1 Mar 2002
BMW’S re-invention of the 1959-2000 Mini small car became an icon itself.
Released in early ’02, the first Mini to arrive was the 85kW/149Nm 1.6-litre single overhead cam 16-valve four-cylinder Cooper model, using a five-speed manual gearbox or BMW-sourced five-speed CVT automatic.
Critics complained that this inexpensive, Brazilian-built, Chrysler-co-op engine was out of synch with the sheer engineering depths of the R50 Mini, which included a costly clamshell bonnet design, Z-axle multi-link rear suspension and a huge level of chassis stiffness.
Rear seat space for two adults was tight, while the hatchback’s luggage area was a joke.
But nobody had a bad word to say about the new Mini’s sheer fun factor, backed up by real go-cart like handling, an impressively subtle ride and high refinement levels.
The sportier Cooper S followed from May 2002, relying on a supercharged version of the 1.6 engine to offer 120kW and 210Nm.
Other changes included a six-speed manual gearbox, sportier suspension and minor trim and equipment differences.
Minor changes, more standard features and an improved six-speed CVT automatic heralded the August ’03 Mini upgrade.
In September ’04 a small but significant facelift of the R50 arrived.
The Cooper S’ 1.6-litre supercharged engine’s output rose to 125kW and 220Nm, while there were minor suspension and trim changes to accompany the grille, bumper and tail-light redesign.
Both models were split into two – base and Chilli. The latter included niceties like fancier trim and cruise control.
January 2005 was the launch month for the four-seater Mini Cabrio, offered in base and Cooper S models. A six-speed automatic was added to the Cooper S cars from May ’05.
From August ’05 a John Cooper Works package, consisting mostly of an upgraded 154kW/254Nm supercharged engine and sportier suspension tuning, was offered on the Cooper S cars.
To see the final year of the R50 Mini out, BMW launched the Park Lane and Checkmate limited edition coupe models in early ’06, boasting value-added features and new trim in both Cooper and Cooper S guises.