To many people, the MINI Cooper is a small, cutesy car from the sixties – typically driven by miniskirt-wearing Beatles fans or Mr Bean. Since then, however, the Cooper name has taken on a series of meanings making it easy to get confused. Read on for full details in our MINI Cooper guide.
Where does the MINI Cooper name come from?
Although many people refer to the classic MINI as a MINI Cooper, the name originally referred to high-performance versions built by engineer John Cooper. He was a friend of the MINI’s original designer – Alec Issigonis – and built many successful Formula One racing cars in the 1960s.
These speedy little family cars came with more powerful engines, racier gearboxes and beefier brakes which helped them win numerous races and rallies in the 1960s. An even faster version, called the Cooper S, was launched in 1963, but the name was dropped from MINIs sold in the UK in 1973.
The Cooper name was reused in 1991 when the MINI was relaunched with a more modern engine and a few extra safety features.
What is a new MINI Cooper?
In 2001 – after BMW had taken over the MINI brand – the Cooper and Cooper S names reappeared. ‘Cooper’ became a trim level – essentially a higher-spec version of the standard MINI with more equipment and a few visual upgrades – while the Cooper S badge found its way onto a supercharged hot-hatch version of the MINI designed to rival the likes of the VW Golf GTI.
With us so far? Good.
MINI Cooper specs
Since then, the MINI range has grown to include five different models: the standard three-door hatchback, the five-door hatchback, the Convertible, the Clubman estate and the Countryman SUV. All of these cars can be had as an entry-level ‘One’ model, a Cooper and a Cooper S. However, these badges now refer to the engines, rather than the equipment, fitted to these cars.
For example, ‘One’ models come with a 102hp 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine while Cooper models come with a more powerful 136hp version of the same engine or a 150hp 2-litre four-cylinder diesel unit. Cooper S cars are still the fastest of the bunch, thanks to their 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engines with 192hp.
If you’re interested in a new MINI, you’ll probably have heard the words ‘Classic’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Exclusive’ banded around, too. These refer to individual trim levels within the MINI range, with Classic being the most affordable, Sport being the (you guessed it) sportiest and Exclusive being the most upmarket.
Any trim can be specified alongside any engine, so you could have the most affordable ‘One’ version fitted with the most expensive ‘Exclusive’ equipment as easily as a speedy Cooper S model in entry-level ‘Classic’ guise.
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