You have to hand it to BMW: it has done a great job of reinventing and nurturing a beloved British brand.
It could have been another debacle like the Rover 75, but it has turned out to be a great British success story, one that many rival car makers are still trying to emulate. The Mini has proved that it’s possible to sell a small car with a premium price tag, as long as it’s presented in the right way.
The Mini is one of those cars that you buy for no other reason than because you want one. It’s expensive for a small and impractical three-door hatch, but feels like it’s worth every penny, especially at the bottom end of the range.
And in a way it is, because it’s engineered to an incredibly high standard, to the extent that BMW had to make some cost-cutting measures with the Mk2 because the Mk1 was so expensive to build.
But the way BMW engineered this car, with its sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, has resulted in a car that feels like nothing else to drive.
The current generation of Mini may be a little more refined and easier to live with than the Mk1, but it’s the previous one that still holds the most appeal for me. Although its engines were inferior to those used in the current generation, the Mk1 handled so well that you rarely noticed the slightly flat power delivery, which in any case could be ameliorated with a Works tuning kit.
I loved its pointy front end and slightly tail-happy nature, an attitude that has been lost to a certain extent with the current breed.
To my mind the Mini reached its zenith at the end of the first generation with the limited-edition Works GP, which had more power than the rest and even tighter handling. It looks great, even today, and is already the most collectable of the lot. I’d have one in my garage like a shot if I could afford it.
The BMW Mini may be a far cry from the functional nature of the Issigonis original, but it’s been a massive influence on the current crop of small cars and is directly responsible for the influx of exciting newcomers such as the Citroen DS3. Stylish, premium small cars are here to stay.