Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
9/14/15 7:11 a.m.

The MINI Cooper is a neat little package. Maybe not as cool as the original but it is there. Given that depreciation and better fuel economy being had by bigger and cheaper cars, the MINI is becoming a nice little toy.

So which is the best one to buy with your used car dollar. Bang for buck style.

Modability, reliability and competitiveness as a auto crosser all figured in.

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk UltraDork
9/14/15 7:20 a.m.

I've got an R53 MINI .I bought it used in 2007 and since then I've put on about 65K miles. Early on there was a problem with the electric power steering that was covered under warranty.The only other issue I've had is the supercharger PTO to the water pump chewed up it's gears.Repairs cost $1400. Ouch! That aside ,the thing is still a hoot to lay into the throttle. The 15% pulley and aftermarket exhaust add a few horsepower, so it accelerates a bit better than stock.The supercharger whine is worth it alone. I've never driven one of the later turbo cars, so I can't comment, but if they're better than my R53 they must be really great fun.

Klayfish
Klayfish UltraDork
9/14/15 8:02 a.m.

I had an R56 S for a while. Super fun little car. A number of factors lead me to sell it, most of which weren't related to the car...with one notable exception. I read story after story about a "death rattle" timing chain issue, carbon buildup issue and a few other big ticket items that seemed to plague the S models. Though I never experienced any of them, at that point I just didn't want the potential. But from a fun for dollar standpoint, they were a blast. I averaged 34mpg. The non-S can get well beyond that, handles just as well and isn't prone to the same reliability issues. But it's slow.

They're so customizable, so be sure you read up on what options were available and what options any car you're looking at has.

MCarp22
MCarp22 Dork
9/14/15 8:51 a.m.

The new ones come with a HUD: speed, song titles, sat nav directions (with lane diagrams), contacts in your phone, check control messages, etc.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
9/14/15 9:18 a.m.

I had an '06 R53 that I sold earlier this year, I still miss it. So much so that I've been shopping for another MINI. I've driven a few later model S versions, and I love them too. There are big differences however. The steering in the earlier cars has a lot more feel, but some might not like the heaviness in parking situations. The turbo cars feel a bit faster too, but not so sure it's just the different power delivery. Some of the later seats are nicer too, as is some of the quality of the plastic bits. I've never drive the 2014 plus models.

Personally, I think all versions are special, but I's stick with a '05 or later no matter which gen you choose.

Aspen
Aspen Reader
9/14/15 9:27 a.m.

What not to buy: any automatic or CVT, 5 speed manual.

Best: 2005 or 2006 S, manual, one that has had the power steering, LCA bushings, struts replaced. Also there is a recall on the passenger seat airbag sensor. It should be done or be in process of getting done, there was a letter from MINI to owners. Look for rust on the exhaust bits, hatch, around rear tail lights.

Newer turbo cars are plagued by carbon build up on the valves and bad timing chain tensioners. I dunno if I would bother with them.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim UltimaDork
9/14/15 9:46 a.m.

From what I read when looking at R53s earlier in the year, they can also have timing chain tensioner issues. IIRC the base engine between the R53 and R56 is the same.

I've seen a lot of R53s with airbag lights on, that can be a very expensive fix. Also, one of the ones I looked at needed a new clutch, those are seriously expensive to do, either monetary or time wise.

rcutclif
rcutclif Dork
9/14/15 10:00 a.m.

My wife really wants a mini cooper. We already own a focus SVT. I keep trying to tell her that the focus SVT is the best mini cooper ever made.

She doesn't believe me yet.

Basil Exposition
Basil Exposition Dork
9/14/15 10:05 a.m.

There has been a recall on the R56 timing chains, so look to see if that has been done. BMW took 6 years to finally acknowledge the problem and a lot of cars were fixed at the owner's expense before then. (berkeley you and your HPFP's, Munich, that's the last BMW product I own). Carbon buildup is a big problem, watch for rough running. You can stave it off with Seafoam treatments, but eventually it will require removal of the intake and walnut shell blasting.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
9/14/15 11:44 a.m.
BoxheadTim wrote: From what I read when looking at R53s earlier in the year, they can also have timing chain tensioner issues. IIRC the base engine between the R53 and R56 is the same. I've seen a lot of R53s with airbag lights on, that can be a very expensive fix. Also, one of the ones I looked at needed a new clutch, those are seriously expensive to do, either monetary or time wise.

I changed my R53 timing chain tensioner as preventative maintenance, extremely easy to do. Not a lot of cost involved either.

GTwannaB
GTwannaB HalfDork
9/14/15 4:48 p.m.
rcutclif wrote: My wife really wants a mini cooper. We already own a focus SVT. I keep trying to tell her that the focus SVT is the best mini cooper ever made. She doesn't believe me yet.

I keep trying to convince my wife my SVT actually is cool. She ain't buying it either. She would ask me twice about a mini though.

flatlander937
flatlander937 Reader
9/14/15 6:25 p.m.

Clutch change is dead easy, just time consuming.

I pull engine+trans together and leave the subframe alone.

R50(notice PS not touched!)

R56

R53(subframe removal method - I don't do this anymore, faster to pull engine/trans together and not needing aligned when done)

rustysteel
rustysteel Reader
9/14/15 7:12 p.m.

I have an R56 JustaCooper and it's a fun, agile, slow and amazing around the cones. Unfortunately there are issues some are just normal wear components but it just seems to always have something going on. I've only owned mine for a year, bought used with 130,000km's on it and I've already spent too much on it ($2400 ouch). It was the dead of winter up here in the great white north so I wasn't able to fix the waterpump, rad, put in new plugs, new coil packs and a battery. I took it to a well known MINI guy near where I was working and they did a great job and they did drop prices on parts but still it's a BMW, essentially so you get it in the end (literally). I'm thinking of switching to an R53, an '06 as I still love the cars. Fuel economy is great and in the snow these things, with proper snow tires, are amazing. I turn off all the traction control stuff and pretend I'm in the WRC Swedish rally. But much slower... Just to keep you up to date on my latest issues, my steering rack is clunking and I have an exhaust leak somewhere near the manifold...fun.

<a href="MINI Cooper at the autocross">MINI

chili_head
chili_head New Reader
9/14/15 7:19 p.m.

R53 gets my vote. 05 or 06 had a factory option LSD. 04 JCW packed cars have most of what the later ones do, but the later the better. The interior gets better as you go along the generations, but the first Gen cars are just something special. Even MINI won't go there again.

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed SuperDork
9/14/15 7:48 p.m.
flatlander937 wrote: Clutch change is dead easy, just time consuming. I pull engine+trans together and leave the subframe alone. R50(notice PS not touched!) R56 R53(subframe removal method - I don't do this anymore, faster to pull engine/trans together and not needing aligned when done)

No disrespect intended but if those pictures are meant to denote "dead easy" what do you consider difficult?

flatlander937
flatlander937 Reader
9/15/15 5:16 a.m.

That R50 engine/trans were out in 1hr.

It's basically pull bumper cover, radiator frame, axle shafts, air intake, PCM, disconnect steering electrical connections, unbolt header, unbolt clutch slave and shift linkage then use hoist to pull it all straight forward.

It's all nuts and bolts.

I DID say if was time consuming. Easy just takes time.

Chris_V
Chris_V UberDork
9/15/15 11:17 a.m.

For daily use, '11 and newer base models are great fun, reliable and with the best interiors other than the brand new ones. I spent 3 years with an '11 6 speed Justa with Sport and Premium package and it was a fun little car that got great mileage, never had a flaw.

The new turbo 3 cyl base models are also quite fun, and about as quick as the earlier S models. Which is not surprising considering the new base MINI weighs a tiny bit LESS than the 2002 S model (2763 vs 2767). The new one (we have a '14 Justa with the turbo 3 cyl) feels as nimble and as fun as the previous one, but it's faster AND gets over 40 mpg.

AaronBalto
AaronBalto Reader
9/15/15 12:20 p.m.

We have a 2013 Clubman S. Great car. Crazy fast--like frantic. My only issue with the car is that we live in Baltimore. The streets here are like Baghdad after a particularly bad winter. It's crazy how bad the streets have gotten. And the MINI hates it. It's a beating every time you go anywhere. But on a decent bit of road--awesome car.

92dxman
92dxman Dork
9/15/15 3:27 p.m.

I'd get one with no turbo/supercharger and as stripped down as possible. Less things to go wrong.

Our Preferred Partners
ThgGECTxfyRIC5DGNKoCMRYI1irgIyMF