One million MINIs produced since 2001

July 18th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Since production began in 2001 Plant Oxford has seen over one million MINIs leave the plant destined for customers abroad. The one millionth MINI for export has now left Plant Oxford.

More than 80 per cent of MINI production is currently exported to almost 80 countries worldwide with the largest export market being the USA. The most recent sales figures have been the best in MINI USA’s history. In the first half of the year, MINI USA has reported sales of 26,400 cars, an increase of 33.6 per cent. The increase in MINI sales is indicative of the structural shift taking place in the USA, with MINI dealers reporting many customers moving out of their large cars like SUV’s and trucks into MINIs.

In the first six months of 2008, MINI recorded a worldwide increase in sales of 17.9 per cent compared to last year delivering 126,810 vehicles. The introduction of the MINI Clubman has contributed greatly to this success — every fifth MINI sold is a Clubman.

Plant Oxford employs 4,700 associates who work a three shift pattern producing up to 800 MINIs a day, seven days a week. An additional 2,100 associates work at the MINI pressing plant in Swindon and engine plant in Hams Hall near Birmingham; the three plants together form the MINI production triangle in the UK.

In addition, MINI UK will open the doors to a brand new model at MINIVERSITY, the Oxford-based car manufacturer’s home at the 2008 British International Motor Show.
Between 22 July and 03 August, the UK media and British public will have the opportunity to view first hand some of the smartest things to come out of Oxford in recent years.  MINI owners will have access to ‘The Union’, an area to meet others in the MINI community, while future customers can take a walk through the ‘Faculty of Engineering’ and discover the millions of ways to personalise a new MINI. The stand will also incorporate a Quadrangle-style area on which the entire MINI range will be displayed.

The most recent ‘graduate’ from MINI Plant Oxford, the brand new MINI John Cooper Works will be shown to the public for the first time on British soil.

Electric MINIs to glide down Californian streets?

July 11th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Over the next months, the BMW Group will be carrying out various series of tests on electrically powered vehicles to determine the alternative drive of the future. Several hundred MINI vehicles are being prepared for this.

The cars, built in the Oxford plant, will be modified accordingly in Munich and fitted out for trials.

“This step will allow the BMW Group to gain an initial knowledge of how mobility can be achieved efficiently using purely electrically powered vehicles. Our task here is to combine the ultimate driving experience with an efficient electrified drive with practically no emissions”, underlined Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

The tests on alternative drives in a MINI body will be used over the next 12-18 months to refine the technology. Details about the drive concept and its marketing will be published towards the end of the year.

Rumours are abound that 500 such MINIs will be leased to members of the public in California for the trials.

BMW and Fiat contemplate getting into bed together

July 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

The BMW Group and Fiat Group Automobiles (FGA) are considering the possibility of co-operation in the areas of components and architectures for their Mini and Alfa Romeo vehicles.

As part of possible cooperation, BMW Group will provide FGA with support in launching the Alfa Romeo brand in the North American market.

A Memorandum of Understanding to this effect has been signed by Friedrich Eichiner, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Corporate and Brand Development, and Alfredo Altavilla, Senior Vice President, Business Development, Fiat Group Automobiles and CEO of Fiat Powertrain Technologies.

“We are currently examining with the Fiat Group possibilities for the joint use of components and systems in Mini and Alfa Romeo vehicles in order to achieve economies of scale and thus cost reductions within the framework of our Number ONE strategy”, Eichiner said on Monday in Munich.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Group and Fiat Group Automobiles, said: “The proposed co-operation with BMW is a significant cornerstone of our strategy of alliances. We are delighted to work with such an esteemed and respected partner in the automotive industry with the clear objective of improving the competitive position of both parties.”

The two partners have agreed not to divulge details of the possible collaboration. The results of the cooperation discussions will probably be achieved by the end of the year.

MINI diesels arrive in New Zealand

July 1st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

mini-cooper-d

With fuel prices spiralling out of control, the MINI Cooper D and MINI Clubman Cooper D have arrived in New Zealand to ease the “pain at the pump” for style-conscious Kiwi motorists. Unavailable in Australia, these two diesel-powered MINIs are the first-ever to be introduced in New Zealand, offering fuel-efficiency and emissions levels that rival any hybrid currently on the market.

These economical MINIs join just a handful of vehicles in New Zealand to achieve ‘five-and-a-half stars’ under the Government’s new fuel-efficiency star rating system. Around town, the MINI Cooper D sips fuel with average consumption of 4.4litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, while on the open road, this parsimonious pocket-rocket is capable of using just 3.7 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres (or more than 900 kilometres on one tank). The MINI Clubman Cooper D uses just a fraction more diesel; average consumption is 4.5 litres per 100kilometres while it is capable of using just 3.8 litres per 100 kilometres.

Yet the fact that the MINI Cooper D packs a punchy 80kW and 240 Nm of torque from its four-cylinder, 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine, means fuel-savings don’t come at the expense of the trademark MINI go-kart drive experience. Lightweight aluminium construc­tion and direct fuel injection, applying the common-rail principle, combine with a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry for optimum power and performance in all speed ranges. The Overboost function also gives the new MINI Cooper D a particularly powerful and agile “kick” whenever required by briefly raising the maximum torque on both models from 240 to 260 Newton-metres.

Like all MINIs, the MINI Cooper D and MINI Clubman Cooper D offer an infinite number of options for personalisation from interior lighting to roof design. There is also no compromise on safety with each new model achieving the highest five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.

Pricing for the new MINI Cooper D starts at $39,900 and the MINI Clubman Cooper D starts at $44,900. Both are available in New Zealand now.

MINI Cooper Clubman 2008 Review

June 22nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Mini Clubman Cooper fq 2

The new MINI Cooper Clubman sits outside the Car and SUV offices proudly showing off a stylized two-tone rump with double cargo doors. It’s a very different rear end to the regular MINI. In fact there hasn’t been a rear end since Jennifer Lopez’ that has caused so much talk around this office. However unlike J-Lo’s universally praised study in design excellence, opinion is still divided about the MINI Clubman’s bum.

I believe that you either get the ‘booty’ concept or you don’t. Personally when I first saw photos of the Clubman, I wasn’t taken with the styling, but seeing one in the flesh has made me reconsider to the point that now I think it looks alright. I can imagine the hotter Cooper S Clubman with a loud exhaust and big wheels making speedy deliveries through tight city streets. Awesome.

The interior is a strong point for all MINIs and this one is a nice place to be with a quality feel that seems to pervade all BMW stuff. The leather seats look sporty and are comfortable while the adjustable steering wheel provides a sporty, low driving position. Even the backseat is ok for 180cm+ people, which is partly why BMW decided to stretch this MINI.

The collection of circles that make up the interior is very cool while the ‘mood lighting’ control is interesting as you can change the colour of the lights on the interior door handles and next to the rear view mirror. The interior door handles hinge to the side and you have to pull them backward which is a bit awkward.

‘Funky’ is the adjective used by most who saw the Clubman, though some who saw the ‘Incredibly Mini’ tag on the number plate suggested a less flattering adjective to follow ‘Incredibly’.

We tried the cooking model Cooper Clubman with an 88kw engine and 6-speed automatic transmission.

The engine while feeling a bit lethargic, sounded rorty and really liked to rev and of course we let it. The engine note even sounds a little similar to the original Mini, with a hint of Ford Escort BDA rally car thrown in.

MINI quotes figures of 5.3 and 9.4 l/100km for highway and city driving respectively for the auto though we couldn’t verify this as there’s no trip computer.

The handling hasn’t been affected by the increased length in the Clubman (24cm) and it is still as chuck-able and secure as a regular MINI. It craves curves and rewards the driver with sublime composure on all but the most rutted roads where mid-corner bumps can produce a hint of understeer. The darty front end does give the feel of a big go-kart and grip through 205/45/17 tyres is impressive. Brakes are very good and pull the Clubman up well. Just make sure any loads are secure!

The Clubman definitely still has that sporting MINI DNA and is an absolute hoot to drive on twisty roads. It would be great to try the faster Cooper S Clubman with a manual gearbox.

Less inspiring is the 6-speed automatic transmission which around town with the auto in ‘Drive’ likes to go directly to 6th gear. This combined with the lack of fireworks under the bonnet means it needs to be revved to keep up with traffic. If you flick the gear level to the left to activate ‘sports mode’ things get much better. Paddles behind the steering wheel make for much more effective and satisfying progress although how they work can be a little confusing at first in that left and right do the same thing. Thumb the top of the paddle forward to change down, and pull back to go up. Once you get used to this, though, it is very easy to use — more intuitive in fact than having one paddle for up and one for down – and although the changes aren’t Ferrari-fast they do the job.

The MINI Clubman is different to the regular MINI as it is heavier and a little longer to add backseat space. The ‘Clubman door’ is an interesting concept that, like the Mazda RX-8, swings out after the front door is opened to help rear seat passengers enter and the driver to stash gear in the back. Why it is only on the drivers side I’m not sure, as I wouldn’t use it to let passengers out the drivers side for safety reasons. It seems that it would be better to have the door on both sides.

The double doors at the back are the main feature of the Clubman and are the main criticism of those concerned with the Clubman’s aesthetics. As a functional idea they are good but the space in the boot is ‘handy’ rather than huge. The doors also limit rearward visibility but this is something that you get used to.

It is a great handling car, fantastic fun to drive, easy to park and has a funky interior.
So it all boils down to whether the look of the Clubman appeals to you or not. Like I said at the beginning, you either get the ‘booty’ concept or you don’t.

Price: From $40,900

What we like

  • Rorty engine
  • Great handling
  • Quality interior
  • Sporty driving position

What we don’t like

  • Mood lighting was distracting
  • Standard automatic mode
  • Long list of options can make it expensive
  • Love it/hate it styling

MINI Cooper Clubman

From: Manual $40,900

Automatic $43,900

Specifications

Type (cylinders / valves) In line / 4

Effective Displacement (cm3) 1598

Power output kW (hp) 88 (120) at (rpm) 6000

Max. torque (Nm) @ rpm 160 / 4250

C02 emission -EU (auto) 163 (143)

Exhaust emissions classification (auto) EU4

Performance

Drag coefficient (Cd) 0,34

0-100 km/ h (sec), (auto) (9,8)10,9

Maximum speed in km/h, (auto) 201(195)

Fuel consumption

EU, in town Litres/100km  (Auto) 8,1(9,4)

EU, out of town Litres/100km (Auto) 4,8 (5,3)

Fuel consumption / Range (ltr /100km / km) 6,8 / 590

Technology & Information

3-way catalytic convertor fully controlled, heated lambda sensors

Cornering Brake Control

Power steering, electronic speed related

Manual 6-speed transmission

Dimensions – MINI in Millimetres

Length (mm) 3937

Width (mm) 1683

Height (mm) 1426

Luggage capacities (m3) 0,260 – 0,930 0

Fuel capacity (litres) 40

Safety & Vehicle Protection Features

Electronic vehicle immobilization (EWS IV)

3rd Headrest in rear

Runflat indicator with passive monitoring of all 4 wheels with status indicator light

Crash sensor, to activate hazard warning lights and interior lighting and to unlock doors

Follow me home function

Airbags for driver and front passenger, 6 airbags as standard; 2 front, 2 side and 2 curtain airbags

Electronic Braking Force Distribution control

Pyrotechnic belt buckle tensioners, for automatic belts front

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)

Sports suspension settings

Emergency spare wheel (3 1/2J x 15 tyres (deletion of MINI Mobility system)

Alarm system; for monitoring doors, engine-compartment lid and tailgate, including interior- movement sensor, tilt sensor and siren with emergency power supply

Warning triangle with first-aid kit

Park distance control rear (PDC)

Fog lights integrated into the front bumper

Front passenger airbag deactivation

MINI tlc ( 5 Year / 80,000 kilometre Scheduled Servicing)

Words Ben Dillon, photographs Darren Cottingham

Mini Cooper S 2008 Review

June 11th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Mini Cooper S f

Elvis shocked the world with his pelvic gyrations in the 1950s, but it was the 1960s that brought about the sexual revolution. The baby boom generation, born in a time of new freedom, reached adulthood and spurred a meteoric rise in drug culture, and a great liberation of the music scene, none of which was more iconic than the Beatles.

The Beatles owned Minis, while their screaming fans wore minis, and driving one of the diminutive cars became a fashion statement through into the 1970s. My parents owned one. Some of my friends owned them. Even my extremely untrendy biology and maths teachers owned them.

While the masses saw the “image”, John Cooper, a builder of open wheeler and rally cars, saw the potential of the Mini in competition — lightweight, a wheel at each corner, and easy to repair. Cooper was a friend of Issignonis, the designer of the Mini. Issigonis wasn’t keen on the idea of the Mini as a performance car, but Cooper persisted and the two men collaborated to launch the Mini Cooper in 1961.

With an increase in power from 25kW to 41kW from the naturally aspirated 997ccc racing-tuned, twin SU carburettor engine, the Mini Cooper also featured a closer-ratio gearbox and disc brakes at the front. A Cooper S was released in 1963 with a 1071cc engine, then a 1275cc engine in 1964.

Fast forward over five decades and Mini is no longer a British-owned icon, having been sold to BMW. New MINI (BMW insists people spell it with capitals; we think it looks wrong so we’ll continue with Mini), is 55cm longer, 30cm wider and 400kg heavier than the original Mini.

This Cooper S version has ditched the puny naturally aspirated motor and now sports a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, giving 128kW at 5500rpm and a healthy 240Nm of torque at a low 1600rpm — good enough for a 0-100kph time of 7.1 seconds, and small enough to give a sensible 6.9l/100km fuel consumption. The small and unobtrusive bonnet nostril gives the game away over the naturally aspirated Mini.

The Mini is a car that embraces you and makes you feel a complete part of the driving experience. The funky interior contains a lot of circles. The speedometer, which is the same diameter as the full moon, dominates the centre of the dashboard, and contains an inset LCD giving information about the stereo. All the air conditioning vents are circles. The rev counter, which sits right in front of you like in a racing car, is also circular, as are the buttons and insets on the steering wheel, and the gear knob.

There are also various switches that are protected by their own little roll cages. Cool. Unless you’ve got really fat fingers.

Back to the driving experience: acceleration is good, but overwhelms the front wheels in first and second as the turbo comes on boost. It’s the braking and handling that are the stand out performers. The Cooper S brakes like a racing car — there’s very little front-end dive under heaving braking. Even when the surface is undulating, or when pushed hard into a corner, the Cooper S stays very flat, and the rubber in the tyres finds all the grip it can to change the direction. There’s nothing wrong at all with the cornering — even coming into a cambered corner while braking heavily didn’t upset the Mini, which merely showed a slight antilock brake-induced chirp from the inside front as I began to turn in.

A car like the Mini Cooper S could be a better daily driver than a balls-out rally-inspired four-wheel drive like the Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. The WRX is in the same price range and, while more practical and faster, isn’t as stylish. The question would be whether you could ever make up your mind from the large number of options offered.

Price: from $43,900 (manual), or $46,900 (automatic). This car was fitted with an optional wheel and racing stripes package.

What we like

  • With the rear seats folded down there’s a surprising amount of room
  • Handling is spectacular
  • It brakes like a racing car
  • It’s still funky
  • Easy to drive around town

What we don’t like

  • Traction control struggles to reign in the front wheels’ tendency to want to spin
  • Some switches are a little too funky, making them difficult to operate
  • Will the Fiat 500 Abarth become more trendy?
  • Could get expensive when ticking that options list

New Cooper S Price
Manual $43,900

Automatic $46,900

Engine

Type (cylinders / valves) 4 / 16

Capacity (cc) 1598

Power output kW at rpm 128 / 5500

Max. torque (Nm) at rpm 240 @ 1,600

Dimensions
Length / Width / Height (mm) 3714 / 1683 / 1407

Luggage Capacities (m3) 0,160 – 0,680

Fuel capacity (litres) 50

Performance
0-100 km/h1 (seconds) 7.1

Maximum speed1 (km/h) 225

Fuel Consumption

Fuel Consumption / Range (ltr/100km / range) 6.9 (725) *

Technical

Brake dics, front (ventilated) and rear

Safety

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) – including EBV & Corner Braking Control (CBC)

Automatic Stability Control & Traction (ASC+T)

Driver and front passenger airbags & front side airbags plus pyrotechnic front seat belt tensioners

ISO fix child safetly seat attachment with front passenger air bag deactivation

Tyre defect indicator monitoring tyre pressure

Exterior

Alloy wheels 6.5J x 16″ in 7-Fin styling (195/55 R 16 tyres) with run flat option

Heated exterior mirrors and washer jets

Front fog lamps

Remote central locking with deadlock facility and crash sensor

Interior

Air conditioning including cooled glovebox

Height adjustable driver’s & passengers seats with height adjustable seat belts

Interior lamp package includes map and vanity lights

Interior surfaces of facia in alloy look “Patina”

Leather-bound height adjustable steering wheel (3 spoke sports on Cooper S)

Stainless steel brake, clutch & acclerator pedal

Sports seat for driver & passenger

Upholstery, cloth flock velours Space

* Fuel consumption figures have been established using a test cycle procedure for exhaust emission calculation. Actual fuel consumption figures may differ from those achieved in the test procedure, depending on driving technique, road & traffic conditions, environmental factors and vehicle condition.

MINI Option List

Automatic (6 speed automatic transmission with electronic control)

Interior surfaces and handbrake lever with silver trim

ASC & T

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC III)

ITS head air bags for front passengers

Exterior mirror package (electrically foldable and heated)

Alloy wheels 6.5J x 16″ in 5 star styling Daytona (195/55 R 16 tyres) with run flat option

Alloy wheels 7J x 17″ in S spoke styling (205/45 R 17 tyres) with run flat option

Alloy wheels in “White”

Bonnet stripes “Black”

Bonnet stripes “White”

Chrome line exterior

Headlight washer system

Metallic paint

Mirror caps in body colour

Mirror caps chrome plated

Park distance control

Rain sensor & automatic dipping interior mirror

Roof & mirror caps in black

Roof in body colour

Roof, & mirror caps in white

Xenon headlamps high beam (incl headlamp washers)

Anti theft system

Automatic air conditioning with microfilter

Chrome line interior (chrome features to instruments bezels, cup holders,gearlever) Cockpit chrono package

CD changer 6 stack

Hi Fi speaker system “Harmon Kardon”

Headlining in anthracite

Interior surfaces in body colour, door frames, dash board and console struts

Interior surfaces in silver, door pull frames, pockets, console struts etc

Interior dashboard surfaces in Anthracite

Interior trim strips in high gloss myrtle wood trim

Mini Disc player in dash (replaces CD unit)

Multi-function for steering wheel with cruise control

Navigation system proffesional

Non-smoker kit (storage bins instead of ashtrays)

On board computer

Preparation for CD changer installation

Seat heating for front seats

Steering wheel wood 3 spoke

Sun protection glazing (tinted glass in rear windows and rear screen)

Sunroof glass electrically operated

Telephone preparation (incl aerial, cables etc for hands free operation excludes handset)

Upholstery, cloth / leather combination Satellite

Upholstery, leather “Gravity”

Upholstery, leather “Soft”

MINI tlc ( 5 Year / 80,000 kilometre Scheduled Servicing)

Words Darren Cottingham, photos Brad Lord


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