As eager as it is charming, and fun as it is cute – but will you come to regret buying it?

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Despite unassisted steering, a clutch pedal that felt like it was set in concrete and rear head room so tight that the car might as well have been a two-seater, nearly 300,000 Rover Minis were produced between 1991 and 2000, with nearly five million produced throughout the car's total lifespan.

People simply adored them. It was so renowned that it topped Autocar’s ‘Top 50 cars that changed the world’ list in 1991, and its lineage arguably continues today with BMW’s reborn Mini brand.

For this buying guide, we’re focusing on the Mk6 and Mk7 variants that were manufactured by Rover between 1991 and 2000. That’s partly because there are so many versions to choose from but also because they can still be found at keen prices.

With earlier Minis now being sold for anywhere between £12,000 and £50,000, you can still buy a Rover one from just under £2000.

Other than price, though, what’s in it for you? Peppiness, for starters. Unlike the 40bhp 1.0-litre BMC A-series engine that was used until 1992, the 1275cc Rover unit is much more vibrant, coming with 50bhp and a carburettor until 1994. Or there’s the fuel-injected 63bhp engine that became the only one available post-1994.

Both the 50bhp and 63bhp engines are lively at first, then begin to lose enthusiasm at around 60mph, and at any speed they sound as raspy as you might imagine a Mini would or should.

And that rasping is something you will have to appreciate, because in a car with a body like a biscuit tin and all the insulation of a laundry basket, engine, gearbox and road noise protrude into the cabin pretty much all of the time. But at least you’re as nicely connected to the driving experience as you are to the road surface. 

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Indeed, that connection is something you feel through the steering wheel. It's positioned slightly offset, but the response is sharp, even if the absence of any assistance makes the helm feel heavier and more agricultural than that of a modern car.

Plant your foot in a bend and you will feel the Mini's wheels (available in 12in and 13in diameters) scrabble for grip, with the engine and four-speed gearbox (both manual automatic versions are available) working to slingshot you into the next bend. At that point, you lean on its wheel-at-each-corner stance, itself providing real agility and genuine poise.

Multiple variants were produced between 1991 and 2000, including the entry-level Mini City, whose A-series engine offered an 84mph top speed. In 1992 it became the Mini Sprite, which cost £6486 when new and got a bump in power for an extra 3mph top end.

We would recommend this one if you want no-nonsense fun on a tighter budget. The top spec was initially the chrome-clad Mini Mayfair, which was replaced by the 1.3i in August 1996 with a starting price of £8995. The Cooper S was reintroduced in April 2000 and is the variant you should buy if you have more than £10,000 to spend.

Such a choice of trim levels might sound confusing, but making the decision to buy one of these Minis is anything but. It might not be that easy to live with as your only car, but as a basic means of enjoying a good drive, you're in good hands.


Is the Rover Mini reliable?

Minis of this generation have the ability to soldier on even when something isn't quite right, with failure normally occurring when an ancillary part gives up the ghost. This is a generalisation but something that many owners have experienced.

It might be worth totting up on how to service and/or repair them yourself, given that they're mechanically quite simple and it will vastly reduce your chances of becoming stranded.

There are, however, more obvious things which you should be aware of before you buy. Let's run through them:

Engine: Check for oil leaks. Worn seals or gaskets are an issue, so make sure that regular oil checks have been done. Budget around £200 to fix any leaking seals or gaskets. Some owners report cars cutting out when declutching to change gear. This could be just a poor connection between the alternator and battery, or it could be a fuel system blockage. Alternatively, check the battery has a decent level of charge: it can run out and shut the engine down.

Engine mounts can rust or loosen, leading to rough running and vibrations through the gearstick and clutch pedal when idling or accelerating. Make sure the car revs smoothly, ideally on a test drive to check it’s behaving normally.

Brakes: Be watchful for seized brake pistons and calipers. If the car pulls to one side or squeals excessively under braking, this could be the issue. Check there isn’t too much pedal travel before the brakes engage. Also check it’s not a hydraulic pressure-related issue. Stamp on the pedal and make sure it goes all the way to the floor: if it doesn’t, it’s likely to do with the brake’s mechanicals.

Electrics: Cables feeding the stereo, starter motor and headlights can become chafed over time, making the car basically undrivable if all were to fail at once. Before buying, ask (or if you’ve bought one, check) whether they’re in good working condition; they sit behind the stereo.

Body: The thin steel used in the Rover Mini’s construction rusted more than that of other Mini generations. Check the front and rear subframes, door sills, A-pillar, scuttle, fuel filler cap and bumpers and under the floor mats. Moisture gathers under the headlights, which doesn’t help. Keep a close eye out for bubbling paintwork. Forums are awash with owners flagging this, and it usually happens after a careless respray; either that or water has found its way under the paint itself. A specialist can touch it up: budget around £1200, depending on the size of the area.

Interior: Inspect the cabin for signs of water ingress. It can come in through the doors and around the B-pillars, due to cracked or poorly fitted seals. Sunroof seals can also fail.

An owner's view

Neil Burgess: “Minis are incredibly addictive! Mine is a 1993 Cooper, quicksilver with a black roof. I bought it in 1997 as a stolen-recovered car which had been stripped out. I turned it into my first competition car, mostly for racing but also to rally. The standard single-point injection engine proved competitive, and Corgi even made a model of it! I still own the car – Purdey – and she is a loved member of the family, retired from her track days.”

Also worth knowing

There are many special editions. For example, the British Open Classic came in British Racing Green with a sunroof, full-length Webasto roof and half-leather/houndstooth seats. The Sprite-based 35 had electrically adjustable headlights, opening rear windows, a silver coachline and blue, red or white paint. And the Cooper S-based 40 got gold or black badging, alloy dash trim and twin spotlights.


Rover Mini rear three quarter

The introduction of the Rover Mini in 1990 brought about various changes to its exterior to mark it out as not being produced by British Leyland anymore. The wheel arches became more flared, the headlights got adjustable levelling and side impact beams were fitted. Changes were also made inside, but we'll come back to those.

Crucially, though, it didn't lose any of its inherent charm when ownership transferred. Bulbous, circular headlamps, stacked rear lights and a two-box shape with a large greenhouse give the Mini a look so distinctive even a layman would be able to pick it out from a car park filled with SUVs and crossovers.

As you climbed higher in the spec list, the cars were fitted with more and more trinkets, including pinstripe detailing on the British Open and Mayfair editions, as well as four rally-style front headlamps able to be fitted as standard on Cooper Sports, or as an optional extra on every other edition.


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Over previous-generation British Leyland cars, Rover Minis were given new seats and headlining, thicker carpets, new control stalks and trims, remote central locking, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a driver’s airbag completed the interior makeover.

Each of these combine to make it a much more inviting place to spend time, particularly on longer journeys. It's not exactly a Mercedes S-Class, but it has just enough creature comforts to make it habitable and enough soundproofing that you won't get tinnitus on a drive to the South of France

Build quality is mixed, with a couple of plush materials and trim pieces but others weak enough that they could be dislodged by an especially fearsome pothole. If you see said imperfection, do slow down if you can.


99 mini cooper

By 1990, the Mini’s venerable 998cc engine had gone, replaced by a 1275cc unit. In 1992, this got single-point fuel injection and then, in 1996, with the arrival of the Mk7, multi-point complete with distributor-less ignition, electronic management and a coil per plug. The old side-mounted radiator was moved to the front, the alternator was beefed up and a higher final drive ratio was fitted.

The 1275cc engine is vibrant and always willing to rev, and while a 0-62mph time of around 12sec might not seem especially groundbreaking, its light weight gives it enough power to keep pace with regular traffic on any part of the public road. 

If, however, the car you're looking at is running rough and especially loud, it could be due a service. For this, budget £250 to have a mechanic check over the spark plugs, alternator and carburettor. Once these have been refreshed, you will notice a remarkable difference in refinement. 


Rover Mini parked front three quarter

From its agility to its role in The Italian Job, the Rover Mini arguably has the best charm-to-size ratio in existence. Driving one is such an event, especially one of the Cooper variety. Whether an early Austin/ Morris or a later Rover example, the kerb weight never exceeded 700kg. All Coopers therefore feel light, agile and nippy, despite their modest power outputs.

But remember that built into every Mini is a strong driver's car, which means that if you fancy bagging one that came lower in the specification rung, you won't feel like you're missing out because you didn't buy a Cooper. It feels peppy, eager and wonderfully well-suited to a British B-road.

The steering can be somewhat heavy at low speeds, mind you, due to a lack of power assistance. What’s more, keep in mind that its tiny dimensions don’t make for the best driving position, or the most space for taller individuals. The upside is that it feels very much at home in towns and cities, and of course narrow countryside B-road.


Rover Mini front three quarter

Today, a nice, garaged Mk7 is a tempting proposition. It may lack the cachet of a classic Cooper, say, or a standard version with sliding windows and a cable door opener, but you’ll pay less and have something that rides and goes that little bit better. Buy a good one, as opposed to a bad one, and its price will only go one way, too.

Even better is the fact that it is surprisingly economical. Even without driving especially carefully, owners have reported economy figures up to 45mpg. One even drove his to Wales and, using mostly motorways, it averaged 46mpg.


Rover Mini

Nowadays, the Mini's biggest selling point is the way it drives. Customers flock to sign order books purely to experience that "go-kart handling" that is used so much by the firm's marketing department that it is now a bit of a cliché. But the original cars were the ones which cemented their reputation as fun-to-drive pocket-sized charmers that were as eager as they were agile. 

And this generation is no different. It might lack some refinement and interior sophistication, but if that is your top priority then you might as well buy a Mercedes C-Class. And anyway, what you lose in trim you gain in vim.

Around corners on a British B-road this is unlike much else on the road today, because you know exactly where the car is on the road, your senses are overcome with every vibration and rattle - whether it be from the cats eyes or suspension - and you get the unwavering sense that you are in complete control.

All Mini drivers will tell you the cars are like their pets, because they adore them despite their shortcomings. And if those shortcomings are things you can live with, meet your next purchase.

Jonathan Bryce

Jonathan Bryce
Title: Editorial Assistant

Jonathan is an editorial assistant working with Autocar. He has held this position since March 2024, having previously studied at the University of Glasgow before moving to London to become an editorial apprentice and pursue a career in motoring journalism. 

His role at work involves writing news stories, travelling to launch events and interviewing some of the industry's most influential executives, writing used car reviews and used car advice articles, updating and uploading articles for the Autocar website and making sure they are optimised for search engines, and regularly appearing on Autocar's social media channels including Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.