Hyped by a seductively surreptitious $35 million marketing campaign, a new version of the Mini hit U.S. showrooms last week with a base sticker price of $17,000 that echoes the spirit of the original (1960 price: $1,700). The new Mini is produced by BMW, which bought struggling Mini maker Rover in 1994. The standard Mini has always been underpowered, but auto critics are raving about a zippier new 163-h.p. version, available this summer. Want electronic navigation or a six-speaker CD player? No problem. Personalize it with 100 color and trim combinations, from shift knobs to stripes and fender flares.
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BMW had planned to ship only 20,000 Minis to the U.S. this year. But it says its cheeky ads have generated more interest than even a production increase could satisfy. In that case, the worst thing about the Mini may be the wait.