Something curious has happened to the latest generation Mini, it´s getting bigger and bigger for reasons I don´t quite understand and just has maybe lost just a little of the essential DNA that made it so special in the first place. Progress is inevitable but does progress mean that we dilute away some of the essential DNA that perhaps made the Mini Cooper S so iconic and loved by so many?
I have owned the 2002 generation Mini Cooper S also known as the R53 and a 2007 generation Mini Cooper S R56 with the optional John Cooper Works (JCW) tuning kit. The major difference between the two Mini Cooper S models was the change from a supercharger as seen in the R53 model to a turbo in the R56 model. It also got a bit bigger, more refined, got a new engine and cosmetic changes but overall still looked and felt like a Mini should albeit a little less raw and a little more grown up.
When the latest Mini range was launched however, the F55 / 56 / 57 range I couldn´t help but notice that the latest lineup looked somewhat bloated, something akin to being stung by a bee, it was beginning to lose its clean iconic shape. Another departure was the prominent central speedo. The Mini has pretty much always had a large speedometer in the centre of the dashboard, a signature style detail one could say that is now gone. There is still a large display in the centre of the main dashboard but it no longer holds the oversized and iconic speedo but rather other information. I for one would miss that simple, analogue and large speedo that screamed Mini.
The R56 range which launched in 2006 and was produced until 2013 is one not to be overlooked if you are looking to buy a used car. It holds its value well and is perhaps the last of the Mini to still look like the original Mini in some way. If you are a little more “hardcore” and like tuning your cars and like something a little more raw then the supercharged R53 Mini Cooper S would be worth taking a look at.
I have to admit I have not driven the latest Mini range and sadly for me at least the Mini journey is now over, as much as I loved my R53 Mini Cooper S and still love my R56 Mini Cooper S R56 I have no desire to move onto the latest model but rather somewhere else. For me at least perhaps a little too much of the original DNA of the Mini has disappeared making it that much less appealing.
This is not a new phenomenon, take a look at the original MK1 Golf GTi or a VW Golf in general and you can see it´s grown and grown but each time lost some of its original DNA, sure there are performance versions that are fast and fun but they don´t offer or hold the same status as the original Golf Gti did in its heyday. From the same manufacturer we have the VW Beetle, what happened there? It should have been a home run! Like BMW had with the Mini, VW had an absolutely adored and iconic vehicle which could have been something really special when it was relaunched. When VW launched the new Beetle around 1999 it carried over very little of the original DNA in my opinion, sure it resembled a Beetle but there was nothing to love and still isn´t in my opinion. In this regard I have to give BMW credit for the first two Mini generations under their ownership, they did it right. The BMW produced Minis carried over the DNA of the Mini in abundance and created a new generation of Mini lovers. New Mini clubs were born and a new generation took to the streets in their pride and joy. In my view at least the latest generation of Mini is sadly going the way of the VW Golf and the VW Beetle, just a little later. Sure technically the new Mini is faster and more efficient and more comfortable perhaps but to me as the owner of two generations of Mini Cooper S the raw appeal has sadly diminished. We cannot stop progress and maybe the latest generation of Mini appeals to a different kind of buyer but for me as an old school ´petrol head´ I would much rather hold onto the older generation Mini Cooper a little longer. I should be clear that we are only talking of my personal view as the owner of the previous models and we are only talking about the original DNA and rawness that is perhaps got a bit lost along the way. Maybe it is inevitable that every new generation of a previously iconic model gets somewhat diluted.
Electrification of cars is now an inevitability and will change the entire automotive landscape over the coming years so with this in mind the petrol engine Mini Cooper S always had its days numbered but there were still some years left to go out in a blaze of glory. So what´s the takeaway from all this you may ask? If you are in the market for a really good and fun used car think about the R53 or R56 Mini ranges as you get quite a lot for your money, they hold their value well and importantly still carry a lot of the original DNA of the Mini that started it all