When's it going?

It will actually be hard to tell when the new one arrives in December (see our Paris show report for details). It looks much the same as the old one, which is probably good. But every body panel is brand new, and it's not so "mini", at two inches longer. The new MINI - all capital letters, apparently - won't be much more expensive, but if you want to save £500 or so, stick with the old one.

What's good about it?

Just about everything. Probably the most vital thing that BMW got right was that, like the British original, its Mini is a hoot to drive. Its stiff shell and big wheels at each corner mean that it corners fairly flat and has a huge amount of grip. The ride is really quite smooth, while the electronic power steering does its job of giving a varying amount of assistance according to speed. The engines are lively and characterfully noisy.

The Cooper S is the special one. The 1960s version had 70bhp, but this supercharged screamer has 163bhp. It is hugely entertaining to drive, with a very grippy chassis and the sharpest steering. Most important, it feels quick, although there are hotter hatches.

Incredibly, losing the roof did not upset the handling, which happens so often with convertible. It looks characterful on the outside, and inside there are lots of retro details; toggle switches, big speedo. The really clever thing is that that BMW came up with the TLC service package, offering five-years/ 50,000 miles of servicing cover so there would be no charge (except for wear-and-tear items) during that period. There was even an enhanced TLC XL - cover worth eight years/80,000 miles. That helps to explain why the car hardly depreciates and is so easy to resell.

What's bad about it?

The simple fact that it is called a Mini . It's actually a very small BMW. The thing is, though, it isn't that small; the wheelbase is the same as the original Range Rover's. Mind you, it isn't that big inside; whereas you could get four adults in a 1960s Mini, the new-millennium Mini is strictly a 2+2 kids in the back. That is understandable, but the specification isn't; there is a confusing and expensive list of options that you need to pay for before the Mini seems even reasonably well equipped.

How much?

It has always been a bit of a challenge to get any money off a Mini, although that has started to change recently. You will still get a blank look from BMW dealers when you turn up at their boutique Mini showrooms asking for a discount. Go to a well-established broker like Carfile (0845 605 1482; www.carfile.net). They can get a Mini One for £10,815 (down from £10,995) and a convertible for £13,360 (down from £13,595). The savings are not that spectacular.

Any snags?

Early models had some recalls, but quality issues were sorted. Watch for paint quality and discoloured wheel-arch trims. Some reports of manual gearbox failures; otherwise highly reliable.


Launched: 2001

Engine sizes: 1.6 One, 1.6 Cooper, 1.6 Cooper S, 1.4 Diesel

Performance: top speed 135mph; 0-60mph 7.4 seconds (1.6 Cooper S)

Economy: 33.6mpg

Safety: NCAP, four stars

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