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!)
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.