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2005 MINI Cooper Test Drive Review

The 2005 MINI Cooper is a fun, stylish car with plenty to like.

7.3 /10
Overall Score

The new MINI Cooper, though nowhere near as “mini” as the original, is still a quirky, fun car with an attitude all of its own. Its revival a few years back by BMW means the name on the dealership might not be familiar, but the cute little cars on the lot will be instantly recognizable. The Cooper is offered as either a hardtop hatchback or a convertible for the 2005 model year, both of which are offered as a base model and a sportier “S” model. There is a separate John Cooper Works model with an even hotter engine. The JCW, as its known, combines the retro styling with modern sports car go-fast parts to make a subcompact car with real attitude.

Two engines are on offer: a 1.6-liter inline-four-cylinder that produces 115 horsepower and 111 pound-feet of torque and an upgraded supercharged 1.6-liter that produces 168 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The base engine is available with a five- or six-speed manual transmission or with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The hotter powerplant is available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission. All models are front-wheel drive.

The Cooper’s trims are broken down by body style and powertrain. Both the hatchback and convertible are available as a standard car, a Cooper CVT, and a Cooper S. The MINI is targeted at new-car buyers that want a fun, quirky car. The MINI Cooper competes against the Fiat 500, Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Golf, and Ford Fiesta. Buyers may also consider the Toyota Corolla, Mazda Mazda3, Honda Civic, or Nissan Sentra.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

Take one look, and there’s no mistaking what’s in front of you. The MINI Cooper is one of those things in life that happily remains the same, no matter what’s changing or going on around it. It’s grown over the years, but the Cooper still sports the round headlights, rounded shape, and somewhat small stature that defined the original cars.

The Cooper’s interior is equally as quirky, though nowhere near as cute as the cars upon which it’s based. The gauge cluster is split between a small central gauge behind the steering wheel and a large, round speedometer that sits atop the stereo. That, combined with the tight interior dimensions, gives the MINI a cartoony look that doesn’t fit with its premium aspirations.


8/ 10

No matter which MINI Cooper you choose, the driving experience is going to be sporty. The Cooper S is the choice for enthusiasts, but its overly-firm ride can make it tough to live with on a daily basis. The car’s BMW roots shine through in its precise power steering and firm braking, and it seems to handle like a go-kart at times. It's no Porsche, but it'll get the job done.

The upgraded Cooper S engine is far more potent than the 115-hp base mill, and provides more than ample power, thanks to its supercharger. There’s nothing mind-blowing here, but the car picks up speed eagerly, especially in the mid-range areas between 30 mph and 60 mph. The supercharged engine makes a healthy noise under full throttle, which is made even more pronounced in Cooper S Convertible models with the top down.

Form and Function

7/ 10

There are sacrifices to be made with a car like the Cooper, but they’re at least easy to see going in. Though it technically has a rear seat, the MINI’s overall size will pose challenges to owners with more than one other person to haul around on a daily basis, and cargo space in the convertible models is laughable. At least the hatchback offers fold-down back seats.

The MINI's small size and low ride height make entry and exit challenging, though the car’s doors are small and easy to handle in tight spots. The hatchback’s roofline sits low, which can make loading people and gear more difficult than it needs to be.

Tech Level

8/ 10

Standard tech in the 2005 MINI Cooper includes a CD stereo with six speakers, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, and air conditioning. Available tech includes a Harman Kardon stereo with eight speakers, xenon headlights, a navigation system, a power sunroof, dynamic stability control, cruise control, heated seats, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Several of the best options are held back in added-cost options, both standalone and in packages. Each adds a considerable amount to the Cooper’s bottom line.


6/ 10

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the MINI Cooper "good" in moderate overlap front crashworthiness and "marginal" for its head restraints and seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated it four stars in all categories, including rollover resistance.

Standard safety gear includes traction control, power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, antilock brakes, six airbags, Mini Advanced Head Protection System, battery terminal impact cut-off, smart airbag sensors, tire pressure monitoring, and child-seat anchors.


7/ 10

The MINI Cooper’s starting MSRP of just $17,500 after destination sounds like a deal, but take a step back and the picture becomes less clear. Options are expensive, numerous, and required to obtain the most desirable features. From that base price, the Cooper’s price tag can grow quickly, as MINI offers several attractive upgrades for the car. The best part is that there's a MINI Cooper convertible for people wanting an open-air experience, and there's also the used-car market for people put off by the expensive options, where plenty of off-lease MINIs end up at discount prices.

The MINI Cooper’s gas-mileage estimates are competitive and align with what is expected from a small-but-sporty car. In its base form, the car returns combined fuel economy of 28 mpg, the best of the range. Unsurprisingly, it’s the Cooper S variants that get the worst gas mileage of the line, with combined fuel economy estimated at 24 mpg.

Updated by Chris Teague

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