Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan concludes his running report on his partner’s 2014 MINI with an assessment of its dynamics, its ergonomics and his conclusions.

Image : The Author

The driving experience and refinement is where the third-generation new MINI really distinguishes itself positively from its fun but flawed predecessors. It has a nice turn of speed, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the manual, and a claimed (but untested!) top speed of 130mph.

The torque-converter automatic gearbox is very smooth, kicks down readily and has a manual override if wanted, which we’ve never used. This gearbox has now been superseded by a dual-clutch unit. The three-cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged engine pulls strongly and has a nice, gruff engine note.

Driving our MINI back-to-back with an R50 owned by a friend shows it to be a little less pointy and playful, but with much better ride quality, notwithstanding the optional 17” wheels.

Our longest unbroken journey has been a repeated 125-mile drive to and from Lincoln on ‘A’ roads of (very) variable quality. This takes about 2½ hours and the seats are more than adequately comfortable for this, leaving us with nothing but age-related stiff joints when we arrive at our destination.

Space up front is very generous for a small car. I’m just under 6’ tall, but very long-limbed, and even I don’t need the driver’s seat nearly at its rearmost position, as in my Boxster. With some compromise on the part of the driver and front seat passenger, two adults can be accommodated in the rear for short journeys. The boot is, of course, small, but the rear seat backs can be dropped in a second for more space when needed.

Our MINI has been totally reliable but was the subject of two recalls early in its life, for minor issues that now elude me. Fortunately, it was not one of a small batch of early cars that suffered manufacturing issues that required a replacement engine to be fitted. Servicing was covered by the MINI TLC package for the first five years, with nothing extra to pay. Its first paid-for service in April 2019 cost a very reasonable £135 including its MOT test. I should clarify that it’s a very low mileage car, with just around 12k miles recorded in six years, so this saves on mileage-related service costs.

The car is garaged when not in use so still looks showroom-fresh, with only a couple of very minor stone chips on the front, expertly touched in by Murray. The only part that deteriorated was the winged MINI emblem above the rear licence plate, which started to bubble and delaminate recently. A replacement cost an outrageous £31!

Criticisms? A few, concerning ergonomics. The indicator stalk is annoying.  You press it lightly for three flashes, or firmly through a resistance for a continuous signal. Unusually, in either case the stalk returns immediately to its central ‘off’ position. The problem is that the indicators are reluctant to self-cancel so, when you go to cancel them, you sometimes find you’re now signalling in the opposite direction, much to the confusion of other drivers.

This wouldn’t happen if the stalk gave you a physical status indication, by staying in place when pressed firmly, then clicking back into the central position when it self-cancels. This is how indicator stalks generally work, and the MINI’s arrangement is a retrograde step.

The wiper stalk is also confusing. Instead of ‘push down for a single sweep, click up once for intermittent, twice for slow and three times for fast’ which is, I thought, near enough an industry standard, you press a button on the end of the stalk for intermittent. If I used the car more regularly, I’m sure I’d get used to it, but I have to remind myself every time I drive in the rain.

Because of the large circular central feature, the minor switches and row of toggle switches below are rather low-set, forcing you to look down to identify and operate them. Finally, the continuously variable fan control is strangely non-linear in its operation, the biggest variance in speed occurring towards the very end of its rotation.

So, there you have it, our experience of running a MINI for six years and 12k miles. It’s still a car with much to like and very little to dislike. The F56 is a very different car to the original ‘new’ MINI, the R50. It has matured to the extent that it is much easier to live with day-to-day, but has sacrificed some of the R50’s fun-factor for this enhanced usability. Looks apart, it’s best judged on its own merits as a sophisticated, grown-up supermini rather by comparison to any namesake.

Given the new MINI Electric’s steep price and limited range, I think we’ll be holding onto it for some time to come, until the EV market matures further and we can make a better informed decision about its replacement.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

28 thoughts on “Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)”

  1. A proper, honest real world car review. Bravo, Mr O’Callaghan. Isn’t DTW blessed?

    1. Thanks, Andrew. I must say I’m sceptical about the so-called long-term tests in the motoring press. Often, the vehicle that’s the subject of the test is a fully-loaded and fettled press car that’s on loan for a few months, which is hardly representative of the typical ownership experience.

      I’ve a long-term review of my Boxster in the pipeline.

    2. Daniel makes a valid point on the subject of runflat tyres. Those reinforced sidewalls really do nothing for the ride quality. It’s a point I neglected to make in my report on ‘our’ R50 MINI, which was featured a number of days ago. Not that there is any space for even a ‘spacesaver’ tyre. What’s the opposite of packaging miracle again?

    3. The spacesaver spare in our MINI is carried in a cradle underneath the boot floor, so you don’t lose any boot space by having it. My Boxster has an aerosol of sealant, which has to be replaced every couple of years, and an electric pump. Happily (and tempting fate!) we haven’t had a puncture in the last decade.

  2. Going against the grain here, but I love BMW indicator stalks. In my Bimmer there is no problem of indicators that are reluctant to self-cancel at all. If anything they self-cancel a little too easily. It’s definitely not a Citroën. I never understood what is so great about self-cancelling DIRAVI steering and not having self-canceling indicators.

    I have the ‘press lightly for three flashes’-function turned off. You can select between one to six flashes in my car, but I like to decide for myself rather than the car doing it for me. I have a similar issue with handbrakes in modern cars that turn themselves on.

    I find the lack of physical status indication a complete delight. If there’s one thing that annoys the hell out of me it’s the clicking sound the indicator stalks make when they self-cancel. Right up there with scratching your nails on the chalkboard.

    And before you ask: I do top up the blinker fluid regularly 😉

    The wiper stalk in your Mini is a bit confusing. Mine work like the near industry standard as you describe. There is a button on the end that you can push to turn the rain sensitive function on or off, though.

  3. Great review. And agreed the orange roof looks much better. The non sat nav radio much less so.

    My current company car in Malaysia (where I reside for a while for work) is a 7 year old F30 BMW 328i M-Sport with that dreaded indicator stalk. It also has the stupid button you have to press at the end of the wiper stalk to switch on the automatic wipers. Every time it rains you have to switch on the “automatic” wipers! Doh
    But that indicator – I hate it. A friend of mine here has a much newer F30 330e and when in that the other day, I noticed with the facelift, that car got a normal indicator stalk! Sanity prevailed.

    (As to why my rental car is seven years old? Avis et al charged me DOUBLE what I pay now for a 1,8 litre Honda Civic or a 2,0 litre Nissan X-Trail. So thankfully someone told me of a local rental agency that do excellent service and slightly older but much nicer (and Significantly faster!) cars. Win Win)

    1. Hi Johann, that’s interesting about BMW reverting to a ‘conventional’ indicator stalk. Like the wipers, I would probably get used to it if I drove the MINI all the time but, just like your rental car, occasional use catches me out.

      Incidentally, that’s a great deal on your BMW. There’s a car rental firm in Tenerife we have used a few times in the past that, I believe, uses ex-rental cars from the big name companies, significantly undercutting their rates. The cars are usually a bit scruffy with a big mileage but, as long as they are properly maintained who cares? Unfortunately, the company’s lot is ‘off-airport’ and you have to call them to collect you when you arrive, which is a bit of a faff, and not ideal after a 4 1/2 hour flight.

  4. Sadly BMW replaced their indicator stalks with conventional items. BMW’s got a little worse.

    Same thing happened when they replaced the stalk operated cruise control with buttons on the steering wheel, apparently because Americans couldn’t figure out how to operate the stalk. The stalk is much better to use in my opinion.

    And I’m happy to push the button to operate the rain sensitive wipers. They’re rain sensitieve, not automatic.

    1. Hi Freerk. I’ve a suspicion that the wipers in our MINI might be both intermittent and rain-sensitive on the push-button setting. There’s a thumb-wheel in the stalk to alter the delay, but they seem to stop altogether when I drive into the garage.

      I really must read the handbook some day!

  5. Daniel thanks for replying (weird you saw my reply as there’s a pact on this lovely site to ignore everything I say by the rest of the sect on here) my rental is 7 years old with only 55,000 km on the clock. The 18 month old Avis Civic I had, had 77,000 km on the clock!

    As to the other silly comment from Freerk: I’m sorry but on all cars I’ve ever driven (and on my own Touareg) when you put the wiper stalk in automatic, it means just that: they are automatic and come on whenever they’re needed. Your comment shows how little you understand about the comfort of something being “set and forget” vs requiring human intervention.

    1. Referring to others on here as belonging to a sect is both ridiculous and unlikely to endear you to fellow readers.

      Some of your comments have come across as fairly combative… much of the internet may be an aggressive, noisy free-for-all, but DtW has thankfully avoided this so far, and remains a place of civility and considered comments.

      Just a thought.

  6. Daniel,

    Thank you – excellent report on what remains a desirable car. The design has aged fairly well, and it seems less divisive with familiarity. Having to adapt the MINI to share the same basic platform with people carriers and SUVs was always going to lead to compromises.

    What is fuel economy like?

    1. It’s an extremely lovely site for content. Yet it’s an extremely hostile site for comments and the clique of “in people” trying to out comment each other. I leave you all to it. It’s clear you only want to impress each other and you’re not interested in other’s views.

    2. ‘Extremely hostile’ – seriously?

      With all due respect, but this is a haven of good manners compared with every other online community I know.

    3. Hi Jacomo, I can answer that question to a weirdly precise degree, if the on-board computer is to be believed. We have never reset the average fuel consumption measurement over six years and today it reads 41.3mpg. This represents a mix of town and rural, but almost no motorway driving. It’s not a stellar number, but not bad for a meaty 1.5 litre turbo petrol.

      I run both our cars on BP Ultimate petrol, not for the 97 octane rating, but for the detergents and other goodies they allegedly contain, in the hope that they will help to maintain the low-mileage engines in good condition.

      Incidentally, I’m no fan of those small, highly stressed units that are increasingly popular, such as the 1.0 litre turbo triple in the Mondeo(!) They may perform well in WLTP testing, but I worry for their long-term reliability.

    4. Thanks Daniel.

      These ‘downsized’ engines often offer little real-world fuel economy benefit either… use the power and a small turbocharged engine will chomp through fuel at a heady rate.

      Rather gloriously, Porsche has now reintroduced a naturally aspirated six cylinder engine back into the 718 Boxster/Cayman models… albeit only at the top end of the range.

  7. I do not disagree with that at all Christopher. It is a haven of good manners indeed. But I’ll maintain it’s extremely hostile to “outsiders”.

    1. It’s interesting you perceive it this way. I personally chose not to engage with you at some point after I found your behaviour towards me needlessly aggressive – which, I believe, is my privilege (as it would be yours to ignore me, obviously).

      There certainly is no concerted effort I’m aware of to marginalise those who disagree with a certain consensus.

  8. I don’t keep track of things like that, so that you specifically ignored me passed me by I have to admit. I didn’t ignore you in return and had posted to some of your threads.

    As to the rest of the people? It feels concerted and extremely alienating.

    Now please don’t alienate Daniel too because he dared reply and interact with me. No one deserves treatment like that.

    1. Johann, I very much regret that you have formed that impression, but please be assured that there is no ‘sect’ operating within DTW or amongst its commentators. As our e-mail addresses are not published, there is simply no mechanism for commentators to communicate with each other directly, outside the public comments that everyone can see.

      Even contributors such as me can only communicate directly with the editor, Eóin Doyle, not each other, and those communication are solely related to the submission, editing and scheduling of contributions on the DTW site.

      Everybody is free to comment, and to respond to other comments (or not) as they see fit, but DTW does expect a standard of behaviour to be maintained. Commenters can and do disagree with each other, sometimes strongly, but should do so with due respect and civility.

      Again, I am sorry if you have felt ignored or slighted, but I don’t believe it was intentional and am absolutely certain that it wasn’t in any way orchestrated.

  9. Thank you Daniel. I know all that and believe it. I just stated my case. Things aren’t always as rosy as an in-crowd thinks, when they just see each other and hear each other echo all the time.

    Anyway. I’ll go away and leave you guys to it.

    1. Well ok then.

      Your perception is wrong, but if you are determined not to consider how your own comments on here might have affected others, there is not much more to be said.

      DtW is generally very welcoming.

  10. My perception might be wrong. But you used the word “generally”. I rest my case.

    That I pissed off Christopher on ponton fenders and E-class lights I get. He’s wrong on that and always will be. So? What other comments did I make to, as you say “offend” people? Eh? Heck people are seriously more snowflakey than I thought When discussing cars. Pieces of metal. We are talking cars and you go on about seemingly huge swathes of people on here being “offended”.

    Anyway I thought this place is about cars. Clearly I missed a memo somewhere.

    1. I have no recollection about when you allegedly ‘pissed me off’ in the context of wings and lights.

      I chose not to interact with you not because we disagreed on any door handles, track widths or creases. I did so because you’re simply lacking manners.

      By calling others ‘snowflakes’ while you’re basically complaining that DtW hasn’t welcomed you with the kind of warmth you deserve speaks volumes in that context. You’re not doing yourself any favours.

    2. I am trying to help you here. It’s not working, so I won’t continue, but here’s one more stab at it, based solely on your comment above:

      1. You acknowledge pissing off Christopher, but then can’t resist revisiting that argument again and reasserting that he was wrong. Why? What possible good is this comment going to achieve, completely out of context?

      2. Use of speech marks around “offend”. This is a classic sorry/not sorry move.

      3. Use of term snowflakey. Subtext: I am not wrong, you are just too sensitive.

      4. Reuse of speech marks for “offend”, just in case we missed the point that you are sorry/not sorry.

      5. Sarcastic sign off.

      All of this (and more) is very prevalent across this global communication medium we use, and we have all probably used language like this ourselves (I certainly have). But it is not the way of this site.

      I moderate my language *considerably* when on DtW because I appreciate that the house rules have created a rather more civilised corner of the internet. Can you not see that?

      I am now guilty of dragging this conversation wildly off-topic (another internet staple, and frowned upon here) so I will stop now. To be clear, these are my own views, I do not speak for the owners or editors of this site.

  11. Pretend all you like that you have no idea of that post Christopher.

    Anyway I had enough of this clique. Friendly this place is not.

  12. Driven to Write is and remains free to view, advertisement-free and welcoming to all. However, we do rely upon people treating one another with the same levels of respect and politeness we would in our professional lives, or were we not hidden behind our internet firewalls. This is our policy and these are (if you will forgive me) our values. Today’s digression was unfortunate, but I would now like to (quite firmly) declare it closed.

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