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30 Apr 2014

Mini Cooper


Text and photos: Reinis Babrovskis

Erm…I don’t think so. Mini has never been a girl’s car, it is unisex at worst. It doesn’t matter if you’re small and skinny or tall and large, a girl or a lad, you will look awesome in it. If you have no idea what clothes are in fashion, what phone will make the kids jealous, don’t follow Kardashians on twitter, yet still want to blend in with the cool people? Just buy a Mini. Owning a Mini instantly makes you fashionable, trust me; people will assume you are an artist, musician or actor.
Once the classic Mini was discontinued in 2000, a release of a modern Mini model was announced in the same year. This time the car would be built by the respectable BMW, so we wouldn’t need to worry about the Mini starting, overheating, falling apart and all the other joys that the classic Mini offered.
The development of the modern Mini began in 1995 as a joint venture between Rover and BMW. While the Rover’s vision of the modern Mini was an economical and cheap vehicle, the BMW were looking to make a sporty hatch, and luckily for us the BMW took the project over, and as a result  instead of a Chinese built, Korean powered, Russian designed Mini, we have a British built, Brazilian-German powered Mini designed by an American. Wait, can it get any more complicated?
Quite often the attempt to revive an iconic car is bound for an instant fail, though Mini is one of the rare to succeed and I believe it is all thanks to the little, yet smart changes from the original design. The chief designer, Frank Stephenson, deliberately designed the car with a reminiscence of the legendary classic small two door concept Mini, retaining most of the iconic features like the black wheel arches, contrasting roof colours, optional bonnet stripes, rally lights, and the wide arches. The finished clay bar model was presented to the members of the board on 2001 and they instantly liked it, stating that nothing is to be changed, including the exhaust pipe that was actually a tin of beer stuck in the back. It turns out the designers completely forgot about it, so the beer tin shaped exhaust is still present in all models.
Under the wing of the BMW, Mini production is done at the Swindon’s factory in England with the build quality being second to none. The quality of the interior finish is truly amazing; the steering wheel, gearstick, pedals – they all scream quality and style. The interior - a mixture of a racing car and a jet fighter is one of my all time favourite interior designs. Jeff Gordon would be with me on this - the gigantic speedo and the driver facing rev gauge would feel at home in the NASCAR racing cars; while the interior switches and dials were undoubtedly borrowed from an F-22 fighter jet. Each time the dial gets used to lower the window, I imagine a rocket is launched… Yet somehow the Mini  manages to pull it off and make it one helluva place to be in.

The interior is spacious, with very comfortable seats and a lot of room for your legs; it is certainly  more everyday friendly than the classic. What about the ones in the back you may ask? Well, the people at the back shouldn’t have legs, but you kind of do expect that in the modern hatchbacks.

The 1.6l I4 petrol engine, a co-development by Chrysler and BMW, built by the Brazilian based Tritec Motors Company, certainly offers a nice power/torque ratio and pulls the 1,2t lightweight really well. Once the engine rev needle has reached the higher side of the dial the engine produces a lovely note, as does the stock exhaust. Being a very reliable engine, it certainly has gained the love and support from many.
The Cooper comes equipped with a 5 gear manual gearbox which is a joy to use along with the very sporty clutch; you honestly would think it was borrowed from the BMW M3 model. It is a real fun to drive. The handling is outstanding – all four wheels have been pushed to their limit to the corners of the vehicle to improve the handling. With the ASC traction control, DCS electronic stability control and the BMW cornering brake control the car has the perfect formula for the fun/safety ratio.
If you seriously want a beautiful car, that is reliable, joy to drive and want to look great in it, buy a Mini.

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