For a car THAT is so obviously very different to the original 1959 Mini, BMW's new-millennium replacement successfully transfers much of its predecessor's feel into an all-new car: the go-kart handling, the eager steering, the perky performance, even the clear view through the upright windscreen and upright A-pillars lend a sense of déjà vu.
It's not as practical as our other hatches, what with its titchy rear seats and pointless boot, but it's a very distinctive experience, one that any keen driver should love.
Here we're focusing on the second-generation of the new Mini – the Cooper S and John Cooper Works models in particular – which was introduced in 2006 and brought, among other things, improved ride quality, and a new engine developed in conjunction with Peugeot/Citroën.
Buying and running a Mini Cooper S/JCW
Lohen specialise in race-prep and fast-road tuning of the new Mini, but also offer general servicing too. It's testament to the Coopers' reliability that our quest to find flaws with them caused much head-scratching among the team. But here are a few checkpoints:
• If you look for one thing, look out for a noisy engine. This fault is unique to the second-generation Mini, due to its all-new engine developed jointly with PSA (the first new Mini had the Tritec unit, a Chrysler/Rover-developed engine). A rattle from cold is known as 'the death rattle' in Mini circles, and relates to problems with the chain tensioner. BMW didn't recall the car for this, but it does recognise the problem and fixes it under warranty. If it happens out of warranty, you're looking at £500 to £600.
• The front wishbone rear bushes tend to wear over time, and this can happen even on lower-mileage cars. The symptoms are loose-feeling steering, an imprecise front end, and instability at the rear under braking. It costs around £200 to sort, and Lohen recommends fitting Powerflex bushes, because a better design means they wear less.
• Dual-mass flywheels can be a weak point if the car is driven very, very hard, and it's telling that Lohen have only ever seen this on a car they've raced. So, it's very unlikely your car will suffer from this, but if it does you'll feel a judder or knock when changing gear. It could cost as much as £1000 to fix, including parts and labour.
• The Mini works on a variable servicing schedule, and you could see a few lights popping up on the rev counter when you first start the car. These will give a good idea of what maintenance is required. The first is a Mini on a ramp to indicate a general service, but there are also lights to warn of brake-fluid checks, filter changes, brake-pad replacements and so on. As ever, it pays dividends to find a car that's had a recent service.
• Lohen Mini describes the John Cooper Works as ideal for people who don't like the idea of modifying, but warn that you are essentially paying for a lot of options, which bump the price from £18k for a Cooper S to £23k for the JCW. In their experience, people who really want to get the most out of their cars tend to, for example, fit even bigger brakes. If that sounds like you, a Cooper S is a more logical – and far cheaper – starting point.
PRODUCED: 2006 to present
ENGINE: 1598cc 16v four-cylinder turbo, 181bhp/211bhp @ 5500/6000rpm, 177/192lb ft @ 1600-5000rpm (Cooper S/JCW)
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
1 25-year-old, three points, car parked on street, five years' no-claims' discount. £402, £200 excess, fully comp
2 35-year-old, three points, car parked on drive, full no-claims' discount. £249, with £200 excess, fully comp
3 45-year-old, clean licence, car garaged, full no-claims'. £226, £200 excess, fully comp
Cooper S, 2006, half-leather trim, 89,000 miles, full service history, xenon headlights, air-con, cruise control, two owners, trade. £5990
Cooper S, 2007, Chilli-spec, 64,000 miles with full service history, 17in alloys, sports suspension, part-leather interior, xenon headlights, air-con, trade. £7990
Cooper S John Cooper Works, 2008, Chilli pack, full main dealer service history, 12 months’ MoT, four months’ tax, half-leather interior, xenon headlights. £12,995
Click here find used Mini Cooper S/JCW for sale
Exhaust Backbox: £282
Shock Absorber: (front): £79
Thanks to: Lohen Mini 01785 859999