We enjoy the Mini Cooper and put it fully to the test
1 Daily Driving
For all its clever packaging, there’s one crucial trick the Mini missed that hinders it in day-to-driving. Its boxy body and squat proportions may have lent themselves perfectly to a hatchback, but the Mini was never offered with one, so you can’t fold the rear seats to accommodate larger loads. There’s plenty of space in the four-seater cabin, though, and visibility is excellent – and that’s before we get to the Mini’s ability to squeeze into the smallest parking spaces. It’ll keep you smiling at the pumps too – expect 35mpg at least, and considerably more if you aren’t pressing on.
2 In The Service bay
The A-series engine is easy to work on – and parts for it are easy to come by – but it’s shoehorned into a rather cramped engine bay, so don’t be surprised if you have to remove the radiator grille in order to get to some of the tricker-to-reach areas. Virtually every component, from a rocker cover gasket to an entire new bodyshell – including shells for the Mki models, as of this year – can be bought new and there are plenty of specialists who can help if you’re restoring one. There are plenty of Mini gurus in the clubs who can help with advice.
3 On The Show Circuit
We can’t think of any classic car show that wouldn’t welcome a Mini through its gates, and 1960s Coopers go down particularly well at events like the Goodwood Revival (where you can also see them humbling far more powerful classics on track). It’s also worth getting in touch with the Mini clubs and having a look at the events that they’re organising this summer – British Mini Day takes place at Himley Hall in the West Midlands on 7 May, and the Mini Cooper Register’s annual bash takes place at Beaulieu on 11 June. There are plenty of regional Mini clubs hosting events, too.
4 THE LONG WEEKEND
The Mini’s effectiveness as a long-distance companion depends entirely on the variant you go for. You probably won’t want to attempt a cross-continental voyage in an 850, but larger-engined versions like our Cooper and later, more plushly trimmed Rover-era Minis will make easier work of long motorway jaunts. The bouncy suspension and constant transmission whine mean that it isn’t an ideal companion for a drive to the Scottish Highlands or the West Country, but you’ll certainly have a blast once you get there.
5 The B-road Blast
Any Mini is going to be addictively good on a twisty bit of a road, the Cooper and Cooper S versions especially so. It’ll deliver all of its on-road panache at or below the speed limit, so it’s easy to get a proper buzz from one without landing yourself in trouble with the long arm of the law. Just beware of hillier surroundings – even the larger-engined models can get flustered on punishing gradients, and the drum brakes on earlier versions can fade on the way back down again.
WHAT TO PAY // CoNCouRS £16-20k // GooD £11-17k // uSABLE £8-12k // PRojECt £3-7k