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2003 International
Car of the Year Awards
Mini Cooper Takes Top Honors

Car of the Year
Classic - Most Memorable
Entry Level - Most Spirited

Winners of RTM's Most Vivacious Personality award have to offer entry-level car buyers an incredible amount of features and technology at a nice, low price. Winners of the Most Likely to be Remembered Award must be designed to be unforgettable from the first time you encounter them. And to win RTM's Most Likely to Succeed Award, a car or truck must be the most things to the most people possible-requiring everything from grocery-getting potential to good performance to a heightened "cool" factor to take the coveted trophy home.

At no time in the past has single car beat out the year's competition in all three of these categories. In fact, at no time has a car won more than two categories in the same year. Well, this year, we have such a car. And isn't it ironic that the largest sum of accolades we've ever disbursed goes to none other than the smallest car sold in America? Indeed, the overachieving nature of the MINI Cooper is enough to makes you reconsider just how much size matters after all.

Most Likely to Succeed - Car of the Year

2003 MINI Cooper

Unlike some of RTM's other awards that celebrate one aspect of an automobile or one type of automobile, the Most Likely to Succeed Award is all-encompassing. It's not just about style or performance or ruggedness. Furthermore, any type of vehicle can win it, so long as it does everything well. In the past, mostly sedans and luxury cars have struck the right balance to land the prestigious ML2S trophy. This year, however, it goes to the multi-talented, 12-foot-long MINI Cooper.

The MINI Cooper's enigmatic design combines BMW technologies (including a world-class rear suspension, a responsive front-wheel-drive powertrain, six air bags and a host of stability-enhancing electronics) with awe-inspiring packaging efficiency to create a car that manages to be safe, practical and fun at the same time. Placing the wheels at the corners facilitates terrific handling while carving out an uncanny amount of passenger and cargo space inside.

We could go on, but the Cooper's story is too long to tell in the space of this article. Just know this: the MINI Cooper is much, much more than an exercise in style. It drives beauitifully, looks great, is built well, appeals to both men and women, fits groceries in the back, offers excellent crash protection and has a playful, visual charm that few cars in history can touch. And the fact that it does so much while taking up so little space makes it that much more phenomenal.

Will it succeed? You bet. Hence, it is RTM's Most Likely to Succeed Winner for 2003. Now, as the MINI people would say, let's motor.

Most Vivacious Personality - Entry-Level
Just like your best friend in high school, the MINI Cooper knows how to put a smile on your face. There is an approachability to it, a friendly, lovable quality-something almost human. You want to name it, talk to it, play with it. And its appeal is univeral, no one doesn't like it. And if anyone isn't won over just by looking at it, they are after driving it. Somehow, the Cooper manages to drive with both pep and authority at the same time. Most Vivacious Personality was an easy win for MINI.

Most Likely to be Remembered - Classic
Automobile designers dream of designing cars that will be remembered generations from now. Often, they look to the past for themes that have stood the test of time and apply them to their newest creations. Such success stories include the PT Cruiser, Thunderbird, 350Z. That said, there's no guarantee that a car will become a classic just because it's inspired by a classic. The car has to look more today than yesterday, else it will forever live in the shadow of the original.

The MINI Cooper achieves all that. Its "face" and overall proportions evoke the playful, efficient design elements of the 1956 original, while frameless windows, carefully placed body seams and larger-than-they-need-to-be wheels bring the look into the new millennium. It's still bright-eyed. It's still smiling. And it's still unforgettable. The Most Likely to be Remembered Award is an subjective category, based almost solely on visual impact. And the MINI is a little car that makes a big impact indeed.

Most Respected
Luxury Car of the Year
BMW 7 Series

Most Likely to Change the World
ECO- Friendly Car of the Year
Honda Civic

Most Likely to Survive Anything
SUV of the Year
Hummer H2