It’s about time we gave some attention to a front wheel drive car, and the Mini Cooper S gets it. Introduced in 2002, its purpose was to carry on where the original Mini left off, and that was to offer huge amounts of fun in a small package.
A supercharged 1.6-litre engine producing 168hp and 155 lb ft of torque sent power to the front wheels of the Cooper S via a six-speed manual transmission (automatics were optional), which allowed it to get from 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 135mph (213km/h). The engine also won the 2003 International Engine of The Year award in the 1.4- to 1.8-litre category.
The Cooper S was easily distinguished from other Coopers thanks to some nice looking 16-inch alloys (17s were an option), a centre-exiting exhaust, and the obvious “S” badges.
When time came to driving a Cooper S, one would be treated to a well sorted chassis accompanied by a torquey engine and good steering responses. Many motoring journalists would liken the Cooper S’ handling to a go-kart, and the whine from the roots type supercharger definitely added some character and fun to the driving experience.
The supercharged Cooper S went out of production in 2006, with an all new turbocharged model taking its place the following year. Going through used car websites, you can find yourself several sub-80,000 mile examples on sale for less than $10,000, and less than $8,000 for models that are hovering close to 100,000 miles. People in the United Kingdom can pay as little as £4,250 for a sub-100,000 mile model, while euro zone residents are looking at around €7,000 for cars with around 100,000km on the clock (around 62500 miles).
The 2002 Cooper S was definitely a great front-wheel drive car, and really did succeed its ancestor in being a fun car. It wasn’t the most practical of cars with rear passengers lacking leg and head room, but for making your commute that bit more interesting, it’s really a car worth considering.