2003 MINI Cooper – 50,000 Mile Review

My personally owned 2003 MINI Cooper just turned 50,000 miles old this month. In celebration, I thought it appropriate to look back on the past three years of ownership and report on my experiences with this wonderful vehicle.

First I’ll give some background. I put myself on the waiting list for a MINI Cooper in early 2002 at Long Beach MINI in Long Beach, California. The reason I picked Long Beach MINI was that at that time every other MINI dealer was marking up their cars $5000 and above just because they could. Plus you were stuck buying whatever was on the lot, and special orders were not accepted. Long Beach MINI however did not mark up their cars and did allow special orders. The only problem was that they had an incredibly long waiting list of customers. Anyway, after a nine month wait, it was my turn to order my MINI.

I had originally planned on buying the Cooper S (the supercharged version), but ended up going with the standard model instead. I figured I needed something to aspire to some day, plus the price point of the Cooper with all the options that I wanted was much more realistic. I ordered my Cooper with a five-speed manual transmission, black body color with a white roof and wheels, in-dash navigation system (thanks to my wife for that suggestion – it has changed my life!), black leatherette seats, panoramic moonroof, automatic climate control, and all-season run-flat tires.

Since picking up my new baby in February of 2003, owning this vehicle has been a pleasure. The handling is unbeatable, steering response is crisp and confidence inspiring, and despite the engine’s somewhat anemic horsepower, the manual transmission allows me to really toss it around when I want to. I have experienced a few issues with my Cooper, but nothing too incapacitating or inconvenient.

The first problem that I experienced happened at around 5,000 miles. The blower for the air conditioning and heating system just died one day. I took the car into the dealership, and the fan was replaced within a few days. This was the most labor and time intensive repair required since I have owned the car. It took three days since the blower motor was a special order part, but the dealership loaned me a BMW 330i while they had my car so I really can’t complain about that. I have not had any further problems with the blower since then.

The second problem I experienced happened around 12,000 miles. My driver’s side window would intermittently shake violently when putting it up. It never got to the point of not working at all, but it did start getting a greasy streak on the inside when it was rolled down and put back up. The dealership replaced the window motor under warranty, which took less than a day. I waited until a scheduled service to have them fix this problem. Rarely I still have problems with the window shaking a little bit, but it’s nothing like it was then.

The worst problem that I have had with my Cooper was a punctured tire. Unfortunately around 30,000 miles I managed to drive over an unidentified sharp steel object that punctured my run-flat irreparably. Luckily since the tires on the car are run-flats, I was able to drive to the nearest tire store. Unfortunately the damage was so bad that the tire people could not patch the hole. The other bad thing was that they didn’t have a tire that would fit my wheels. They spent quite a while calling other tire stores looking for a tire for me, and it turns out that at that time there was a nationwide shortage of my tire. Goodyear was apparently only making enough to put on the cars coming out of the factory, leaving no extra stock for people like me.

I ended up buying a set of tires from a guy on eBay. They were from his Cooper S, and he had replaced them with after-market wheels and tires. He had driven on those tires for 5,000 miles, but they are still on my car and are working fine. Luckily I got a good deal, but I fear that if I had not found this guy that this would have been a much bigger problem. Hopefully there is some extra stock for the tire stores out there now, but I am not sure what the current situation is.

I have truly enjoyed last 50,000 miles in my 2003 MINI Cooper. This is a great little car, and continues to run well. The excitement of driving this little beast has not waned, and I would highly recommend a MINI Cooper to anyone interested in a compact, sporty, affordable car with class.

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