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A quick review from .....

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that — all things considered — just might be the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

When the new Mini was introduced way back in 2000, some saw it as a means to cash in on the burgeoning niche of retro-themed cars, then populated by the New Beetle, PT Cruiser, and — erm — Ford Thunderbird. Oh dear.

Since then, the Mini brand has grown into a full line of cars, ranging from the original Hardtop to the jacked-up Countryman. It’s shockingly easy to spend upwards of $40,000 on a Mini today, but how does one stack up as a base model at half that price?

Let’s find out.

Under the bonnet is a diminutive 1.5-liter three-cylinder whose turbocharging and direct injection are good for 134 horsepower at a not-sky-high 4,400 rpm — refreshing when so many of today’s engines need a good wringing to summon all the king’s horses. Lashed to a six-speed manual, the Hardtop should make 60 mph from a standstill in about 7.5 seconds.

The trio of cylinders need only motivate 2,625 pounds. A tidy 98.2-inch wheelbase and a quick-ratio steering tiller mean the Mini Cooper darts around like an ADD-afflicted flea on a hot griddle.

Shoppers in a true Ace of Base mindset will find their color choice lacking: the only $0 options are a tasty Volcanic Orange and an oddly titled Pepper White. Everything else is $500 or part of an optional package. Mini does allow customer to choose from four different roof and side mirror color schemes. Body color, black, or white accents are all gratis, while Melting Silver is part of a fancy-pants option package.

A base price of $20,950 includes a raft of equipment such as heated side mirrors and washer jets for the headlights. Some odd ergonomic excrescences persist, as Mini holds fast to their Switches-N-Things™ design language for the centre stack. The centrally mounted dinner plate used to house a speedometer, which looked like a leftover prop from Bill Nye the Science Guy, now displays high-res infotainment announcements. A small set of gauges directly in front of the driver keep tabs on vitals like speed and revs. Bluetooth technology is present and accounted for on the base model.

Fifteen-inch tires and rims are standard, keeping a lid on replacement costs and providing enough sidewall to stave off getting a blowout every time one runs over a pebble. Rust Belt residents take note: all-season tires are a no cost option, replacing the performance tires fitted to the Hardtop 2 Door as standard equipment.

So a true Ace of Base, then? Not quite. I’d spring for the $100 white turn signal kit, shown in the lead photo. This swaps out the standard amber turn signals, residing in the base of each headlamp, for a set which do not resemble infected tear ducts. Considering the level of standard equipment and the price walk to Cooper S and beyond (*ahem* JCW *ahem*), a base MINI Cooper makes a good case for itself in this series.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make our automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you’d like to see in our series? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections and recommend your own.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer will probably sell for less.
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