|The next generation Mini|
THERE seems to be a huge division in people’s opinions on the new MINI.
Some love its cute looks while others sees its retro-throwback styling as a cheesy pastiche.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but it seems there are plenty of people in the former camp prepared to put their money where their mouth is and choose a MINI.
The firm is expecting to sell around 50,000 of the new models in the UK this year – 5,000 more than in 2006 with the old-shape version.
That’s a significant volume for a car that is essentially a two-seater with a next-to-useless boot and a fairly sparse level of standard equipment – so much so that air-conditioning is an optional extra.
If you believe the marketing hype the MINI brand is all about individuality and the chance to personalise the cars is massive – chequered flag roofs, different wheels, white door mirrors, extra accessory packs inside, etc. The list is endless, and means that the chances of a standard £12,995 Cooper leaving a showroom are pretty sparse.
But no matter what level of options are plastered on to the car, the fact remains that a basic Cooper is still one hell of a car, offering sprightly performance and projecting a fantastic, youthful image.
Despite growing slightly over the old model, the new MINI still retains that cheeky retro styling, although it has to be said that it doesn’t work quite as well as before, with oversized light units sitting uncomfort-ably on the bodyshell.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the driving experience, which still leaves you with a smile on your face after every drive.
There’s a feeling of immediacy about the controls of the MINI which make it such fun – the steering is fantastically precise and turn-in to corners is immediate, the gearbox shifts well between the ratios and the ride has a lively, almost bouncy feel that would annoy in some cars but seems to suit the MINI’s character to a tee.
There’s also slightly more power under the bonnet – an extra 5bhp taking output to 120bhp – thanks to a new engine developed jointly between BMW and PSA Peugeot-Citroën.
This uses the group’s Valve-tronic valve system to make it not only more powerful but also more economical.
The interior continues the retro theme, with a dominant speedo mounted in the centre of the dash. This has grown in size over the old model to the point where it looks faintly ridiculous now.
User-choosers love the MINI because it’s fun and funky, while fleet managers love it for its running costs.
It looks as if this success story is going to run and run.
P11D value: £13,797
CO2 emissions (g/km): 139
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £100
Insurance group: 8
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP RV (3yr/60k) £7,200/56%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £243
We don’t like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THE MINI sits in a niche of its own, being neither a traditional hatch nor offering the power or equipment of its rivals. It’s still pricey, though, and in this test with the Pepper pack added (to include air-conditioning) it’s the second most costly. The SEAT looks good value at under £12k.
207 : £14,157
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
DESPITE its higher front-end price, the MINI offers drivers the cheapest company car tax bills thanks to sitting in the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band. It will cost a 22% taxpayer £38 a month compared with £52 for the Peugeot and £54 for both the SEAT and Ford.
TYRES are the key differentiating factor here, and the MINI is cheapest as it has the smallest wheels at just 15 inches in diameter, which means less rubber to replace. The 207 comes with 16-inch alloys as standard, while the Ford and SEAT run on 17s.
MINI: 2.89 (pence per mile) £1,734 (60,000 miles total)
207: 3.21 £1,926
Fiesta: 3.84 £2,304
Ibiza: 4.35 £2,610
THE MINI is the least powerful here with 120bhp and is also the most fuel efficient, returning a claimed 48.7mpg. This results in a fuel spend of £4,800 over 60,000 miles. The others are well adrift, with the 207 returning 40.3mpg, the Fiesta 38.2 and the SEAT 35.8.
MINI: 8.04 (pence per mile) £4,824 (60,000 miles total)
207: 9.72 £5,832
Fiesta: 10.25 £6,150
Ibiza: 10.94 £6,564
ONCE again the MINI wins, costing a penny per mile less than the SEAT in second. CAP estimates that the Cooper will retain a huge 56% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, compared to 39% for the Fiesta, 36% for the SEAT and 34% for the Peugeot.
MINI: 11.70 (pence per mile) £7,020 (60,000 miles total)
Ibiza: 12.77 £7,662
Fiesta: 13.80 £8,280
207: 15.72 £9,432
A HUGE victory margin for the MINI, which will cost a fleet five pence per mile less to run than its closest challenger. The remaining three are fairly closely matched, but none can cope with the Cooper’s all-round performance, and especially its residual value advantage.
MINI: 22.63 (pence per mile) £13,578 (60,000 miles total)
Fiesta: 27.89 £16,734
Ibiza: 28.06 £16,836
207: 28.65 £17,190
THIS is pretty much a foregone conclusion. With a great image and driving experience, backed up by such a strong financial performance, the MINI Cooper walks this test. For young user-choosers it’s a dream of a car while fleet managers will appreciate its balance sheet performance. The other three cars are all good in their own right, and closely matched on running costs. They also offer something the MINI can’t – the ability to carry four people and some luggage.