear window wiper.

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The Coopers large doors open 80 degrees for easy entrance to the surprisingly roomy interior - this can happen when your engine is turned sideways and it and the drivetrain are as forward as possible. If you want more glitz, you and get it - leather seating, rain-sensing wipers, heated seats, a navigation system, park distance control, a panoramic sunroof, dynamic stability control and xenon headlights.

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You're also getting the latest safety stuff as well - four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, EBD (electronic brake distribution) and CBC (cornering brake control), front and side airbags, along with BMW's own HPS-2 (Advanced Head Protection System), and a flat tire monitor system with run-flat tires. Our only suggestions would be to improve the sunroof shade lock, change the too red dash lighting, and widen the cupholders.

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But it's the ride. Such a ride. With those wheels set wide at each corner, with the McPherson struts up front and BMW's patented multilink independent suspension in back, there is serious fun ahead. The Cooper is simply a landmark vehicle on the verge of a very healthy comeback. Welcome back, baby!

- Editor

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