Our Cars : MINI First – 2000 miles on

Since arriving on the fleet on Christmas Day, the MINI First racks up the miles without missing a beat.

Keith Adams wonders if this is what new car ownership is always like… painless?

It’s a MINI delight

While Mike Humble enjoys ‘the only car he’ll ever need’, his Rover 75, we’re also enjoying something of a honeymoon with the MINI First that arrived at AROnline Towers on Christmas Day. With 22 miles on the clock when I picked it up, the First was as factory fresh as I’ve yet to experience in a car and, as expected, tight as a drum. Buying the car involved a fair bit of negotiation with both a trade-in, and on the option package that came with the car…

I was determined that, in the spirit of BL-era MINI ownership, our new car would be as standard as possible bereft of any options, aside from (the essential) air conditioning and metallic paint. Speccing-up the car on the MINI website, it looked like I’d be paying just over £12K, so equipped, which seemed like a reasonable deal considering the entry level First model has the same 1.6-litre petrol engine found in the One and Cooper, but detuned to 75bhp. I called the local dealer, Wollaston MINI, and after a quick chat, it was clear that they had a car in stock, to the correct specification, in a jolly shade of copper metallic, that would fit the bill.

I popped down to the showroom the following morning, and hammered out a deal that resulted in us securing the car for £11K, with that all important TLC servicing package included. That should make the future months quite painless from an ownership perspective.

But what of the car itself? As MINIs go, it’s barenaked in its charm, with hardly any chrome on it to speak of, right down to a City E style black grille. Where you’d expect to see a nice set of alloy wheels, this one’s sporting wheeltrims that do a reasonable job of doing nothing other than telling the world you’re rolling on steels. Can’t say I mind really – but somehow I think they will get replaced a little way down the line. Other base-model giveaways are the black door mirrors and modest exhaust pipe sans chrome trim.

Inside, it’s got all the essentials, but little more. And that’s the way I like it – so black cloth seats and black trim. However, it still has the electronic speedo/trip computer combination and a decent sounding stereo with auxillary input. Oh, and of course, electric windows, remote central locking, keyless go and air conditioning. In short, you’ll not feel shortchanged, as the basics are there.

But once on the move it’s clear that all of the MINI’s engineering integrity is intact. So, you get planted handling, responsive steering a six-speed gearbox, and – a surprise this – self-levelling headlamps. It doesn’t feel as though it’s lacking horses either compared with a MINI One and, once into the long-striding sixth, which is geared to turn over at 2300rpm at the legal limit, it feels as though you could undertake the longest of journeys. Two up.

We’ve noticed now we’ve passed the 2000 mile mark that the engine is loosening up nicely and fuel consumption is improving all the time. The last brim saw 49.77mpg – which for a relatively large-engined petrol engined car with a far-from advanced spec is not to be sneezed at. And with the current price advantage of petrol over diesel amounting to about 10p per litre, it’s clear that there’s life in the green stuff yet.

Faults or annoyances to report so far? None that come to mind, other than the usual MINI criticisms of a cramped rear (it’s never used more than two-up anyway) and that dinner plate-sized speedometer which doesn’t get any better looking with familiarity. And, of course, it’s a ‘BINI’, which means it’s a real conversation starter around these parts – but that gives me some excuse to get on my ‘made in England’ hobby horse, anyway.

But really, that’s about it. Nothing’s dropped off, it’s never failed to proceed, and it keeps its principal driver more than happy – which is worth more than its weight in gold. And the real positives are – so far – great build quality, first class dynamics and an overall feeling of well-being. The main downside is that I’m not getting to drive it as much as I’d like – but that’s not the end of the world, as I am currently thinking about buying an MG ZT (thanks Mike!)


Keith Adams


  1. I hate to say it, but I’ve become quite a (secret) fan of the new MINI. Especially in non-sporty guises. When I finish uni, I can see a R50 joining my R40!

  2. I like my made-in-England New Balance running shoes; Dualit toaster and Henry vacuum cleaner. If you use these sort of products you should try them. The UK needs people to buy British.

  3. As good as 50mpg! From a 1.6 petrol! Thats very impressive!

    Certainly opened my eyes as a ‘new-Mini-sceptic’.

    Might be just the thing for the other half for the commute, carsharing with me, so I can keep the 20mpg Accord Coupe garaged for weekends 😉

  4. “I like my made-in-England New Balance running shoes; Dualit toaster and Henry vacuum cleaner. If you use these sort of products you should try them. The UK needs people to buy British.”

    Good point here. Quite often it’s difficult to find out what is made in Britain. I’ve got an Arcam hifi which is proudly British. I see a spin off from AR Online coming1

    PS Of course the world’s greatest alcoholic beverage, Scotch whisky can on;y be made here (well Scotland which I still think of as British, Mr Salmond)

  5. I read this with great interest as my wife got her new Bini Cooper (the SD model)in late November last year. We kept away from the options list – just a set of black bonnet stripes was our only indulgence which we managed to get thrown in (for £80 good job too, or I’d have got out a tin of black smoothrite). Ours too has not put foot wrong. These are great cars and whilst we all have an opinion on the politics around them (I used call it a 1/2 series BMW)I am now reluctantly falling for its charms.

    The fuel consumption is terrific when driven with care for a big engined 140BHP car. Much better than my 140BHP 2.0 TDi 53 plate Audi A3 from a year or too back – and I thought that was good!

    We also felt it is laughably cramped in the rear and boot space shocking – and we knew this before we signed on the dotted line – it is not a serious problem for us. Just like in the Midget, I enjoy waving at fellow Bini owners when driving it (the majority stare blankly at me unklike MG owners) which proves that the majority of them seem to care not about the heritage and comaradery – but most modern day car owners are like that.

    And above all – its made in England!

  6. The bini is one of the cars on my next car shopping list.. Ok it ain’t a mini, but it’s close, and it’s British.

    Am with mike, would be a nice sideline on aroline, if we had the odd story on other British made consumables.. Starting with the Henry vacuum cleaner..

  7. Hmmm… £11k after haggling for a basic spec wheel-trimmed MINI looks poor value for money when compared to the more desirable Fiat 500, which can be had in Lounge spec (panoramic full width glass roof, alloys, bluetooth, USB etc etc) for under £11k – or the Pop version (basic spec akin to the Mini One) for well under £10k.

    The 1.2 has similar output but better economy than the 1.6 MINI and residuals are currently looking marginally better for the Fiat also… and of course it looks much fresher than the MINI which has been around a decade and looks largely unchanged.

    Each to their own though. Personally I have neither 😉

  8. Henry vacuum cleaners are fantastic, most builders I know use them due to their ability to handle almost any type of mess.

  9. Almost 50mpg is very impressive for a petrol car – I can’t believe how good petrol fuel economy has got over the last few years. Makes you wonder if it’s worth getting a diesel, what with the higher cost per litre of the oily stuff (unless you’re doing mega-mileage).

  10. Everyone jumps on the diesel bandwagon thinking it’s the only way, yet they’re missing out on some truly great petrol engines that are just as economical and probably more fun in the real world.

  11. Well said Rovamota.

    My father joined the Diesel clan amidst promises of 65MPG but in Eighteen months of ownership has not bettered 48!
    Petrol engines do near to their claimed MPG, Diesels do not!

  12. Hmmm

    My Mini Cooper D, now with 122k miles and having never reset the MPG button has avereged 56 MPG – and I don’t hang around. I don’t believe a petrol would touch that

  13. When you are getting mugged at £143 a litre upwards and dearer service costs and your emmision nonsense causing problems why bother buying a small diesel car?look at the promising ecoboost three pot of fords-a 1litre engine mooted for even the mondeo(the only worry is torque)even fiat twinair isgood,although the japs are past masters of this with thier banzai cars of the nineties-who needs a diesel with expensive and problematic after cleaning (DPF/eolys etc)when these small petrol engines are relatively clean pre-cat anyway!dont believe the hype i tanked a fiesta 1.4D (van so even lighter)econetic,how far?380 miles on a tank-i was getting that out of my t reg 20v golf!

  14. Not wanting to provoke an unnecessary debate, Francis, but what were the relative tank sizes of the Fiesta and Golf?

    I run a Berlingo van with the 1.6 HDi engine, and my wife a Berlingo 1.6 petrol. The mpg difference is like night and day, I could never afford to run my business using the petrol engined car, which is low mileage and has always been serviced at the correct intervals.

    I think a lot of people gun their diesels to get them going like a petrol and end up with crap mpg as a result. I agree though that the price difference is starting to negate any benefit for owners of diesel private cars, but for higher mileage business users they are still the best option if you compare like for like.

  15. Diesel only makes sense for larger cars, where a 45 mpg Jaguar 2,7 TD makes far more sense than the petrol version, which struggles to do 30 mpg. Most small petrol cars of the last few years can exceed 50 mpg and they tend to be about a £ 1000 cheaper, the fuel is 8 pence a litre cheaper and servicing is lower, so a diesel doesn’t make much sense.

  16. That First looks quite cute, with it’s black grille and higher profile tyres, a detuned larger engine is quite a rarity these days, and no doubt any future Mini will have smaller turbocharged engines.

  17. “Mile Humble” – is that a new nickname or an unintentional typo ?

    Good to hear that you are getting decent mpg out of the Bini. There is so much hype about diesel mpg yet whenever I’ve had a hire car the diesel and petrol mpgs are quite close even though the cars have been used on the same type of duties. The petrol car may have given about 10% less mpg than the diesel, but if it was my own car I’d be avoiding expensive problems with the DPF and dual mass flywheel in the future.

  18. @15 I would guess iro 10-15l difference,the golf is a five door,correctly serviced 205k -HC 8ppm always been heavy on fuel 400 cc difference the fiesta is quoted at extra urban 80 mpg and 67.3 combined my journey was all motorway from the pump in bolton to milton keynes and back.very poor.

  19. @Sixtyten

    Slightly cynical comment, given that there are enough manufacturer long-term test cars out there that have failed in similar circumstances. Yes, total reliability is an expectation these days, but it doesn’t always pan out that way…

  20. @22 in terms of reliability the buck always stops with the manufactorers,but it always seems to be outsourced parts-mercedes and indeed VW are having a terrible time with siemens common rail injector failures-remember when mercs were “over engineered”!

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