Hopefully, new (used) car anxiety is a feeling we all get. You can do all the research and checks and test drives in the world, but buying someone else’s old car still can feel like a leap of faith. The first weeks seem to be spent listening for ominous rattles and groans (from the car, that is), assuming a worst-case scenario for every imperfection and generally driving around extremely delicately indeed.
Perhaps I’m just overly cautious. And obviously now I’ve expressed some optimism about the state of the Mini, something catastrophic will go wrong. But in everything it’s been tasked with so far - as a station car, for motorway miles, and the occasional fun drive when time and weather permits - the Mini has been brilliant. Small enough to be fun, grown up enough to be liveable, fast yet frugal, vaguely cool looking but not so pristine I fret about it parked up. One particularly enjoyable drive recently was to Lydden Hill for the 911 Dakar drive; it was a 300-mile round trip in mostly appalling weather, but the little Cooper S was assured on the motorway, comfy for hours at the wheel, a perfect little scallywag when the opportunities arose and usefully parsimonious: a refuel towards the end of the day showed a predicted range of 536 miles. Useful on a 50-litre tank; the trip computer suggests we’re averaging almost 38mpg.
Of course, things aren’t perfect - not that I expected them to be on a 12-year-old, 70,000-mile car that only cost £6k. Having been spoilt with modern infotainment, the Mini - though not bad in terms of sound quality - does feel very, well, 2011 in its tech. The Bluetooth phone pairing was a cinch, and works well; however, it doesn’t allow for media playback, and the car doesn’t like any of the USB cables I’ve used. Z Bluetooth adaptor recommended delivered as much fizz and crackle through the Aux input as it did sound. All recommendations gladly received - maybe I’ll have to start buying CDs again.
Frustratingly, new rear tyres were needed at purchase. In my excitement at finally finding a suitable car and seeing four matching Michelin Pilot Sport 4s, I didn’t check them over properly. A slight crashiness and waywardness I’d attributed to the rusty springs all around (they’re being replaced on Monday) was also being caused by rear rubber way past it’s best. That was £300 I really didn’t want to spend, but the car is improved for new PS4s. And it’ll be a lesson for next time, you stupid bloody idiot.
That already feels a long time ago now, though. When those centre-exit pipes are parping and the Mini is flitting this way and that just like - sorry - a go-kart, while going far faster than I think 184hp should make it go, it’s a hoot. Ideally, the Sport exhaust setting (which is brilliant; the rear seats are now down permanently) could be selected independently of the heavier steering, but I can live with it. It’ll be interesting to see what impact the new springs have, too; I suspect it’ll be the much more expensive job of fresh dampers that properly resolves what can be a restless ride.
Finally, I must mention my first couple of small changes. The horrible numberplates are gone, as are those reflectors, the latter thanks to dental floss and tar remover - they really were stuck on properly! The Mini is much better looking as a result, which I was really enjoying when cleaning it in the breaks between the rain recently. Shame the paint probably has an above-average number of blemishes to it, but then having so many almost reduces the desire to rectify them - more than a couple of touch-up chips, you just know it would be into much more serious paint correction very quickly, which I don’t want. The wheels, on the other hand, I’m really keen to get refurbed, if only because they make the car look so good even in less than perfect condition. Imagine how nice it could be. Having freshly done wheels near the kerbs at my house would do nothing for the anxiety, though…
Car: 2011 Mini Cooper S
Run by: Matt Bird
On fleet since: February 2023
1 / 10