Founded in 1959 by the British Motor Corporation, the Mini brand is composed entirely of small cars. Mini has gone through several owners and is currently operated as a division of BMW AG. The marque is sometimes referenced as Mini Cooper.
In 1952, the British Motor Corporation was formed and comprised of the Morris and Austin automotive brands. The automaker was already a successful builder of small cars in the Morris Minor when it decided to build an even smaller version of the car, naming it the Morris Mini-Minor or Mini Mark I. Powered by tiny four-cylinder engines displacing 850 cc to 1250 cc, the vehicle was marketed by Austin and Morris jointly before it was separated as its own brand in 1969.
The Mark I was built in the United Kingdom and Australia, and was available in a variety of two-door variants including a sedan, van and a pickup. The Mini was sold in the United States from its inception and quickly achieved cult-like status, including in the cinema where it was featured in the James Bond series.
The British Motor Corporation also spawned variants of the Mini that went beyond Austin and Morris. The Wolsely Hornet and Riley Elf were both based on the same platform as the Mini, but given rear decks and more polished interiors.
In 1961, BMC began to cooperate with John Cooper, of the Cooper Car Company. Cooper was originally involved in Formula One racing then turned to BMC to build more robust Mini Cooper models outfitted with larger engines and better brakes. These models were introduced in 1961 and remained in production until 2000 when BMW purchased Mini from the Rover Group, a later owner.
Despite several changes of owners, brand renaming and financial problems besetting the Rover Group, the Mini name carried on and produced seven generations of models including a two-door sedan last produced in 2000. BMW sold off Rover’s assets, but retained the Mini name.
BMW released the first generation of the modern Mini in 2001 as a three-door hatchback. Though the name was still the same, it was an entirely new and larger vehicle based on the original model’s styling cues.
The Mini brand soon spawned a number of variants, including Cooper S, Mini Clubman and Mini Countryman styles. By the time the third generation model was released in 2013, a number of Minis were powered by turbocharged gasoline engines. Mini Roadster, Coupe and Paceman models expanded the product line further, joining specialty John Cooper Works editions, which are specifically tuned for the track.
Chief competitors for the Mini brand include specific models such as the Smart ForTwo, Scion iQ, Chevrolet Spark and the Fiat 500. But any mainstream brand with its share of small cars can also be compared, including Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Dodge, Honda, Mazda, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai.
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