By on December 31, 2013


The end of the year, the end of an era for a famous British Marque.  Let’s get crackin’ before the ink on the vellum dries for the (all new) 2014 model.

1Everyone knows this face, it’s Brand Recognition 101.  Or maybe 202, as the original MINI (the 100% British one) was redesigned even less regularly/extensively than the BMW-owned MINI.  Perhaps not even Ford’s iconic Mustang remained this true to form.  The MINI’s snout sports a traditional grille and round headlights on a small canvas, but the bumper could be any modern car.

The proportions are right.  The elements are well-formed and harmonize together quite well.  Just like it’s always been for this brand.



Both grilles work well together, the bottom opening is almost a mirror reflection of the top, as it pushes into the air dam’s real estate much like the grille’s forcible entrance to the bumper. Well thought out and clean!


And even though this is a small and (somewhat) cheap car where corner cutting is acceptable, well, this lower grille is a rather fancy casting.  The solid portions of the egg crate are deeply recessed, so it takes a while to see the mass-market cheapness.  Add the chrome strip in the middle and perhaps you’ll never even bother to notice this doesn’t belong on a high dollar 7-series BMW!  Well…


If the grille didn’t slide down into the bumper, the MINI would be surprisingly devoid of panel gaps.  That’s the beauty of a clamshell-style hood: the insurance industry may hate replacing these in a minor accident, but the way the hood and fenders blur into one panel is a work of fine art.


MINI’s always had the coolest headlights in its class, if not one of the coolest designs for any budget. Just the right amount of chrome inside the lense (not swept back into functionless blingy real estate) so there’s room for an expensive looking outer chrome ring: a modern interpretation of vintage Jags, Ferraris, etc.

More kudos for not using the chrome signal light body (or the cap for the headlight) for a branding opportunity. That notion’s been played out. And there’s a nice corporate logo on the hood if you think this might be a Ferrari.

OMG YES CLAMSHELL HOOD. But seriously, note the reflection of the lights above: there’s a subtle fender flare from the headlights on back.  It’s beautiful.  It is really such a sin to want more affordable vehicles with fewer breaks in the body for the singular reason of aesthetic delight?


A cheap(ish) car with expensive old world craftsmanship: the chrome trim around the clamshell is another subtle reminder that you coulda bought a more car for the money at damn near any other dealership…except that you actually wouldn’t!

8The Bayswater Edition replaces the standard logo with something straight outta 1981.  I think I have the same pattern when I crank up Giorgio Moroder on my Pioneer cassette player’s VU meter. But still, this mini billboard (get it?) should be binned for straight sheet metal around that light. Cleaner is better on a vehicle with a clamshell hood with such a racy cutline!


Oh yes, I did say racy.


MINIs are all about customization to an owner’s needs, and the Bayswater definitely appeals to my inner Max Headroom. But wait…do I see…


No DLO FAIL!  Even better, the black A-pillar blends nicely into the greenhouse, while that chrome trim continues around the side.  The three blue panels, the clamshell hood, the cowl paneling (for lack of a better phrase) and the door cut lines aren’t necessarily minimal, but they work well together.

If only the clamshell’s end point was the same as the front door’s beginning point like a C4 Corvette!


While that backslash on the clamshell is a MINI hallmark, using another horizontal line above this rocker moulding instead lets the clamshell go all the way back to really spice up the package.

Then again, the (rear hinged) hood probably wouldn’t open if that request came true…damn you reality check!



The gloss black wheels are a unique touch, only because the leading edge of the spokes and the rim’s lip is polished.  The wheel’s lines are logical and symmetric, so this bit of color ingenuity is certainly welcome and not outstanding like a black eye on a pretty face.13

So much for logical!  Perhaps employees of New World Pictures approve, yet both mirror skullcaps should be the same color.  This is nonsense, and not that systematic failure endemic of a failed organization nonsense that brought us the Pontiac Aztek…it’s just plain silliness with no value on an automobile.

Whatever graphical theme the Bayswater name implies, this isn’t how you do a gray and blue color scheme.


Although it might look better if both mirrors were that french gray instead of radioactive blue…what say you?


Invisible B-pillar that lines up well with the door cutline.  Unlike the CTS coupe, MINI did a fantastic job hiding pillars under glass.  Also note the chrome trim that started on the clamshell continues apace.

Sure, this is a round and cute vehicle.  But the round theme is more of an ovoid, and the negative area behind the door pull should emulate the shape seen in the headlights.  Or the ovoidness seen here in the door cutline.  This is “too round”, if such a thing is possible.



No A-pillar. No B-pillar.  No C-pillar. Be it wrapped in glass or covered in gloss black, the MINI does a fantastic job looking far more expensive than anything else at this price point.  All it needs is (illegal) limo tint and the greenhouse would look like a pillarless space ship! Very cool, very much approved.

Cute proportions, charming interplay between design elements, short overhangs and cheap yet expensive detailing.

This is why people love the MINI: staying true to it while advancing the game.  This is what us Panther Love/RWD American Sedan fans wanted.

18Retro gas caps usually look out-of-place (SN-95 Bullitt Mustang) but if there’s one mainstream machine that needs one…and it’s a clean and flowing design elegantly recessed into the body.


19_1Just like the side profile, the MINI’s rear greenhouse looks surprisingly sharp with this chrome strip.  The glossy C-pillar helps, as does the black roof.  A brighter roof color to accentuate the attention to detail in the glass work and pillar trimming is actually preferable! Whether or not the Union Jack treatment is needed is always up for debate.


Like many small hatchbacks, the C-pillar has a ridge to keep the cute little MINI tracking straight in stiff cross winds on the highway.  Supposedly these details matter, consult your local Aerospace Engineer if you don’t believe me.


Another aero touch: the spiraled antenna on the roof.  It’s surprisingly tall for such a small car. Or perhaps the MINI-ature dimensions are why it seems small!


Speaking of, the reflector/marker lights both front and back must be placed on the wheel arches because there’s simply no other place available! Short overhangs have their benefits!  22_1

Because of poor lighting at my “test” vehicle’s location, here’s a stock photo showing the Bayswater from the back.  Note how low the side view mirrors sit (at least on the Euro spec model) and the stilt-like tire width.  This model also has a different bumper (with fake grilles) and a central exhaust, which sells more exotic performance than the wrong-wheel-drive MINI can possibly produce.

22Logical cut lines for the hatch and bumpers. A complete chrome “belt” at the base of the greenhouse.  Chrome rimmed lights and something that only works on British cars like MINIs and Jags: a chrome mustache above the license plate that both adds English charm and is a handy place for a grab handle and license plate lighting.


The sleek rear wiper arm is another modern touch that proves that classic designs can always live to see another day…or millennium.


While not as punchy as the headlights, the logical use of chrome inside and the upscale chrome rim outside are hallmarks of good vintage British design.  25Last and perhaps least, the central lighting pod with backup lights, and used for a rear fog light in Europe (maybe America too?).  It, just like the front grilles, extends into the black lower valance to continue that theme.  All of which is in very good taste, at any price.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a lovely New Year’s Eve…and beyond!


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27 Comments on “Vellum Venom: MINI Cooper Hardtop (2012)...”

  • avatar

    I always passed on these articles at first, until I had some time with nothing to do, read the first one and have been hooked ever since.

  • avatar

    I have to agree with your assessment. The MINI looks fantastic. It even looks relatively smaller that it did 10+ years ago due to bloat in other vehicles.

    Unfortunately, the long term reliability is worse than BMW’s and closer to typical a British build. Which is worse, Range Rover or MINI?

    • 0 avatar

      There’s waaaaay more to break on a Landy. No way a MINI can be worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, long term reliability has taken a big step up since the ~2008/9 redesign. Consumer Reports now recommends the standard MINI Cooper, and ranks its reliability as above average. The the turbo S model continues to suffer in regards to post-warranty reliability, but I’m not sure if it’s any worse than Bimmers or not.

      Definitely not even in the same ballpark as old British builds, not Range Rovers…

    • 0 avatar

      I know someone here in WI that has a S, and it wouldn’t start for them during the cold snap on Monday, when it was down around 0 degrees. My 200k 92 Sentra started right up after sitting for over a week.

      • 0 avatar

        Ten below zero here in Maine when I started my 04 Cooper S this morning. The orignal battery lasted 5 years which is above the odds here in Maine and as the car will be 10 next month I expect to replace it again this summer.
        No problems beyond a a leaking engine mount at 45,000 and a rt front suspension arm the same summer ( the right front of any car takes a hammering from the broken down road edges here in rural Maine.

        The very fine indipendant mechanic I use (no MINI dealers in Maine in any case) tells me the supercharged engine used in the first generation of new S MINIs is by far the most trouble free of all the engines used so far as long as they have not been mucked about in an attempt to hot rod them with a smaller pulley to increase the Boost or with something like nitrous injection.

        The selection of the special edition version for this venom is a bit strange as the specials by their very nature are sold into a very narrow market ( much narrower than that for a Bill Blass Lincoln for example) and things like mirror caps are part of the easy change options counter at your dealer.

        Also the new MINI has even very popular with the folks who customize the look of their car by warping them with the stick on graphics that can be custom printed with designs and images of your choice so criticizing the odd graphics on the mirror caps on this one is going just that timy bit to far I think.

        On the whole I agree with your venom disection of the design. In fact I think in many ways the first iteration of the new version of the Mini was better than this late example…. The way the built in sat nav replaced the central speedo by moving said speedo to a duplicate of the rev counter housing and placing it next to the rev counter on top of the steering column was a far better way than the placing of a speedo ring all around the nav display in the centre of the dash.

        I do not much care for the changes in the new design we get this year and I am in something of a quandary as to what my next car will be…. It was a lot of fun selecting exactly what I wanted in the fall of 03 and then watching on line as it was built tracking its journey on the ship to the USA and then taking delevery in February. This is the first car I have bought new since I bought a SAAB 99 EMS off of the dealers showroom floor in the 70s after being hired as a pilot for my first real job after getting my degree. And that was a bit of an end of model year bargain so does not compare with ordering a car just the way you want it.

        As I age it might be time for me to at last make the switch to a car with an automatic transmission though I still enjoy rowing through the very nice 6 speed manual in my S I am not getting any younger so perhaps it is nearing the time for me to get my “last” car with the soft suspension ( I opted for the all the sport options on my S from the firmer seats to the big wheels and skinny tyres ( though my winter wheels and their snow tyres are 16″ I am not a fool)) the auto everything from auto emergency braking to auto parking to auto follow speed control…. Well not this year but I expect the year for all that is not far off

        Happy new year to all

  • avatar

    It’s a cutie , that’s for sure .


  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’ve always wondered about the textured black plastic around the bottom perimeter of the Mini. Is there an aesthetic reason for it? To make it look like it has larger wheel openings or something along those lines?
    I, personally, can’t stand it and whenever I fantasize about getting into the maintenance nightmare that is a used forced induction Mini, I always ended up picking black or dark gray to hide the plastic.
    So I’m curious if I am missing something that makes visual sense which would otherwise be lost painted body color.

    • 0 avatar

      Good question: the black plastic does a good job making the MINI look smaller than it really is. If it was body color, the MINI would like much fatter and far less “light on its feet.”

      Horizontal sheets of black plastic/paint have a slimming effect, and designers have been using it for decades.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Land Ark, I agree. Those black things, specially around the wheel openings, plus the humongous wheels almost ruin the car’s exterior look. Credit to the timeless designs that in spite of these two shortcomings the car really looks good on the outside. The inside is another matter.

      If it were possible, I’d delete the black trim, specially surrounding the wheel openings. It might look fatter, but it’d look better. The roundness of the car is supposed to make it look voluptuous, not necessarily athletic (I believe).

  • avatar

    I love these design classes. I’m more of a ‘big picture’ personality so many of these little details usually get missed by me. However, since reading these articles, I now look at car design with a totally new eye, and I notice things I never would have before. These articles are some of my favorites on TTAC.

    I’ve been considering a Mini Goodwood for a while now – I know the reliability is crap, but a small, well-designed car with a Rolls Royce interior just sounds wonderful to me. Normal outside – special inside. After reading this, I’ll be trolling ebay and autotrader again trying to talk myself out of buying one. Again.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    An outstanding example of a very good series of articles! What I like about this particular article is that it explains the reasons why most of us think the MINI COOPER “looks good” even though most of us can’t articulate exactly why.

    Given that the number of buyers out there who can actually remember the original Austin Mini and its variants is not all that large and is shrinking daily, there has to be more than nostalgia behind the success of this brand, notwithstanding its well-deserved reputation for being unreliable.

    I think you have shown us — with details — the reason why.

    • 0 avatar

      “Given that the number of buyers out there who can actually remember the original Austin Mini and its variants is not all that large and is shrinking daily…”

      Wait a minute, DC, something very close to the original 1959 Mini was still being made in the ’80s, before BMW bought out the Rover Group. A twelve year old who saw one in the late 80’s would still be in his/her thirties. Even if you meant in the US, the Austin America was on sale until 1972 so a twelve year old American back then would be in his fifties. There are still tens of millions of us, and we’re too young to die!

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Of course, we’re too young to die! :-) But the Austin America was far from a rousing success, IIRC.

        And, yeah, score me one demerit for provincialism: I did mean the U.S. I know when I visited Europe in the summer of 1971, there were plenty of mini Coopers and their variants running around. Didn’t get back to Europe for another 20 years. By that time, I didn’t see too many.

      • 0 avatar

        The original Mini was made til around 2000 yeah? So it’s not that far dead.

  • avatar

    I don’t think Mini buyers care to much about price. Yes, you can get cheaper transport but… it won’t be a Mini, that is an important distinction. This “velum” clearly highlights that. Driving a Mini will do the rest because honestly, there is nothing else like it.
    BTW I love the “bee sting” antenna, especially the spiral ridge.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree on the design details … but the antenna is basically the same as the one on my ’90 GTI 16V, and countless VW hatchbacks since then. It does work well in the context of the Mini’s design, though.

      • 0 avatar

        Correct, the antenna is not Mini specific. I have seen them on other brands / cars in other place, not in the US much though.
        I just like them.

        • 0 avatar

          I believe that the “spiral” basically keeps the antenna rod “screwed in” using airflow, since the rod is supposed to be removed when going through car washes, and maybe it’s not always re-installed with a wrench. (I could be wrong, maybe it’s just a noise-reduction feature, or maybe both.)

  • avatar

    I agree with your design summation on just about all points. A very nice-looking car that has been designed very well.

    Concerning the reliability issues of past models, it’s nice to know the Mini has improved substantially. The car is quite comfortable, too, at least in the front.

  • avatar

    Ah, the Mini. In theory I like them a lot. In practice the interior is just stupid, they ride like buckboards (though the handling IS great), and they cost WAAY too much once you start ticking a few option boxes. Plus the closest dealer is 120 miles away, which is less than convenient. Luckily, FIAT showed up with the Abarth, which cured all of those dilemmas for me.

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