The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2006 Mini Cooper Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Good ol' Alec Issigonis.

There's a guy who, despite a possible childhood full of kids taunting ("Alec is a gonis!"), had the last laugh when in 1957 designed a most revolutionary and delightful vehicle, the Mini Cooper.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Alec was not your ordinary engineer. He never liked mathematics, which he failed three times at Battersea Polytechnic in London. He called pure mathematics "the enemy of every truly creative man." (to which I might add lawyers and agents)

At a time when Europe needed small agile vehicles, Alec designed one with a transverse mounted engine that sat atop the front axle and small wheels spread wide at the corners of the body. It raised eyebrows as it out-cornered egotistical sports cars. Then after a long dormancy, the Mini was assimilated by resistance-is-futile BMW who, in a brilliant flash of strategy kept all that was great and added its own greatness in suspension and steering.

Result? Childlike giggles. Cheshire grins. And low, guttural growls.

As Fate (or the friendly folks at PageOne) would have it, I was able to test the 2006 Mini Cooper on a video shoot taking place along the Mendocino coast of Northern California on roller coaster Highway 1. The steering and suspension flattened the bends and cushioned while maintaining good contact and feedback.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Mini is a very deceptive vehicle. Despite its small outward appearance, it is remarkably roomy on the inside, even for six foot plus joournalists. There is also very good cargo space, assisted by rear hatch access and fold down rear seats - video gear and cases of water, no problem. The interior styling is refreshingly different - my favorite element is the aircraft toggle switches.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Now before you get your testosterone all in an uproar about its 115 horsepower engine, keep in mind that this is a 2,300 pound puppy - but for those who must, the Type S weighs in with 168 horses - and the John Cooper Works package increases output to 207 hp. The Mini isn't about power, it's about agility - and we know who wins that one - if there's a one-on-one battle between Shaq and Kobe, bet on Kobe.

If you're a stickler for safety you'll like the crash test results - four out of five stars by the goverment agencies - lots of air bags, and with the Type S you can get DSC (dynamic stability control).

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By all means, judge not this car by its cover. Get in. Take some corners. Welcome to the Silly Grin Club.

- Mark Fulmer