By on March 24, 2012

A decade ago, MINI launched in the United States, at a time when gas was cheap and small cars were decidedly not in vogue. The original Cooper has given birth to the Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster, in a brilliant display of making many lengths of sausage from one pile of meat.

MINI hasn’t always been a bright and shining success story. Reliability problems have plagued the brand, even though they make some of the most fun vehicles at any price. Issues with the CVT gearbox, for example, have been manifold and the transmission is staggeringly expensive to replace.

On the other hand, cars like the Mini Cooper S offer a sublime mixture of performance and style. Of course, you’ll pay for that. Today’s MINI no longer resembles the original iconic design and MINI’s future seems to be oriented more towards “mobility” than the automobile. Nevertheless, we salute MINI here at TTAC, and the above photo, taken in a Clubman S JCW at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will always be one of my most memorable drives, from the parade lap of the circuit to the meandering journey I took in it through the Eastern Seaboard, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana over 4 days. If only they weren’t so damn expensive.


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24 Comments on “MINI Turns 10 In America...”

  • avatar

    Living in a major metropolitan area where you can hardly go a mile without running the risk of traffic and/or a speed camera, I have often wondered what should define a sports car in 2012. My answer is that the car has to be a blast to drive at legal or near legal speeds. The list of such cars would definitely include the Mini Cooper S, perhaps the Abart500, definitely the Miata and RX-8, and probably the BRZ. All small, light cars, with peppy engines with a minimum of tech and all available with a stick.

  • avatar

    The cloud of oil smoke behind the yellow car in the top right corner really is a fitting tribute.

  • avatar
    word is bond

    Yes, they’re expensive, but isn’t every car, now? Buying cars new is really friggin expensive, but the Mini’s base price is right in line with the others. Cooper S for 23,7; GTI gor 24; FR-S for 24,2; Miata for 23,5 and Genesis Coupe for 22,5.
    I’ll stick with buying old and german and then slowly hemorrhaging money in service costs. Cos it still won’t add up to the price of New.

  • avatar

    In celebration my MINI blew the #2 spark plug out of the cylinder head. Hurray?

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Minis are cool cars from the outside but the interiors are atrocious. When I see a Mini on the road I smile. When I walk by one in a parking lot I avert my eyes from the interior.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, this is why my wife didn’t buy one and instead grabbed a Volvo C30. The C30 is more like a Golf then Mini – its larger and softer, thus a better daily driver especially for someone who just needs a little sportiness when compared to your standard, generic Camry-like vehicle.

  • avatar

    As to the cost of a MINI, you get what you pay for. There is definitely more under the skin engineering that goes into the MINI than say an Aveo. Perhaps the success lies in MINI’s understanding of that huge gaping gap in the US motor world that is simply, small does not have to mean “economy”.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a new MCS in 2007, sold it in 2011. I’m 6’4″, so there are not too many cars I can fit in comfortably, yet the MINI proved to be one of the best – I just needed to treat it as a 2-seater. No problem, 1 wife, 0 kids.

      The car was a blast to drive. Extremely nimble, very, very quick (6spd), great styling, especially in BRG & black, excellent fuel economy (34 MPG avg), particularly considering the performance. I sold it for a number a reasons.
      I hated the fact that the rearview mirror was directly in my line of sight. I found no easy answer for that particular problem.

      The torque steer was inexcusable in a modern car; Especially in a $30,000 car

      Ditto the interior quality, The dash squeaked horribly by 20,000 miles. My 1999 beetle is a tank by comparison – and that car is no great shakes either!

      The clutch consistently “groaned” upon takeup of 1st gear. The dealers (3 of ’em!) consistently told me I was being too easy on the clutch, that I should drive it more aggressively occasionally. I thought that was an incredibly stupid response. My TR6, back in 1980 had a quiet clutch. A TR6!!!
      If Triumph could accomplish this seemingly amazing feat, surely BMW/MINI could figure it out.

      The MINI may be built by BMW, but it feels nothing like a BMW. The overall build quality shows it’s British manufacture more than it’s German design. Again, my stupid Beetle’s doors close more impressively than the MINI’s. Sad.

      The top-of-the-line lounge leather was puckering terribly on the drivers seat by 18,000 miles. I weigh 200 lbs. My 1999 Audi A4 has as-new seats @ 140,000 miles. MINI = FAIL!

      With all the gizmos and electronic bullsh*t in the car, I was always waiting to get slammed by some ridiculous repair.

      The huge 17″ wheels and run-flats were pathetically noisy and harsh. They should be done away with.

      I think the MCS, as equipped as mine was, should be about $20,000 – 22,000 tops, not $30,000.

      Anyway, it gone, and I’m quite glad. If I decide to buy another car, Honda Fit here I come. Exciting? No. reliable? Yes. I have decided I like motorcycles 100x more than cars (necessary evils). They’re more fun, easier to work on, cheaper to operate, and are way cooler. Since I live in Oregon, I can make do 98% of the year without an expensive car sitting in my garage. The train is good for the other 2%.

      I giggle a little every time I pass the MINI dealer. Fancy stuff, it you like to toss money away.

      It could have been so good…………………….

  • avatar

    Car blog people are so cheap. Yes, shockingly, you will have to pay a premium for a small, fun to drive niche vehichle put out by BMW. And yes, it’s not going to be Corolla reliable. Everything is a trade off in the automotive world, but, personally, I’m glad BMW saw fit to resurrect the brand.

    I suspect that a lot of the commenters that predictably come out of the woodwork to poo poo seemingly every unique or sporty car are subconsciously trying to justify their own choice of transportation. ‘If it was just five grand cheaper I would totally be driving a Cooper S instead of my Yaris…’

  • avatar

    That looks like a screenshot from Gran Turismo 5. Sorry if it isn’t and I don’t mean any insult. I could swear it does though.

  • avatar

    I’ll admit, I didn’t think the brand would last this long. The S is balls out fun but am past the point when I would buy this at as a first car.

  • avatar

    I Never thought they would be around so long…I thought the fad would come and go in the blink of an eye.

  • avatar

    BMW’s marketers are genius.

    I love the Cooper and Clubman, dislike the Coupe (its just pointless) and despise the Countryman. Most of my hate for the Countryman comes from the interior, cheap plasticky garbage in a premium vehicle? I don’t think so.

    Multiple friends of have owned Minis. They love driving them, but never get another one. The reliability and servicing costs always spoil the fun.

    Would I buy one? Probably not. But I would lease one. $0 down, $249 a month for a Cooper? yes please!

  • avatar

    That I still look at them fondly five years after selling mine, and with all the problems, speaks to how much fun they are to drive. Sadly if they don’t hold up well enough and now cost as much as a lightly used 3-series it’s hard to take them seriously. (The press has been ragging about the interior from the start and still…)

    The new subie/scion looks like its going to take up the mantle of cheap driver’s car. (We haven’t forgotten about the Miata, we just need to carry the occasional friend or bag of groceries.)

  • avatar

    We just sold our ’09 Clubman, we weren’t driving it enough to justify the payments. Loved the car, might get another one eventually, finances permitting. According to True Delta, MINIs are about average repair wise, and they don’t differentiate between the base engine and the turbo in the S model. Considering the take rate on the S is pretty high, and most of the complaints about the motor pertain to the turbo version, it suggests the base engine is actually quite solid.

    As for the CVT, MINI dropped it in 2007. They now use a conventional 6-speed made in Japan by Aisin.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I have been tempted by the car, but riding in one felt like punishment and potential reliability issues scared me off. The N/A engine appears to be pretty solid; the turbo not so. There goes the fun . . .

    For me, what tells the tale is that, alone among “luxury” cars, MINI does not offer a CPO program. That speaks to me . . . and not well.

  • avatar

    Why is it the older you get, “fun” seems so over rated? I mean, I’m stretched thin with bills and a kid going to college and by the time I get through with all that, I’ll be knocking on retirement. Hey wait, that’s why old dudes by these and MX-5’s, D’oh!

  • avatar

    Well, no matter what the commenters here say, I still have mine and it’s been pretty reliable. Not the most reliable car ever, but given the way I drive, I’m more than happy with my MINI. It’s one of those cars that I just enjoy driving to nowhere in particular or anywhere.

    Happy birthday and congratulations, MINI. Now off to find another twisty road to drive.

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