MINI One (2001 - 2006) review

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introduction

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.

Models

Models Covered: Three door hatchback - April 2004 to date: (1.6 90bhp, 1.6 116bhp, 1.6 170bhp petrol. 1.4 diesel [One, One D, Cooper, Cooper S])

History

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.

What You Get

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. This creates a 'floating-roof' effect which can be emphasised by the Cooper's options of having the roof painted in black or white. 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. The laughable boot of the original MINI has been replaced by a more practical hatchback arrangement. Some rather cheap silver-painted plastics are used in the interior, as the original aluminium fittings were ditched on the grounds of cost. 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. At a time when tall and narrow represents the state of the art, the MINI One is more state of the ark - unashamedly squat, with bulging rear wheelarch extensions and a raking, low roofline. Unless you place a premium on space and practicality, the design works beautifully.

What You Pay

Please fill in the form here for an exact up-to-date information.

What to Look For

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.

Replacement Parts

A clutch assembly is around £130. Front brake pads are around £40, a full exhaust about £360, an alternator around £100 and a tyre around £40. A starter motor is about £120. A headlamp is about £165.

On the Road

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 want the MINI One experience at the lowest price, opt for the One, but if you can try stretching for the Cooper as the extra urge is well worth the premium. You'll be gratified to find that the extra cash really does buy you a very different driving experience. For a start, there's that noise. The exhaust system has been tailored specifically to produce a 'deep and meaty' bass note - and it does. As you power through the gears, there's additional music provided by the supercharger's distinctive air intake rushing sound. In fact, it's rather like the whine that original MINI Ones used to have, which will make those who remember the very first Sixties' Cooper S feel right at home. It's one of those cars that is quite impossible to drive slowly. The comedy value in hearing the manic supercharger scream may well have you accelerating up through the gears just for the sheer hell of it, but isn't that what a performance car should be all about?

Overall

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.