The Mini Cooper R53, the first modern Mini launched under BMW’s umbrella, steps into the AlmostCars ring. Why Mini Cooper R53 is very similar to the Astra, you’ll find out in today’s article.

Launched by BMW after selling the Rover company in 2000, the Mini Cooper R53 immediately became a success among all fashion enthusiasts and those fond of everything new. If you see a Mini Cooper R53 on the street, most likely it’s driven either by a lady with sunglasses or by a man so fashionable that he makes Graham Norton look like the bum who is burning cardboard under a bridge in winter and dressing in whatever he found in dumpsters. Anyway, whether we’re talking about a lady or a gentleman, both have appointments at the beauty salon and need to get there as quickly as possible. There are very few cars that inspire more the idea of fashion and with a criteria for purchase rather if it matches the handbag, not if it’s a good car.

Is the Mini Cooper a good car?

In the base version, the Mini Cooper R53 is not a good car. The more options you start adding tho, the more things become interesting, and by the time you reached John Cooper Works you already had heavily customized cars. In fact, that was the other charm of the Mini Cooper: you had so many customization and tuning options that it was very difficult to find two identical Mini Coopers. Whether we’re talking about aftermarket parts offered by BMW or tuning companies, the possibilities for customization and tuning were like exotic citizens: countless. But a basic Mini Cooper? No, it’s not a good car in any way. Like the Dacia Sandero, the basic version came without air conditioning. Thus, just like with the Dacia Sandero, when you call an ad for a Mini Cooper R53 for sale, you have to ask the owner if it has power steering or climate control. 


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Mini Cooper R53 Engines


  • 1.4 TriTec of 75 horsepower – An American-origin engine, this engine propels the car as if itwas an asthmatic under the hood coughing through a straw. That’s how the “1.4 tears up the asphalt” petrol car moves.
  • 1.6 TriTec of 90 and 115 horsepower – The most balanced engine on the Mini Cooper R53, the naturally aspirated 1.6-liter petrol engine offers decent performance at a fair price. Slightly anemic but reliable, this engine best captures the simplistic character of the original Mini.
  • 1.6 supercharged of 160 horsepower – The same 1.6 Tritec but now supercharged. Found in the “S” version, this engine propels the car to the next level but also propels the price into another category. I would recommend it if it weren’t so rare. Oh yes, due to the supercharging system, the battery was moved to the back, instead of the spare tire. The spare tire wasn’t moved anywhere, it was simply removed.


1.4 1ND-TV of 67 and 87 horsepower – A tiny diesel borrowed from the Toyota Yaris and which is insufficient for the Mini Cooper R53. It’s neither sporty, nor economical, nor as reliable as you would expect from Toyota. If you want a Mini Cooper R53 and also want a diesel engine, I can recommend you to put the fork in the socket. Taking a Mini Cooper diesel is like going to harvest dressed in Tommy Hilfiger.


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Mini Cooper R53 Reliability Issues

  • The manual gearbox for models up to 2004 is a Rover sourced Midlands unit. If the gears were made of goat cheese, the gearbox would have lasted longer. Like with the Dacia Sandero, you never know what gear you’re in or how long the gearbox will last. From 2004 onwards however a BMW sourced Getrag gearbox was used. As for the automatic gearbox, it’s CVT type and is as good as when you eat watermelon, drink beer, and start doing jumping jacks.
  • The power steering pump is another weak point of the Mini Cooper R53. The pump breaks, and you’ll have to drive without power steering, like with the Dacia Sandero.
  • The ABS and ASC modules are another electronic part that preferred to leave rather than stay in a Mini Cooper R53 and thus create constant issues.
  • The windshield is almost straight up and in this way no one escapes, whether we’re talking about stones or flies. I don’t need to say that the windshield cracks much more often than in normal cars, with a more normal slanted windshield.
  • The catalytic converter is placed so low that if you drive on anything other than asphalt, you’ll have serious issues. In fact, the Mini Cooper R53 is lower than the morals of a college graduate looking for their first job, so it’s recommended to use the car only on asphalt and stay away from grass, soil, water, or leaves.



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Mini Cooper R53 Verdict

Let’s remember the similarities between Mini Cooper and the Dacia Sandero:

  • Both were the first car of a classic brand revived by a major manufacturer.
  • Both have two petrol engines and one diesel.
  • Both come without air conditioning in the basic version.
  • Both can function without power steering.
  • Both were an instant success on the European market.
  • Both are very cheap on the used market.



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Why buy a Mini Cooper R53 instead of a Dacia Sandero?

Because a Mini Cooper is much sportier and has a much lower ground clearance than the unstable Sandero. Plus, the customization and tuning options are much more diverse. And because the Mini Cooper is a classic car that inspires fashion, it’s an accessory that will make you feel good behind the wheel and is a car with which you can happily present yourself at any location or event. Because, although these two cars are so similar, they are still so different. Two simplistic and honest cars, belonging to two completely different worlds.



Which engine do I recommend? Clearly, undoubtedly, the 1.6 petrol engine with 90 or 115 horsepower. If you manage to find a 160-horsepower Mini Cooper S, then that’s the chosen one. Otherwise, the naturally aspirated petrol engine is good.