A MINI One adventure
For a car that's only been in production since 2001, the MINI ONE carries a surprising amount of historical baggage.
Built at Cowley in the UK under the auspices of BMW, the MINI One was never off to the easiest of starts. Launched to hysterical public demand in April 2001 the MINI ONE, through clever marketing and sound engineering, managed to exceed expectations.
The entry level, 90bhp MINI One was priced aggressively and demand went through the roof with used examples initially trading at ridiculous premiums.
Despite more powerful versions joining the line up including the Cooper, Cooper S and a 75bhp 1.4-litre diesel version, the MINI One's star remained in the ascendancy. The all new MINI was unveiled late in 2006 to replace this model, but it looked almost identical so dismay amongst the car's enthusiast following was kept to a minimum.
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Despite its unashamedly retro appeal, the MINI One has some reassuringly modern foundations. Clamber underneath and you'll spot BMW's Z-axle multi-link rear suspension. There's a wrap-around glasshouse with glazed in side pillars featuring fully flush panes.
Like the original, the interior of the MINI One is still somewhat cramped, and retro themes abound, from the chrome detailing to the cavernous door bins.
The centrally mounted speedometer, winged MINI badging and curved slatted grille all act as visual throwbacks to the Fifties. Other changes have a distinctly modern touch.
Other proposed touches such as the sixties-style starter button and stalk-mounted hazard lights also got the chop due to pricing concerns, showing how tight profit margins are even in this potentially lucrative market sector. Certain items are must-haves, such as airbags and ABS-equipped disc brakes all round.
The first MINI One variants are currently changing hands from around £4,750 with £5,175 being the level where Coopers kick off. Cooper S models are still exceedingly thin on the ground and if you can find one for anything less than £6,925, consider it a good deal. Insurance is eminently reasonable – think Group 5 for the One and Group 8 for the Cooper.
Practically all MINI One owners paid the extra £100 for the five-year "TLC" servicing option, and as such your prospective purchase will probably have had some main dealer attention. The unfortunate fact that is beginning to emerge is that it may well have needed it. Apart from a recall to modify some car's fuel filler necks, many owners have seen somewhat more of their local BMW service bay than they would have expected. Many owners reported that the ball races at the top pivot points of their front suspension struts were lacking caps and exposed to the elements. This seemed to be the cause of left hand pull on some models, rectified by fitting new struts. Rattling dashboards and badly fitting roof guttering were also repetitive complaints amongst owners. Likewise a faulty sensor in the tailgate latch often flashes a warning to the driver that the hatch is open, requiring a few slams to disengage it.
All MINI Ones serve up enormous fun behind the wheel. Quite how BMW have managed to preserve that rollerskate feel whilst endowing the car with the latest safety features is laudable in the extreme, but they've managed it. From the MINI One right up to the Cooper S, it's tough work preventing a smile creeping across your face when you feel the heft of the steering and the lack of flab and roll in the chassis.
If you can accept the fact that your MINI One may cause you a few MINI One adventures along the way, then there's no reason why you shouldn't dip your toe into this still rather volatile market. Whatever model you choose, you're guaranteed a good time.