If you are in the market for a small, stylish-looking car that is notoriously fun to drive and easy on gas, you may be thinking about buying a MINI Cooper. Or, maybe you already own a MINI and are head-over-heels in love with driving your diminutive vehicle. If so, you're not alone. Since 2001, more than 2.5 million MINI vehicles have been manufactured in Oxford, England and sold to drivers in 110 countries worldwide.

On the 26th of April, employees of the British MINI plant celebrated an important anniversary. It has been 15 years since the first MINI produced for the 2001 re-launch of the brand rolled off the line in Oxford. That particular car was a MINI Cooper in Chili Red with contrasting white paintwork for the roof and exterior mirror caps. Since then, the brand has experienced a great deal of success in its quest to create "premium driving fun."

A Brief History of MINI

Originally, MINI (or "Mini," as it was then known) referred to a line of small British cars that were manufactured by the British Motor Corporation, which owned the brand from 1959 until 2000. The British Motor Corporation became part of British Motor Holdings in 1966, which merged with Leyland Motors in 1968 to form British Leyland. Then MINI became a marque in its own right in 1969.

The 1980s saw the breaking up of British Leyland, and MINI (now a part of Rover Group) was acquired by British Aerospace in 1988. In 1994, Rover Group was purchased by BMW and broken up by the automaker in 2000, with BMW retaining the MINI brand. BMW has owned the brand ever since, with Jochen Goller of BMW currently serving as the managing director of the MINI division.

For MINI, the Oxford plant is historically significant because the very first MINIs were made there from 1959 until 1968. When the decision to launch the modern MINI was made by BMW in 2000, this manufacturing location seemed like the obvious choice. To bring the antique facility into the current age, BMW initiated a modernization process that was completed at record-speed in only 13 months. And what was accomplished after that at the Oxford plant was nothing less than revolutionary for the small car segment. Originally planned production figures were quickly exceeded, and the brand hasn't looked back since.

Since 2006, three manufacturing sites have been fully integrated into what is known as the MINI production triangle. Body construction, paint and assembly are completed in Oxford, the Swindon facility acts as the press plant and the Hams Hall location handles engine build. In total, the BMW Group has invested more than 1.75 billion GBP (Great Britain Pounds) into all three sites since 2000.

Choosing to Own and Drive a MINI

Now is a great time to buy a MINI. The 2016 MINI Hardtop 2 Door has recently earned the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status (with optional front crash prevention), so the most iconic version of the MINI has you well covered on the safety front.

If you are looking at new MINIs, you will soon discover that most models start below $25,000 (base), with the convertible version starting at $25,950, so the MINI Cooper is an "affordable car" to purchase. True to the name, all MINIs are small, but if you have a family and still want to drive a MINI, the Clubman, the largest vehicle ever made by MINI, offers a pretty decent amount of space. In fact, many test drivers have noted that the Clubman's interior is "plenty spacious" and that the cargo area is "cavernous."

Of course, if you want to own a MINI at a significantly lower price, you can always buy one used. Prices for previously owned MINIs range widely, depending on the model and options that you have in mind. But you can probably find a 2011 model or newer for approximately $12,000-$20,000.

And if you decide to go with a used option, you may want to get an extended warranty to protect your investment and save on future maintenance costs.

Financing for Your Vehicle

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