Let’s compare the fortunes of Mini and Smart. The reborn Mini was launched by BMW in 2000 and proved an instant hit. It has since spawned an entire range of cars under the umbrella of the Mini brand. Smart launched the For Two (originally called the City Coupe) two years earlier, yet despite being a cleverer car, it never captured the public imagination in the same way. Smart has struggled ever since.
The secrets to the Mini’s success are cute retro styling, BMW build quality (somewhat better than British Leyland or Rover’s past efforts, it must be said), a wealth of personalisation options and nimble, engaging handling. Modern Minis are simply fun to drive, with the same wheel-at-each-corner agility that characterised the Issigonis original.
Today, the range stretches from the three-door Mini Hatch to the SUV-style Countryman. The peppy 134bhp Cooper is a fun and affordable all-rounder, while the 229bhp Cooper S is a more characterful, less practical alternative to a Golf GTI. Flagship John Cooper Works models may be too intense for some, but they’re fun on the right road.
As for the mightiest Mini, the John Cooper Works GP, you can read Andrew Frankel’s review below. Suffice to say you can definitely have too much of a good thing… The next step for Mini is going fully electric, so watch this space for its first EV hot hatch.