Blog : MINI – the more things stay the same…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Mini Hatch

It’s good to know that, if you want a full-scale punch up in the comments section of AROnline, all you need to do is post a news story about MG Motor UK or MINI, or post a picture of a car wearing overseas number plates. It’s not as if I deliberately want to poke the readership with a stick, you understand, but sometimes I do struggle to grasp some of the objections that we hear – and, how in 15 years of running this website, they really don’t change very much.

So it’s MINI that I’m focusing my attention on here. Well, actually, I’m not so much focusing my attention on the car, but on a comment recently posted in the good news story about the F56’s latest award-winning performance in the Sunday Times. Basically, the Hatch is selling reasonably well, and that means continued prosperity for the factory, and those workers in Oxford, whose livelihoods depend upon it.

So, imagine my surprise, when comment number one – after a long silence, amounted to ‘hey, guys, this is good news, why aren’t you happy?’

To which the response was: ‘Well, it’s not a Mini, it’s not a car with any connection at all with AR (except the ground underneath the factory) and it’s a piece of appalling design with no space inside coupled with appalling obesity, weighing nearly as much as a Jaguar Mk2 did in the 1960s. Perhaps those are just three reasons why not much attention is paid to it on this site?’

Ouch!

My own take has been one of support over the years. Parking the circumstances behind the MINI’s ownership changes in 1994-2000, I think that, as the custodians of the marque, BMW have done a pretty good job with it. The company took the view that it couldn’t reinvent the small car in the way the original did, so why not just evolve it in a way that reflects how Porsche did with the 911. And arguably, the current F56-generation MINI is Porsche’s 996. We’ll see how it plays from here.

Anyway, I thought I’d highlight Dan Entwisle’s comment on the matter, as I think it clearly demonstrates the site’s (and many of its readers’) position far better than I could. I look forward to the comments. Enjoy!


Like a few here I didn’t like the MINI. Mind you, I have reservations about the original Mini. A brilliant concept in 1959, It was never really developed or allowed to evolve beyond that. Why no hatchback? Why no factory soft top? Why no five doors? The fact that the last Minis made weren’t really that much different from those made 40 years before shouldn’t be seen as something to celebrate. A bit like another BL car I like but which went 20-odd years without significant development – Range Rover.

I’ve been looking again at the modern MINI recently, and I am now a convert. The car is spot on for so many people from so many walks of life, from two-seat Roadsters through Supermini territory to small SUVs. What BMW has done with the brand and the original Rover concept has been outstanding. What was said above about the brand being a new Austin or Morris is absolutely right.

As for complaints the cars are huge these days, [I say] get over it. A friend came over recently in his new Fiesta. It’s bigger – way bigger – than Fiestas of old – just like most cars are compared to their predecessors. Comparing a MINI to a 1960s Jag is just daft – [they’re] 60 years apart. That’s like criticising a Typhoon jet for being heavier than a Hurricane. I would be quite worried if a modern MINI was built to the same standards as a Browns Lane product from the days when John Profumo was giving Christine Keeler the benefit of ministerial privilege.

I love ARG, BL, MGR, BMC (or whatever acronym you choose) cars – the good and the bad. Hell, I even own one. But why hate a successful British-made car because it doesn’t appeal to you? I don’t like Washington-built Nissans much, but I’m glad they are built, glad to see vast car carriers exporting them by the thousand from the River Tyne. It’s not the last half of the 20th century anymore. Avro don’t build Vulcans, trains are made in the UK by Japanese TV manufacturers.

Time to move on and support the UK automotive success story that is MINI.

mini_hatch_f56_1

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

53 Comments

  1. Well said, Mr Entwistle. I wonder if the Fiat groups are plagued with 500 fans bemoaning what has become of that nameplate. In fact, I wonder, if Facebook had been around two generations ago, whether we would have seen these cries:

    1957: It’s not a real 500, the engine’s in the back!
    1991: It’s not a real 500, the engine’s in the front!
    2007: It’s not a real 500, it’s so big they should call it an 1100!

    Or are only certain BLARG people that stuck in the past?

    • I was thinking this last night.

      What if ‘MG Rover’ had happened to Fiat?

      The remains of the company are the ‘500’ brand, with 500L, 500X variants, a 5 door and an estate.

      Naysayers claim it isn’t a proper 500, and it has nothing to do with Fiat.

      While some see the point of it as a modern retro/premium small/city car with a lineage from the original 500 via 127, Cinquecento, Scicento etc. and that the 500L/5 door are replacements for what were the Punto and Bravo lines.

      (Perhaps Arbarth became a Chinese owned brand, producing a small hatchback and a C/D segment Croma replacement?…)

  2. I totally agree with all the above. I too didn’t like the BMW mini when it was launched, I sat in one at a motor show and at the time wasn’t impressed, but as the years have rolled on I am now finding myself browsing the web for the first gen bmw mini.
    Yes of course the mini is bigger than the issigonis original it wouldn’t be progress if it stayed the same and who would buy such a car, I wouldn’t that’s for sure, I had a mini clubman as my first car in 1986 and although it was only 10 years old it was awfull, complete rubbish and it rotted for fun and leaked at the mention of mildly damp weather.
    So thank god the new mini is nothing like the original, it would never survive in the modern world.
    I recently drove a brand new mini with the 3 cylinder turbo petrol engine and I fell in love with it, it was fast and handled like a go kart and had enough toys to keep any PlayStation generation adult happy, so I say good on you BMW for not only making a great brand of cars but keeping thousands in jobs in the UK.

  3. I hail from Oxford and was as appalled as anyone else at what became of Cowley, but having reflected on it over the years, and dare I say calmed down a bit, I think the fact that a car that is a massive hit all over the world is built in my home town is a point of immense pride. We even bought one ourselves last year – an R57 Cooper S, one of the last to come off the line at Cowley.

    I’ve had an original Mini (my first car, as it happens) and they were brilliant, unique and wonderful things, but too slow, unsafe, basic and rot prone to be anything more than a curiosity in the 2000s. Thing is, if you drive a new MINI, you will find a surprising number of characteristics of the original ring true. The slightly jiggly ride, the immediate, direct steering, pin-sharp turn in to a corner, and an all round sense of fun. Not once have I failed to get out of our R57 in a better mood than when I got in it, which is exactly as I remember of my original too. Yes, it’s twice the size and weight, but it goes like stink, sounds fantastic and is just a lovely thing to own.

    BMW absolutely nailed this car in my opinion. Not just the product itself, but the marketing of it, and the careful crafting and control of the brand. It isn’t a success by accident, but because it comes from a well-managed car company that knows what it’s doing. Fair play, quite honestly. And I’m still proud it’s made in my home town. 🙂

  4. Well said. Though if I’m to criticise slightly, Nissans are built in Wearside, not Tyneside. If I don’t say it, I guarantee someone from the area will!

  5. Should the Mini have remained true to the original, the car would have been a complete joke by now and in the last two decades of its life was only selling in very small numbers to enthusiasts. No one else wanted an antiquated car with almost no crash protection, terrible refinement, no space inside and a dubious reliability record. The new Mini was a real step forward, saved Cowley from probable closure, and is often in the Top 10 best sellers list.
    Yes it is the product of a company whose products I normally despise as overrated and overpriced, but BMW’s take on the Mini has been a massive success and has spawned a huge range of mostly British built cars that are good to drive, well made and resell well.

  6. Finally people who agree with me! I’ll have to show my wife this!

    Ant – I am local to the NE, hence why I said Nissans are built in Washington which is Wesrside. They are however exported from a dedicated terminal in the Port of Tyne. I live by the river and see them off the coast every day. It does make me feel proud. Not as proud as when we sent new aircraft carriers, frigates, tankers and liners out from our shipyards, but like BMC, BL, ARG and MGR, that’s a long time ago.

    God that sounds like a Jimmy Nail song….

  7. Dan… I am also local to NE. Yes it’s good that local British built Nissans are also exported from the Tyne. A shame that we cant build & repair ships here as well (apart from at Hebburn of course.)

    It seems to me that the UK Government in the 80’s saw a time when Shipbuilding & Coal mining would be replaced by other light industry – and car manufacture filled the gap.

  8. Am I personally a big fan of MINI? No. Am I glad it’s a big success that’s built here and keeps thousands in employment? Absolutely. While it would be nice if it was built by a truly British company ultimately it took BMW to see the value in the brand.

    You guys do a great job with the site and keeping the interesting content coming. If people don’t like what you do then they can always cancel their subscription and ask for a refund….. Oh, wait a moment….

  9. @ Hilton D, I was born in North Shields and obviously have seen the traditional industries die out and the unemployment that followed. However, the region is slowly reinventing itself and successful companies like Nissan prove the North East can still make things well. Also most people recognise that industries like coal were dangerous and unpleasant to work in and few people would relish sending their sons down the pit now.

  10. I was never a fan of the MINI, having been a lover and owner of several classic old school Minis over the years. I also admit to a point having been influenced by the ‘politics’ around BMW’s treatment of MGR in my attitude towards it. There has been a lot of debate about where MGR would have been had BMW not ‘stolen’ the MINI from them, but the reality is if it wasn’t for BMW there would have probably been no MINI today.

    A flick through this site will show that BL’s strategy had always been to replace the Mini, never to evolve it. Had Issigonis’ X9 had gone into production, or even had the Metro (or miniMetro as it was originally called) held as much affection at the original, the chances are the Mini (and its shape) would have disappeared from our roads at least 20 years before it did. The fact that the hierarchy at BMW had an affection for the ‘old’ car and wanted to make a new generation version is a compliment to the original, but it was well out of date and becoming more difficult to justify its production. Yes, BMW have made variants that do not appeal to everyone’s taste, but the fact that it’s selling in the numbers it is in whatever guise shows they are getting something right.

    Bizarrely, in the near 15 years since the R50 appeared on the scene I have never sat in a moving example of the car, and only actually sat in one last February to shelter from rain! This has not been through choice, I have just never had any of my friends or family ever own one. I might try and change this in 2016!

  11. ok so forgive me for putting a slightly counter point here. but i hate this car with a vengence.
    ill start of by saying that above all it is just metal and therefore can not be as important as all those jobs at cowley which seems at this point very secure. the fact that is doing so well can only be a good thing.
    i like many have had reservaions about MINI. the politics of the way BMW aquired it. what they chose to do with it etc. they for me still remain.
    i think it was an excellent idea for bmw to turn mini into a lifestyle car and evolve it. of course.
    i just think the result wasnt the best product.
    the first BMW mini is in my opinion a hateful little car.
    its small enough to be called mini so thats ok. but the materials are cheep, it feels way too heavy, it rattles in too much in too many cars. it has the wors ergonomics of any car i have ever knows and while there is no denying it hadles well. it does just about everything else appaulingly!
    i can get just as many smiles per pound in a fiesta without having to resort to the chiroprators after every driv.
    what disapoints me also, is the way the car has stopped evolving in subsiquent generations. looks wise.
    the first gen MINI was cute enough if u like that sort of thing. but the mk 2 and 3 are really starting to look like caricaturs of the first one. its time to move the design on now i think.
    ulitmately im thrilled for the poeple of cowley that such a well known brand is thriving and being built there. im thrilled for the investment and the jobs. i just wish the car looked better.

    • A bit uncalled for. Think we’ve had enough of the Grammar Police on here in the past. If that’s the extent of your argument against his views, might have been best to say nothing

      • Hi Paul,

        Well, perhaps fizrar6’s comment was a tad uncalled for, but some of us around here are still old-fashioned enough to believe that grammatical and spelling errors can detract significantly from the points which the readers concerned are seeking to make.

        I am not currently contributing articles to AROnline on a regular basis because my Motor Racing and other personal commitments are taking priority. However, I am still involved in sub-editing much of the site’s editorial content – given that we strive to maintain the highest professional standards with such content, I must admit to more than a tinge of sadness when reading comments which contain multiple grammatical and spelling mistakes.

        Mind you, that is purely a personal view – just put that down to me being old-fashioned! 🙂

        • I am quite a stickler for punctuation and grammar too, Clive. I think what we see from the ‘modern generation’ these days is much to do with education standards and the acceptance of things like phonetics and ‘text-speak’.

          I felt that the comment about the spell checker was a bit mean as the person who made it probably knows nothing about the background of the OP. I wasn’t supporting any decline in quality of the written word!

          I trust you are keeping well and nice to see you back on here 🙂

          • I take your point about “education standards and the acceptance of things like phonetics and ‘text-speak'” and apologise for not, perhaps, fully appreciating that you were not supporting any decline in the quality of the written word.

            Anyway, thank you for your kind words – hopefully, if time permits (and Keith Adams wants me to do so), I may start contributing some editorial content again in the not-too-distant future.

            However, writing for AROnline has only ever been a hobby for me and hobbies are supposed to be fun – unfortunately, for me, the fun stopped last Easter… Indeed, I only came back on board when Keith took over as Editor again at the beginning of August out of a strong sense of loyalty to both him and what the AROnline brand represents.

    • i dont know sweetheart. but tell me would u buy a mini if it some how upped the quality of ur put downs? becase darlin that wasnt even worth of the end of the pier. now run along before i start using a few short words to discribe u that i can spell.

  12. As one of the contributors defending the MINI in the earlier piece, I am glad to see the (mainly) sensible and thoughtful contributions above. I thoroughly enjoy AROnline and have great sentimental regard for the cars produced by BMC and all its subsequent incarnations, cars that I have grown up with from early childhood to middle age. I share most commentators’ distaste for the shabby way BMW cast the company adrift and, even moreso, the greed and mismanagement of the MG Rover era that finally ran the company aground. Ironically, one of the things that makes the company’s story so fascinating and compelling is the very large number of “might have beens” in its history, that is, models developed but either never reaching production, or being fatally compromised by failures in design, testing or manufacturing. How much money was squandered over the decades on such poor planning. If the company had been less riven by political in-fighting and had managed to pursue a single clear and consistent product development and replacement plan, just how different might things be today? In any event, we are where we are and the UK is now manufacturing and exporting more and better quality cars than ever before, securing many thousands of jobs. I bet that the vast majority of workers at MINI, JLR and the other UK manufacturing plants couldn’t give a stuff that their company is foreign owned. They are in secure employment and can be rightly proud of the great products they are making. In this regard, I worry about Honda and hope they regain their design mojo and market share so the Swinon plant can get back to full production. I’m not British, but have made my life in the UK, so am delighted to be able to buy a British car on its merits, hence our MINI. I’m soon to replace my Boxster and, for the first time in a generation, a British sports car, the F-Type, is the likely choice, again purely on its own merits. Finally, on Ryan’s criticism of the R50 MINI, yes, it was a compromised design, but a great achievement at that time and hardly “hateful”. The F56 MINI is the first wholly BMW design and is a brilliant drive. It is not a family car, but is perfect for singles or couples of all ages. Leave your prejudices aside and try one!

    • i get what ur saying daniel about the first gen. but to me (having been forced
      to drive my mothers mini on way too many occasions lol) i just think there horrid cars. as mentioned it hadles like a go kart no question. its just everything else about it was so very bad. the ride is unforgivable for example.
      i will say though i have just restricted my critisims of the first gen because i havent driven the later ones and would never pour scorn or praise on a car until i drive myself.
      im a big bloke as well and like a bit of space around me as well when i drive which is the reason i wouldnt go for a mini myself. but no question its sucses is a briliant things.
      hope that comes accros in my post.

  13. Expensive style over substance. The automotive equivalent of a designer handbag that doesn’t quite work as a handbag.

  14. I agree with Daniel, the first generation Mini was an unknown quantity, but the brand has matured over the last 15 years into a very good range of cars. Remember had BMW not decided to invest in the Mini, no doubt Cowley would be a shopping centre now and 5000 skilled jobs lost in Oxford. It is a big achievement that this once troubled and closure threatened factory is producing cars want to buy and has a motivated workforce that want Mini to succeed.
    Also in general what remains of the British car industry is a massive success. Closer to me is Nissan, who employ 8000 people, and have gone from a manufacturer of reliable but very dull cars to become an innovative company producing radical designs like the Qashqai that are made in Sunderland and exported in massive numbers.

  15. Well done Mini , making products that people want to buy so what’s wrong with that – my mum had 2 original minis and is on her third BMW one in 15 years and loves it – would the naysayers prefer she buys a car made overseas.

    The only downside is took an overseas company to have the vision to create the Mini for the 21st century, but great that so many people in the UK are involved in design and manufacture.

    The area where I live is full of the usual premium brands and success of Mini shows we can compete, as does Jaguar Land Rover. Look forward to replacing my 3 series estate with a Jag XE as soon as they launch an estate.

  16. You are so right Dan. MINI is a huge, huge success for the UK and this fact should be appreciated, celebrated.

    I do sometimes think MINI should be closer to the concept of Mini – maximum space inside, minimal exterior proportions and overall be more minimal. However, all cars have grown in size and in many ways MINI has just moved with the times.

    I suppose, also, the number of derivatives is to be applauded.

    I think if MINI was produced by a Rover Group there would be a wider acceptance of its new form.

  17. I used to be BMW MINI hater, I have 2 of the Longbridge built tin cans, but a friend has a MINI Clubman and I have to say it is a well thought out car.

  18. As a fan of this excellent site and of MGR I can honestly say I am pleased that the BINI is keeping lots of people in employment in this country but hate the car and detest BMW for the way it handled MGR. All it needed was a plan ( a better one than they had) similar to the one VW used for Skoda and job solved. But no lets rob the company of the MINI mark , try and steal the 4×4 technology from LR and leave the English patient to DIE !I agree with the above comments about the MGR might have been models ( take a look at the gorgeous R75 coupe in these archives ) but the way BMW went about the job was shameful followed closely by ‘The Phoenix Four ‘and their pocket lining exercise. Keith , keep up the great work you do for all the fans of this site. This is a bit cheeky but if any one wants to buy a one owner MG ZR ( Head gasket sorted ) from me , Honda dealers will only give me £300 trade in ! Sod emm I’ll sell it privately.

  19. If people want to buy the MINI then why not? It follows the general trend of cars getting bigger as models are replaced – possibly to ensure customer retention and also the effects of NCAP compatibility.
    There does seem to be a growing gap for a sub MINI vehicle along the lines of Spiritual, etc, especially with increased urban congestion.

  20. Just recently purchased a brand new mini 5 door hatch for my wife. I have to say that I find driving it almost addictive.

    Also, I can’t help thinking that it reminds me of the Austin 1100.

    Finally, great website.

  21. Folklore (as decreed by Fleet Street, et al.) has it that BL’s failure was down to an idle workforce.

    Nissan’s Washington plant is the best they have and BMW have Cowley working at full tilt building a high-value “premium” product. Fact is there’s no such thing as a bad workforce, only a badly-run workforce. Unfortunately, as a nation we have a culture of crap management but since their upper echelons are cut from the same cloth as the opinion makers of London town and the blinkered goons of Westminster, it’s always the feckless proles to blame, never the untouchables with their snouts permanently wedged in our trough.

    I’m glad the mini keeps folk in work but it’s such a shame BMW can’t spare a few quid on a UK design team, each generation looks more and more germanic (especially inside), not to mention uglier. Will the next gen. have horizontal headlights?

    Incidentally, the people of the North were also very good at building ships, but Thatcher and Co. did a deal with the EU to reduce overcapacity in Europe and were happy to let our yards go to the wall so the Germans could keep theirs open.

    • Ian,

      Very well put. I’m lucky to have worked in the car industry for almost 40 years. I started at PSF(at Cowley), and have worked on three continents – for companies as diverse as Ford and GM, Honda and Thai Rung Union, Porsche and Lada. The only real variable between British car companies and foreign ones? Management. Ours is bloody awful.

  22. Hi Ryan, yes, I get it and actually agree about the R50. Friends of ours have recently bought an immaculate fourteen year old example. It’s a hoot to drive but, like you, I couldn’t really live with it day to day. Our F56 Cooper is, however, a completely different proposition; even on optional 17″ wheels the ride, while firm, is comfortable and compliant, never jarring. The performance and handling are still great. As to space, I’m just shy of 6′ tall and have plenty of head and leg room, with still a couple of inches rearward movement left on the seat runners. Even more surprising is the width of the cabin up front. Of course, there’s still not much space in the back or boot, but that’s not a problem travelling two up, which is 95% of the time for us. The quality of the interior trim is fine, not brilliant, but everything feels tightly screwed together and nothing squeaks or rattles after almost two years (ours was one of the first delivered). Anyway, that’s the end of the promo and I do absolutely respect your different view: if we all agreed on everything, these forums would be pretty dull!

  23. I’m 6ft 2 and can get perfectly comfy behind the wheel of our R57, although admittedly it doesn’t leave much (any) legroom behind me. But then it’s a small (by modern car standards) 2dr convertible, so practicality wasn’t high on the list when we chose it.

    We bought it as a fun car for the better half to commute in, and something for us to muck about in as a family on the 2 weekends a year it’s not peeing down with rain 🙂 It’s not perfect. Ride is harsh and the interior quality is not as good up close as it looks at a glance, but it does 0-60 in about 7 seconds, sounds brilliant (raspy, crackly on the overrun, and surprisingly loud generally for a modern motor), does 35 mpg all day long, has fun handling and a general feel good factor to the whole package. We’re delighted with it.

    I don’t see any point beating myself up over the politics. What BMW did was unquestionably harsh, but it was also business. Companies acquire, asset strip, and dispose of other companies all the time. It’s not personal, it’s about delivering value for shareholders. No company is going to forego utilising the valuable bits of a company they’ve bought in case it upsets people. It’s unrealistic to expect them to.

    As for whether Rover would have made the car such a success on their own had BMW not come along, who knows? Would they have marketed it, and crafted its brand so successfully, creating the massive demand and ever continuing number of niche models? Very unlikely, in my opinion.

  24. “It’s good to know that, if you want a full-scale punch up in the comments section of AROnline, all you need to do is post a news story about MG Motor UK or MINI, or post a picture of a car wearing overseas number plates.”

    Or discuss way Top Gear used to treat vintage BL cars..

  25. I’ll just repeat my comment on the original Sunday Times award thread that seems to agree with what many are saying (I think it is what Dan referenced, the thought that MINI is the modern Austin with a coherent model range):

    “I used to be a detractor. Then my now-wife took a notion to test driving one, and I was hooked. New mindset, it isn’t a small economy car, it is a sports hatchback and a hoot to drive.

    Looking at MINI as a modern day Austin, the 5 door hatchback and estate, and even the Countryman all fit in.

    Yes, they aren’t the small packaging miracles that the original was, but the base hatchback could be thought of as a continuation of the Mini – Metro/100 – R3/25 – MINI mk1. Even small cars now are larger than they were in the 60s-80s as we demand, expect and should receive first class safety and equipment from all models.

    It isn’t an economy car. Trying to build a small economy car in the UK would make a loss, even Fiat is building the 500 in Poland. Yes, a base model can cost £10k – like the one Keith bought – but this is where the BMW sales model comes into play, as chilli packs are added, aircon, alloys, metallic paint etc. the price increases. It is a premium product, the UK excels at building premium/luxury products.

    Yes the parent company’s ruthless business acumen don’t give it a lot of moral high ground, but if – in a parallel universe – they still owned Rover, had axed the 75 (similar to Honda having recently axed the Accord, see Laguna, Legacy, Primera etc.) and replaced with the Countryman (see CRV, Qashcow, Kadjar etc. for saloon to SUV conversions), 25/45 replacements being the 3 and 5 door MINI hatchbacks and Clubman, the roadster and coupe being R8 style oddball derivatives, would the company have support?

    Love it or hate it (and I’ve been in both camps) it is a modern 21st hatchback that ticks most boxes, and a sales success for UK PLC.
    Reply

    PS:

    Incidentally though, we didn’t buy one.

    The showroom was like a nightclub or a trendy fashion boutique, compared to the oily Citroen showrooms my dad used to take me to. By the time we’d specced a hatchback up, the price had crept up to VW Golf money.

    Second hand models weren’t much better, they really do keep their value. The older/cheaper models were found on backstreet car lots ran from a portakabin and manned by individuals who make Arthur Daley and Frank Butcher seem like boy scouts.

    The lack of a 5 door model at the time (barring the Countryman – we really don’t want nor need an SUV, and the Clubman asymmetrical estate) also counted against it for practicality and future proofing.”

  26. 15 years ago, BMW launched the MINI, while Audi and Mercedes launched the radical A2 and A class. It was BMW who got the market right, Audi dumped the A2 and now produce a rebodied Polo as their small call, while the A class has become a conventional and larger hatchback.

    And while Longbridge is effectively gone, Gaydon has gone from strength to strength. Many of the Rover designers on the 75 and MINI will have gone on to design the Jaguar XE and LR Discovery Sport.

      • That Z13 is pretty cool actually, it seems that it’s only in the electric i range that BMW will launch anything that radical.

        Amusing that the Z13 is powered by a K series engine, sadly it’s a BMW K series motorbike engine!

  27. By 2000, the ‘original’ Mini was functionally obsolete, it didn’t meet modern safety, fuel efficiency, ergonomic, technology standards and had to be replaced. They couldn’t be sold in the USA/Canadian market, indeed not in the USA after 1967 while the BMW MINI was designed for sale the NA market. It also provided BMW with a premium ‘supermini’ class vehicle to fit in under their 1 series.
    What bugs me about the modern Mini is the over expansion of the numbers of models, versions from semi-sports cares to mini ute, with some of the bigger models rivaling a Focus for dimensions and costing more.

  28. My problem with it, is it is just a lazy design. Yes it will be bigger, but it should also be clever. We enough room for 4 passengers, and a decent boot. While still being good to drive. I can’t believe that is beyond the abilities of a company like BMW.

    The Honda Jazz shows what can be done, move the fuel tank and suddenly you have a smallish car, with the load lugging ability that would shame many larger estates.Even the 500 is a better piece of packaging than the MINI.

    They have had over a decade to fix its flaws, it can’t be that difficult?

    • But then the Jazz, as much as it is a good car (and I like Hondas), isn’t exactly a car you buy with the heart as much as with the head. Not quite the most desirable car on the road.

      Spiritual concept had an innovative layout, as did the Audi A2 and Mercedes A class – 2 small premium superminis with a lot of interior space. These have been succeeded by conventional hatchbacks.

      BMW wanted a small premium sports hatchback, and derived from this a range of small cars / SUVs. They created a desirable car and a brand that is bought by the heart.

      Many compare it to the Fiat 500 – but even this is larger than the car from which it is inspired. It needed to be – we expect more space, we expect not to die when we crash, we expect to be comfortable, air conditioned and a good entertainment system when we drive. The rear seats are still quite small. And given that it is still using the platform shared with the mk2 Ford Ka, even recently facelifted it is starting to age a bit.

      • The MINI is available with much larger engines than the Jazz or 500, the 500 is very much a car driven around town, whereas the MINI is much more of an open road car.

        Similarly, the MINI has the Z axle rear suspension, not at all space efficient, but better for driving. You could make it roomier by fitting a torsion beam, but then it wouldn’t handle as well and would lose its USP

  29. I am not a fan of the latest incarnation – in fact the previous model was the same fat and overweight and losing the original appeal that I saw when they launched BMW the MINI. I just see MINI as the latest handbag that women want on their forearm. However that’s my personal opinion, and I hope that it does sell well as it’s British jobs at stake.

    To those who bemoan that there’s no DNA to the original mini should really get a life. The original mini although clever in it’s design, and drove excellently was actualy an engineering pile of rubbish. The car was designed quickly and on the cheap, like many BMC products of the time, and was never really improved upon. If it had it would have grown like all cars have, to become bloated. The only thing if BMC had continued to develop the car would have been the beter use of space, but then the Metro had that and look at it’s crash rating.

    Fiat have just jumped on the bandwagon of the MINI with the 500, and the Panda which it’s based upon is a far better car.

    Badge engineering is nothing new but in today’s fashion dicateted society you need to be clever with marketing and positioning. JLR are now doing it with Range Rover – once a nice classic luxury x4 which is becoming a bloated overweight bling bracet. You may not like it but its the way society is going so either change it or get over it.

  30. If the MINI had gradually arrived at the size it is now over 5 and a half decades, but stayed under Austin/Rover ownership all along, we’d all love it! I think the lack of change during the life of the classic Mini is just as bad as the sudden changes we’ve seen since. That and of course, partly justified frustration at foreign ownership.

    I use a 1991 Mayfair as my daily driver. I don’t like the ‘Bini’ and find the larger models ridiculous, but without it there would be no ubiquitous small British car on the street and a whole generation growing up not knowing what a Mini was.

  31. Always been a big BMC/BL Mini fan/owner,but we’ve recently bought a 2006 MINI One-Seven,with only 24,000 miles,and one previous owner.
    We love it,well built,and a hoot to drive!

  32. I’m kind of glad Keith placed this article here as I was about to do something similar.

    It stuns me that people who claim to be supporters of British manufacturing clearly have learnt NOTHING from events of recent decades.

    Our right to manage and operate mass production is over… we had our chance and we blew it thanks to poor management, bickering media and dare I say it apathetic customers. Its the English way, build it up then knock it down.

    Anyway the old days are gone, Longbridge is gone, Rover… is gone so whatever we have left be it Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port, Honda at Swindon, Toyota in Derby or the bumbling MG at Longbridge need to be credited.

    What we do make automotive wise on a mass scale are top notch high quality products… and that includes MINI.

    No-one has to like them, no-one has to own one but one thing needs to be appreciated… All the aforementioned manufacturers are here because we make good quality cars that the rest of the world appreciate and our CADCAM and development is amongst THE very best globally.

    Its time to live in the present and get behind the brands. You don’t have to like them but at least appreciate them.

    As the retail phrase goes – once they’re gone… they’re gone!

  33. I love them

    I have had the following a 1968 Austin Mini 1000 , a 1976 mini 850 , a 2004 Mini Cooper, a 2009 Mini Cooper cabriolet and currently driving a 2012 Mini Cooper D Countryman. A big gap as we had five metros in the 80’s and 90’s

  34. @ Ian SW and Kev.
    I too agree with everything you say. On a personal view I will say the MINI doesn’t appeal to me. Im sure it appeals to a lot of people butits just not my sort of car, furthermore I am genuinely concerned about it’s production future in the UK. My own prejudices about BMW aside I am glad it is popular and keeping many people in work here but out of I believe 350,000 MINIS built last year approx. 100,000 were built abroad in Holland. Because Cowley is at full capacity with nowhere to expand how long before half of MINI production is done overseas, two thirds, three quarters etc?
    Who remembers that other British Icon the Ford Transit , production of which Ford gradually shifted to Turkey until it got to the point that Ford pulled the plug on its Southampton plant ( whilst our so called friends in Brussels gave them a grant for doing so). I really hope my concerns are unfounded but I don’t buy this BMW bit off more than they could chew with Rover fairytale. They didn’t get where they are by biting off more than they could chew. The problem with overseas owned companies is that we are only useful to them whilst the cash is rolling in either from profits and Government subsidies and tax breaks. Look how quickly Peugeot bugged out as soon as they hit trouble and I do believe Renault wanted to close Sunderland and move production to France , luckily somebody at Nissan has told them to wind their necks in for now.

    • Interesting point about the Transit.

      With the then-contemporary rounded styling, big grille and round headlights it could almost be a big Mini van….

      Imagine then, if the mk1 Transit had been in production until 2001.

      There was the “mk2” facelift in the 70s (as per the original Clubman / 1300GT), however the van soon reverted to the classic look with some updates over the years, but the basic vehicle remained unchanged.

      Then, Ford decided that we needed a new Transit for the 21st century, and came up with the mk4 (2000->) model.

      “Oh but it isn’t a proper transit”, “It’s larger than a proper transit”, “Ford Europe isn’t the same as Ford GB” etc.

      The latest Transit – “Oh but it’s got too big a front overhang” etc.
      The old fella has one and loves driving it, says it’s nicer to drive than most cars. But that wouldn’t satisfy Transit purists who say that the original with non-assisted non-drive-by-wire steering is the only way of driving a transit.

      Looking at it, I’m now of the opinion that the MINI is as though Mini had evolved over the years, as per Transit and as per 911, and to some extent it had – if we follow a Mini, Metro/100, 200/25 (originally designed with the intention of directly replacing the 100, as it should have originally prior to the Phoenix re-positioning of the model, leaving HH-R hatch as the 200…) lineage. The cars had gotten bigger, bulkier and with more equipment, but they’d also moved more upmarket and delivered what the car market wanted in terms of safety, equipment and refinement.

  35. Lets be honest BMW have been doing better things with the MINI brand than SAIC are doing with MG.

    We should note that the concept of developing the MINI in the same way Porsche had its 911 was an idea from the BMW design team. Left to the Rover even with BMW money they would have produced something like the SMART and with it another superb car with no market like the 75 (and in truth the original Mini).

  36. I suspect BMW were taken by surprise by the mini’s success, so never expected to need more than Cowley. They had just started to build a mini shop at Longbridge before they baled out, so it would surely have been more sensible to shrink “Plant Birmingham” around the mini and flog off the rest of the site, leaving Cowley to be cast off, along with the 75, but leaving BMW room to expand at Longbridge?

    I seem to remember the original mini sales projections were strangely modest. Given the complexity of the mini – it has all the equipment of a 75 crammed into a smaller package but was intended to sell for half the price of the big Rover – how did BMW ever think they could make any money with it?

    If they hadn’t written off the mini’s development costs against Rover’s books, would the mini still be around today?

  37. Paul,
    The spell checker comment was made as a light hearted joke. My 15yr old daughter was reading the page and thought what a bad impression the comment gives with so many spelling mistakes. This is not depreciating education standards but laziness. It’s a pity Ryan or yourself can’t accept criticism without being offended.

    Getting back to the main topic. Everyone will have their own thoughts on whether or not they like the MINI but the main thing is that it give jobs and exports to the UK. My first car was a 1976 Mini Clubman and I was brought up on a diet of Austins and Rovers. However, but much as I like to support the UK’s economy I wouldn’t buy a MINI. They’re too common.

  38. Grammar police
    The fact that someone has made the effort to read and write posts deserves recognition of the effort regardless of levels of grammaratical accuracy, or education.
    There is also the condition dyslexia of which you in your esteemed wisdom will be aware. (Evidence above if esteemed excellence in their knowledge in cars but not so apparent any wisdom about manners)

    So wind your necks in.

    The jury’s still out with me and the MINI, owned five of the BMC originals and loved them despite short comings.
    And yet I haven’t driven any of the BMW Minis, but look forward to doing so.

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