We love the ‘new’ MINI, by which we mean the one we got at the turn of the millennium, which actually makes it *checks notes* ahem, twenty-one years old. How, exactly, did that happen? We thought it was 2002? Anyway, the MINI has been with us for a while now, and the Oxford plant has built about seventy-millionty-teen of them in that time. That means the used market is awash with cheap MINIs just waiting for you. But should you take the plunge? Well, yes. The MINI offers myriad possibilities. If you just need a cheap, fun runabout, this is it. If you want and angry hot hatch, the MINI can also keenly oblige. First car? Naturally. Weekend track warrior? You betcha. Just like the car penned by Issignois, the re-born MINI is as versatile as a Leatherman. It can be anything you need it to be.
Still hugely popular, the following behind the MINI means that owing one is a breeze. Parts are plentiful, enthusiasts groups too. No matter your MINI model, no matter your need, no matter your issue, there will be someone out there to guide you and help. It’s a fun, cheap, happy little car that even in boggo 1.6 ONE guise is a hoot. Buy one. You must. It’s one of those cars we all, as petrolheads, owe to ourselves to live with at least once.
1) It’s the perfect first car
When it comes to a first car, we can’t all go out and get something shiny and new on finance. For many of us, we have to do a lot of saving and then we have to hope and prey we can find something that’s still the same car at the front as it is at the back. The good think about the MINI is that there are loads out there, and you can get a presentable, decent ONE for well under a grand. Safe (EuroNCAP awarded it four out of five stars) but not at all dull, it’s the perfect first set of wheels. Okay, being a 1.6 it might not be as cheap as some other boring cars, but you don’t want to be boring, do you?
2) The Cooper S is mad
When you get into the world of the MINI, you’ll hear a lot of R53 talk. The normal MINIs – the One, the Cooper and so on – are R50 models. The R53 is the mad, supercharged, Cooper S version. With north of 160bhp from the Eaton supercharged 1.6 engine, it is an utter riot to drive. Try and find a bad review of one, go on, we’ll wait. EXACTLY, THERE AREN’T ANY. Wheel at each corner, a chassis to die for and the progressive push of power from the finest form of forced induction means that you’d have to be dead inside to not enjoy it. And you’re not dead inside, are you? No. Exactly.
3) Parts are plentiful
The ubiquity created by the popularity of the MINI means that parts are out there en masse. If you’re looking for a car that you can run without needing to be on your Bank Manager’s Christmas card list, this is it. Online, dealerships, standalone specialists – they’re all out there and ready to help. There are also plenty of used spares, plenty of upgrades and lots of ways to personalise your car. Just because a car is popular, it doesn’t mean you can’t stand out. Which leads us neatly to…
4) It’s the modifiers dream
You want to modify your MINI? Step right up, because the only limit here is your imagination. Look online and you’ll find everything from performance exhausts to coilover suspension to brakes to wheels to bucket seats. And 90% of it can be fitted at home. Quick bolt on/bolt off stuff that anyone with a modicum of common sense and a decent socket set can tackle. You can build yourself a sick show car, you can build yourself a B-road warrior, or you can build yourself a track weapon. There are ready-made, off the shelf parts out there to help you realise your dream.
5) Motorsport beckons
So you want to prove to the world you’re the next big thing in circuit racing? Well, with the MINI, you can. There are various race classes out there for the MINI, from clubman level right through to professional. Have a look at the MINI Challenge for example. You’ll need to do all your tests and ARDS and things like that, but the team over at Motorsport Vision can help you out there. There are companies out there who can build your car, or supply all the bits to do it. And once done, the racing is usually tight, door-rubbing stuff that provides a thrill a minute. Or, if that all sounds about bit much, you could simply build your MINI into a dedicated track day toy. Basically, no matter the skill level, if you want to get on track, you can in a MINI.