UK CAR Reviews:MINI
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Its 1959 and a revolution has started for £479 pounds you can buy a 4
seater car with fully independent suspension. What's more its front wheel
drive, with an east west engine located on top of the gearbox. and with a
top speed over 70mph its no slouch for its day.
What's more it looks great, so good in fact that the original style lives on for 40 years even outliving its updated clubman version and its replacement the Metro. It spawns a whole host of derivatives. Van estate, woody, pickup, and utility jeep, stretch booted luxury and even a soft-top. Engines come and go 850, 970,998,1087,1275 one carb, two carb.
4 Cibies would set it off nicely
The car became an Icon, the most important British car of all time.
It rivals the beetle in European importance, and the Model T ford in global importance.
But look at then Beetle and it heritage and what does it leave behind for the car industry, little other than VW's reputation.
And the Model T well it revolutionised production methods and laid the foundation of Fords world domination.
But what vestiges of these cars can be seen in today's motors.
Yet how many of today's cars are front drive, water cooled, independently sprung, two box designs. Yep most of them the mini lives on in design ethos every where.
Rally's and Race circuits were flooded with the little micro beast which respected no reputations and took no prisoners. Tuners far and wide set about improving the Mini. Foremost John Cooper whose rendition so please Austin-Morris that they licensed the badge and a cult was born. The Mini Cooper.
They lasted only until 1971 when cost cutting and the 1275 forced abandonment of the name.
Only for it to resurface in the 90s as a last ditch attempt to drag out mini production, stick on badges for Cars lost in a time warp.
Gone but never forgotten.
Skip on to the new millennium and BMW desperate to make something out of their Rover acquisition, re-invent the Mini and side step the GTI with one quick swipe and come back with the Cooper name. It is a bold step, and the buyers clamour.
The appearance is deceptive and it's meant to be, from a distance it looks every inch a mini cleverly updated into post millennium chic. Get up close and see how your eyes deceive you, not so much mini as super mini or maxi mini. Huge oversize wheels and arches shrink the car at a distance but there is no disguising its size up close. Park it next to a real classic mini and it dwarfs it with its seemingly gargantuan size. Perhaps the world has moved on from micro sized cars, though the Smart would suggest freethinkers have other ideas. Still by today's standards it is still a fairly little compact car.
Its hard to get a handle on its own looks as it constantly and deliberately harks back to classic minis, only off course to a rose tinted high spec version of those old cars. Chrome trim not found in great amounts on your normal BMW glitter in the sunlight, a roof differently coloured to the body would be a faux pas on anything other than a mini but works great here. The curves are cheeky and mix modern and retro to perfection. Retro does not have to mean ugly. All it needs now is 4 spotlights across the front for the finishing touch.
Inside retro and design clues get a bit confused. Magnolia clocks? Hmmm Ive had 4 minis of various ages and shades of rust and none of them managed Magnolia, I believe very early ones may have had them, Im not convinced any Cooper ever did. Still the big central speed looks the part even if its so daft even British Leyland disposed of it. The Tacho connected to the steering column is just what the boy racers used to do, and the small steering wheel was the first upgrade on everybody's shopping list.
The central row of switches is faithfully in their placement if not in there execution. These are fantastic chrome items nicked off some 80s super stereo, and not the little plastic toggle jobs that used to be replaced by 4 inch ones so they were easier to reach.
Ace switch gear, but what is that radio doing here Issigonis would be turning in his grave
The indicator switch even has the flashing cone on the end, yes that's allowed as I remember changing the bulb in my Riley elf almost weekly.
Leather bucket seats quite this good only ever got fitted by fastidious owners. These look hardwearing but only time will tell us that, still they look sporty and are comfortable, beyond standard minidom
Is anything missing well a floor mounted starter might have been a good larf but is probably best left off?
But really what on earth is that plastic scaffolding in the doors and down the centre console. I cant quite get my mind around that or decern where its come from or what its supposed to mimic.
|Scaffolding confuses, Silver plastic okay elsewhere||Now thats a snug little compartment for two. Rear trays another mini clue.|
|Not alover of Magnolia myself reminds me of Grandmas house, old Cooper S had 130mph clock this on probably geta about the same distance from the end. Note missing Temp gauge and Oil Pressure gauge, perhaps someone stole them or perhaps the Germans have never seen a real Mini Cooper|
Minis were never well specified in the early days and would not have set your pants on fire later either. This one is not going down this road though. For one it has windows, no they dont slide back and forth with a half split and friction catch, gosh wind up ones!! And electrically wound ones at that ohh the advances we have made in 40 odd years. Open the door though and note they are frameless and flap about like a saplings in a storm with no frame to support them. They will probably be alright still in 10 years as this is really a BMW, but I dont recall other frameless BMW widows feeling quite so flimsy. It does add weight to suggestions that a Soft-top is on its way and was always planned.
Door design by the Alien Plumber from Hell, Door bin somewhat smaller than original and way to posh to pollute with rubbish
Electric mirrors hmm nice if but not really nesscercary in an old mini as you could reach both side without stretching and you could not see anything in them anyway.
Yes its as well equipped as any modern car which probably explains why its no longer £479 as all this designer gear probably cost a fortune and BMW cant use it on any of its 3-5-7 series cars.
|Multifunction Stalk mouse button controls diddy computer in Rev counter. 8000rpm in an A Series would have spread engine parts just everywhere.|
Chrome knob moves only short distance for ultra snappy gearchanges
Smooth Handbrake lever was not tested to Italian Job level.
Funny looking BMW engine
It has got 5 gears so that is a 25% technological advance to start with. Its of course does not decide to mimic the 1959 pudding stirrer, nicked off a land rover and goes the route instead of the Cooper-esque remote shifter. 1-2-3 and 4 are in the same place there the similarity ends. Changes are shockingly quick and short with a slightly stiff robust mechanical feel, if you want to play tunes on a Mini engine this is the gearbox to do it with.
Ah the engine, lets get it straight, its not a BMW engine its bought in from abroad, its cheap, simple by today's standards and allegedly reliable. Expectations dropped to a suitable level good. We do not want you to expect too much now do we. Though to be fair the A series was neither new nor high tech when that got stuck in Issis masterpiece either.
Still its quiet its smooth and with 1600cc and an average amount of poke it gets the MINI flying along with a fair old amount of zing. In reality it is nicely judged for the size of car, giving just about the right level of performance. Enough to keep you entertained not enough to intimidate the grannies with gratuitous wheelspin out of Sainsburys. Coupled to the flick flicky, lightswitch gearbox it allows you to have a whole heap of fun. The only thing lacking seems to be a little low-end torque. Requiring a few revs to make a sharp getaway, though that may be down to flywheel weight or lack of it, the old Leyland motors always had good Torque, probably because they didnt have any power and were more suited to small tractors.
You can always tell long term classic mini owners, they have bent necks and bad backs from the car leaping manfully from bump to bump in a bid to ramp up the excitement levels. 10-inch wheels do not ride smooth, rubber cone or hydrolastic thingy.
See the first bump in New mini and you remember the name, envisage the short wheelbase, regret the low profile rubber, grit your teeth, and then nothing. Well not quite nothing, but no head on the ceiling, no kick up the Ass, no wild engine revving as the front wheels leave the ground. It just rides it with a muffled thummmmp.
Arches only make the wheels look even bigger
I really cant express just have unexpectedly well the Cooper rides, course its not a Citroen so you dont expect a sea sick inducing floaty magic carpet ride, but you really have to try it to see just how well it does do.
Handling, classic Coopers dominated the world with little power and demon handling, BMW have entered the world of front wheel drive, so a lot of reputations are hanging on this one.
So it was never going to disappoint really was it. It handles just fine in the mode of all Super super minis, you can chuck it about and do stupid thing that big car owners can only dream of and with Fat low profile Radials it grips to levels old minis can only dream of too. Front engine and front drive means that when it all gets too much it will revert back to a little neutralising understeer, but you are going to go a long way down the insane road before it becomes a problem.
The steering is responsive yet solid with the feel and stability of a much bigger car, the power assistance does its job at low speeds and keeps it all direct enough to keep all but the most critical happy.
Whether its good enough to put a Mini back on the motorsport map I doubt the competition is much too fierce and too similar and It is no longer revolutionary technology. But as a backroad flyer on tight twisty roads it is close to peerless.
Im not over keen on the steering wheel mind, the size and thickness is right but the amount of stitching seems excessive and it irritates my fingers.
Crumple zones, Impact Bars, Airbags, deformable steering columns, things not dreamt of in 59 are mandatory today if your new car ever wishes to make the public highway. Safety measured against the Old is incomparable.
You could get into the old minis with a strong hand or coat hanger or screw driver, I know many an owner who didnt bother locking them as they only forced criminals to quickly break the cheap lock before routing around inside. Best option was to leave nothing in it not lock it, and take the rotor arm with you, as hot wiring took 10seconds even for an Auto electrical incompetent like me.
Central locking modern alarm and immobilisor make this more difficult to nick, though I suspect you could peel the window back to gain ingress pretty easily. Pillarless windows Phaaaa.
Well it may be bigger but you still only get 4 adults in. All be it much fatter ones and in more comfort.
After decades of Austin Morris - BLMC - Leyland - Austin Rover - Rover - Rover Group stubborn refusal to do so, BMW have done the right thing and included a hatchback. The boot is bigger off course but as a hatchback 100 times more usable.
The only question is whether it really is mini enough. I for one expected something more akin to a 4 seater SMART, and at this size it really is more directly comparable to your Fiestas, Polos and such like, Shame. What would you have expected the new mini cooper to be bearing in mind its heritage?
Small, hydrolastic suspension, zippy 1400 K series engine lets hope the phoenix group have plans of their own.
But if your not Anally fixated with the old mini it has got to be the best looking super mini on the block.
Some will be put off by it being a BMW, others maybe put off by its lack of BMW references, Most will ignore corporate hyperbole, long lost National identities, but most will love it for what it is.
Bar a few questionable styling cues on the interior it stands head and shoulders above the size group competition in the style department . The only pity is that the price tag stands head and shoulders above them too. Even at the bottom end of the range it competes with some fairly high spec super minis from other makers. So you need to be quite committed in the wallet department to get into 21st century Mini.
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