back to article Lessons from the Mini: Before revamping or rebooting anything, please read this

If you're considering doing a relaunch, a "reboot", or a revamp of any kind, there's a lot to learn from the story of the Mini. The original Mini had been in production for 41 years by October 2000, when the last one rolled off the line at Longbridge – but the design had never really been updated. For the last two decades of …

  1. hplasm Silver badge
    Unhappy

    People with nothing to say-

    Are prolific in todays 'echo chambers'.

    People -like Dave, here- that should be listened to, talk in the wilderness.

  2. Conrad Longmore

    Impressive..

    That's a pretty impressive portfolio of designs - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Stephenson

    On the Mini.. well, it a contentious one amongst car fans. Issigonis was trying to design something cheap, small on the outside and big on the inside all while using as much from the BMC parts pin as possible. The fact that it was cute to look at and fun to drive were rather pleasing secondary factors.

    When *Rover* tried to redesign the Mini in the late 1990s, they came up with a number of things which were closer to the Issigonis idea of efficient packaging (some looked like the Daewoo Matiz), where BMW was more interested in the cuteness factor. In the end, BMW won and the Mini was a huge success.

    There's an interesting and more detailed story about the development of the Mini and the prototypes that never made it here: http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/cars/mini-bmw/mini-2/the-cars-mini-development-history/

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: Impressive..

      At least BMW retained this part:

      Issigonis was trying to design something cheap, small on the outside and big on the inside all

      Unfortunately somewhere in the translation to German a couple of key points got reversed. How such an enormous hunk of metal can have such dismal usable space inside beats me. I had a Countryman on hire once, that's the estate version, 4 flight cases filled the boot. If you were transporting 4 people to the airport with a fight case and laptop each the laptops would have to go in the footwells. In an estate FFS.

      As for the interior, it had all the style of Flavor Flav. Being a low rent version it didn't have much so there was an analogue clock a foot in diameter in the middle. Awful. It did have a USB port you could use to access music. Ever tried finding the track you want from thousands on a display that can show 2 lines, no search facility and just up/down buttons? Useless.

      I left the hire ticket hanging on the mirror just so people would know it wasn't mine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Impressive..

        In the same way that people have grown, so have their luggage requirements. It's astonishing the amount and size of cases fat Luton chavs try to get through the beautiful Luton airport, it really is. Still, dragging the trolleys, sweating and swearing is the only physical activity these lard-buckets ever do.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Impressive..

          the beautiful Luton airport,

          Interesting, I didn't know there were two. Where is the beautiful one?

      2. R Callan

        Re: Impressive???

        How a car can be called a "Mini" when physically it is as large as a "Maxi" I do not know. Well not quite, but the current "Mini" is as high as a "Maxi" wider than a "Maxi" and marginally shorter. It also weighs 20% more. The Maxi has(had) far more usable interior space.

        The Maxi was of course another parts bin special, poor Issigonis could never persuade the bean counters to let him design from scratch.

        1. Vic

          Re: Impressive???

          The Maxi was of course another parts bin special

          So was the Lotus Esprit. And that was *very* special[1]...

          Vic.

          [1] Reliability aside, natch.

        2. G7mzh

          Re: Impressive???

          My father had the original Mini (when it was still called an Austin Seven). Eevert year, it carried me, my parents and my grandmother away on holiday to various far-flung parts of the country, together with enough luggage for a fortnight. To this day, I can't work out how we got everything in!

      3. Rusty 1
        Facepalm

        Re: Impressive..

        What the chufftikins were you thinking, when, knowing that you had to get 4 people with luggage to an airport, that a *Mini* was the thing for you?

        And you think a *Mini* estate is a proper estate (i.e. big) car?

        The clue is in the name.

        Were you dropped on your head as a child?

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Impressive..

          "What [...] were you thinking, [...]that a *Mini* was the thing for you?"

          More likely he had to put up with whatever the hire place gave him. You don't always get much of a choice.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Impressive..

          The clue is in the name.

          But as the poster above pointed out, after the translation from English into German, the word Mini has somehow morphed into the word Vasti. SWMBO has a MB E CLass estate, we were parted next to one of these Vasti's in the supermarket the other day and it towered above the Merc and given how much space was left in the parking space I'm guessing it was wider than the Merc.

        3. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Impressive.. 4 Rusty 1

          We used to call our 64 Traveller "The Tardis" for all the stuff it could be made to hold.

    2. Lotaresco

      Re: Impressive..

      "That's a pretty impressive portfolio of designs"

      I like most of his designs but find his "retro" stuff to be a bit disappointing. The Fiat 500 and the Mini are ultimately less good than the cars they ape, although he did a much better job of the Mini than the Fiat 500. One of his designs, the MP4-12C, is a car I love. I think that one was just right and it's a shame that its target market didn't appreciate what a brilliant car it is. It appears that they would rather have a Ferrari made of cheese than a beautifully engineered British car. The BMW X5 is just all-round vile and seems to attract a particular sort of driver, so I wish he hadn't designed that one.

      From the article: "Stephenson ... didn't think much of what BMW subsequently did with his revamp comparing it to a small SUV."

      Alex Moulton was generally positive about the New Mini, although more because it was providing UK jobs than any particular feature of the design. Dr Moulton has also expressed his sadness that manufacturing in the UK is in decline. However he did make one comment about Stephenson's "New Mini" that reflects Stephenson's dislike of later "Minis"; "If we had wanted to make it that big, it would have been easy."

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Impressive..

      "Issigonis was trying to design something cheap, small on the outside and big on the inside all while using as much from the BMC parts pin as possible. "

      The whole "small on the outside" and highly stressed small engine thing were for tax reasons (larger cars were taxed out the wazoo) and whilst sir Alec succeeded, the prevailing design ethos put people in harm's way (the rear seats were the crush zone when shunted, as a f'instance).

      Ralph Nader's "unsafe at any speed" may have been about american cars, but most european ones were much worse, compounded by government rules which encouraged such designs without regard to the human costs. We owe a massive debt to (E)NCAP

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice article...

    ... but the modern mini is just a joke. It's about as "mini" as 70's Land Rover.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Nice article...

      Quite. FTA:

      "BMW gave the job to BMW designer Frank Stephenson, who modernised the Mini without losing its essential character."

      Then BMW management came along and decided that the essential character, what "mini" actually meant, was nothing more than the front end and dashboard design and had nothing to do with vehicle size despite the name. The initial update of the Mini was fine, but the current iterations are just bloated overpriced 3 series with a different bodyshell and Issignonis would be spinning in his grave faster than a turbo if he could see how BMW have bastardised his vision.

      1. VulcanV5

        Re: Nice article...

        I actually thought this article was going to warn of the disaster that awaits when a product of and for its age is exhumed in commercial hope of it becoming a product of and for a later era. Instead, this piece is, inexplicably, a paean of praise, one which makes me think El Reg should maybe stick to matters computing and leave matters motoring to others.

        That the "new" Mini does indeed reflect the vapid and the bloated so characteristic of the modern era is nothing to celebrate: it's just a bloody monstrous wagon with a late middle-age waistline, in no way resonant of an ancestor affordable by the many rather than the few and enriched with a personality that no amount of Frankensteinian engineering can ever replicate.

        If anything is to learned from the story of the Mini it's that unless an original is going to be re-born with its charisma, character and cleverness embodied and enhanced, then don't bother; the real "lesson" here is Fiat, with its re-born and revitalised 500, not BMW's flaccid failure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice article...

      "It's about as "mini" as 70's Land Rover."

      One wet and windy night I trudged across a large expanse of car park tarmac to my Range Rover "A". I was almost up to it when I realised my mistake - it was a same-coloured Mini shorn of any visual size context.

      All my cars have been rectangular boxes. Austin A40 Farina, Austin 1300, Landrover 86", Mini-Moke, Range Rover "A". Each with a distinctive shape.

      Nowadays a Range Rover is indistinguishable from many other saloon cars.

      1. Lotaresco

        Re: Nice article...

        "Nowadays a Range Rover is indistinguishable from many other saloon cars."

        No, it's easy to tell it's a Range Rover because it will be driven by an ignorant oik, especially if it is a "Sport" or an Evoque. This didn't use to be the case, Rangies were driven by laid back people. Now it's only bought by the sort of moron who works in marketing or runs a gym or is a parasite of similar kind.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice article...

      " It's about as "mini" as 70's Land Rover"

      I prefer to think of it as the BMW Maxi. Someone was going to blow the doors off, but it turned out to be a bit stretchier than they imagined.

      Has anyone tried mixing cross ply and radial tyres on a BMW Maxi?

      One day, someone will update the mini and get it right, but I'd be willing to bet it won't be in the next decade.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Nice article...

        >BMW Maxi.

        Ouch. As someone who had the misfortune to once drive an Austin Maxi (and learnt to drive in an Allegro - never was there a more mis-named car) that lowers my expectation of the BMW "Mini" considerably. And they were not high to start with.

        (I used to work with someone heaving into the proper Minis. He used to spit if anyone tried to make out the the BMW Mini was a viable successor..)

        1. Loud Speaker

          Re: Nice article...

          an Allegro - never was there a more mis-named car

          No. It was a spelling error. A previous owner had corrected it on mine to "All Aggro"!

          It was exactly right - needed a repair every week. However, the week before it was due for an MOT (which it would have failed on almost everything) it was stolen! The thieves must have been really sore!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice article...

      I own the new Hyundai i10.

      More design ethos of the Mini than the BMW job.

      Small size, small boot, small engine, great handling, good turning circle and can seat 4 better than the old Mini.

      4* NCAP rating as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice article...

        "I own the new Hyundai i10...Small size, small boot, small engine, great handling, good turning circle and can seat 4 better than the old Mini."

        Not that different to many very small cars. What puzzles me is why I get similar economy to these tiddlers and much better performance from my much larger car (a mid sized estate with a VW 1.4 engine).

        Not condemning your choice because there's all the other factors at play, just asking why small car fuel economy doesn't reflect the diminutive size?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Nice article...

          "Not condemning your choice because there's all the other factors at play, just asking why small car fuel economy doesn't reflect the diminutive size?"

          Not enough mass so wind becomes much more of an issue? Dunno really, I never thought about it but my gut feeling is I get better fuel economy when driving with a full load in the boot. Light footed driving and "coasting" downhill with the extra mass might be part of it even if that does sound counter-intuitive since the extra mass has to be driven up the hill in the first place.

    5. circusmole
      Unhappy

      I was at a local....

      ...BMW/Mini dealer recently and had a look at the so-called Minis. They are f***g massive things and f******g expensive. The original concept of an affordable, space-efficient, basic vehicle has been completely lost. The Mini showroom was more like a fashion store than a car showroom - with as much space given to Mini-branded luxury goods as to the cars.

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: I was at a local....

        "The original concept of an affordable, space-efficient, basic vehicle has been completely lost." So very true, but people tend to forget that the demands, the law has changed, like crash tests, air bags and so forth. If you like the original just buy one. This happened to the original Ford Mustang too and that's why you still see some of them around. Not to mention the CV2 of course. Some still love the Trabant too. I suppose the Fiat 500 is about as close as you can go to day. And don't underestimate nostalgia, you might not like that much a Mini to day.

      2. Goldmember

        Re: I was at a local....

        "They are f***g massive things and f******g expensive"

        Yes, but the world changed during the 40+ years of the original Mini's production, whereas the design of the car did not. I visited the BMW museum in Munich last year, where they have/had a "Mini Story" exhibition (which was actually pretty cool). One fact that stuck out to me was that the average human was 10cm taller in the late '90s than they were in the late '50s. So the revamped car had to be designed with this in mind.

        But the cost thing... yes, of course. BMW is a premium brand. They aren't going to churn out cheap and cheerful, iconic branding or not.

    6. oiseau Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Nice article...

      .

      "... but the modern mini is just a joke. It's about as "mini" as 70's Land Rover."

      I quite agree: a joke and a bad one at that.

      Like it has been said above:

      "The concept of an affordable, space-efficient, basic vehicle has been completely lost."

      To me, the "new" mini has nothing of the Mini Cooper I used to "borrow" from my father during our stay in the W.I.

      Cheers.

    7. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Nice article...

      "It's about as "mini" as 70's Land Rover."

      You take that back!

      Series 1 LandRover: Length 3.35m, Width 1.55m, Height 1.87m

      BMW MINI : Length 3.63m, Width 1.69m, Height 1.42m

      (OK, the Series 1 was earlier than the BMW, and to be fair, a MINI is almost exactly the same size as a 70's LandRover, within a few cm!)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

    Perhaps commercially, but from a cultural and historical point of view it was a failure.

    Turning a cultural style icon, a unique product that is liked by millions into just another (not so small) car with a mini sticker on it. In 100 years no-one will remember to revamped mini with fondness.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

      In the 1970s the mini was very much seen as a small family car for running the kids around town (small turning circle, park anywhere tolerable for journeys of less than an hour). They are now almost entirely driven by single women, maybe with their BFF. Meanwhile the family car market has merged with the small van one. So maybe a shift in the demographic was required? But I too pine for something smaller.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        I was under the impression that the family car market has merged with medium sized vans, not small ones. :) But then I still consider this to be a small van!

        As for a "success", possibly but only if you take out the measure that most were so bloody unreliable that they spent an unreasonable amount of time being "fixed". Only to then fail again for something similar or possibly unrelated within another month or two.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        In the 1970s families - i.e. the people in them - were smaller. I never felt my dad's minis (saloon and Countryman) to be small or lacking in space. Then people got fat. Amusingly, my current car, a leased VW Tiguan, has front seats so wide - to accommodate contemporary fat bastards, I assume - that they're uncomfortable for my relatively slim self and diminutive wife.

        As for merging with vans: that makes a lot of sense. Take a look at how a Skoda Yeti is laid out. Perfect for the swag we all carry about these days. And, with added ground clearance to deal with the state of the North London Alps, a.k.a. 'roads'.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

          my current car, a leased VW Tiguan, has front seats so wide - to accommodate contemporary fat bastards, I assume - that they're uncomfortable for my relatively slim self and diminutive wife.

          Gorge yourselves until you fit. Simples.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

          "As for merging with vans: that makes a lot of sense."

          There's a commercial reason for that too. Not just the shared parts inventory, but the law on maximum speed for commercial vans is different if the van is based on a car.

          https://www.gov.uk/speed-limits

          "Vans, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles

          Most vans under 7.5 tonnes laden (loaded) weight, including Ford Transit vans:

          • have a lower speed limit than cars
          • must follow the speed limits for goods vehicles of the same weight

          A vehicle qualifying as a ‘car-derived van’ or ‘dual-purpose vehicle’ has the same speed limits as a car."

    2. gv

      Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

      The point applies with equal validity to the revamped VW Beetle.

      1. Anna Logg

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        Indeed, anybody who thinks that "the redesigned VM Beetle had shown that the market liked a small city car with some character." clearly has no clue what size a 'small city car' is.

        1. Kevin Johnston

          Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

          Quite, I always look at the 'new' beetle as an Audi TT which has an over-inflated bodyshell

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

          "Indeed, anybody who thinks that "the redesigned VM Beetle had shown that the market liked a small city car with some character." clearly has no clue what size a 'small city car' is."

          They also have no idea what a car with some character is.

          Essentially, the 'New Beetle' is just an expensive VW Golf1) 2). (The Audi TT is essentially a very expensive VW Golf.)

          1) Leftpondians might know it as a 'Rabbit' or 'Caribe'.

          2) However, the VW Golf always did very well in the "World's Most Boring Car" awards, and continues to do so.

      2. IsJustabloke

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        "The point applies with equal validity to the revamped VW Beetle."

        conversely I think the FIAT is spot on and I'd say their ubiquity is testament to that.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

          conversely I think the FIAT is spot on and I'd say their ubiquity is testament to that.

          It's just a shame that they have been made with the traditional FIAT attention to quality..

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

            "It's just a shame that they have been made with the traditional FIAT attention to quality.."

            My first car was a second (third?) hand Alfasud*... what you get from FIAT** these days is GOLD in comparison.

            * Still, it was fun to drive. The 1000 cc 4-cylinder boxer packed quite a punch for it's size.

            ** Okay, there is the old joke that it's an acronym for 'Fehler In Allen Teilen'.

          2. IsJustabloke
            Stop

            Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

            I know several owners of new 500's and they are no more or less reliable than other modern cars. I would say that you are living in the past.

      3. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        I bought a new Mk1 VW Golf in 1978, possibly the nicest car I have owned. It was smallish, handled well, seated 4 comfortable;,and for its time fast and economical.

        I'm retired now and don't travel far. My current car is a Polo, and is almost the same size as the Golf was. It's performance is similar, although it is heavier, its handling is a bit better and the fuel economy is better. One of the main differences is that, in real terms, it is a lot cheaper...

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

      To be fair, a lot of the size inflation of these cars is down to safety devices. Crumple zones take up space. And the fact that we're all taller and wider than previous generations. So there was no way something the size of the old Mini of Fiat 500 was ever going to pass muster on safety - and then half the customers wouldn't fit...

      However the VW and the Mini seem to have got the proportions completely wrong. They look huge and unweildy and have lost the original shape. Whereas, at least to me, the new Fiat 500 looks like it's in the right proportions - but just bigger than the original. The less said about the abominations like the Countryman the better. At least VW never made a Beetle estate! And what they've done to the ones they've slapped a Cooper badge on is even worse. Basically you get a badge, possibly a noisy exhaust, some stripey things on the bonnet and the hardest springs they could find, so your arse feels every crisp packet you run over, let alone the potholes.

      Too often revamps or "reboots" are commissioned to chase a new demographic

      This is the oddest bit though. BMW specifically did seek a new demographic! The original Mini was cheap! That was one of the points of it. The new Minis (like the new VWs) were both ugly and hideously expensive. Whereas the new Fiat 500s seem to be a similar price to other similar types of car, just with a nice nod to the heritage.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        I don't like the MINI Coopers - mainly because they are usually driven very slowly given their sporty badge. I can only assume it has been bought by the spouse of the slow driver for when they need to borrow it.

        However, the early BMW MINI wasn't bad, and one fella I know drives a red one every day. His other car? A 1963 Mini Cooper that he has lovingly stripped down to every component, painted, and rebuilt. Again, red, with British Racing Green inside the engine bay. Indeed, he's had it for decades, but told me that it was only with the rise of the internet that he was able to source some certain refurbished parts.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        "At least VW never made a Beetle estate!"

        See the Type 3 "Squareback" (possibly the "Variant" in your market).

    4. Mutton Jeff

      Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

      As an owner of both (differing times):

      The Mini - ****ing awful

      Das Mini - ****ing brilliant!

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
        Headmaster

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        Der Mini.

        Sorry, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

        @ Mutton Jeff

        Spot on, and I doubt anybody, to day, would rather drive the old Mini if they had to choose, no money involved. But this story and the comments are about something else, a trip into memory lane. brand recognition, adjectives and most of all, for some Brits, the confusion and inability to understand or accept the reasons for the demise of the British car industry.

        Some cars made in S.Korea are sold as Chevrolet in Europe, the diesel is VW and the not so modern gearbox is GM and the rest whatever, far as I know. I have no doubts that some people rather have a car branded Chevrolet than, is it Hyundai?. And it would not surprise me if there was eventually a Cadillac made in China. BMV apparently counted on some brand recognition regarding the Mini, perhaps there is, perhaps there was, who cares, take it or leave it.

        Some time ago there was a commentard here who claimed the British car industry went belly up because of rubbish workers. And to write something that stupid hurts me as a human being. There has never in human history existed any workers who out of free will have had any demand to be rubbish workers.

        The reason for "rubbish" workers always lies "up stairs".

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Are you saying the mini revamp was a success?

          There has never in human history existed any workers who out of free will have had any demand to be rubbish workers.

          The reason for "rubbish" workers always lies "up stairs".

          The reason Kiwi's find it so easy to get work in Oz over their own people? Because their own people, in the words of the owners of several firms that have offered me jobs over there, "are lazy little shits who wouldn't even piss on themselves if they were on fire", or words to that effect. You get my meaning.

          I've worked with people from other cultures who either are incredibly hard workers or extremely lazy. And some from certain areas. As to those coming from the "don't have any winners/losers in sports have everyone get a medal for participation and don't keep score" bullshit generation, well, they expect to walk into an industry where they have no skills or experience and get a top-rate pay packet, because after all who has to work at things? Everything will just be given to you. Plenty of examples of people who are rubbish workers.

          (The NZ car industry was killed off by fuckwit politicians.. If I had my way I'd do to them what they did to local industry... Icon - consider the downstroke to be a large gun barrel and the dot to be some fucktard politico's head... El Reg can we get an (in)appropriate "I'd love to shoot the bastard" icon?)

  5. Steve Graham

    While I do agree that some of the most recent MINI™ models do look like small SUVs -- I drive a small SUV and when a MINI™ drives past I think "Look at the size of that!" -- I think that Stephenson's own design was much too big as well. For me, part of the spirit of the original Mini was that it was tiny compared to contemporary cars.

    And it's certainly possible to get a tiny car safety-certified today. BMW just chose not to.

    1. Chris Miller

      it's certainly possible to get a tiny car safety-certified today

      I'm happy to accept that, but I wonder how much fun it would be to drive?

      1. Known Hero

        smaller cars generally mean lighter cars.

        The lighter the car the more nimble they feel, rather than throwing a hulking great weight around corners, they dart round.

        I drive a 2CV and B-Class, the merc has never put a smile on my face whilst driving.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          "...drive a 2CV and B-Class..."

          "I drive a 2CV and B-Class, the merc has never put a smile on my face..."

          Vee 'ave checked again zee List of Requirements, und vee see nine such requirement for dis zing vich you call das 'smile on mine face'.

          Vat est das 'smile on mine face'?

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: "...drive a 2CV and B-Class..."

            "Vat est das 'smile on mine face'?"

            Aus Freude am Fahren - BMW

            You'll want to be careful, though - there might be side effects.

            1. Wensleydale Cheese

              Re: "...drive a 2CV and B-Class..."

              "You'll want to be careful, though - there might be side effects."

              Readers managing to read the linked article to the end will be rewarded by the gem that the chap's lawyer hails from Sausalito.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > I drive a 2CV and B-Class, the merc has never put a smile on my face whilst driving.

          Don't know about a B-Class. Try an RS6 for that particular smile on face and frown on arse cheeks combination. Mind, the smile will only last about 500 km on a full tank, not to mention the hourly labour rates on it being more expensive than my lawyer.

          Congratulations on getting your hands on a 2CV though! I've been looking for one for years but nobody wants to let go of them. :-(

          1. Mark 78

            As someone who like small cars, I loved my Smart Roadster. Drove like a go-cart, did over 55mpg, but could still pull away reasonable well for a 700cc car.

            Living in an area with a bad shortage of parking spaces, I now have a Toyota IQ, which seems to be like a normal Smart car, but with the option to either have a (very) small backseat or a small boot, but the ability to park in spaces no-one else would dream of fitting into.

            1. Conrad Longmore

              I had one of those too. But it wasn't really a German car (despite the Daimler ownership), it was a French car with all the fun and unreliability that goes with it. Electrical gremlins, leaks, ECU failures, steering rack faults, fractured aircon pipes. Not really reliable. But fun to drive when it wasn't being fixed.

              1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                @Conrad Longmore

                With the exception of being French, that sounds like my old Fiat 850 Spyder. Coil on the rear wall so that the wiring dangled down into the fan belts. Weber carb that continually needed adjustment. Assorted electrical and mechanical issues. But when it ran, it was a blast and would have grinning from ear to ear.

                Edit: I'll be gobsmacked... an Orlowski article with comments that didn't need to wait for moderation.

          2. Known Hero
            Thumb Up

            @AC,

            If you would like to get your hands on one, plenty are going for reasonable prices, best place to get in touch is facebook groups i could highly recommend "2CVs and Friends" Plenty of local groups on there as well, go say hi :)

          3. Lotaresco

            RS6

            "Try an RS6 for that particular smile on face and frown on arse cheeks combination."

            Oh please, it's a horrible car. It has the same problem as all Audis, Engine/Transmission too heavy and too far forwards. It's a car that seems to have been designed for "suits" who like to blag about bhp and 0-60 times in a sort of estate agents Top Trumps. And, at the end of the day, it's just another joyless VAG box.

            The GT86 is more of a driver's car, that will put a smile on your face - and save a shedload of cash. Although if anyone is intending to spend RS6 money on a car they should just dig that little bit deeper into their pockets and get an MP4-12C. Then the only way they need to look at RS6s is as little dots disappearing in the rear view mirror.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm happy to accept that, but I wonder how much fun it would be to drive?

        The Honda FIT fills that bill.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Nobody today would buy a four/five seats car as small as the old Mini or Fiat 500. Especially because also the average height (and fatness...) increased in the past forty years. I'm old enough to have traveled in the original versions, and believe me, no way such small cars could have a market today, even if made safe enough. Remember also those cars had almost no trunk space, you would have issue to store the weekly supermarket shopping into one of those old ones. There's a reason they were quickly obsoleted by models like the Fiat 127, Ford Fiesta, Renault 5 and VW Golf which offered more space (albeit they were still quite small, compared to today models) and a more versatile interior (especially the fifth door and the re-configurable trunk).

      Only Smart attempted to build a very small car along those lines, but it was almost unsuccessful.

      1. Putters

        But Smart did do the very fun Roadster version too - pity they left out the profit margin ...

        1. Mike Dunderdale

          Having owned

          several Minis, I'd always choose one over a Bini. Driving one always gave me a smile on my face. Working on one not so much (spare marigolds anyone for the dizzy)

          Not as big as driving my Pug 205 1.9 GTI. Easier to work on, and more like a go-kart in the linear throttle response.

          The Smart Roadster we own is also good fun - 700cc rear engine rear wheel drive - coupled with good all-weather tyres, makes it also fun to drive. Similar to work on to the mini - removal of the back panel usually needed.

      2. Uffish

        Re: " those cars had almost no trunk space..."

        Some time in the early 1970's I and my future wife were youth hostelling around Italy and were waiting at a bus stop for the Pompei ruins. A kindly couple in a real, original, Fiat 500 stopped, and offered us a lift. They were peasant shaped and sat in the front, we were somewhat slimmer, in those days, and sat in the back with our two large rucksacks.

        No problem - a fast and comfortable ride. They don't make cheap iconic cars any more.

      3. Zack Mollusc

        old mini space

        You can get quite a lot of that shopping in the door pockets of the sliding-windows minis.

        The biggest annoyance of the old mini was the classic British manufacturing error of never fixing the design faults, just churning out the same crap until the customers fled.

      4. graeme leggett

        Speaking as a 6'2" individual I had no problem in a Mini (Countryman - the wood structure was strictly decorative compared to Morris Minor)

        In those days more shopping was local and just-in-time. A walk of half a mile or so would have gotten you to grocer or to butcher. You could argue larger cars made supermarkets more viable and therefore helped the decline of local shops making larger cars more desirable. Though I remember a visit when my mum took me and my brother with her shopping at Sainsburys and next door Bejam and fitting the provisions easily into a Hillman Husky.

        I'll also suggest it was the Volkswagen Polo that sat alongside the Fiesta in comparison rather than the Golf.

  6. John Robson Silver badge

    I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

    .. to se how *not* to do a reboot.

    It's hideous, and deserves the moniker 'maxi'

    1. Joe Werner Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

      I agree. But to be honest, even a slightly below average height guy like me felt a bit crammed in the original contraption (I sat in the rear seat, trying to be a gentleman and letting the girl sit in front - but then she was almost as tall). The driver loved her mini, and the sportive feel you can have if you do some... modifications.

      But yeah, the thought "Mini? No way, it is Maxi!" crossed my mind more than once when seeing the "updated" version. As to the SUV-ised one: WTF?! But then I cannot understand the appeal of SUVs anyway. And new cars in general, with the low window-to-steel ratio - highly impractical, leading to school kids being run over by their moms and the use of rear facing cameras in every single friggin' car and the warning beepers. I mean, are you driving a lorry or what?

      Sorry, need a beer (or three). Pub-o-clock, when are you?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

        As someone lurking around 6'5 the old mini, with a small steering wheel, was drivable. The new one is a no-no. But the old mini was a small car. The new mini is a small car on a large chassis - you may as well make the car as wide as the chassis unless you really thing you are going to drive into some weird shaped garage or something. Its a car that has almost all the disadvantages of the old one and shiny - a bit of shiny.

    2. Sparkypatrick

      Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

      It's bad, but it's not Maxi bad!

      1. Putters

        Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

        Harsh. Very harsh. Have fond memories of the the dear old Maxis. Tough workhorses that were no worse than their competitors at the time in any area (other than possibly the early cable operated gearboxes) and certainly streets ahead in terms of interior space and versatility.

        Oh - and the original Mini certainly had a facelift mid life with the Clubman front end.

        1. IsJustabloke
          Thumb Up

          Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

          "Have fond memories of the the dear old Maxis."

          I too have fond memories of my Maxi but that was more to do with the fact that when you put the rear seats down it was the size of a double bed back there..... er... I've said too much.

          1. Putters

            Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

            You missed a trick then - the marketing brochure actually made a point that the front seats folded down too to make a bed ... http://www.aronline.co.uk/images/maxi_04.jpg

          2. H in The Hague

            Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

            I too have v fond memories of my Maxi (well, actually my parents', took it with me when I left home).

            "when you put the rear seats down ..."

            ... it's perfect for carrying scaffolding pipes and lattice girders for the local theatre group!

            Just a short piece to write about project control software and then it's beer-o-clock!

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

          "Have fond memories of the the dear old Maxis."

          I don't. Horrible contraption although it did have the disadvantage of following on from my MGB (kids to carry). The engine would rock itself out of gear on the overrun. It had an oil leak from around the gear selector and the seal could only be replaced from the inside of the sump so that never got done.

          As to the original Mini, cute for sure but I never liked driving it. I have too many memories of driving on country roads on winter evenings where the headlamps were so low they were coated in mud almost instantly. Nevertheless AFAICR we drove the Botany Dept. Mini up both Slieve Gallion and Slieve Gullion which might explain how it ended up with lumps knocked out of the fins on the sump. At least it had the original sliding windows; the wind-up windows meant the end of the door pockets which were most of the interior storage.

        3. Robin Bradshaw

          Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

          My memory of the Maxi is of horrible vinyl seats that if left parked in the summer sun would heat up to the point that a small child wearing shorts jumping in the back would find the sudden scorching plastic on flesh quite painful.

          Better than the Austin Princess though, that just made you seasick.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

            Better than the Austin Princess though, that just made you seasick.

            My first car was a flying wedge during the early-mid 90's. Did a ton of work maintaining and repairing it for a friend, so much so that he gave the thing to me when he upgraded. Loved it.

            Probably also why I have a healthy respect for traffic and being sure to drive within a vehicles limits+decent safety margin. "Handling" was not a word often used in relation to those things! :)

            Icon coz if satan ever made a car...

            1. Vic

              Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

              My first car was a flying wedge during the early-mid 90's

              I had a couple of Ambassadors - that's essentially the Mk3 Princess.

              They weren't exactly speedy off the lights[1], but they really weren't too bad once you'd got used to the quirks...

              Vic.

              [1] Top speed wasn't too bad, though. I got busted in one once - the first thing the copper said was "I didn't think these things go that fast". I didn't tell him I had the brakes on when he caught me...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

      > .. to se how *not* to do a reboot.

      Why don't you write one, then? Preferably more than one line long.

    4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

      Fond memories. My headmaster at primary school had a purple Maxi. Which looked much nicer than all the brown and orange Allegros, and Morris Marinas.

      But the car that upset me was the Mini. Especially the Clubman. Because the owner of the caravan site we stayed on as kids had a little Mini Clubman van. I guess he only used it on the site, and not on the roads, as one of the back doors was missing. In accordance with 1970s health & safety rules, all the kids loved it, as he used to give us rides around the site, sitting in the back, often with legs dangling out of the missing door.

      Only ruined when I went back to the caravan, and Mum was playing The New Seekers on her cassette player. But there was usually fruit cake to make up for it.

      ...drifts rambles off into happy nostalgia...

    5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: I was assuming this would be a look at the mini...

      Mini Midi Maxi

  7. kmac499

    A better example

    I would say that FIAT did a better job with their re-imagining of the 500 brand. Great city car dimensions, Quirky small engines, four adults can fit in one. and fun to drive. Mind you I'd love to have a play with an Abarth ediition one

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A better example

      fun to drive.

      Really? My wife had one as a hire car replacement after her car was totalled in an accident. Talk about unable to pull the skin off a rice pudding? That 500 would have had trouble pulling the skin off a cup of horlicks. Horrible, gutless, thing. 2nd gear on anything that resembled a gentle slope, and pray no-one was behind you. An original 850 Mini would have been better.

  8. Magani
    Unhappy

    Not for my money.

    ...Frank Stephenson, who modernised the Mini without losing its essential character.

    I would debate that. I owned a 1964 Mini 850 and a 1967 1275 Cooper S. Both used to put a grin on my face (one more than the other, naturally).

    A friend took me for a ride in a Mini One a few weeks ago. To my mind, it's just another car, and about 2ft longer by the looks of it, and it has about as much character as any other small Toyota, Hyundai, etc, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not for my money.

      My 1967 Mini-Moke 1000 (Mini wheels) was presumably a lighter body than a conventional Mini - there wasn't much of it. The power to weight ratio of 1275 versions must have been even more impressive.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Not for my money.

        2 friends of mine managed to shoehorn 2 Litre engines into their Minis. Neither changed the brakes though, which struck me as suicidal.

        One of them went on to race Caterham 7s, which I understand is where many of the more "spirited" drivers end up.

        1. Putters

          Re: Not for my money.

          If you want scary - you can get an off the shelf kit that can pop a Suzuki Hayabusa motorbike engine into a classic Mini with no body modification. http://www.vetech.co.uk/hayabusa/

          From that website :

          Specification

          11000 RPM

          190bhp (normally aspirated) through to a potential 360bhp (forced induction) at the wheels

          6 speed, semi-automatic sequential box including reverse

          Limited slip differential

          Base engine weight less than 100kg

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not for my money.

          "[...] friends of mine managed to shoehorn 2 Litre engines into their Minis."

          IIRC a Rover 3.5 litre V8 was fitted to a Mini-Moke.

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: 1967 Mini Moke

        How did you get out of The Village?

        ... be seeing you!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not for my money.

      > I would debate that.

      I drove a succession of Minis, culminating in a Cooper S with a 1398 Swiftune engine in it. I've driven a fair share of hot hatches since and nothing comes close for driving chuckles.

      So yeah, there's not really much of a debate. That other fat beemer is only good for one thing; a source of superchargers...

  9. Unep Eurobats
    WTF?

    I am astonished

    that no one has rebooted the beloved Citroen 2CV.

    1. Putters

      Re: I am astonished

      Similarly Renault never bringing out a new version of their "Van Ordinaire" the Renault 4 - once described as a loose collection of parts that just happen to be travelling in the same direction.

      Also probably the only front wheel drive car to have a longitudinal engine with the gearbox on the front end ... hence the strange linkage under the bonnet ... http://cdn.pinthiscars.com/images/renault-4-engine-wallpaper-4.jpg

      1. IsJustabloke
        Thumb Up

        Re: I am astonished

        ha ah! The Renault 4 :D

        I had one of those too... I liked the way the gear stick stuck out through the dashboard and was connected to a normal gear stick that stuck out the top of the gearbox by means of a long connecting tube... fabulous stuff... it literally ratted away around me, I drove through a puddle once and the girl in the passenger seat got a shot of ice cold water all the way up her leg from a hole in the floor....

        Ah... students and their cars :)

        1. Anna Logg

          Re: I am astonished

          "I had one of those too... I liked the way the gear stick stuck out through the dashboard"

          My wife had a Renault 5 like that; presumably they had a big pile of bits left over at the end of the 4's production run so used them up on early 5s.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: I am astonished

            I liked my Renault 5. It was like a go cart, and lots of fun. It wasn't even a silly Ali-G turbo version with a dump valve, either.

        2. Wensleydale Cheese

          Re: I am astonished

          "The Renault 4"

          That brings back memories of working in a Renault dealership where the mechanics had given the delivery Renault 4 van some special attention. It went like the clappers and was great fun to drive.

          "a hole in the floor...."

          Apparently a favourite trick was to fix the floor with wooden planks. A certain MoT failure, but of course as students we worked out which garages weren't too fussy about details like that.

      2. Oh Matron!

        Re: I am astonished

        Quote of the day:

        "once described as a loose collection of parts that just happen to be travelling in the same direction."

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I am astonished

          '"once described as a loose collection of parts that just happen to be travelling in the same direction."

          I think it was the Sunderland that was described as 3,000 rivets flying in close formation.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: I am astonished

      That would assume that French car makers are capable of rebooting one of their old designs. They just seem to get worse over time, and they were pretty bad back then.

      1. Putters

        Re: I am astonished

        Agreed about the worse over time utterly, but not so sure about the "bad back then".

        Citroen made great cars for many many years. The Traction Avant (even when built in Slough). The DS still looks a goddess today. The SM looks even better. For some reason I even have a soft spot for the old XMs.

        Peugeot have had some pretty good motors over the years too. West Africa still practically runs on old 504s !

        Renault have had ... um ... errr ... actually I can't think of a Renault from the 60's 70's or 80's that I'd really want to own. Some quirky Gordini creations maybe, but only maybe.

        And who even remembers Simca and the wonderful three abreast seating Matra-Simca Bagheera https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matra_Bagheera

        Edit - actually just remembered an older Renault that I do like - the Avantime ... its those pillarless windows and clever trick doors (OK - I'm a sick puppy ....)

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: I am astonished

          For some reason I even have a soft spot for the old XMs.

          I don't - I drove one of those for about 9 months..

          Plusses: great ride, lovely seats.

          Minusses: The great ride only lasted as long as the next bit to fall off the hyropneumatic system, the bodyshell would rot every time a bit of water touched it, the gearbox lunched itself at 45K miles (despite following all the required maintenance) and the driver seat worked it's way loose..

          1. Vic

            Re: I am astonished

            I drove one of those for about 9 months.

            I had 8 or 9 of them over the years. I was doing insane mileage, so although I was averaging 35,000 miles out of each, they didn't last me very long. But that's not bad for cars I was generally getting for about £200[1].

            the bodyshell would rot every time a bit of water touched it

            Yours had been crashed.

            Citroen had built themselves such a bad reputation for rusting with the CX - an otherwise lovely car - that they did something about it with the XM. To make them rust meant fracturing the zinc layer - and that's a fairly significant prang. None of mine had any rust, despite the fact that I didn't exactly take fantastic care of them.

            Vic.

            [1] The depreciation on these cars was unbelievable. The cheap ones were almost £40K when new in 1990. I was mostly driving them in the late '90s. They'd usually cost me £200 to buy the car, and I'd get between £150 and £200 when I scrapped it some months later :-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am astonished

      > that no one has rebooted the beloved Citroen 2CV.

      If you tried to present one for certification these days you'd probably be shot on the spot. And you would have to be *very* inventive to give a modern one the character of the original, starting with the wacky suspension... you never quite knew which way the car was going to bounce next, and it was its choice more than the driver's on which side of the road you ended up driving at a given moment. I think part of the fun, at least for me, was that they were so suicidal to drive.

      No remake would be complete without the hand-cranked windscreen wiper and fold-up windows though.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am astonished

      I came to the conclusion a few years ago that the Berlingo was the spiritual successor of the 2CV, because it was designed to be practical.

      Don't know what the cost is for the current model, but about 13 years ago when we bought ours, it was somewhere about £8000 on the road for the 1.6 petrol engine version. Still running OK too...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am astonished

      I am astonished that no one has rebooted the beloved Citroen 2CV.

      I'm sure they've thought about it. But it would be a REAL challenge to replicate the narrow body and flat sides and still achieve side impact protection standards.

  10. PickledAardvark

    Uppercase and mixed case names

    Mini: the original BMC design by Issigonis.

    MINI: the BMW reinvention of the Mini.

    FIAT and Fiat: The company name has been Fiat for 110 years although some importers took a while to change. Uppercase FIAT has been used on logos and badges mostly -- but one of my neighbours owns a Fiat Panda according to the label on the hatchback. FIAT and Fiat are used almost randomly in brochures and adverts...

    1. Putters

      Re: Uppercase and mixed case names

      FIAT should really be all capitals - Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Uppercase and mixed case names

        "should be all capitals"

        Yep, just like laser, radar, scuba, ...

        Or more precisely, 'NaBisCo' ?

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Uppercase and mixed case names

        Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino.

        Not "Fix It Again, 'Tonio" then?

      3. PickledAardvark

        Re: Uppercase and mixed case names

        According to that rule, Alfa Romeo should be known by the snappy name Anonima Lombarda Fabricca Automobili or A.L.F.A. because they were the company's names before Nicola Romeo took control. And BBC still means British Broadcasting Company Ltd.

        When companies change their name it is conventional to use the name that applies at the relevant point of history. So it's a "1908 Grand Prix F.I.A.T." and a "1976 Fiat 126 with a FIAT badge on the grille".

        From another time, Nipper reminds me that we need to get some new phonographs from His Master's Voice.

    2. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Uppercase and mixed case names

      Presumably MINI stands for "Mini: It's Not Issigonis's" or something like that? It's certainly not "mini"

      1. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: Uppercase and mixed case names

        "Presumably MINI stands for "Mini: It's Not Issigonis's" or something like that?"

        Given that nouns are capitalised in German, are they trying to tell us something?

  11. strum Silver badge

    How can you call it a Mini, when it's bigger than a Cortina?

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    I'm running a 6 year old 'mini' cooper. It's not really a mini of course but it is fun to drive. Holds the road like shit to a blanket and is quite pokey. They tell me it can happily cruise at over a ton, but I wouldn't know about that - as I'm sure you understand.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I know of a local billionaire who, despite a garage of exotica, drives a MINI on a daily basis - for the country lanes between his house and high tech factory, it's evidently the tool for the job in his opinion.

      The police were called by a concerned citizen a few years back, boy racers in the car park of the factory pulling doughnuts, apparently. Plod arrived to find some gents in their late sixties and lots of tyre smoke. "Ah hello officer... ah yes, I see... well, my name is Sir David, this is my car park, and this is my Lamborghini... No, no problem at all officer, we'll be done in a couple of hours. Have a good day now"

  13. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Mini in the photo

    Is a foreign registered left hooker. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  14. tiggity Silver badge

    not mini

    The new mini was nothing like the old one in one crucial aspect.

    Size (not mini, at all)

    Absolutely massive in comparison (even taking into account the changes in safety regs that lead to bulkier cars if a decent NCAP rating is to be achieved)

    When I was looking for a small car the mini was rapidly excluded for being way too big (as well as cahracterless) - ironically I ended up with a 500!

  15. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    If they've maintained the 'essential character' of the original

    How come those modern minis are almost the size of a hummer, with apparently no sense of irony when they stick the badge on the back?

  16. Paul Woodhouse

    I always laugh at the size difference when I park my 95 Mini next to a modern BINI, they really aren't mini's at all...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here in the Tennessee backwoods

    They have Mini meets - about 50 of the original and BMW (mostly) versions parked in a field in Spring Hill, Tn. I'm always surprised at the following here in pick up truck country. But some lovely, hilly, twisty roads to drive them on.

  18. M.Zaccone

    It is just a car.

    The wife has a BMW Mini Cooper, and all her previous cars were all original minis. You'd prise it out of her cold dead hands.

    Obviously there's no comparison with the original in terms of size, but I much prefer the BMW Mini. I think BMW did a pretty good job of giving you just enough of the fun of the original mini driving feel (which I think BMW did by recreating the low roof line and the bouncy ride) but without all the rubbish that came from driving a car barely upgraded from the 1950s.

    The brakes on the original mini were scary in the extreme. You'd stop ....eventually.

    The build quality is so much better on BMW minis- no rust on ours yet.

    Driving on a motorway - much much better in a BMW mini. You have plenty of power to overtake.

    In torrential rain I found original minis to be terrifying - the hair dryer of a heater struggled to keep the windows fog free, there was always the feeling that you were going to get runover by lorries, and whenever anything bigger than 7.5 tons went by, the wave of spray would swamp the engine ("Please don't stall , please don't stall...") . I love to see original minis on the road. I'm just glad my loved ones aren't in them.

    1. pxd

      Re: It is just a car.

      Completely agree - my wife has a 2007 MINI Cooper bought recently and very second hand. I am allowed to drive it if I'm good, and it always impresses me with the mix of agility and comfort BMW brought to the design. More importantly, it is as happy on the M1 as it is in central London. I put in a fair few miles in a friend's original Mini back in the 1980s - it was lots of fun zipping around crowded London streets in the original, but you'd never catch me trying to go up a motorway in the rain and dark in one. For my money, the initial versions of the BMW reboot are exactly the success claimed in the article. The later fattened up ones, and most of the odd variants, are pants. pxd

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is just a car.

      > In torrential rain I found original minis to be terrifying - the hair dryer of a heater struggled to keep the windows fog free, there was always the feeling that you were going to get runover by lorries, and whenever anything bigger than 7.5 tons went by, the wave of spray would swamp the engine ("Please don't stall , please don't stall...")

      But isn't the required strength of character and disregard for one's own physical integrity half the fun of driving "classics"? :-)

      I have to say, sadly it's been a long time since I drove one just for fun, as opposed to need. Except last year, actually. I was asked to ferry some classic Renault thing for a friend. Being a Renault, as soon as it went into third gear it never came out of it again, so 60 km and one national border crossing on 3rd gear it was (thank fuck for Schengen).

      1. M.Zaccone

        Re: It is just a car.

        "But isn't the required strength of character and disregard for one's own physical integrity half the fun of driving "classics"? :-)"

        This was back in the nineties before they were classics i.e. when there was only the mini and you could have either the city or the mayfair, and they still had chokes!

    3. Paul Woodhouse

      Re: It is just a car.

      Horses for courses, we use ours usually for doing the little trips round town at the weekend and the wife uses it to get to work, 8 miles no m/way, its perfect for this... its genuinely fun to drive, is easy to park and is surprisingly practical, kiddie seat in the front passenger seat no problem and the pram fits in the boot no worries.

      usually once a week she uses the modern estate when she's not at work and she's visiting her friends on the other side of the city and I take the mini to my office, 20 miles away, m/way all the way, it can do it with surprisingly little fuss but I have to admit, I don't think I'd enjoy it every day and there's no way I'd want my little lad in it going up the m/way.

  19. agurney

    "the Mini was designed in layers like a burger: the roof, the windows... none of the elements overlap"

    Not true, my first car was a 1964 mini and the sliding windows DID overlap. I don't miss them.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Not true, my first car was a 1964 mini and the sliding windows DID overlap. I don't miss them."

      But in that case you had door pockets. When they changed to the wind-up windows almost all the internal storage was gone.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Revamp a failure but written up as a success

    As pointed out the "new" Mini completely misses the marks that made the old mini The Mini. Not cheap, not Mini no one I knew who was considering the new mini when they heard about it actually bought one when they saw it and it's equally oversized price.

    What it did succeed at is completely missing what previous generations liked or thought and "reinventing" history to pander to the ignorant of today. With such abilities I'm sure they could come out with a new model of Genghis Khan and sell it as reinvigorating, something everyone should want to visit their country.

  21. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

    This

    This is how you update a Mini.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txtMy7N1Fw0&list=PLGSOZAHg1yQEatqhWza_ae83e313-GLTO

    As an American motor head I really appreciate the craft and humor of these guys.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: This

      I was wondering when Project Binky would make an appearance in this thread.

      the entire thing (so far) is well worth a watch. It'll be interesting to see how it looks and drives when it's done.

  22. bollos
    FAIL

    you must be joking.

    that new "mini" is not a mini, it's a midi. they made it far too big. proper minis today are the vw up, ford ka or fiat 500. the mini is horrible

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: you must be joking.

      "Proper minis today are the ... Ford Ka"

      Never been inside one but from the external appearance I'd guess they fail to meet the Issigonis principle of maximising internal space for a given footprint and height. They look as if the design objective was to minimise it.

      1. M.Zaccone

        Re: you must be joking.

        The original ford ka is closer to the mark - simple engine barely updated since the fifties, manual everything,no power steering, simple maintenance schedule and no rev counter , no temperature gauge, heater but no air con, manually adjusted mirrors and a radio/cassette that had FM but no AM.. I ran an early Ka for many years, and by the standards of the time it was pretty reliable, when it did go wrong it was cheap to fix. A total rust bucket by the time I got rid of it, but still remembered more fondly than the p.o.s Mark IV Golf that replaced it.

  23. johnnymotel

    As for the Fiat 500, I think the designers 'knew' that Fiat wanted bigger versions down the line. So the original was designed to grow from the start. This would explain why 'fattened' versions of the 500 look so much better than any similar Mini.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A friend in the 1960s had a Fiat 500. He was a big guy in all directions. He could drive the car with his head poking out of the sun roof. One day he was pulled over for speeding on a poorly marked 30mph section of an open road. The officer took one look and said "I'll book you at 40mph - the court would never believe 50 in that".

  24. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    ...modernised the Mini without losing its essential character. So how did he manage it?

    He didn't manage it. At all.

    Parked my Vectra next to one the other day, and I dare say the "Mini" was wider, taller, and almost as long. "Essential Character" binned the second BMW got their mits on the designs.

    1. Lotaresco

      Re: ...modernised the Mini without losing its essential character. So how did he manage it?

      "He didn't manage it. At all."

      I can agree with that. My "utility" vehicle is a Jeep Grand Cherokheep, which most people tell me is a "monster". It's only one foot (30cm) longer and half an inch (12mm) wider than a "Mini" Countryman.

  25. Tikimon Silver badge

    Redesigns always seem to miss the mark...

    The Beetle was a cheap, cute car to being with. Also had some awful design elements (total lack of self-adjusting anything) but it was cheap and cute. Redesign? Big and expensive, WTF? I fault designers, who think that body elements that vaguely resemble certain parts of the original is "going back to the spirit of the classic." Taillights with three vertical bars do not a Mustang make either.

    The important point as I see it, is that people want a vehicle with some personality. Most cars have looked like jellybeans for decades. They're indistinguishable and all the same bland colors. What's to love?

    I offer as a success story the PT Cruiser. It was basically a minivan, a hated form factor if there ever was one. However, it had STYLE and they sold like crazy. For all it's faults, the Mini has more personality than 99% of American designs, so it sells more than it deserves to.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Redesigns always seem to miss the mark...

      the PT was more of a microvan than a minivan; You could put quite a bit into the thing if you folded up the rear seats (or removed them entirely, which was easily done via a couple latches), and it did have a unique styling all it's own. (It took the styling cues from the Prowler, which took it's styling cues from the hot rods of the 30's)

      the PT was not without it's faults- it had the same powertrain as the Neon platform (with all the quirks and problems), the turning radius sucked, and the gas mileage was nothing to write home about. It also had (at least out here in the desert) of chewing through it's battery almost every year.

  26. Stuart Halliday
    Megaphone

    Phone up the BBC....

    Frank Stephenson, phone up the BBC about Doctor Who... PLEASE!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The meaning of "mini" changes depending on context

    Over in America, the people are fatter and the roads are crowded with lorries, so it's much harder to make the case for kei-cars and subcompacts. I remember in elementary school one of my instructors had a 1972 Mini Cooper, and he used to complain that he couldn't upgrade to a Rover Mini because of stupid import laws. One of the major concerns with importing Minis was their relative size compared to American vehicles, and the similarity to motorcycle engines made it difficult to classify them as "cars".

    The larger Mini developed by BMW was the saving grace for the Mini brand over in America. Finally the fat asses had a "small" car that they could claim as a status symbol. They also featured the car in the first Austin Powers movie, because cultural appropriation is a sure fire way to get Americans to spend money.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mini -- Then and Now

    I owned a 1965 Mini Cooper (the 998cc one). Great fun. Poor build quality. Slow by modern measures.

    Recently, I've been driving a (BMW) Mini Cooper. Not bad. Complicated. Expensive.

    Also, recently, been driving a VW Up! SImple, small outside, big inside, competent, efficient, well built -- almost like the original Mini, except better built -- and good fun. Recommended.

  29. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I don't know if it's true but I read somewhere that the reason for the external seams on the original mini was to enable the panels to be held together by mole grips whilst they were being spot welded.

    1. PickledAardvark

      The external seams perhaps simplified welding a bit whilst the production engineers worked out a more elegant solution.

      Minis were produced on new Longbridge lines which had been making Austin A35s. It was intended as a multi purpose build system, and several models passed along it. As many BMC owners remember, it incorporated an effective rust proofing process. From memory, the only external seams on an A30/A35 are the roof line and drains (common practice) and sill bottom. That was a car designed six years or so before the Mini, so we can assume that the plant did not require external seams. It is more likely that production was rushed -- one underfloor seam on early models opened the wrong way and collected water as the Mini drove along.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked with Dave when he was some creative freelancer. Interesting beard I seem to remember. Amused at the revamp to innovation consultant.

  31. TeeCee Gold badge
    FAIL

    WRONG!

    The updated Mini is not a mini as it completely misses the whole point of the original mini, which was to get the most space in the smallest package. The BMW version is a vaguely mini shaped Ford Escort.

    Same goes for the "new beetle". It's not a beetle, it's a Polo in drag.

    FIAT got it right with the 500, even down to including a twin-cylinder engine option.

    If you want to see what Alec Issigonis would have produced, were he still around to design the updated mini, have a look at the Daihatsu Cuore VI. And to see what it would have looked like as a mini, what Daihatsu did with it to make the Trevis...

  32. Kiwi Silver badge
    Flame

    Gave him the wrong thing..

    BMW gave the job to BMW designer Frank Stephenson

    They should've given him the boot at the very least. Preferably several, repeatedly and with great force.

    Same to whoever else was responsible for letting the monstrosity that claims the "Mini" name exist. Is it even possible to actually give someone a stomping such as they deserve?

  33. Andytug

    Minis are hilariously big now, as are most of the others

    My mothers old Nissan Micra expired recently, so I was dragged to the dealers to provide advice. She was set on another Micra (would have been her fourth) until she saw the size of it.......

    And the equivalent Peugeot, Ford, Renault, etc. So she went home with a Fiat 500, because it was small.

    How you can have a Countryman Cooper is beyond me, and those damn things are as big as my Vauxhall Zafira (which has 7 seats!).

    My mum had a 1974 Mini, I can vouch for their crash-worthiness having parked it on its roof on the approach to a roundabout and emerged unscathed. Dreadful brakes but much fun........

  34. bex

    not really in the spiritl

    The modern mini is a good car but if you want something cheep in the spirit of the original that's still decent I suggest a citroen c/ peugeot 107/toyota aygo.

  35. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    Website redesign

    If you're considering doing a relaunch, a "reboot", or a revamp of any kind, there's a lot to learn from the story of the Mini.

    Let's hope the management at Vulture Towers remember this article when they decide to redesign this site

  36. Dom 3

    Where is that museum?

    Anyone recognise it? Clearly in Spain...

    1. Stephen Keane

      Re: Where is that museum?

      Motor Epoca Classic Car Show on October 22, 2010 in Valencia, Spain.

      1. Dom 3

        Re: Where is that museum?

        errr.. how did you work that out?

  37. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Well Issigonis didn't get it right on the first try either. One design howler that springs vividly to mind is that on early models the lap joints in the floor pan faced forward, so they trapped water (never in short supply in England). Reversing the overlap would have gone a long way to increasing the longevity and staving off Flintstone Syndrome.

    And unless this Heinrich-come-lately "mini" can corner 90 degrees at 30 without needing to alter how the driver is using his/her feet with no concern about spinning or drifting, it ain't a proper mini.

    Pfft! I'll bet this BMW thing has double skinned doors and crumple zones too!

    Two wars. Beginning of the end. Fought on the beaches. Etc. More etc.

    (64 Half-Timbered Traveller).

  38. annodomini2
    WTF?

    Style over substance...

    The original is and will always be a classic.

    The BMW MINI is a sell out's wet dream

    In classic mini circles they are not called Bini Pooper Shit without reason.

  39. Mike Dunderdale

    As they say..

    How can anything bigger be called a Mini?

  40. sebacoustic
    FAIL

    maybe a nice litte BMW

    But it's still the car known as the twatmobile.

    It's sad that BMW tried to position their own fake mini as "not fake"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psZRxl1CDw8

    Some of the later variants, made to appeal more to a male audience, are plainly ridiculously ghideous to look at.

  41. sebacoustic
    FAIL

    maybe a nice litte BMW

    But it's still the car known as the twatmobile.

    What's sad is that BMD tried to pass of their own fale as "the real thing":

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psZRxl1CDw8

    Some of the later variants, made to appeal more to a heterosexual male audience, are plainly ridiculously hideous to look at.

  42. deconstructionist

    El reg does it agian

    Not content with bad science and dropping other dead sections, I loved the old mini had 3, but the new min is a shockingly poor, granted the 500 hits the mark small, cheap and is exactly what it should be a great small car.

    The new Mini

    1. way to expensive

    2. not really a mini is it way to big

    3. not cheap to fix

    4. some real Monty python models in the range about as big as land rovers.

    Still trying to work out whether this a joke like the crazy stat trek rant thread (which has to be joke) or are you guys trying to be serious ?

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: El reg does it agian

      What are you actually complaining about.

      From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_%28marque%29

      BMW redeveloped the entire Cowley plant, demolishing much of the factory, to create a new factory and renamed this "Plant Oxford", on the site of what was historically the Pressed Steel Company's Cowley Body Plant and next door to what was historically the Morris factory.

      2009, the Mini was Britain's seventh best selling car - the first time that a BMW-era Mini had appeared among the nation's top 10 selling cars.[76] It also was Britain's seventh best selling car in June 2010.[77]

      Mini sales worldwide were up 22% in 2011 over 2010, with 285,000 cars delivered across the globe. In the U.S., the brand’s largest market, 57,000 were sold in 2011, a 26% increase over 2010. The next two largest markets, the United Kingdom and Germany, saw 13% and 28% sales increases last year, respectively.[78]

      A total of 301,526 Mini vehicles were sold worldwide in 2012.[11] The largest national market was the United States, with 66,123 units sold, followed by the United Kingdom with 50,367.[11] The Mini Countryman sold a total of 102,250 units in the year.

      The moaners of Europe.

  43. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    ""It's useful advice for anyone doing a redesign. Don't fuck with what's noticeable or the ethos of the product," Birss points out."

    Has anyone told Microsoft?

  44. cageordie

    The original Mini needed some improvement, but it needed to be a mini. Fiat seemed to get that with the 500. Surely it would have been possible to make a small, cheap, economical car? I have a lovely picture of a BMC Mini parked next to its bloated namesake in Reno NV. And where did the space go? I am 6'3" and used to ride around in my friends Cooper S. The back of a mini was not good for me, it was possible, but not good. The really bad parts about the mini were crash worthiness and susceptibility to damp, the distributor and plugs were on the front of the engine, out in the weather. Could it be done? Well the systems from a Smart car show the mechanicals can be done. Does every car need navigation and a TV display in the dash? No! Most of the time what I need is an engine, transmission, brakes, steering, wipers, lights and seats. For electronics I need a Bluetooth connection for my phone. ABS is mandated as are air bags, but they fit in a Smart so they aren't a problem. Same with the emissions system. Enough with the feature creep.

  45. martinusher Silver badge

    So what Frank Stephenson did was make good Austin/Morris's lack of investment?

    The real story here -- applying to many products, not just iconic ones like the Mini -- is how a British firm takes an accidentally successful product design and then just milks it for decades rather than plowing some of the profits made from the product's success back into updating the design.

    This, of course, is why BMW bought the bits of British Leyland rather than BL buying BMW. Put another way, its why being an engineer in the UK used to suck, it was a never ending struggle against a management inspired death spiral.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dave Birss is a dick.

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