In 1959, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) produced a small car marketed as the Austin Seven, renaming it Austin Mini in 1962. It was also called the Morris Mini-Minor during those times. From these model names, the Mini became its own brand in 1969. This iconic car became immensely popular and symbolised the 1960s British pop culture.
Though small in size, the Mini was so designed that it was spacious inside. The original Mini had a transversely-mounted front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout. The engine bay took up only 20% of the floor space, allocating 80% for the passenger and luggage compartments. This ingenious floor layout would later be copied by other automakers, applying it to both super mini and subcompact models.
Under the Mini marque, the models included the Austin Seven, 1275GT, Clubman, Countryman, Moke, and Morris Mini Minor, and their performance counterpart, the Cooper and Cooper S.
As the years progressed, the BMC would become British Motor Holdings, merging later with Leyland Motors to form British Leyland (Rover Group). Ownership of the Rover Group would then pass hands to British Aerospace in 1988 and the BMW in 1994. BMW eventually sold the Rover Group in 2000 but retained the Mini marque.
The original Mini Mk I was produced from 1959 up to Mk VII in 2000, after which it was discontinued. In the same year, BMW launched its successor, the modern Mini hatchback. This article would focus on this BMW Mini.
First Generation: R50/52/53 (2000–2006)
BMW Mini is called various names, including Mini Cooper, Mini Hatch, Mini Hardtop, or Mini One, and it is written and stylised as MINI. It is classed as a supermini or segment-B and sport compact car. From the first to the current generation, it has adopted a front-engine, front-drive-wheel layout and was configured in either of two body styles – two-door convertible and three-door or five-door hatchback.
The new Mini wore a period or retro look inherited from its predecessor, including contrasting colours on the roof, black trim on the rocker panels and wheel arches, and optional bonnet stripes and rally lights. Its designer, Frank Stephenson, designed it with numerous elements to make it distinctive from its elder sibling.
The Mini Cooper has a lot of chrome body parts and a single exhaust. The Cooper S has a restyled bonnet with a scoop cut into it, and twin exhausts under the centre of the valance. Other trims were available, including Mini One D, Mini Seven, and Mini Monte Carlo, to name a few. In Australia, it arrived in 2002 as a 3-door, 4-seat hatchback in two sporty trim models:
- Cooper – powered by a 1.6-litre Tritec 4-cylinder petrol engine (85 kW, 149 Nm) paired with either ZF VT1F CVT or 5-speed Rover R65 manual gearbox
- Cooper S – used a 1.6-litre supercharged Tritec petrol engine (125 kW, 220 Nm) paired to a 6-speed Getrag G285 manual gearbox
In 2005, BMW replaced the 5-speed manual gearbox of the Cooper base model to a Getrag 52BG 5-speed manual unit.
The Cooper base trim came equipped with passive and active safety and security features, including dual front, head, and side airbags, anti-lock braking, central locking remote control, electronic brake-force distribution, engine immobiliser, and seatbelt pretensioners. Other equipment for comfort and aesthetics included air conditioning, 15-inch alloys, adjustable steering wheel (leather-wrapped), power mirrors, power steering, power front windows, radio CD with six speakers, and a trip computer.
The S trim added 16-inch alloy wheels, auto stability control, front fog lights, leather trim, rear spoiler, side front airbags, sports seats, and sports suspension.
A facelift in 2004 brought new trim levels, such as Chilli, S Chilli, and S 40th Anniversary limited edition. The S trims (S, S Chili, and S 40th) all came with the supercharged powerplant and 6-speed manual shift.
The S trim had a longer and taller body than the base model, albeit both had the same wheelbase. Cooper S models carried their battery under the boot floor, leaving no room for a spare tyre at the rear; thus, they were shod with run-flat tyres.
Second Generation: R56/57 (2006–2013)
The second generation didn’t look aesthetically different from the first Mini Cooper, but an expert observer would see that the bodywork has significantly changed. Overall length increased by 60 mm, the front-end was raised, and the indicators were integrated with the headlamps. The grille had been restyled and the headlamps attached to the front quarter panels instead of the bonnet. The rear light cluster is slightly bigger than the previous. The second row improved on legroom, courtesy of cut-outs on the rear of the front-row seats. Italdesign Giugiaro joined in the development of this generation.
Mechanically, the Mini received significant changes with its re-engineered platform and a more fuel-efficient engine that BMW shared with Group PSA - the 1.6-litre Prince/BMW 4-cylinder petrol engine (88 kW, 160 Nm) for the Cooper and the 1.6-litre Prince 4-cylinder turbocharged version (128 kW, 240 Nm) for the Cooper S.
The Prince engine on the Cooper model incorporated the BMW Valvetronic infinitely-variable valve lift, which could do a 0-100 km/h in 9.1 seconds. Its top speed is 201 km/h, returning 17.2 km per litre of fuel (or fuel consumption of 5.80L/100km).
The Cooper S engine, on the other hand, uses a twin-scroll turbocharger with gasoline direct injection and over-boost function. It could accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 7.1 seconds and attain a top speed of 230 km/h, with fuel consumption recorded at 6.91L/100km (or fuel efficiency of 14.5 km per litre).
Several trim levels were available for the Australian market, viz.:
- Park Lane
- S Base
- S JCW
- S Checkmate
- S Checkmate JCW
- S Chilli
- S Chilli JCW
- S Park Lane
- S Park Lane JCW
John Cooper Works (JCW) models
The John Cooper Works or JCW versions are the joint work of the Cooper Car Company and BMW resulting in higher-spec Mini Coopers with 17-inch wheels, enhanced brake and suspension systems, and high-volume exhaust and air filter.
They use the same engine used by their S counterpart but retuned for higher output. The engine for JCWs in this generation was the same turbocharged 1.6-litre Prince petrol engine outputting 154 kW and 254 Nm maximum power and torque, respectively. This engine teams up with a Getrag 6-speed manual gearbox. All JCW Mk IIs sported a John Cooper Works badge, Brembo performance tyres, stiffer sport suspension, dynamic stability control, and dynamic traction control, to name a few of its standard equipment. The Mark IIs were the first JCW to reach Australia, although some JCW Mk I models were earlier released in 2006.
50th Anniversary Models and Diesel Variant
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Mini, BMW released the 50 Camden and 50 Mayfair models in 2009. A diesel variant was also released in the same year. The new addition to the available powertrain was a 1.6-litre Peugeot DV6 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine (80 kW, 240 Nm) mated to the same 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions used with the petrol variants. The diesel models were designated with a capital letter D across the different trim levels, thus, D base model, D Camden, D Chilli, and D Mayfair.
In 2011, this engine would be replaced by a 2.0-litre BMW N47 4-cylinder diesel engine, which could generate 82 kW and 270 Nm, offered with 6-speed automatic transmission. It powered a base model and two special releases, the D Bayswater and D Baker Street editions. In the country, though, the 1.6-litre D models continued to be available alongside the 2.0-litre D versions.
Third Generation: F55/56/57 (2013–present)
The Mark III was unveiled in 2013, with sales commencing in 2014. The latest Minis have grown in size – they're longer by 98 mm, wider by 44 mm, taller by 7 mm, longer wheelbase by 28 mm, and wider track than the previous models. Not surprisingly, this has increased interior space and boot capacity. Six new engines were introduced in the international scene, with three of these getting launched with the latest models in Australia, viz.:
- 1.2-litre B38A12U0 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (75 kW, 180 Nm) mated to either 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto; fitted to the One model and later to the One 5D, Ray, and Ray 5D trim models
- 1.5-litre B38A15M0 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (100 kW, 220 Nm) paired with either 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto; fitted on the base (3-door 4-seat) trim and 5D Hatch (5-door 5-seat) model
- 1.5-litre B37C15U0 3-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine (85 kW, 270 Nm) paired with either 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto; fitted on the D 5D Hatch (5-door 5-seat) diesel model
- 2.0-litre B48A20M0/B48A20O0 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (141 kW, 280 Nm) paired with either 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto; fitted to S 5D Hatch model
The Mini One (using Mini Minimalism technologies) is an environment-friendly version with lower CO2 emissions, low-resistance tyres, and flush wheel trims. The previous engines continued to be used on the other trim levels carried over from the second generation.
Like the Mark II, the JCW models in the third generation used the same engine fitted on the S models but which were tuned to higher output. Thus, the Mini Cooper JCW Mk III used a 2.0-litre B48A20M0/B48A20O0 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit producing 170 kW of power and 320 Nm of torque.
The Mini Cooper of this generation has taken a more rounded exterior, improving its aerodynamics and lessening the impact to pedestrians in case of accidents. In the country, it is currently marketed as the Mini 3D Hatch and Mini 5D Hatch.
The 3D trim levels include Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works, and special editions Cooper Kensington Edition and its S version. The 5D trim levels also feature Cooper as the base, Cooper 60 Years Edition, Coop S, and Cooper 60 Years S.
The power source options are the same, with a 7-speed DCT automatic transmission replacing the previous 6-speed unit and an 8-speed Steptronic automatic fitted to the JCW models. These upgrades further stepped up the Mini Cooper’s fuel efficiency, environmental compliance, and performance.
Do you have this timeless Cooper? The pre-BMW Minis are indeed classic and fit for a collector's exhibit. On the other hand, though born with that iconic charm, these modern-day Mini Coopers belong on the roads and streets. They are in the same league as the most sophisticated cars of this generation. If you are repairing one, we invite you to check out Carpart.com.au for the parts and accessories that you may need. Find out more about how our website can help you here!
- By Jeannette Salanga (JMSL)