Oh dear, am I in trouble? I’m in trouble, because with all my heart I do actually love BMW’s New Mini Cooper more than I do the original…
I’m sorry, but it’s true…
Yes, the original Mini of 1959 is an absolute classic, being beautifully designed, unbeatably practical and an everlasting 10-foot symbol of Englishness, but there are many reasons why I like the New Mini just that slightest bit more. What are those reasons? I’ll get to them presently, but first a little backstory.
After BMW took control of the ailing Rover Group, Britain’s last volume car manufacturer, in 1994, the Mini brand that had been inherited from BMC’s Austin/Morris and British Leyland was reverted to them, and thus they continued to manufacture the
car. However, by the 1990’s the Mini was no longer a mass-production machine as it had been before, but more a novelty item bought by a select few, including 12,000 special edition Mini’s being shipped to Japan. At the same time the entire Rover company was falling into financial difficulty, with the Rover 75 failing to become the major seller BMW had envisaged, and the nearly 20 year old Metro now being dubbed one of the most unsafe cars on the road, with its design dating back to the mid-70’s. The result was in 2000 that BMW would break up Rover Group into its most profitable parts. Land Rover/Range Rover was sold to Ford, whilst the Metro and original Mini were discontinued, although the Mini marque was rescued and reverted to BMW ownership. The remainder of the Rover company was sold to a small English firm called Phoenix Venture Holdings, which kept the company ticking over until bankruptcy came in 2005.
Prior to discontinuing the Mini however, BMW had already devised a way of returning this plucky and brilliant little machine to the roads with a new lease of life, this being in the form of the New Mini of 1999. The original New Mini took the world by storm with its cute round lines and curvature, being a plucky little hatchback for the modern age, although slightly more bulky than the original due to the various 21st Century safety features and a desire for more space that generally made the whole product larger in size. The car was Front Wheel Drive and powered by a 1.4L Tritec engine, although other engines such as a 1.6L Supercharged Tritec Inline-4 engine could also be available for the Mini Cooper S.
The car was an immediate success, with even Jeremy Clarkson stating it to be one of the
best front wheel drive cars he’d ever driven, but not as good as the original off which it was based. Indeed the New Mini wasn’t without its criticism, many complaining about the fact that it was too bulky, and the fact that it was German, its crisp, smooth, streamlined bodyshape couldn’t hold a candle to the original of 1959, and that it was just a general waste of time and effort, a forlorn sham compared to the BMC run-around. I will agree, the original Mini is an icon of engineering brilliance, and a symbol of both Britain and its automotive industry, but I’ve always had a soft-spot for the New Mini, in fact I wanted one for my 18th Birthday upon passing my driving test, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers. Either way I feel it does still hold a novelty, but not in the same way as the original, largely because it continues to carry the name ‘Mini’, which in itself adds a novel touch to the whole concept. If it was named something else, I doubt this car would be as special as it actually is.
Today the modern Mini is into its 3rd Generation, and has seen many weird and wonderful variations come off it, including the Cabrio, the estate Clubman, the bulky SUV Countryman, a five-door version of the original hatch, a Sports Coupe and a Roadster!
So, why does the New Mini hold a bigger place in my heart? Because I feel that it
perfectly combines the charm of a small car and its legendary name with a bit more space and practicality than the original. The old Mini is a little too small, especially for someone like me knocking 6 foot, as well as many examples being prone to rust or highly unreliable (*cough* British Leyland *cough*). I know and understand why the classic is such a classic, you can name any reason, Italian Job, Mr. Bean, and countless other movies that feature the perky little motor, but the New Mini is just to me a better car for the modern day. I may love classic cars, but most aren’t everyday cars, being too fragile or unreliable. The New Mini on the other hand is reliable, and durable, and will happily start in the morning, and won’t breakdown on the side of the M11 during a thunderstorm, it’ll gladly keep on going and at the same time give you something of a charming ride. I sure know that even the New Mini turns heads, which is more than can be said for many other modern retellings of retro cars such as the new FIAT 500.