2010 MINIMALIST One 1.6 (GB)

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The virtues and vices of the MINI are well documented in this parish but my latest courtesy car boasted a couple of features that make it worthy of mention.

 

New for 2010 is the ‘MINIMALIST’ – the MINI take on the zeitgeist eco car that is a must for any mainstream manufacturer’s model ranges. It was one of these that had my name in it. According to MINI’s blurb, the MINIMALIST is ‘the most environmentally-friendly petrol MINI ever, with 119g/km of CO2 and 55.4mpg fuel consumption’.

Given that all manual MINIs are fitted with BMW’s well-developed stop-start system, it would appear that the MINIMALIST’s main concession to eco excellence is a set of aerodynamically efficient full-face wheel covers and low rolling resistance tyres. It also boasts mirror caps and a front grille finished in Pepper White.

It seemed to me that the example I was given somewhat lost the point of these features – indeed lost them altogether – for it was fitted with optional 17″ alloys shod with stickier 205-section Dunlop runflats and had abandoned its chic white grille in favour of a John Cooper Works mesh replacement, complete with black-case spotlights. This formed part of the full JCW bodykit, which the car also sported. I dare say that these accessories robbed considerably more aero points compared to standard than a set of fancy wheeltrims would ever gain… Photobucket

Nevertheless, the car looked quite natty in its sporty get-up, which made it more of a shame that someone appeared to have forgotten to stick its exhaust trim on, leaving a bare steel pea shooter grimly exposed beneath the pumped-up rear valence. However, as I was to find out, the gangsterish looks (black bodywork, black roof and black wheels) were making promises that the performance would fail to live up to.

However, before getting to that stage I had to contend with one of the gizmos that was new to me. When the service advisor handed me the keys, he suggested that I would find it ‘interesting’. It was MINI Mission Control, a feature launched on the special edition 50th anniversary Camden and Mayfair editions of 2009. Interesting would be one way to describe it. Essentially, Mission Control consists of a pair of phantom voices – one male; one female – which provide a running commentary to your driving. Photobucket

Get in and slot the round key fob into its dashboard cubby and you are greeted with a comment along the lines of: “Welcome aboard, we’re ready for lift-off!” You are then exhorted to fasten your seat belt (“Do you know what goes really well together? The belt and the buckle!”) before being reprimanded if you set off a little too briskly (“Easy tiger, I’m not warmed up yet! I’ll get back to you to let you know when you can go at it full tilt!”) and expressing approval of enthusiastic cornering (“Weeeeeee – it’s that go-kart feeling!”) or words to that effect.

It was mildly amusing for a day but the novelty would soon wear off and it would in fact prove to be massively irritating, I have no doubt. The one that bugged me right from the start was its habit of telling me to release the handbrake when I put it on when stopped at traffic lights, for example. (“If you love the handbrake, you’ll set it free!”) Presumably that one was programmed by a dimwit who always sits with their foot on the brake pedal.

On a more relevant level, this was my first chance to sample a MINI in One spec with the new, detuned 1.6 petrol engine, rather than the 1.4 that has now been deleted from the One and applied in strangled form in the 75bhp ‘First’. Power is more or less identical to before while there is said to be a smidgen more torque. On the move I suspect that the 1.6 is ever so slightly less sweet than the 1.4, which is a pity as I’ve always found the basic One on small wheels to be the nicest MINI to drive, Cooper S apart. The 1.6 is just a bit more gruff. Photobucket

Even accounting for the fact that the example you see here was barely run in, with a mere 2,000 miles on the clock, I am fairly certain that the new motor is a step backwards in terms of performance. This was most apparent in a situation where you typically need to have a good dose of zip – accelerating into a gap on a roundabout in second gear. The old 1.4 was no fireball but it picked up okay. The 1.6 just didn’t do anything, labouring breathlessly at anything below about 20mph. I concluded that the only thing for it was to knock it into first if I wanted anything resembling acceleration. I was also tragically bereft of any kind of get up and go at motorway speeds. Above 60mph, the top three gears were best avoided if you had any ambition to reach 70. In practice this means that changing lanes in traffic requires some planning to make sure you’re not either locked out or end up getting in someone’s way!

In other regards, the usual MINI benefits were present and correct. The steering felt better than that of the Clubman One I had recently, which I described at the time as feeling like a Friday afternoon car. On the big wheels and chunky tyres there was noticeable bump steer and what could almost be called torque steer – that is if the car had any torque. My recollection of the Cooper S is that it certainly torque steered in the traditional sense but suffered less steady state corruption to its steering, so I guess that its chassis settings may well be configured around larger wheels whereas the One is best served by the 15s it gets as standard. Photobucket

I can only conclude that the emasculated 1.6 engine is to the MINI One’s disadvantage, and makes the extra cost of a Cooper in either more powerful petrol or torquey diesel guise seem like a sensible outlay. I can also recommend to anyone thinking of choosing a Mission Control equipped MINI to think again. Of course the car remains an excellent prospect for the keen driver, albeit one that won’t be for everyone thanks to its looks and interior styling. However, with the Audi A1 having the MINI firmly in its sights, the imminent facelift is well-timed and should help to freshen the car’s appeal.

 

2010-08-01 21:16:19

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Home Forums 2010 MINIMALIST One 1.6 (GB)

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    zAppiDev
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    The virtues and vices of the MINI are well documented in this parish but my latest courtesy car boasted a couple of features that make it worthy of me
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