Mini GP

CAR (UK) - - Icon Buyer -

THE MINI GP was the last of the first-gen­er­a­tion BMW Mi­nis, the R53. Es­sen­tially a John Cooper Works Cooper S with ex­tra Cooper, it’s iden­ti­fied most eas­ily by its deeper front bumper, red mir­ror caps, high-level rear wing with car­bon cen­tre, and four-spoke Ronal 18s.

Power from the su­per­charged 1.6 edged up slightly to 215bhp from the JCW’s 210bhp thanks to a mod­i­fied in­ter­cooler and tweaked en­gine man­age­ment soft­ware. GPs also got up­rated springs and dampers, a lim­ited-slip diff and be­spoke alu­minium rear trail­ing arms to re­place the nor­mal steels.

There’s noth­ing but car­pet and strut brace where rear pas­sen­gers might once have squashed, but the GP is far from the mo­bile tor­ture rack that might lead you to ex­pect: the leather Re­caro seats give just a lit­tle as your back­side squishes down, and the bol­sters hold you se­curely and in great com­fort. You still get elec­tric win­dows, and air-con­di­tion­ing was an op­tion; liv­ing with­out it con­trib­utes to the over­all 50kg weight sav­ing.

The GP is an en­er­getic lit­tle thing to hus­tle, from the bristling re­sponse and fierce su­per­charger whine of the Tritec en­gine to the meaty di­rect­ness of its steer­ing and the quick snick of the six-speed man­ual ’box. The chas­sis is fan­tas­tic – pointy at the front, light on its feet through di­rec­tion changes, and with an ad­justable bal­ance that’s as happy to play it neat and tidy as it is to slide through an apex.

The penalty for all this in­ter­ac­tion is a pretty un­yield­ing ride, and you’d prob­a­bly ex­ploit more of the per­for­mance on a bumpy B-road if the sus­pen­sion had more com­pli­ance. But the GP feels ev­ery bit as spe­cial and re­ward­ing as the com­bi­na­tion of buoyed-up ex­te­rior, pared-back in­te­rior and healthy pre­mium over a Cooper S leads you to ex­pect.

Just 2000 GPs were pro­duced, all in Thun­der Blue, with 460 sold in the UK. Those cars cost £22k when new, and they’ve held their value well: cars with over 100k miles go from £9k, while very lowmileage ex­am­ples com­mand £17k from in­de­pen­dents. Buy some­thing be­tween those poles and you’ll bag a well-lookedafter car to en­joy us­ing hard.

Cute and idio­syn­cratic Mini cock­pit con­trasts with the car’s ex­treme at­ti­tude

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