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Big Blue

MINI virginity

Broken it.

Never driven one but I have now, albeit an old one. It's probably familiar to Racing as it's a Munich Legends loan car.



As you can see it's a Cooper S. They're pretty swift, aren't they? I assume they're supercharged from the whistling noise and the delivery, even on 80k miles, is linear. Very inspiring both for TLGP and twisty roads.

So what did I think? Is it iconic? Is it a luxury supermini? Is it built like - well since it was a substitute for one - an Alpina? To this last item, er......NO!  I felt it was very plasticky, with the door pulls, the column stalks and some binnacle items feeling very Fisher-Price, in that they are really obviously hard plastic but probably indestructible. The centre switches (windows and fog lights) feel nice and from a different class of car but largely the interior isn't going to trouble the folks at Buchloe.

I'll do positives first: handling. It really is a sling-it-about car. You'd have to be driving like Maldonado to crash one and it's not just a shit load of grip: the steering wheel is properly connected to the front wheels. Also good in this Cooper S: the engine was very willing and not particularly unpleasant. The stereo did a good enough job and the driver's seat was very much the right shape all round (I spent about 2 hours in it in 2 shifts). I

Add to this a really planted and secure feel in the motorway at speeds which may or may not have aligned with the posted limits and I can see the appeal as a classless car for a singleton or a couple or maybe a second car. It's just good fun, funkily good looking and personalisable.



Downsides? Well no one could ever sit in the seat behind me, not even my 10 month old daughter, and I didn't have the seat right back, either. Then there's the gearshift.

Now I have driven automatics for a fair old time now and it could be that I'm just a lazy slob, but this 'box certainly made me feel like I'd been on a left-handed course with Arnie. There were a few times when selection was actually not possible unless I double declutched, so I'm going to give the car the benefit of the doubt and assume the gearbox was on its last legs having doubtless had a life of abuse. I'll also mention that this was the first time I'd used my clutch foot since the breaking of my metatarsals and blow me that clutch felt heavy.

It tramped about a bit and gave me a bit of trouble with torque-steer, but I was a bit of a tit trying to induce it. The ride is a tad crashy but this was a Cooper S with loads of miles and over a decade old so that was to be expected. The lights were diabolical, but then if you stick two candles in a fish bowl at the front of a car its never going to light up your day.

So just as I got the Fiat500 out of my system last year I have finally driven a MINI. Would I buy one? No! Would I buy my kids one? Yes. I can see why there are so many of them and why they have such a following. Now I need to drive a newer one.

Frank Bullitt

Eye, the R50 Cooper S is supercharged.

I've not driven an S but I'd agree with the negatives from my experience of a ONE, I thought it was unrefined, crash and much of the stuff you touch wasn't good enough; the R56 is a much, much better built car and feels more grown up.

Another thing about the R50 is the annoying power steering not pump that whines - I think it's supposed to sound like a 120k mile A-series engine for a bit of nostalgia but it just sounds shit.
Martin

Yes, the R56 is a big improvement inside and feels much more solidly engineered, but in Cooper S form it will still torque steer and interior space is still an issue.  The Clubman is better in both areas and it rides better too (Evo preferred it as well for what that's worth), but I know the looks are a bit more marmite.

Great little cars.
gooner

I've never driver or been driven in one. More interested in your neighbours new TT. It looks surprisingly good in yellow!
Andy C

R50 looks and engine , with the R57 interior

And you'd have the perfect MINI
Big Blue

The TT is a family member staying over as their third is due any day now.
Humphrey The Pug

I sold MINI for 5 weeks when this incarnation was out, great fun cars with fantastic handling, I agree with your observations on the interior quality; I never got the universal love that the press had for the interior quality, it looks good but there are a lot of hard plastics and the indicator and wiper stalks felt very brittle, even when the car was new.

The gearchange was very stiff and heavy too.

Not sure how they are now, however when I sold them, they went through owners something cronic; wasn't unheard of for any model to have had 3 owners in 18m-2years, it's like people fell in love, had to have one and then realised the limitations of the car.
simonp

I've only driven one and wasn't impressed. Handling/steering was good, but I hated the rest as much as I'd always hoped I would i.e. I wasn't converted in the slightest.

Still, I can't help thinking that this particular one is probably shagged. how many miles did it have on it?
BeN

I've not driven any R50s, but I've driven an R56 Cooper S, and thought it was pretty handy, if a bit rough around the edges (especially in ride and comfort).

I've driven almost all versions of the new ones (F56) though, and I think they're very nice indeed. The basic One is a particular favourite, with no frills and the very chirpy characteristic of a small engine that's eager and willing.
Bryan M

I had an R50 Cooper S as a courtesy car when the 911 was in and thought it was a hoot to drive listening to the supercharger whine around the country lanes. I agree the fit and finish/rough edges certainly didn't marry up with the press coverage when new
Martin

To be fair, it was 15 years ago when it was new and it was better than other small cars.  My ex-BIL but bought a Cooper new in 2002 and it felt pretty good at the time.
gooner

Martin wrote:
To be fair, it was 15 years ago when it was new and it was better than other small cars. †My ex-BIL but bought a Cooper new in 2002 and it felt pretty good at the time.


I was thinking the same, it's easy to forget how far the game has moved on over the last decade when it comes to the quality of materials used in even the most basic cars.
Chris M Wanted a V-10

I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.

The local mall has a MINI display in it at the moment and I sat in one on Friday (day off); it now seems a triumph of style over functionality with really odd (and stupid) shaped interior door pulls as one example. At least it seems a bit more roomy inside but then it has grown externally.

The new Clubman will be in the local showrooms duing this coming week; the strapline being used to promote it is "Go with your gut"...... err my gut produces a load of crap, like everyone else's, I suspect.....
PhilD

Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.
Roadsterstu

PhilD wrote:
Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.


I still don't get the MINI today. I didn't get it back when they were launched either. I've had a brief ride in an early Cooper S and, yes, it was quick and chuck able but even then it was big outside but tiny inside and the whole overly done circular theme put me off. Just how big is the central speedo going to keep getting?
Not my cup of tea at all.
Bob Sacamano

PhilD wrote:
Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.


+1

I had a R50 MINI Cooper in 2003 and ran it for 18 months. From the moment I sat inside I absolutely loved it. The detailing was fabulous and while you can now point out some hard plastics, it was so different to anything else, had such a sense of fun, you couldn't help but warm to it. It was also very roomy in the front (didn't give a shit about the back seats but you could seat one adult back there behind the passenger comfortably) so you didn't feel cramped. My brother is a big 6'4" and he had loads of room when driving. The go kart handling was superb and it made every trip out an event.

A few years later my mum bought a new R56 Cooper and I found it very disappointing. They'd clearly taken cost out of the assembly - the beautiful deep bonnet pressing with the lights built in was gone and the lovely curved rear three-quarter window was replaced by a piece of flat glass and a bit of black plastic. You got a wanky circular key fob thing and inside, while the quality of the plastic had improved it had lost a lot of the MINI magic. Just looking at it from the outside the stance had changed and it just didn't look as good as the original.
Frank Bullitt

Bob Sacamano wrote:
They'd clearly taken cost out of the assembly - the beautiful deep bonnet pressing with the lights built in was gone


I remember reading somewhere this was down to the light assemblies on the R50 breaking up with ease due to the vibrations - the lights were fixed to the body instead on the R56 as a result of this.
Michael

I thought the lights and the bonnet pressing were fearsomely expensive to the point that their insurance ranking increased.
I remember following an R50 Mini Cooper through a town when it was first released. It attracted more attention than any car I've ever seen on the road since.
Bob Sacamano

Michael wrote:
I thought the lights and the bonnet pressing were fearsomely expensive to the point that their insurance ranking increased.
I remember following an R50 Mini Cooper through a town when it was first released. It attracted more attention than any car I've ever seen on the road since.


I think, at the time, it was the deepest body pressing in the industry and you're probably right about the insurance ranking - or perhaps that was the story circulated to justify it.

I was always amazed at the waves you'd get - kids in particular loved it.
PhilD

Roadsterstu wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.


I still don't get the MINI today. I didn't get it back when they were launched either. I've had a brief ride in an early Cooper S and, yes, it was quick and chuck able but even then it was big outside but tiny inside and the whole overly done circular theme put me off. Just how big is the central speedo going to keep getting?
Not my cup of tea at all.


Well for a start it wasn't meant to be a modern day Mini. If it was it would have looked more like an Audi A2.

Instead BMW realised there was huge gap in the small car market. Cheap, simple and dull superminis were plentiful. If if you wanted a kind of modern day Mini made by people with no imagination you could get a Micra (or by folks with a bit of imagination a Jazz)

If however you wanted a small car not because you wanted cheap and simple but because you wanted something:


- Stylish/modern/thoughtful interior
- To express your personality
- Fun
- Fast
- Easy to park
- Driver focused
- More than 2 seats
- Premium/classless

there was nothing out there.

That last point is interesting. The Italians and to a lesser extent the French had managed to make small cars which were classless but the British class system and keeping up with the Jones meant we never really bought into that. We do though embrace classlessness for our national icons/treasures, so the Black Cab and Barbara Windsor is loved by paupers to princes. The Mini fitted this brief perfectly.
Racing Teatray

Actually I've never driven that Mini as I have almost never had a courtesy car from ML. First, they offer a collection service which is handy given Chelwood Gate is not around the corner. Secondly, I don't commute by car and we have two cars, so it's rarely been necessary. And thirdly, on the three times I can recall having a courtesy car from ML over the last decade, they've always been completely shagged. I recall a white E34 525i Touring which was merely elderly, a creaky silver 323i coupe with about a zillion miles on the clock and the silver E46 B3 Alpina they gave me about 3-4 years ago, which had something very wrong with its underpinnings resulting in distinctly wayward body control.

Ergo it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the Mini did have a shagged 'box.

How did you find the service? I've not been down there since last having the Z1 serviced in 2013, because the M135i has one of those 5yr all-inclusive servicing pack, so it just goes to the local BMW service centre in Battersea whenever it needs servicing.
scamper

The Old Dear's 05 Cooper S is still going strong with 125k up, but cosmetically its probably the worst out there  

Manic and fun is how I would describe the drive and love the pop of the exhaust.

We had an 05 ONE and I loved it - still quite manic to drive and basically more fun, if not nearly as refined as the face lift.
PG

Phil hits the nail on the head. It was never intended to be the last word in efficiency, space or good value. It was the recreation of a rose-tinted viewed icon.

When I test drove a MINI (R56 Cooper) I loved it from the minute I sat in it. It was still as much fun as the Mini 850 I learnt to drive in and my mum's Mini 1000 Traveller which I thrashed merilessly thereafter, but had grown up enough to be "modern".
Frank Bullitt

PG wrote:
Phil hits the nail on the head. It was never intended to be the last word in efficiency, space or good value. It was the recreation of a rose-tinted viewed icon.

When I test drove a MINI (R56 Cooper) I loved it from the minute I sat in it. It was still as much fun as the Mini 850 I learnt to drive in and my mum's Mini 1000 Traveller which I thrashed merilessly thereafter, but had grown up enough to be "modern".


Indeed, my Uncle had a Mini Clubman in the late 70's and early 80's which he thoroughly enjoyed - in the late 90's he bought a 1.3 Sprite and sold it after 3 months, the cold hard reality of driving a cramped mini with no refinement having clattered into him at a great pace, but the MINI holds no appeal to him as he sees it as a 'trinket' so drives a Civic instead.

The MINI sat on the back of 'Cool Britannia', a result of Brit-Pop and New Lab; before that we looked to the Med or the USA for influence where being British was purely about Antiques Roadshow, Lace Doilies and warm piss-weak beer.
Roadsterstu

PhilD wrote:
Roadsterstu wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.


I still don't get the MINI today. I didn't get it back when they were launched either. I've had a brief ride in an early Cooper S and, yes, it was quick and chuck able but even then it was big outside but tiny inside and the whole overly done circular theme put me off. Just how big is the central speedo going to keep getting?
Not my cup of tea at all.


Well for a start it wasn't meant to be a modern day Mini. If it was it would have looked more like an Audi A2.

Instead BMW realised there was huge gap in the small car market. Cheap, simple and dull superminis were plentiful. If if you wanted a kind of modern day Mini made by people with no imagination you could get a Micra (or by folks with a bit of imagination a Jazz)

If however you wanted a small car not because you wanted cheap and simple but because you wanted something:


- Stylish/modern/thoughtful interior
- To express your personality
- Fun
- Fast
- Easy to park
- Driver focused
- More than 2 seats
- Premium/classless

there was nothing out there.

That last point is interesting. The Italians and to a lesser extent the French had managed to make small cars which were classless but the British class system and keeping up with the Jones meant we never really bought into that. We do though embrace classlessness for our national icons/treasures, so the Black Cab and Barbara Windsor is loved by paupers to princes. The Mini fitted this brief perfectly.


That's, fine, I see all that, especially the points about it not being a direct comparison to the original Mini and also the lifestyle stuff, which was particularly clever and very different. However, it didn't really appeal to me back then and it doesn't now. It has never been a car that makes me think, "I want one".
PhilD

Roadsterstu wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Roadsterstu wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.


I still don't get the MINI today. I didn't get it back when they were launched either. I've had a brief ride in an early Cooper S and, yes, it was quick and chuck able but even then it was big outside but tiny inside and the whole overly done circular theme put me off. Just how big is the central speedo going to keep getting?
Not my cup of tea at all.


Well for a start it wasn't meant to be a modern day Mini. If it was it would have looked more like an Audi A2.

Instead BMW realised there was huge gap in the small car market. Cheap, simple and dull superminis were plentiful. If if you wanted a kind of modern day Mini made by people with no imagination you could get a Micra (or by folks with a bit of imagination a Jazz)

If however you wanted a small car not because you wanted cheap and simple but because you wanted something:


- Stylish/modern/thoughtful interior
- To express your personality
- Fun
- Fast
- Easy to park
- Driver focused
- More than 2 seats
- Premium/classless

there was nothing out there.

That last point is interesting. The Italians and to a lesser extent the French had managed to make small cars which were classless but the British class system and keeping up with the Jones meant we never really bought into that. We do though embrace classlessness for our national icons/treasures, so the Black Cab and Barbara Windsor is loved by paupers to princes. The Mini fitted this brief perfectly.


That's, fine, I see all that, especially the points about it not being a direct comparison to the original Mini and also the lifestyle stuff, which was particularly clever and very different. However, it didn't really appeal to me back then and it doesn't now. It has never been a car that makes me think, "I want one".


So you didn't miss the point then!
Chris M Wanted a V-10

I fully see BMW's point of view with the new MINI but it's at such odds with the original mini concept - cheap motoring for an average family. The MINI is definitely the aspirational trinket; premium impractical fun. I went for a Ka as cheap fun ! †If I could have got a MINI for £70 per month and Group 3 insurance, I'd have had one, but it's not aimed at people on a very tight budget.

FWIW back in the late 1960's/early 1970's my dad had an original, well-used mini countryman (complete with wooden "railings") as a basic car to commute to the local train station. †The rear doors and extra boot space made it much more practical than the saloon. †He parted with it when he got promoted to a job with a company car, and before I was old enough to have a driving licence
PR

Roadsterstu wrote:
Just how big is the central speedo going to keep getting?


It isn't! The F56 speedo is in front of the driver.

I make no secret of being a huge fan of the MINI. I love our Clubman, which feels every inch the micro BMW that it is, with a dose of quirkiness thrown in for good measure.
PhilD

Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I fully see BMW's point of view with the new MINI but it's at such odds with the original mini concept - cheap motoring for an average family. The MINI is definitely the aspirational trinket; premium impractical fun. I went for a Ka as cheap fun ! †If I could have got a MINI for £70 per month and Group 3 insurance, I'd have had one, but it's not aimed at people on a very tight budget.

FWIW back in the late 1960's/early 1970's my dad had an original, well-used mini countryman (complete with wooden "railings") as a basic car to commute to the local train station. †The rear doors and extra boot space made it much more practical than the saloon. †He parted with it when he got promoted to a job with a company car, and before I was old enough to have a driving licence



Michael

The original Mini concept was built for its time. The last production versions of the original Mini, the one you'd die in given an even slight accident, was a ridiculously expensive novelty item. The current ones are of their time and all the better for it which is great for UK Plc and jobs. No, they don't have a spare wheel, brick carrying capacity is limited and they may only have what many would consider a reasonable number of 12v sockets but people these days want stylish little premium type items. That's why most people buy the Fiat 500 and Ford completely dropped the ball with the Ka. It's a matter of style.
Roadsterstu

PhilD wrote:
Roadsterstu wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Roadsterstu wrote:
PhilD wrote:
Chris M Wanted a V-10 wrote:
I remember sitting in a then-new MINI when the brand was first launched and thinking that it was a triumph of retro-style over substance, and that it was dreadfully space-inefficient.


I think quite a few people missed the point back then.


I still don't get the MINI today. I didn't get it back when they were launched either. I've had a brief ride in an early Cooper S and, yes, it was quick and chuck able but even then it was big outside but tiny inside and the whole overly done circular theme put me off. Just how big is the central speedo going to keep getting?
Not my cup of tea at all.


Well for a start it wasn't meant to be a modern day Mini. If it was it would have looked more like an Audi A2.

Instead BMW realised there was huge gap in the small car market. Cheap, simple and dull superminis were plentiful. If if you wanted a kind of modern day Mini made by people with no imagination you could get a Micra (or by folks with a bit of imagination a Jazz)

If however you wanted a small car not because you wanted cheap and simple but because you wanted something:


- Stylish/modern/thoughtful interior
- To express your personality
- Fun
- Fast
- Easy to park
- Driver focused
- More than 2 seats
- Premium/classless

there was nothing out there.

That last point is interesting. The Italians and to a lesser extent the French had managed to make small cars which were classless but the British class system and keeping up with the Jones meant we never really bought into that. We do though embrace classlessness for our national icons/treasures, so the Black Cab and Barbara Windsor is loved by paupers to princes. The Mini fitted this brief perfectly.


That's, fine, I see all that, especially the points about it not being a direct comparison to the original Mini and also the lifestyle stuff, which was particularly clever and very different. However, it didn't really appeal to me back then and it doesn't now. It has never been a car that makes me think, "I want one".


So you didn't miss the point then!


Well what do ya know? I might go and test drive one.

Chris M Wanted a V-10

Is a Cooper S faster than a T5?
Nice Guy Eddie

I think this thread highlights what a cool and funky bunch we really aren't.

It's an automotive designer handbag. Who cares if it's a reverse tardis. When it was launched 15 years ago it stood out amongst the sea of beige the public had to choose from.

The new one however does look a bit shit and I don't really know where they go with the concept. It seems FiAt are doing better with the 500 range as they've thrown the retro nonsense out of the window. Anyone comparing the new mini with the original is on crack.
TreVoR

Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
It's an automotive designer handbag. Who cares if it's a reverse tardis. When it was launched 15 years ago it stood out amongst the sea of beige the public had to choose from.


This.  I am not smitten for this reason, but I can see why people are and credit to BMW for building it.  British manufacturing would be a lot worse without it as mentioned.

Also, I can't think of another small car which can be personalised to such a degree.
Michael

Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
I think this thread highlights what a cool and funky bunch we really aren't.


Speak for yourself. Nothing cooler than a Volvo estate.
Martin

Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
I think this thread highlights what a cool and funky bunch we really aren't.

It's an automotive designer handbag. Who cares if it's a reverse tardis. When it was launched 15 years ago it stood out amongst the sea of beige the public had to choose from.


Spot on, with the addition of it being great to drive, unlike a lot of small cars.
boc70

Not driven an R53, but have briefly driven the R56 / F56 variants as courtesy cars, and they were great fun, and with a lot of engineering integrity (refinement, perceived quality) apparent even to this ham-fisted operative. Although there were also a few 'kerrazy' ideas straight out of the "go on, suggest literally anything" meeting at MINI HQ, like the roof-open meter on the convertible, and that 'mood' lighting strip in the F56 which I never could quite fathom out.

The major design cues haven't changed much since 2001 when it was conspicuously a fashion item, more so than other cars, (possibly since before then, with the ACV30) so I'm quite surprised it's still fashionable. (or is it? - I'm probably not the person to say).  Or is it no longer quite that, and has now matured into a established brand?
Chris M Wanted a V-10

Maybe BMW should team up with Virgin Money / Richard Branson to offer a special edition "MINI Virgin" on 0% finance to anyone who has yet to own/drive a "new" MINI ???
simonp

Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
It's an automotive designer handbag


With a chihuahua in it. Which, coincidentally, is the largest dog you can fit in the boot of a MINI...
Blarno

I've never been fashionable and I don't attempt to be cool. Maybe that's why the Mini doesn't appeal to me.
PR

Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
The new one however does look a bit shit and I don't really know where they go with the concept. It seems FiAt are doing better with the 500 range as they've thrown the retro nonsense out of the window. Anyone comparing the new mini with the original is on crack.


I think maybe the new Clubman marks a breakaway point in that it appears to be a more 'grown up' car than the brand has produced up to now. I've seen a few transporters full of them now and I think they look pretty good.

I'm still not entirely comfortable with the styling of the new hatch, which is a shame as the interior is great and it's terrific to drive.
Roadsterstu

simonp wrote:
Nice Guy Eddie wrote:
It's an automotive designer handbag


With a chihuahua in it. Which, coincidentally, is the largest dog you can fit in the boot of a MINI...


I saw an unhappy looking labrador being lifted into the back of a MINI hatch the other day.
gonnabuildabuggy

Must post a proper reply tomorrow but I have to say we love ours.

Martin is right in that the R56 moved things on. I found the interior slightly less "MINI" than the R50 but much better made.

It's ability to feel like a big car at Motorway speeds (and some), plus the handling (it's about feel as much as grip as you say) means it's now my go-to car for long journeys when it's just 2 of us.

I really do love ours, a bit more power would add to the fun but frankly it doesn't need it.
gonnabuildabuggy

Blarno wrote:
I've never been fashionable and I don't attempt to be cool. Maybe that's why the Mini doesn't appeal to me.


Try one. It's about the driving experience, not the image (for me at least).

Closest car to compare to in terms of driving experience? The original Mini.

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