There’s been a lot of talk about MINI on here recently – and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my ownership experience into the mix – so you can all make up your minds about so-called MINI quality and customer service.
Before I get into this, the first thing I should say is that the car in the image above wasn’t mine. I kept no pictures of my Clubman, and I was glad to see the back of it. That should give you an idea where this blog is going. I purchased MINI Clubman WG59 XBD in 2010, and following a catastrophic (and costly) few months, I traded it in for a Subaru. I promised myself I would never buy another MINI.
It’s also worth saying that the car turned up a few days The supplying dealer Westerly Yeovil were good. I have no axe to grind with them whatsoever. I purchased my previous car through their sister company and had the same good service from them. My reasons for purchasing the MINI weren’t down to patriotism or sentimentality – but for practical reasons: the MINI Cooper Clubman D has low emissions at £20 a year for tax, it drove nicely, and there was plenty of room for my partner and I – and the dog.
Financially, the MINI promised good things, too. They depreciate at a similar level to a Golf, and my perception was this was going to be like a funky Golf.
Once I’d taken the car and started using it regularly, there were plenty of positives to list. The optional heated seats were awesome, getting very warm very quickly. I liked the stereo, easy to use, the USB music input was great. Economy versus performance also struck a good compromise – 55-58mpg including commuting can’t be recommended enough – and I do not drive like Miss Daisy! 68mpg was the best I saw, so not too bad at all. Also, the handling was awesome, as was the feel of the car.
In the end, the boot size was perfect too. Anyone who says MINIs are small should try a Clubman. The inside space of this car is huge for a small car. My Weimaraner was very happy sitting in the rear – the clever design allows the back seats to be tilted a little forward and locked, and it was recommended to take the underfloor storage shelf off to give my dog an extra 6in of room to play with. Roof rack was amazing, OEM quality.
Also, the alloy wheels were salt proof… and suffered no pitting at all, and I like the suicide half door that so many people moan about.
Finally, the running costs are low, a set of brake pads in 40K is quite okay in my books, and with TLC servicing package, that makes these these cars very cheap to run. And I should also add that I’ve had no hassle with the Diesel Particulate Filter or Dual Mass Flywheel.
So why have I called this my misadventure? Let’s get to the negatives. The driver’s door card was never a good fit from day one. The supplying dealer held stocks of replacement clips as this is a known issue. This panel came loose at least three times. There are grey clips and red clips, one is stronger than the other, but on a hot day they soften and they are only just man enough to hold this door card on.
Then there were the creaks/groans/rattles. My perception of a quality car is a nice smooth drive, where you can listen to the music not the structure of the car moving around. I also ended up suffering from backache, as the driver’s seat had no standard lumber support.
But these niggles paled into insignificance compared with the real problems that started. An insect [earwig sized] appeared inside the rev counter (this is one place I always thought rattled). This was replaced after I sent a stroppy letter to BMW threatening to sue. Then the rear passenger doors had bare metal showing (where there should have been paint) in the join where the two doors met in the middle. It took me a considerable amount of bullying to get the two doors resprayed, realigned in the end.
The rear door cards were never a good fit and came unattached on many occasions. The light inside the RHS door actually melted, the lens became distorted and the bulb became a loose fit. I am not a mechanic, but we use plastics at work, and polycarbonate does have different grades, temperature/heat ranges. I sourced a ‘new’ one myself from eBay. This was less hassle than trying to get it fixed by the dealer.
The boot liner is actually papier–mâché with a black felt cover. This started to disintegrate and got wedged inside boot. The supplying dealer tried to blame my dog having an accident, at which point I became a little excited with the service manager, who could see the panel gaps were not consistent – this was allowing water into the boot. Again, I only got this replaced with the bullying session that resulted in a door-respray. And all this was during the first year’s service.
The list of problems continues. I had a reoccurring issue where the MINI badge on the steering wheel kept coming unstuck, this caught my clothes. The wheel was replaced twice, quietly without hassle I do understand this is a known issue. The driver’s door card mystery was solved by me…
After unloading the car, I noticed the shutlines were wrong, and to my horror I discovered the top bracket that the driver’s door latches to was not even finger tight. It was this that was was causing the door card to chafe. I went to Halfords and purchased some Torx keys to repair this myself. Looking harder, and finding more bare metal on the driver’s door, I found the bottom door hinge was loose to the degree I could articulate the driver’s door. I tightened this down and guessed the torque settings.
Generally the paint was fragile. Tesco’s bumps would ripple body panels; the silver interior trim is matt paint; and the lacquer on the red paint flaked off. The chrome work started to corrode, too…. For this, I got the blame from my dealer for using the wrong screenwash. There is a plastic trim clip on the A-Pillar, this was loose and vibrated if you where in a hurry.
The final episode was, I was loading my car up in a wood yard, left the keys in the ignition so I could leave the radio on – and the hateful car decided to centrally lock the keys inside the car. The MINI assist man arrived ASAP and was lovely. He had seen this before, but I was made to sign a disclaimed that any damage caused would be my problem.
I posted a letter to BMW UK, and eventually the company’s representative joined my local main dealer to perform a formal vehicle inspection. The driver’s door was replaced; the two rear doors were replaced; and the BMW UK rep sat in the back to listen to the vibrations. Funnily enough he knew exactly where to look… and when I asked why don’t the cars get felted as standard, he said. ‘it costs too much’.
This gentleman also found some ‘inclusions’ inside the paintwork, and did let it slip that we have some corrosion issues inside the door panels.- and that BMWs have less issues than Minis’. Please do note it took three months to get the car examined formally – but this happened much faster after sending a letter to the MD of BMW UK.
While the Clubman was being fettled, I was loaned a Countryman, which – to be honest – was a nice drive. But I did note the chrome had flaked off of the LHS rear weather strip, and the 12V cigar plug was loose inside the boot trim… this was on a car with less than 500 miles on the clock.
So I sold this hateful heap at a loss to a Subaru dealer, and I still continue to get communications from MINI. The expected slow depreciation, ended up not really the case either.
Never, ever again.
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.