PH Blog: don't fancy yours much

I used to run a Mini in 2008, a Cooper S with the JCW tuning kit, and was subject to much criticism by those who either didn't understand the Mini concept or hadn't driven one. It's all too easy to follow the 'ladies and estate agents' banter when all around are doing the same, but I defended it with gusto and surprised a few people on track days with it too.

Garlick sets out to prove the haters wrong
Garlick sets out to prove the haters wrong
I'm fully aware that the new Mini/proper Mini debate will rage on, and some won't like the new car any more than current buyers probably wouldn't consider the original version. Time moves on, brands and ranges evolve and, yes, the Mini is now bigger, more luxurious and more expensive than ever before. But show me a current model from any manufacturer that isn't.

As the brand evolves it now offers 4x4 and estate options that polarise opinion and the new Coupe and Roadster are all set to do the same. In fact, the one sitting in the PH car park right now is already raising eyebrows and attracting some fairly robust Tweets from Mr Harris and many others. Now, I drove it last night and can report that it is as much fun to drive as any other Mini, but this isn't a review and that job will be down to Mr Trent.

What struck me is just how much attention I got while driving it - it inspires as much neck craning as a Ferrari 458, it makes folk smile and, among women especially, the response is overwhelmingly positive. (Mini mightier than the mustard trousers shocker! - Ed.)

More to it than meets the eye, thankfully
More to it than meets the eye, thankfully
Mock the brand all you want, but Mini seems to be making cars that appeal to a certain demographic and they are buying them in their droves. And underneath that shouty image lies a great car that many buyers won't begin to exploit, and that means a good car is going to waste. This Coupe drives really well, but we as PHers probably won't buy it. It's over-styled and costs upwards of £25K in JCW form, and for that price you are spoilt for choice, not least with the much more overtly PH-worthy Subaru BRZ (or GT 86 equivalent) driven this week.

What does that mean for the Mini? Only time will tell I guess but a nice little driver's car is in danger of written off for being too cute by the likes of us and the brand may well end up being known more for style than substance.

That's a shame.






Comments (118) Join the discussion on the forum

  • nickfrog 02 Apr 2012

    Well my R56 MCS is definitely a drivers' car. It was on Run Flats when I got it and I ditched them pretty quickly, and that (I am carefully and dispassionately choosing the next word) transformed the car from OK to brilliant. While I was at it I also changed the geo and particularly toe and reduced rear neg camber.

    The steering and engine are obviously not quite as refined as the hydraulic system and flat-6 respectively that I had before but despite that, the car's lateral grip, neutrality, resistance to torque steer and genuine playfulness on the limit are nothing short of spectacular, and on a par with say a DC2. Having spent £9K for the car needless to say I am happy, but maybe I am not a proper driver ?

    Edited by nickfrog on Tuesday 3rd April 00:13

  • cmoose 02 Apr 2012

    nickfrog said:
    Was it on Run Flats ?
    Was on whatever it gets as standard, was a press car. I doubt regular tyres will fix the steering - driven plenty of BMWs with run flats and better steering. And tyre construction definitely isn't going to fix the engine, which I don't like at all.

  • cmoose 02 Apr 2012

    900T-R said:
    Which is the only car in its segment which edges it as a focused driving tool, which is offset by the driving position and the general bargain basement Renaultness of the thing.

    It's all about context. I just ordered a Cooper S through the company car scheme. The other choices made by people within the same allowance class recently are 125 bhp Focus, Lexus CT200h and boggo Audi A3 1.6...
    I agree - I wouldn't want to pay for the Renault with my own money, either - nasty cabin, crap driving position. As a user-chooser, the £25k zone is tricky, there isn't much to choose from if you want an actual driver's car. Almost nothing if you want RWD. Even a miserable 125i coupe is over £27k base.

    As things stand right now, it would have to be Toyobaru, even if I'm not mad about the styling. A first-gen supercharged BMW MINI Cooper S / JCW might have had a look in. But the second gen with the turbo lump and leccy steering I'm afraid I don't rate at all. Doesn't offer enough as a driver's car that I'd ever actually take one out for the hell of it.

  • nickfrog 02 Apr 2012

    cmoose said:
    A nice little driver's car? Sorry, it's not.

    I drove one back from Austria following the launch last year. It's got plenty going for it. It's striking. Punters like it - lots of people asked questions and made very positive noises. The structure feels very solid and it's reasonably refined. And MINI Connected is good.

    But it's not a great driver's car. The engine is a bit boosty and nasty and sounds ordinary. The steering doesn't have much feel and isn't all that accurate when you're really pressing on. I drove it through the Alps, up Germany and back to Blighty and the simple fact is that it's not much fun to drive. It's not even in the same ballpark as, say, a Clio Renaultsport.

    Haven't driven the Toyobaru, but I imagine that annihilates the MINI Couple. I'm not a big fan of any of the second-gen BMW MINIs, not nearly as nice to drive as the first gen cars which had better steering and a nicer supercharged rather than turbocharged engine.

    Summary - the MINI Coupe fails not because of the questionable aesthetic, but because the dynamics aren't that great, either. To be honest, I'm surprised to read someone suggesting it's all that.
    Was it on Run Flats ?

  • Clem64 02 Apr 2012

    Little red driving hood is a better headline

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