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Expert guide to buying a MINI
The MINI in a nutshell?
When BMW rebooted the MINI they made sure it was a hoot to drive so it's no surprise that it's just as loved as the original. It may be a bit tight inside, but owners love them and the interior is a funky place to be. It has been a reliable used buy and values remain firm.
What are the MINI stats?
Top speed 143mph/0-60mph 6.6 seconds (Cooper S JC Works 2 - 2003)
Top speed 132mph/0-60mph 8.0 seconds (Cooper S 2003)
Top speed 109mph/0-60mph 11.5 seconds (One Convertible - 2007)
Top speed 99mph/0-60mph 13.7 seconds (1.4 D - 2003)
Top speed 109mph/0-60mph 11.5 seconds (1.6 - One Convertible 2003)
Top speed 111mph/0-60mph 10.9 seconds (1.4 - One 2007)
Top speed 112mph/0-60mph 11.5 seconds (1.4 - One Convertible 2007)
58.9 mpg (1.4 D - 2003)
72.4 mpg (1.6 D - 2008)
33.6mpg (Cooper S - 2003)
34mpg (Cooper S Convertible 2007)
129g/km Band D (1.4D - 2003)
104g/km Band B (1.6D - 2007)
207g/km Band K (Cooper S - 2003)
199g/km Band J (Cooper S Convertible - 2007)
Group 5 (One 2003)
Group 5 (One 2008)
Group 16 (Cooper S and Works 2003)
Group 16 (Cooper S 2008)
NCAP Safety Rating:
5 stars (2001)
How much for a MINI?
£2,275 buys a 2001 MINI One with 75,000 miles
£3,000 buys a 2001 MINI Cooper with 90,000 miles
£5,000 buys a 2003 MINI Cooper S with 73,000 miles
£7,000 buys a 2005 MINI Cooper S Convertible with 53,000 miles
£9000 buys a 2008 Mini Cooper S Clubman with 72,000 miles
Why buy a MINI?
It looked characterful on the outside and that was the intention, plus inside the interior had lots of period details. Toggle switches, big speedometer and the really, really clever thing is that BMW came up with the TLC service package. This offered five-year/50,000 miles of servicing cover so that there would be no charge except for wear and tear items during that period. Indeed there was even an enhanced TLC XL, which meant eight years'/80,000 miles' worth of cover. That helps explain why the MINI hardly depreciates and is so easy to resell.
Probably the most vital thing that BMW got right was that like the original Mini, the new MINI was a hoot to drive. With its stiff shell and big wheels placed at each corner, it corners fairly flat and has a huge amount of grip. Not only that, the ride is really quite smooth while the electronic power steering does its job of giving a varying amount of assistance according to the speed. The engines are fairly lively and characterfully noisy.
What's the best spec MINI?
First of all there is no such thing as a standard MINI and potentially there is a bewildering number of options. However, electric front windows, height adjustable front seats and steering column, plus remote locking and electric mirrors are standard.
A Cooper will always have alloy wheels and a rev counter. Originally, the One could only have the Salt package; this offered silver interior trim, floor mats, rear passenger cargo nets, halogen front fog lamps, interior lights package, passenger seat height adjustment and a rev counter. The Pepper package has all that plus 15-inch alloys and chrome bumper inserts.
The sporty Chilli had the Pepper ingredients plus part leather upholstery, leather steering wheel and gear knob, sports seats, sports suspension and Star alloys, plus a rear spoiler thrown in for free. Coopers could also have roof and wing mirrors in white or black at no extra cost and specify alloys in white. A CD autochanger, full leather trim and trip computers could also be found on the options list.
Meanwhile, the Cooper S had its own version of the Chilli pack, which meant air conditioning, xenon headlamps, halogen fog lamps, 17-inch alloys, plus floor mats, front seat rear pockets, interior lights package, height adjustable passenger seat and part leather trim.
2001: One and Cooper launched. R50, R52 Cabriolet, R53 Cooper S.
2002: Cooper S. John Cooper Works kit now available.
2003: modifications of failing components and noticeably better build quality.
2005: Modified supercharger, Limited Slip Differential on the options list. New five speed gearbox. Uprated power for the Cooper S. Convertible launched.
2006: John Cooper Works GP.
2007: R56 2 inches longer and mildly restyled. New engines.
2007: MINI Clubman launched
2011: MINI Roadster and MINI Coupe
First drive: MINI John Cooper Works Coupe
What should I look for on a used MINI?
The pads and discs don't seem to last very long and cheaper aftermarket items are usually fine. They will set you back £80 a set. Lots of Cooper owners seem to go for a Brembo brake upgrade, which seems to be worth having.
The passenger door goes first and the diagnostic software says that the motor is at fault. However, what happens is the heater and washer tanks overflow and that leaks into the front footwell and then that rots the module. The module is £400-£500 and the door motors are £75 each, plus fitting.
Regular MOT fail points, early cars seem to wear early, but the rear track rod ends seem to be unfeasibly long and they wear out. Rock the wheels to see if there is any play. Genuine replacements are £265, but pattern parts are far less at £50.
The electric pump can go on the blink. Usually it feels heavy then goes back to normal before failing completely at some point. Buying a replacement is £400 to £500 plus the labour for fitting.
The offside back box gets all the muck off the road and as a consequence corrodes first on the S. That box will cost £200 and an extra £50 to fit.
Rear boot lock
What happens is that the rear wash wipe jet blocks up and that leads to a dribble of water inside the boot directly onto a micro switch which will fail to work as part of the central locking and cost £20. That moisture in turn rots the lock mechanism and eventually you pay £30 for a new one.
As with all cars worth checking out, look in the boot for any creases or repairs. The plastic front end won't tell you much, but get underneath and look where the metal subframe starts and if that is buckled you may have a problem.
Not a particular weakness, but the older MINIs are now at a point where they need replacement and that involves a lot of expense. The modular plastic front end needs to removed and that takes a few hours but there is no other way to get at the £510 alternator.
First drive: MINI Roadster
What's the marketplace like for MINI?
Even though there is a brand new MINI around, the simple fact that they look so similar means that values have stayed surprisingly firm. However, there are an increasing number around with the earliest examples now slipping out of TLC cover. Not only that, very low and very high specification MINIs can struggle to sell.
Just because a MINI is over-equipped that is no reason to pay that much over the guide price. In fact, it is a great opportunity to take advantage of the only element of real depreciation on the extras. Alternatively what's the problem with buying a lower specification MINI, if it's at the right low price?
The convertibles are an alternative to an MX5 and are becoming better value, especially the early ones. The Clubman never found a large following and it remains one of the best value buys around as you can get yourself a more practical and more recent MINI for less.
First drive: MINI Coupe
Which MINI should I buy?
First of all we would only buy a MINI that came with the TLC service package, which is fully transferable to the next owner.. When it comes to choosing which MINI, well, there are two extremes. The basic One is just as much fun to drive as a Cooper and indeed is only slower because of a different engine management chip. So if you are on a budget then there is not much wrong with a One.
Compared with the S, the Cooper feels slow, so you might as well go for the more exciting option. Steer clear of some of the more extravagant specifications. Some owners got carried away with flags colours and the kitchen sink. Avoid paying too much for something like that, but the perfect model would be an S with Chilli pack and a good strong metallic colour that you will never have a problem reselling. The convertible is a nice idea but remains expensive.
As a general rule buy a One because it is all you can afford, but ensure it has air con. Buy a Cooper with a Chili pack because it is better value and buy a Cooper S for fun with a Chilli pack that will be easy to resell. Oh and the Clubman because it is more more practical and you can buy a more recent model compared with an equivalent Cooper.
Where do I shop for MINIs?
The obvious place to go is your local BMW dealer. They will have the very best with the balance of their TLC packages, but this will never be the cheapest option. Indeed because of the strength of the market they have been able to pretty much name their price and because of the lack of alternatives, buyers have not had that choice. That situation is slowly changing now and it is possible to find them at car supermarkets and independent car dealers.
It would be silly to overlook private sellers, because currently MINIs are still cherished by their first owners. If it has a full service history where all the recall work has been done then in clean condition and an appropriate specification you can't go too far wrong.
Any alternatives to the MINI?
This is a great value buy which also has very tidy handling and quite groovy styling. Quite refined and way more practical than a MINI.
First drive: Suzuki Swift
This one has funky styling that probably turns more heads than a MINI plus this is a proper four seater. No longer made so getting cheaper all the time.
Road test: Smart Forfour
The Ford is nowhere near as cute as a MINI, but lots of fun to drive, cheap to run and easy to buy, so the sensible and economical but not the fashionable alternative.
First drive: Ford Fiesta
MSN Cars' best superminis
Read MINI car reviews
First drive: MINI (2001-2006)
First drive: MINI Cooper S (2007 onwards)
First drive: MINI (2007 onwards)
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