By on September 29, 2015

2016-Mini-Clubman-rear

This past Sunday night, I wandered over to my local movie theater to catch Black Mass. Although I’m suffering from a bit of Joel-Edgerton-related-ennui lately and I never really got over the idea of Hey, that’s Johnny Depp in makeup, I had to admit that overall, it was a tightly plotted and thoroughly entertaining film. More importantly, it had an absolutely killer lineup of Malaise-era automobiles, including an utterly stunning ’78 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with a white leather interior. In fact, until the moment that a 1980 Citation makes an unexpected and rather violent appearance on the scene, it’s nothing but wall-to-wall Seventies sedans. Just the way I like it.

I remember that as a child my grandparents complained about the squared-off, generic appearance of pretty much everything for sale in the post-Nixon era. I can sympathize a bit because although every car sold in the Fifties also looked just like every other car for sale, the general template of the Bel Air/Fairlane/et al was appealing and colorful and optimistic. But even if you don’t care for the ’74 Malibu Classic or the ’79 Granada, at least they had proportions that emphasized width over height. The worst of them had a certain dignity.

Not so with today’s rolling toaster ovens. We’re rapidly approaching the era where every single car for sale will be some variant on the almighty CR-V. The latest sales data from Porsche and MINI simply hammer that home, with a uniquely depressing twist.


Let’s face it: the “New MINI” was never really that miniature. The Alec Issigonis original was a masterpiece of space and materials efficiency right down to its ten-inch wheels, but the BMW zombie-MINI was always more about the idea of being small. The actual car was merely a shortened version of the same not-so-compact cars that Europe has been buying in droves since forever; it was about the same length as an ’82 Civic but you could have fit an ’82 Civic inside a first-gen New MINI with enough room around it for a few inches of bubble wrap.

The two generations of the “Cooper” that followed simply expanded the box a bit, but the central conceit of the MINI brand — that people would buy a small car as long as it wasn’t really that small — didn’t reach its logical conclusion until the arrival of the simply monstrous Countryman and Paceman. The first time I saw a Countryman on the road, it was next to a damn-near-full-sized modern Camry and I thought I was suffering from some sort of THC flashback. In truth, the Countryman slightly exceeds a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow in height and matches it in width. If you owned a Camargue, that fearsomely crass Pininfarina Saudi-market boat of the Black Mass era, you could drive behind a Countryman utterly unseen.

In a perfect world, the MINI Countryman wouldn’t rate any interest from anyone besides my old friend Michael Banovsky, who could perhaps feature it in his next Weird Cars book. In this world, the Countryman is a hit. In fact, together with the four-door stretched version of the MINI, it’s accounting for more than half of the brand’s sales. So it turns out that what people really want from MINI is a Honda CR-V, only with MINI badges. Shame that Rover and Honda aren’t tied-up the way they were in the Sterling 825/Acura Legend days, because then the MINI could actually be a Honda CR-V, which would satisfy everyone.

I read this news about MINI sales shortly after cracking open an issue of Panorama and seeing that sales of the new Porsche Macan CUV are somewhat larger than the sales of all Porsche sports cars combined. So it turns out that what people really want from Porsche is, also, a Honda CR-V, only with Porsche badges and some rather irresponsible levels of forward thrust.

You can make the argument that the CR-V is actually a very nice package for families and that it represents a very sensible compromise for parents who want a vehicle that fits into both a small garage and a vacation with the kids. But since the only people who can afford new cars nowadays are DINKs and old people, why are they all buying lowered-expectations family-wagons? It would be like if everybody started wearing mom jeans all at once, even if they were smoking-hot 24-year-olds, because that’s the only sensible choice.

We’re heading towards the Shoe Event Horizon, you know. It’s the same thing that led to the infamous Chicken Corner Of Columbus. When everybody else in the neighborhood is selling chicken, it takes a truly iconoclastic individual or enterprise to resist the siren song of fried bird, to steer between the Scylla of the breast and the Charybdis of the thigh, to choose something else on which to build one’s culinary destiny.

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast

Who will be the first manufacturer to cry Hold! and stop this slouching towards compact utility? Who will have the courage to introduce a vehicle that repudiates the indifferent transportation capsule? Who will bet their company on styling or speed or excitement that reaches beneath superficial flourishes on a five-door box? There’s fame and fortune to be had for the visionary who succeeds. For everybody else, there’s security, and sameness, as long as one is willing to dream in miniature.

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158 Comments on “What Were Once Minis Have Become Habitual...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    A few years after Oskar Barnack and Leitz introduced the original Leica customers pressured Leitz for one with a built-in rangefinder mechanism.

    Barnack famously slapped a ruler across the two big knobs on top of the camera and said “it must fit under here”.

    Some attitude like that appears to have motivated the designers of this denuded flattop.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “So it turns out that what people really want from MINI is a Honda CR-V, only with MINI badges….”

    Well, not really sure ’cause I never drove the larger Mini, but it is faster and more fun than any Honda CUV, isn’t it.
    I mean…these folks are looking for more than just extra room.
    Ya, badging does make a big part of it, but sometimes I think we are gonna have to admit that people purchase Hondas because of the badging just as much.
    Today, other than the recent VW news, most modern cars are extremely reliable and getting better with each new model.
    So much so that even CR and other recent data really cannot be counted on for reliability expectations for new models.

    I think the new, larger Minis are exactly what American buyers want and a mftr should make what consumers want. And I think most reviewers are saying the larger body is making them more reasonable for US roads. The smaller versions were really just Miata competition and sport wannabes.

    After spending about a month attempting to help my little sister pick a car for her daughter, and trying a ton of choices from the Crosstrek, HRV, CX5, Escape and a few others…it still seems to be coming down to a slightly used CX5, totally loaded with 2.5, for right around 24K.

    Now no badging or quality image by Honda will over come the rather expensive 25K for fully loaded, slow-mo HRV for 25K
    Well…not for us, anyways..

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      I’m not so certain about “faster.” The turbo 3 cyl in the base minis has significantly less power than the CR-V’s 2.4L K series. I’m convinced most every Mini review I’ve read has been for an S or JCW trim–even the press doesn’t even seem to bother.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I’ve read that the 3 cylinder is a hoot in the base Cooper. I wouldn’t get it in the Clubman that my wife is considering, but in the standard hatchback, I could see it still being a good time.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      after a look at the reliability and resale issues, the Mini is slower on all those extra days in the shop, and (in TCO) costs twice the price of the Honda. Plus, Honda makes the Fit.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Here’s a radical idea, how about someone builds a sedan with an honest to god greenhouse and see how it sells. The sedans I learned to drive in look like glass palaces compared to today’s offerings.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Where would you put the airbags that are normally in the pillars?

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        I see what you are sayin, doc…that this is the result of regs.
        I guess what bothers me is the Forester seems to give the good ol’ fashion window view that PD is asking for.
        How does the Forester do it but not the Escape?

        Understanding that the regs are a major force behind the front ends and belt lines, and the MPG required is behind the door wedge look…perhaps we are regulating ourselves away from driving great cars.

        I was reading the review of the next Focus RS and how we are to get the horrible ST seats here because the better, more comfortable Euro seats are not able to pass US regs…
        What?
        What in hell are regs doing with seats over here?

        • 0 avatar
          carlisimo

          The only airbags currently required are the front airbags for the driver and passenger. Everything else is optional. There is a side impact requirement but it’s usually met through the use of door beams. A-pillars are large because of roof crush standards combined with the sharp rake required by consumer styling preferences. (You can get a decent drag coefficient without that rake.)

          The NTHSA has proposed new side impact safety regulations that will practically require side curtain air bags, but they’re not in effect yet.

          You guys keep blaming the government for consumer preferences. A focus group didn’t feel secure with the big windows in a PT Cruiser prototype and asked Chrysler to shrink them. The Audi TT wasn’t criticized for its tiny vision ports – it was hailed a styling masterpiece. The Fit, in all its great greenhouse glory, is regularly described as dorky. So is the Forester – it caters to the same people who would buy a minivan if they had one more kid, people who are willing to buy the ugliest vehicle in the segment if it’s practical. But overall, the market doesn’t like big windows, low seating positions, communicative steering, sharp suspensions, stickshift diesel station wagons, or anything else that makes sense. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s our irrational nature.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        And I was trying to explain the hypocrisy in our society in a reply to you yesterday. Here is another.
        Thinking about the regs taking over our auto industry…why are there motorcycles?
        I mean…we are forced to have mufflers on cars yet I get my ears broken by passing high rise motorcycle boys daily.
        Seat belts and forced air bags.
        If these are required in cars…why would a cycle ever even be allowed to exist?
        Totally illogical this mad world of regs we live in.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The motorcyclists make up for not having as many regs by getting killed much more frequently.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            don’t get me wrong…I am not against motorcycles or even people doing what they like and dying sooner.
            This should be risk knowingly accepted as an attempt for the pursuit of happiness.
            Not sure the pursuit is even allowed these days.
            There is a sort of implied social law to “mother” everyone.

        • 0 avatar
          stevelovescars

          New stock motorcycles actually are quiet and have emissions regulations. However, most states don’t require regular emissions tests, so aftermarket loud pipes are common.

          Oddly, my bikes in CA had to have carbon canisters to pass the regs regarding fumes… but the gas tanks were completely incompatible with the filler necks at the pumps. This required owners to hold the little bellows/switch out of the way, thus defeating the seal which would have isolated fume in the carbon canister, anyway. Silly. Not that I am against cleaner cars and motorcycles, just that the regulators obviously never tried to put gas in a motorcycle.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            my point being that not just the sound is the hypocrisy, the whole idea we are smothered in safety regs like airbags and seat belts…but you can ride a 2 wheeled rocket.
            Makes absolutely no sense. It is illogical.

            Downhill skiing.
            Skateboarding.
            These are all individual acceptances and variants of laws. Why society allows and turns a blind eye to some and condemns others is simply…weird and unjust.

            Hell…I am going out on a limb here and suggest smoking is safer than cycle riding.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            “Makes absolutely no sense. It is illogical.”

            TrailerTrash, ideally, the federal regulations would let ordinary cars with significant volumes continue as they are, with harsh safety regulations that quite frankly are necessary, while also allowing small manufacturers (say, 1,000 units or fewer), to skirt certain regulations like dual-stage airbags (or even airbags entirely). Then, I could have my Morgan Aero Supersports.

            But what I think will happen is that, in the near future, enthusiasts like you will be able to design and 3D print the car you’d like to drive, giant greenhouse and all. Then you’ll register it as a one-off or kit car, and no one will be able to stop you.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          Realistically, motorcycles are an uncommon toy in the US – a small percentage are sold every year compared to cars (less than 500k, compared to about 18 million new cars, right?), and those that are bought mostly won’t be pressed into daily driver duty, and by buyers who’re fully aware of the risks. Also, when you’re the crumple zone, there’s only so much the manufacturer can do to protect you before you’re getting into safety gear from a separate company.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfinator

        Even if the A/B pillars had to be bit thicker than before, there’s no excuse for D pillars that take up half the back of the car, or rear windows that look like a WWII tank slit hole.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The thick D-pillars are equal parts the fault of rollover regs and lazy designers throwing up their arms and saying “it’s rollover regs, whaddya gonna do?”

          Remember, the early Brougham-crazed hardtops in the late ’60s had massive sail-panel C-pillars before the Colonnade sedans made open greenhouses fashionable again. We should be up for a return of that aesthetic any year now…

          (I’ve been telling myself that for the past 5 years; eventually it’s gonna come true, right?)

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Whatchu mean large sail panel?

            http://www.themustangnews.com/content/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/1968FordThunderbird.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            King of Eldorado

            CoreyDL: Also Google images of “1971 Thunderbird Landau Coupe.” There actually was no C-pillar; just A and B. Those must have been claustrophobic to ride in for the rear passengers.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            It’s customary to refer to such a vehicle as having no B-pillar rather than no C-pillar. Hardtops are alway “B-pillarless”, even if in this case you’d say the B- and C-pillars are fused. The only type of vehicle that has a B-pillar but no C-pillar is a regular cab pickup.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          Amen!
          Almost as if the rear camera is now a necessity with the onset of this new look.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Well Ford did sell the Five Hundred for awhile and it wasn’t exactly a runaway success.

      I’d recommend the Taurus/Sable version with the 3.5 and regular automatic though.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Imagine how well that car would have done with the current Taurus’ powertrain. I really, really wanted to like the 500 but the punk engine and the CVT ruined it.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          CVT was AWD only, but yes the 203 HP 3.0L V6 + CVT + AWD = heavy pig car with explody transmission.

          The 6 speed Aisin transmission was actually a good autobox, but 203 HP still wasn’t enough. The 07-09 Taurus/Sable basically fixed all those problems with the 3.5L/6F combo in FWD or AWD. The 60 HP bump really makes a difference.

          Those cars have aged well too. Much better than the current Taurus.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I had a few Taurses of that vintage and they were damn fine sedans – comfy, quiet and capable, like a big car should be. Ford really screwed itself with the original 500.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yeah. They brought it out at the same time as the 300, which got all the press, and they made it underpowered. The CVT or the new name didn’t help either.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I always admire clean 500s when I see them (driven by older folks seduced away from crown vics by their friendly small-town-midwest salesman). I agree, if they had kept the form factor, but modernized the powertrain to the current 3.5L/6A, and improved interior materials while omitting the awful center console…. I think I’d be driving a Ford today. I like the utility of a big trunk, and all of these Volvo platform Fords are great highway cruisers. Throw in some poor resale value and you’ve got an excellent used car value on your hands.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            You can always count on low mileage 07-09 Sables/Taurii showing up at Ford and Lincoln dealerships in Metro Detroit. They were a lot of elderly persons of Detroit’s last car. Last week, I saw a 2008 Sable with 18,000 miles.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          exactly…very few tie this together.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ bball40dtw – For whatever reason, the Twin Cities ended up with many of those in taxi service. I was traveling there a lot for work in 2010 and rode in them on several occasions. I loved the airy greenhouse and would’ve liked to experience a non-abused one in mid- or upper-level trim. They may’ve been the last mainstream sedans where rear-seat headroom was a design priority.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Passat, S80, and Legacy do okay. They aren’t Dodge Dynasty good, but they’re on par with what you could get with a W-body or Taurus.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Ugh what? Dynasty!?

      • 0 avatar
        dash riprock

        I understand when you are saying “Aren’t Dodge Dynasty good” you are referring to the greenhouse and visibility….but after my 2 years with a Dodge Dynasty I shudder at any reference to it and good. Well, it was good at dropping transmissions, usually on a secondary highway on a cold prairie day. Die Natsy it did all too many times

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          My parents DieNasty liked to cut the engine out on freeway entrance ramps. Or at random times when the AC was running it would just stall and need to sit for a couple hours.

          Billowing blue smoke before 80K miles.

          It’s understandable they replaced it with another Dodge product, then another!

          • 0 avatar
            dash riprock

            Three trannys, oil pump, starter and other issues long gone from my memory. When the new company car came I rejoiced looking at that shiny new Taurus. Then I drove it for a while….

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s hard for me to imagine how far the Taurus was ahead of other domestic midsized cars at the time. I mean, you could have a Taurus or a Chevy Celebrity/Dodge Dynasty. Holy crap.

            When the Taurus came out, Mopar was selling the Dodge 600 and Plymouth Caravelle!!!!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I am a Celebrity.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My wife learned how to drive in a Celebrity Estate. Wood grain and everything.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          People had problems with Mopar transmissions?!?!? I find this hard to believe.

          The Chrysler dealer says you need to replace your transmission every 40K miles, just like your tires. It’s a wear item.

          • 0 avatar
            dash riprock

            Yeah….after a couple of years with the Taurus I took a Grand Prix(1990) and was impressed with how much more power it had over the Taurus. Think the brakes were replaced twice over 60,000 kilometers. And I mean the whole braking system not the pads. The best company car was the first, a Pontiac 600. It felt solid compared to all the others

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Hear hear! I think one of the reasons I slid into the used SUV realm is because they held on longest to big upright greenhouses. Try sitting in one of the last generation of full size Mitsubishi Monteros (not the shorter “sport”). The window sill is basically at elbow height, and the view forward through that huge upright glass is like that of a big interstate bus.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Oh to find a good condition pearl white 40th Anniversary Montero.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Subaru has kept decent greenhouses all around and has done well with the current lineup.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          You’re referring to the 20th anniversary 2003 trucks. Very nice indeed with unique alloy wheels. Frankly, I’ve all but given up for now. Every single one has the same set of issues, and the one constant the drives all of this is the negligent previous owner. Also, I’m realizing that these things rust quite readily. Now, it’s never obviously visible due to all of the cladding but they commonly have pretty shot rear quarter panels. Poor sales in the US mean there is much less community and aftermarket support, making DIY diagnosis and repair more expensive and difficult. I’m sticking with my relatively crude and simple 4Runner for now, focusing instead on getting engaged and buying a house.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yes, 30 years! I think there was a special pearl white monotone only available in that year, as well as the special wheel and also graphite color wood trim. The trim package was available on the rest of the colors too.

            In that era, I would tend to agree the 4Runner or any GM option nets you a “better off” situation. Or something just a bit smaller like the QX4. I think the Montero was just unique in size and 7-seat capability, comfort, off roading prowess, and huge sunroof!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I definitely like how they drive, both from an ergonomics as well as vehicle dynamics point of view. Much more planted and responsive with that IRS/unibody set up that allows a lower center of gravity. Headroom is excellent but I was actually disappointed by the rear seat: there is absolutely no way to have your feet under the front seats. It’s an excellent concept marred by mediocre execution and the increased complexity introduces issue as the vehicle ages.

            Prime example: my 4Runner has a relatively simple mechanical transfer case, with button actuated 4H mode. These are known to be very robust, never any issues. The “Super Select” Mitsubishi t-case is all solenoid actuated, and these commonly get stiff or fail. However the Mitsu system gives you a 4H-unlocked mode to drive on partially slippery paved roads, something only later 4Runners with a lockable center diff gained.

            That wonderful independent front and rear suspension that frees up space and gives superior ride/handling is made up of a bunch of control arms, with bushings that are needing replacement right about now. Guess what, Mitsubishi doesn’t sell bushings separately, neither does Moog or any other aftermarket brand in the US. The only option is OEM control arms that range from $250-450 a pop, or ordering bushings from Australia. I can buy bushings, whole arms, etc for the 4Runner all day long, and I’ve only got the front end to worry about seeing as the rear is a solid axle, no worries there. You also have a rear alignment to worry about with the Montero, and they are known to need it with some regularity, a procedure complicated by camber bolts that freeze up. Needless to say, I’d done my homework on these trucks before looking to buy one, and it’s hard to justify unless I found that one owner, non-rusty unicorn that was well taken care of.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You have now ruined the Montero for me! Just like 28CL ruined the Bravada. Lol

            WHAT IS LEFT.

            M-Body Fifth Avenue, I suppose.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            How did I ruin the Bravada?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You told me about all the special AWD-ness which GM infused into that model only, making it a relative nightmare and a no-go in terms of buying!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            So I told the truth?

            For a consolation, one could just buy the Chevy/GMC and transplant the whole interior of a Bravada. These are things I think about doing.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The truth is painful! But not as painful as an interior transfer.

            Jimmy Diamond it is.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Interior’s aren’t that hard to do, the PITA would be removing it from the junkyard and then having to transport it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I think the common theme in all of this is that our “dream” cars of the 90-00s are just getting old. Anything you look at and start researching will unearth a whole litany of pattern failures. My vaunted 4Runner is not immune. They are known for failed rear axle seals (not too scary), driveline vibrations (that I’ve been battling), warping front brakes (upgraded mine to Tundra units), and failed transmissions due to transmission lines rupturing inside of the radiator (I’ve bypassed this with an external B&M cooler), and lower balljoints failing with little warning (mine have 122k miles, I have the OEM replacements sitting on my workbench ready to go). The question lies more-so in how easy/cheap it is to correct the known issues, and how many of these issues there really are. With the 4Runner, there is a massive community of DIYers so I’ve been able to do all of these fixes without any guesswork, and with well illustrated step by step walkthroughs. Likewise people will tell you what aftermarket replacement parts are okay to use and where OEM is the only way (balljoints in the Toyota’s case). My latest triumph was rebuilding the Nippon Denso alternator without ever removing it from the truck, saving a lot of time. Factory manuals won’t tell you such neat tricks.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @gtemnykh

            I think you’ll like what I started to write then. You’ll be able to see those 90s dream cars again.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      PrincipalDan, one of the reasons I bought a Honda Accord sedan was the relatively large amount of glass. Makes the interior feel larger and the blind spots are smaller. Honda also gave buyers the option of two doors, but many are choosing the CRV instead.

    • 0 avatar

      @PrincipalDan

      +100

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    As the mini expands into ever-larger territory, will it become a minor?

    Will bmw roll out a trulee mini for their entry-level?

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    /watch?v=536BWOyZckc&list=PLsivMY0UPVaHFDMekqDSx2th2FRVPwN6e

  • avatar
    319583076

    I don’t get the MINI outrage, it’s a brand name for friendly-priced BMWs, not an unequivocal description of the model. Besides, precisely NONE of the B&B would daily drive an actual Mini and neither would either Baruth.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I daily drive an actual MINI Cooper S, and given his fondness for the Fiesta ST, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bark would be happy with one as well.

      • 0 avatar
        turf3

        You drive an actual Mini, made in the UK, or a Midi made by BMW?

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        I meant the “original” BMC Mini, not the newer MINI. The basis for the argument is that new MINI is an abomination – actively ruining the legacy of the original BMC Mini by being a useful size and including things that people who buy cars actually want.

        It follows that the only “real” Mini is the diminutive BMC type, which is the one I’m claiming neither Baruth would actually want to drive. Thus, questioning the logic and validity of outrage presented in this opinion piece.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          This – we get a genuinely small, well-packaged car, one built by a company with a solid safety track record, and everyone still insists it’s a deathtrap. The base MINI hatch is about as small as the North American market will accept.

        • 0 avatar
          PenguinBoy

          Sorry, I misunderstood your post – I thought that when you talked about an “actual Mini” that you were referring to the small(ish) two door model that came out first, rather than any of the larger models that came out later.

          Just to clear things up – I have a MINI built by BMW in the UK in this century, not a Mini built by BMC in the UK in the last century.

          That said, I also have an old MG that I drive regularly both on short trips around town and occasional longer trips – so I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch for me to drive a BMC Mini. I wouldn’t want a BMC Mini – or any car not built this century – as an only car to be driven in Winter, or in heavy traffic, as I think modern safety features are worthwhile in these situations, and I wouldn’t want to subject a nice old car to these conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Little BMWs with Peugeot engines, yeah?

    • 0 avatar

      The original Mini was designed in the late 1950s. I know it well. I can see my brother’s ’63 Mini Cooper from where I’m sitting right now.

      I did a piece not long ago about a BMW 2002 and Porsche 356B and how today’s BMW and Porsche buyers would probably not be happy with those cars. If that goes for something as modern and finished as a BMW 2002, so much the more so for an even older car.

      Just about any early 1960s car is primitive by today’s standards and most of the B&B would not daily drive them. Concerning the original BMC Mini, while it was advanced in many ways, Sir Alec’s Mini, to meet the price points Jack alluded to, was also a rather primitive motor vehicle for its day, far more primitive than your average Chevy II or Ford Falcon. The original Mini had no interior door handles, just a pull wire connected to the outside handle. There was no soundproofing to speak of. Everything was exposed metal. The heater looked like something under the dash of a late ’40s domestic car. The engine was an already obsolete pushrod design that shared its crankcase with the transmission – meaning that those gears chewed up the polymers in the oil and the transmission had to be lubricated with engine oil. Neither the engine nor transmission was lubricated properly. With 10 inch wheels, small pushrod engines (if memory serves, they were 848, 898, 1098 and finally 1275 cc), and just a thin metal firewall between the engine compartment and you, driving on the highway was a noisy, thrashing, tiresome chore.

      Yeah, they were great fun to drive around town. Perhaps even more fun than my Lotus Elan (who cared if you wrecked the Mini?), but the original Minis were very primitive. Saying that the B&B or Jack wouldn’t daily drive them today is along the lines of saying that folks today wouldn’t find a ’48 VW Beetle or ’27 Ford Model T a practical daily driver.

      Young adults often tell me, wistfully, how “cool” the cars were in the 1960s. Much of my writing about cars deals with vehicles from before 1980 and while they are worth owning and writing about, I’d much rather drive something built in the 21st century.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Contextomy, Ronnie. The gist of this article and all others like it is a two-part argument. Part 1 – the name MINI means “small” and conjures the legacy of the BMC Mini in contrast to Part 2 – the actual MINI cars have little to do with the BMC Mini and some of them are “large”, thus besmirching the legacy of the BMC Mini rather than providing an internet-acceptable modern take on the classic car.

        In contrast, Jack loves the new Challenger, which is a grossly overweight, rather poorly assembled sedan wearing a not-so-svelte coupe body.

        I’m just tired of the MINI should be MAXI! Derp! tropes.

        I don’t see anything wrong with MINI building their cars and I think Jack is being lazy and dishonest writing this piece which implicitly glorifies the BMC Mini especially because I don’t imagine Jack would prefer driving the BMC over the BMW. It’s just LCD clickbait more appropriate for DeMuro because that’s Doug’s bag. We all know Jack is capable of much more…

        TL/DR: Fallacious reasoning, bad argument, Baruth is better than this.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Ronnie, spot on as always. I absolutely LOVE 2002s. But they are not really daily driver propositions unless you are a masochist, or your daily drive is very short in a very mild climate. An ’80s 5-series is about the realistic limit, and even then, just the lack of rust resistance is a big problem where I live. A nice one just doesn’t STAY nice here if you drive it in the winter. In SoCal, yeah, I’d probably rock an e28 535i again.

        I freely admit to getting old and spoiled.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        +infinity

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’d certainly drive a real Mini. I have driven one – they are a total hoot. But the little British car slot in my garage is filled with a Spitfire, no room at the inn. But if you want to give me one, I’ll fit it in somehow and drive the wheels off the thing all summer.

      As for the current range, if something terrible happened to my beloved 328! station wagon, a MINI Clubman (which is in no way mini at all, and I don’t care) would be on the very, very, very short list to replace it. Since I can’t get a new 328i with a stick.

      At least MINI gives a range of proper low to the ground CARS, and I believe you can get a stick (!) in every one of them. For that matter, the Countryman and Paceman have to be about the only CUVs you can still get a stick in across the whole trim range, for that matter. There is also the small matter of not wanting to drive the identical silver on blah CR-V that 500 other people in my area drive.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    In this article: I Grew Up With Seventies Sedans, And That’s What I Like, And That’s What We Should All Drive, And Hey, Let’s Make Fun Of New Cars Again.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      In all fairness, I’d certainly choose a 73 or 75 Ninety-Eight long before the shrunken abandonment which was the 78.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Hey a 1978 Oldsmobile 98 was a damn fine car. Had the 403 V8 and she got one of her only speeding tickets in it.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I thought everyone at the time was like “This sucks, this car is too small. OPEC.”

          Course I guess it was also the basis for the Seville which was so successful and saved Caddy.

          • 0 avatar

            The downsized B bodies sold very well. I’d take a ’78 Olds over a mid ’70s battering ram bumpered Oldsmobile any day. As a car, the ’78 is probably better than the pre ’73 models too.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Certainly the 75+ bumpers were a bad thing, but I think the long and low 73ish ones looked nice. After that the Ninety-Eight got weird fender flares for the remainder of the run.

            I’m sure the 78 was much better dynamically, as it was certainly a lot more modern. They even had computers to use by 78.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            That’s what Ford wanted people to think, peddling their non-downsized Ford/Mercs until ’79 and Lincolns unti ’80. “Road-hugging weight,” indeed.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Quite an accomplishment getting a speeding ticket back when the speed limit nationwide was 55mph. /sarcasm

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            40 odd year old widows in Oldsmobiles are not favorite targets of the Ohio highway patrol, not even in the 70s… ;-P

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, I grew up in the ’70s so I have no end of nostalgia for those cars. But then I realize that the average family sedan these days would flat out destroy pretty much anything with four doors from back then that didn’t have a “6.9” badge on the trunk (or even stuff like Trans-Ams, Z28s, etc).

      And then I realize that the cars my parents grew up were probably rolling deathtraps compared to the vastly safer cars I grew up with.

      But nostalgia has a powerful pull that gets stronger as you get older.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Old cars look better. That’s all I’ll say.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Like this old car!

          http://www.ebay.com/itm/181886553300?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&fromMakeTrack=true

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I’d actually say the old cars that are still around look better. That’s why they’re still around. But what about eye-flattening abominations like Datsun F-10s, or Ford EXPs, or Lincoln Versailles, or aero-back GM midsizes? What about Mustang IIs and Chevy Monzas with landau vinyl roofs? Not many are around anymore, mainly because they’re awful looking…so we forget them.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            IIRC, those cars weren’t originally big sellers though.

            Jet-puffed CUVs rule the roads right now.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            The Mustang II not a big seller?! That sounds like anti-Mustang II propaganda. How’s 1.1 million over 5 years not at least decent, if not great, sales?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You have to remember that ajla is in a constant state of distress over his disappointing Charger, and is very upset!

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “The Mustang II not a big seller”

            Relax dude. FreedMike just edited his comment after my initial reply to include the Mustang II and the Monza.

            I know the Mustang II sold well.

            But my Charger does suck.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Ah, that’s okay. Most of my love for the Mustang II comes not from its mechanical superiorities (there aren’t many), but from a hipsteresque attraction to the uncool. I’m tired of seeing every baby boomer’s ’69 Mach I clone at the car shows just because that conforms to their rose-tinted view of the past. My Mustang will be a ’75 vinyl-roofed Ghia (one of the best-selling models, as well as the most reviled by boomers) with a 300 I6 swapped in for sh*ts and giggles.

            I also would not turn down a ’73-’74 Charger SE with vinyl roof, wire wheelcovers and a turbo’d Slant Six.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “But nostalgia has a powerful pull that gets stronger as you get older.”

        A fellow Boomer shared on FB yesterday an American flag image that carried the foreground text “I miss the America I grew up in. Do you think we can get it back?”. Sure, blatant racism, rampant sexism, Cold War duck and cover, who wouldn’t want to go back to that?

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Wow. Four articles in a row, none of which are about the VW emissions scandal.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well if you want out of the box styling go no to your local Nissan store, they have some strange looking stuff the last few years, a SUV without a top, a weird looking mini van, the Juke, I do not think any of them set the world on fire in their sales. It seems auto companies make what people want to have go figure.

  • avatar
    Donald's Burro

    If you’ve had a Mini in the past and now want more room, you can have a larger Mini. So what? It’s not like they’ve stopped making the 2-door model. What’s wrong with having options?

    Despite the Mini name itself being a description of size, there is more to the brand than the size of the car.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, we can whine all we want about CUVs, but what was the average family car back during the malaise era? It was probably a GM B-body (Chevy Impala and its clones), or a Ford Fairmont, or a Chrysler K-car.

    Not exactly hot stuff.

    I get the nostalgia for old iron – I’m the one who is trying to figure out how to get a copy of my old man’s ’80 black-on-tan Eldorado, which was an unrelenting piece of garbage – but in the end, most of it wasn’t all that good.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      They weren’t good cars, but I personally love how they were styled. Most American and European cars from ’77-’94 really do it for me. The only new car out there I really *love* right now is the Caprice.

      I was born in 1986, FWIW.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        There were definitely a lot of good designs back then. And some really, really bad ones (and not all of them were Japanese).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Goodness sakes same age as me. I had you pegged at 40.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          You kids make me feel old. :-) Good thing HighDesertCat is around to make me feel younger!

          ’69 model here. I’m actually pretty agnostic in my car likes as far as era. There are cars from the 50’s, to the present day that I love, and cars that I hate. I will admit I have a strong preference for European design across the ages. But there are a few American and Asian cars I really like too.

          Ain’t got no time for no Brougham crap though!

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      The difference is that back in the 70’s and 80’s Porsche and BMW weren’t trying to make fancier/faster Fairmonts. The tragedy is that nowadays even those who have the means to afford a sports or luxury car really just want egg-shaped tall pods with exclusive badges.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I think it is more fair to say that Ford now makes budget BMWs.

        I have no use for the Macan or Cayanne, but to be fair, they truly are the Porsches of CUV/SUVs.

        The history of the automobile is one of evolution and styling fads. The day of the CUV will end eventually. Just like tailfins.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    If people really wanted diversity they would actually pay for cars that were differen, and pay what i costs to develop cars that are not similar.
    As a CR-V owner myself , I can understand why many smaller car companies like Porsche and BMW tries their best to copy it, but no, I’m kidding.
    I bought mine because I really needed the space, but still wanted to have as small a car as possible. I can’t understand why anyone would ‘want’ a CR-V unless they need one. No smaller type of car should want to be more like the CR-V, but do I wish some bigger cars could learn from it.
    As for similarity to the original, the Cr-V and its sisters are still mostly just (usually) cleverly packaged boxes with wheels in the corners, like the original MINI, just a bit larger.
    And, I would totally drive a classic Mini, if it was rwd, and a hatchback coupe, and well…

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I get the concept of the article, but what is the vehicular solution? There is a reason why people buy CUVs.

    I have driven the Mondeo/Fusion wagon. I come here to tell you that the Edge is a better Fusion wagon than the actual Fusion wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Blasphemer!

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      So Jack Baruth tries to shame me for buying, essentially, a CR-V (Mazda CX-5) after months of looking at cars. This, even though he favorably reviewed the CX-5 on these pages.

      Do I have buyer’s remorse? Some. These cars don’t inspire passion, they are tools. It is a superb tool. Getting me 28 MGP combined, it’s mildly fun to drive, seats 4 comfortably, and is great for picking up bags of rocks at Lowes (which I need to do again tonight).

      So when Jack or others complains about these cars, I think the anguish comes solely from the loss of the car as art, entertainment or other less practical and more emotional purposes. That’s where I have remorse as well…I sold out, but honestly, needed the better tool. I’d feel better about a Mustang GT, even if it wouldn’t do anything I needed it to.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        The car as art, entertainment, etc. is still out there, but you just gotta look a little harder. Kind of like how everyone complains how crappy music is today, but we’ve got stuff now that’s just as good as older stuff, you just gotta look a little harder.

        • 0 avatar
          slance66

          No doubt they exist. But they are a shrinking percentage of the market. Impractical considerations are being trumped by practical ones, even among old time gear heads like me.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            I want you to have the ability to buy a CX-5, which is a wonderful car.

            And I want to have the ability to buy something else. :)

          • 0 avatar
            slance66

            Hell Jack, even I want to be able to buy something else. Next car will likely be less practical and more fun.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Fuel and pedestrian regulation and consumer desires will continue to jack cars up and proliferate “AWD safety,” while simultaneously lowering the roof line. The next advance in the overall market will be the two door version of what we’re buying now – AWD-AWC.

    http://www.dieselstation.com/wallpapers/albums/Audi/Lane-Cross-Coupe/audi-lane-cross-coupe-concept-2013-widescreen-10.jpg
    http://roa.h-cdn.co/assets/15/10/980×490/landscape_nrm_1425383679-dbx_concept_01.jpg
    http://media.caranddriver.com/images/media/51/volvo-concept-estate-inline-1-show-photo-577528-s-original.jpg
    http://image.automobilemag.com/f/144402440+w660+h440+q80+cr1+ar0/nissan-gripz-live-with-shiro-nakamura.jpg
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5XsvI6N0Epw/UT2QBdz-d6I/AAAAAAAAYQE/cRO8k9_ql-8/s1600/Italdesign-Giugiaro-Parcour-rear-view.jpg

  • avatar
    Maymar

    When the biggest MINI (the Clubman) occupies a smaller footprint than a VW Golf, things haven’t exactly gotten out of hand yet. It’d be nice if they could do something about the tight interiors, but it’s not like they’re big cars by modern standards.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    “Home at Last” – excellent.

    Re: the CRV-mania, it’s almost like the public is anticipating the coming days of driverless transport pods.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    People demand Honda CRV variants for the same reason youll see them line up on the drive thru at McDonalds, for the dame reason every films a sequel reboot prequel spin off, for the same reason we will put lives at risk over a spider.

    We’re kinda wimpy.

  • avatar
    George B

    The Mini Clubman looks like someone chopped the top, but forgot to section the body. At least it doesn’t have the rounded back everyone copies from the Lexus RX.

  • avatar
    darex

    As someone in another forum astutely pointed out: “MINI” is a brand-name, not a descriptor. Just because you have an iPhone doesn’t mean you should expect that it’s edible.

    The current F56 Hardtop is a fantastic car. The BMW engine is buttery smooth, the chassis is amazing, and it seems to be extremely reliable (over a year in on mine, with zero issues). The F54 Clubman, a stretched out version of the same car, is just that: a great car, for those who need more space. Where’s the crime?

    MINI is the only mainstream brand that lets you customize (custom-build!) the car however you want. Want a manual? No restrictions due to options/packages. Such range of options is amazing, and nearly unheard of nowadays. Couple that fact with the car being an extremely competent all-around car, that gets excellent fuel economy, and is fun to drive, and what more could you ask for?

    Think it’s too expensive? There are a lot of cheaper options, but you won’t like them as well, and you won’t be able to get similar equipment, and they will be much cheaper inside as well as inferior in the way that they drive. You are getting equipment and value for the price.

    On the other side of the coin, it has the same equipment packages as BMW offers in their lesser offerings, but for $10K, $15K, $20K less.

    The F-series MINI isn’t just a little bit the same, it’s extremely similar. Having personally done an OEM retrofit of the back-up camera, courtesy of Bimmer-Tech, I can state as fact that the electricals and coding are 100% the same as BMW’s [other] F-series models. The F-series MINIs ARE true BMWs now.

  • avatar

    The closest things in size to the original Mini on the market is probably the Smart FourTwo and the Scion iQ. Given how poorly they are selling, it’s fair to say that nobody these days wants one.

    Let’s face it, having a big box comes in pretty handy sometimes. Granted, I’m probably a bit biased, since I own 2 SUV’s and a minivan. But while having a sports car is probably fun occasionally, most people are commuting to work and going to the grocery store, and having something comfortable – and that can easily take a few friends or a couple pieces of Ikea furniture – is more important than how many g’s it can get.

    The average hot twenty-something year old may not wear mom jeans, but she’s got a couple pairs of sweatpants at home. With vehicles, most people only own one, so owning the most comfortable/versatile thing is going to be the thing they buy. A little black dress may be great for Friday night, but you wouldn’t want to wear it to work or bed.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      When I was in Rome last month, a saw a couple of times where a Smartfor2 (they are everywhere in Rome) was parked next to an original Mini. The Smart DWARFED the Mini, even thought the Smart was a few inches shorter. Nothing on the market today even comes close to being that small. And good thing too – it is not like an original Mini is a comfortable car, or even a particular good one. Just a lot of fun, and it filled a niche in post-war Britain.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Jack, carmakers keep trying vehicles with different formulas.

    And they keep selling a few thousand. Meanwhile, they look across the showroom at their CR-V clone, which (along with its bigger 3-row, V6 sister) is the only product in the showroom that is selling hundreds of thousands with robust growth.

    Consumers really, really like the CUV. They prefer it to the sedan, the coupe, and the SUV, and it’s not close. Empty nesters like the step-in height. Young women (i.e. relatively inexperienced drivers) like the visibility that comes from the ride height. Everyone likes the non-bargain-bin image that for whatever reason the CUV has managed to acquire.

    The good news is that growing CUV sales will lead to more niche CUVs, and some of them will scratch our enthusiast itch. For example… with this year’s wheelbase stretch and additional ground clearance, Infiniti made the QX50 overnight into the most compelling vehicle for the family side of my garage. As of today I expect to replace our Forester with a used 2016 QX50 in 2018. Enough backseat room for family, enough clearance to handle a Forest Service road, 325 hp, bulletproof and proven mechanicals, good weight distribution both fore/aft and up/down, and rear-biased AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      C&D really liked the new extended QX50. I don’t expect it to be around in this iteration for more than 1-2 years before getting:

      A full redesign or;
      Dropped in favor of a 2018/19 enlarged QX30, then called the QX40.

      I don’t care for a lot of the buttons and such on the interior, as they’re looking dated already. As well, check this photo below.

      http://www.caranddriver.com/photo-gallery/2016-infiniti-qx50-first-drive-review#32

      The passenger side dash area looks like a flabby butt.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I agree the interior is a bit dated and it’s a short-term solution. Both of those factors will help keep resale values reasonable. And even a dated Infiniti interior is a giant upgrade from Subaru by Fisher-Price.

        I just see it as the perfect combination of family utility, with the bigger back seat (and additional ~9 ft cargo volume), and real sport. “SUV” indeed. It was always attractive to me, but the back seat was previously disqualifying, and it was a bit low for snowy or muddy roads. Now both of those problems are fixed.

        I also feel 99% confident that my wife would like it. She likes small crossovers and she likes effortless power.

        Edit: Just looked at that picture. CAN’T UNSEE THE BUTT. Thanks a lot…

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Oh improvement on interior indeed. The wood is real in there too! And I love the paint color/quality and the brown insides.

          Predicted sales fail! They must have jacked it up a bit more, as it previously had the same ground clearance as my sedan.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I dont see the problem.

    Hole in thie plot of this editorial is that these Brand X CR-Vs don’t come at the expense of other choices, or they are often better than the choices they replace. The Macan bankrolled the GT4. The Paceman funds the JCWs. The Escape makes the Focus RS possible. Etc. Editorial is kind of like asking, “why do I have to go to work to get the money for the things I need?” Nothing comes free.

    The only real shames are the deaths of small wagons. I would love to have a Civic wagon. An Accord wagon, as the Crosstour shows, sucks, because it’s just too big to start with. WRX wagon, Golf R wagon, Focus ST wagon, those would be nice to have, but you know as well as I do nobody in the US would pony up.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I think it’s a mistake to blame the manufacturers for the choices of their customers. There are lots of choices of genuinely interesting, sporty and practical CARS available for sale right now, and there have been even more in the recent past, like the Celica featured today.

    I have to say I preferred the aesthetics of the 60s, when young people bought Mustangs in the hundreds of thousands and the wealthy cruised the interstates in giant Cadillacs and hot rod Lincolns with real presence. Now we have hundreds of flavors of CR-V-like things and gaudy Escalades. It’s not an improvement, but it’s not the car manufacturer’s fault.

    Honda tried selling various flavours of hatchbacks and Accord wagons, even coupes like the Prelude, but women came in and told their husbands to buy them a CR-V instead, and that experience has been replicated throughout the brands.

    One can only hope this fad will eventually pass, but this is obviously what the buying public wants at the moment.

  • avatar

    Woody & Jo’s was THE SHIT.

  • avatar
    darex

    In Europe, I’m sure they wouldn’t use the CR-V as the template. More likely, the Qashqai and the Juke, and the Dacia Duster.

  • avatar
    Garagezone

    yeah, whatever… Mini is not so Mini… eh…. but I LIKE the Steely dan quote ! :-)

  • avatar
    nickeled&dimed

    1) Why doesn’t the Ford Flex look like this, only with an Aston Martin grill? I like the current look, but this might have saved it.

    2) The future is obviously Google-driven CRV’s for everyone. Then Someone needs to hack Google Maps and remove Mulholland Drive.


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