Icon buyer: Mini, the great used BMW, CAR+ February 2016

Published: 20 January 2016

► Buying advice from the Surrey New Mini Owners Club
► Top tips from Ian Brooks who runs the club
► R56 Cooper S Works GP, R53 and R56 Cooper S

R56 Cooper S Works GP: £23k, 2012-2014 

1598cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 215bhp, 6.3sec 0-62mph, 150mph

> Is this a good idea? ‘Yep – this is the ultimate Mini. It’s the fastest production Mini to date and features a raft of engineering-led tweaks; lowered suspension with adjustable Bilstein coilovers, larger six-piston calipers and chunky 330mm vented discs, bespoke Kumho tyres, a strut instead of back seats and a can’t-miss-it rear spoiler and diffuser that slash rear lift. Electronic trickery boosted the blown engine’s output to 215bhp and 206lb ft.’ 

> How much? ’Only 2000 were built, so you won’t be spoilt for choice. The flipside is that their relative scarcity means most will be treasured examples with full service histories. Reckon on around £18k for a high-mileage example, and up to £24k or more for a very low mileage example from a collection.’

> What’s going to break? ’On the whole the R56 is a pretty reliable car. Some owners have reported issues with faulty coilovers requiring replacement. Another problem – more cosmetic than mechanical – are heavily chipped sideskirts, the result of the sticky soft-compound Kumhos flicking up loose stones and debris.’

> Crippling running costs? ’Some owners are reporting as little as 3000 miles from a set of the OEM Kumhos; budget on £250 a corner. Other than that it is much the same as any R56, so most will also have Mini TLC servicing until 2017/2018.’

The R53 Cooper S, a charismatic hot hatch for not a lot of cash

R53 Cooper S : £2k-£6k, 2001-2006

1598cc 4-cyl, 163bhp, 7.4sec 0-62mph, 135mph

> Is this a good idea? ’An engaging and charismatic hot hatch for not a lot of money. Plenty out there too.’ 

> How much? ’From £2k to up to £6k for a very good late model. It’s the best Mini for modifying, so do your research.’ 

> What’s going to break? ’The supercharger has been known to give up on high-mileage cars, and watch out for leaking hydraulic engine mounts, that tricky serpentine belt replacement, sump oil leaks and iffy power-steering pumps.’

> Crippling running costs? ‘Pricey on road tax and fuel but specialist workshops mean affordable servicing.’

The R56 Cooper S sits in the mid-range between the icon buyers, at £5k you can pick up a 140mph hot hatch

R56 Cooper S £5k-£16k, 2006-2014

1598cc 4-cyl, 184bhp, 7.0sec 0-62mph, 142mph

> Is this a good idea? ’Yes. The second-gen R56 still fizzed but was more sophisticated and refined. Plenty of turbo punch, too.’

> How much? ’From £5k for an early model with the N14 BMW-PSA engine through to £16k for a late model with the more muscular 184bhp N18 engine.’

> What’s going to break? ’The iffy timing chain tensioner – Mini released an enhanced tensioner to resolve this, fitted as standard on later N18 cars.’

> Crippling running costs? ‘Nope – insurance is okay, fuel economy good and lower tax than the early cars.’

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars