Given the general love for Bangernomics motoring – preferably with a British flavour – around here, it might seem more than a little odd that an R56-generation MINI is joining the fleet. Especially as this one had 17 miles on the clock, and my name was the first on the V5C logbook when I picked it up from Wollaston MINI in Northampton on 23 December. But this one was bought under interesting circumstances…
Let’s just say that this one isn’t a typical AROnline fleet car. It’s been bought for ‘er indoors as a Christmas present, as a sensible daily alternative to ‘her’ Saab 900T16S, and my way of thanking her for being a diamond for putting up with me during the three-and-a-half long months of recovery since my return – bust and dented – from Romania. There was no question of buying anything other than British, and as an MG6 hadn’t floated her boat when I last had one in (and the company didn’t seem that interested in selling me one), I went straight for a MINI, speccing up an entry-level ‘First’ with the essential optional metallic paint and air conditioning (and nothing else) for a very good deal in the run-up to Christmas.
On Christmas morning, it was an absolute joy seeing her unwrap the keyfob and ‘ring – and look at it in a puzzled way – before being led out to the front of the house with the comment ‘enjoy, it’s yours’. The look on her face, and her speechlessness, was worth all the tea in China. Yes, I think she was pleased…
Anyway, to the car itself: what’s to say, really. Despite its (relatively) modest price, the First seems as well screwed together and thoroughly engineered as any other MINI I’ve driven – and although it lacks the flashy chrome exterior trim and colour-keyed interior that you’ll find on more ostentatious examples of the breed you don’t get the sense it’s pared down in any important sense. The 1.6-litre pulls well (despite a very modest output of 75bhp), and the six-speed ‘box is a delight to use. As is the steering and all round demeanour of the car. It’s going to make an interesting comparison to the Suzuki Swift I’m currently running on long-term for Diesel Car magazine.
As for the dealer experience, it was top notch, although they probably could have done with an easier negotiator. I’m hoping they won’t see much of me – and the car – at all, although with the TLC package of fixed service and breakdown costs, it should be a financially painless experience if they do. It’s really too soon to add many more experiences than this – I literally drove it home and handed it over… and I’ll no doubt keep you posted about its progress (and what bits we add to it) over the coming months.
But I suspect I won’t be getting much opportunity to drive it myself!