The F-Series Mini, introduced in early 2014, consists of four different models along with the Countryman, a compact SUV. These models share a common feature, which is being built on the UKL platform, BMW’s front-wheel drive architecture. The acronym UKL stands for “lower class,” and it is not a complex sentence construction in German-English hybrid language (“Denglish”) as it simply denotes the platform designation.
There are two variants of the UKL platform. UKL1 serves as the basis for the front-wheel drive models, namely the F56 (three-door), F55 (five-door), and F57 (convertible). On the other hand, UKL2 allows for all-wheel drive, as seen in the Clubman (F54) model. Additionally, the UKL2 platform is used for the Countryman and various one and two-seater BMWs, although they are not the focus of discussion here.
When considering the different Mini models, the three-door variant is the best-selling and retains the original Mini’s look and driving characteristics. It offers smooth turning, somewhat unstable directional stability, and sufficient suspension comfort to prevent any major issues. While some may argue that the Mini has become “too big” and “too heavy” compared to earlier series, it is worth noting that people have generally grown in size. Nonetheless, the Mini does weigh a bit more than comparable small cars, which can be noticeable. Nevertheless, the Mini’s build quality is solid, with no creaks or squeaks, even in the convertible model, which is built to withstand the lack of a roof.
In terms of proportions, the three-door Mini remains the most popular and visually harmonious choice. Its longer front overhang is primarily due to crash safety regulations. However, if more space is needed or occasional travel with four people is anticipated, two alternatives are available. The five-door model offers an additional 72 millimeters of wheelbase, providing more space behind the rear seats.
It features a large upward-opening tailgate, making it the most practical Mini in the family. The Clubman, on the other hand, has an extra three millimeters of wheelbase and is characterized by its two-wing rear door, which opens in a distinctive manner. Although it may not have much practical significance, it adds a visual flair, especially when the split doors open automatically, provided the optional comfort access feature is present.
Moving on to the interior, Mini offers a wide range of customization options and features. Buyers can personalize their Mini extensively, including the color of the roof, mirror caps, and ventilation rosettes inside. Initially, the base model lacked certain features such as air conditioning, although various equipment packages were available at an additional cost.
These packages, such as “Pepper” and “Salt,” included features like automatic air conditioning, passenger seat height adjustment, velour mats, fog lights, a rain sensor, and an onboard computer. The “Chili” package ranked above them, offering LED headlights, sports seats in a fabric/leather combination, and aluminum wheels with 16 or 17-inch diameters, depending on the engine. Over the years, the components of these packages and the engine options have changed. For instance, as of July 2022, LED headlights have become standard, and the Mini One range no longer includes weaker engines.
The interior of the vehicle offers a comfortable environment characterized by high-quality materials and appealing design, without excessive embellishments. The influence of German engineering, particularly from BMW, ensures excellent ergonomics and comfortable seating for long-distance journeys.
When it comes to the durability of the Mini, there were initial concerns regarding the reliability of certain components. Specifically, there were significant issues with the crankshaft thrust bearing in the newly introduced three-cylinder B38 series engines.
The purpose of this bearing is to prevent the crankshaft from moving in the longitudinal direction and is designed to have a minimal amount of clearance, measured in hundredths of a millimeter. To reduce friction, engineers opted for a half-bearing design, which covers only 180 degrees of the bearing point on the shaft.
However, this axial bearing also needs to withstand the release force generated by the clutch. If drivers frequently engaged the clutch pedal to manipulate the start-stop system at traffic lights and prevent the engine from shutting off, it put excessive strain on the bearing, leading to premature wear.
In response to this issue, BMW/Mini promptly took action and began installing crankcases with 360-degree bearings starting in April 2015. According to Mini, they have revised or replaced 97 percent of the engines manufactured prior to that date. For the remaining engines, the company’s press department assures generous goodwill in addressing any resulting damage. Overall, this was the only noteworthy weakness identified in the Mini’s durability.
The small three-cylinder engine may appear modest in size, but it delivers an elegant and efficient performance. It offers a remarkable balance of driving pleasure, fuel economy, and longevity.
Moreover, both the three-cylinder and four-cylinder B-series engines operate smoothly without encountering significant issues. However, it is worth noting that the diesel variants, similar to those in BMW vehicles, have experienced recurring problems with leaking EGR coolers, leading to constant recalls.
If you own a diesel engine and notice an unexplained loss of coolant, it is advisable to promptly address the matter with a qualified workshop to prevent potential engine failure and the risk of fire. Additionally, contrary to concerns, the timing chain drive does not pose a problem. While it was previously a critical aspect of BMW engines, it has been deliberately made inconspicuous in Mini’s engine design.
An excellent example of the durability of Mini’s engine components is showcased in Peter Kirchhoff’s Cooper D, which has gained significant attention in social (car) media for its journey toward reaching one million kilometers. The timing chain in Kirchhoff’s vehicle was only replaced after covering 527,000 kilometers.
Impressively, the odometer in his car now exceeds 700,000 kilometers without any other noteworthy incidents. However, it is important to mention that Kirchhoff’s driving style, as indicated by the specified average consumption of 2.95 liters, may have an impact. Nonetheless, if the timing chain is appropriately maintained, it should endure for up to 300,000 kilometers.
Moving on to the transmission, whether it is a manual or automatic variant, the power delivery system is robust and long-lasting. Approximately 60 percent of Mini vehicles sold in January 2018 were equipped with automatic transmissions. At that time, the previously employed six-speed torque converter automatic by Aisin was replaced by a more advanced seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
However, the higher-performance models saw an upgrade to an eight-speed torque converter shortly thereafter. This upgrade was incorporated in models like the John Cooper Works GP, featuring 306 horsepower, and the more potent Clubman, which has been available since the beginning of production.
Touching: The manual switching feature of the Mini provides a pleasantly engaging experience with feedback that creates a strong emotional connection. The automatic versions also offer a satisfying driving experience with excellent coordination.
Chassis: The epitome of precision and control
Driving the Mini instills a sense of joyous anticipation for the upcoming curves, which it effortlessly navigates with remarkable speed and minimal noticeable body roll. Even in wet conditions, as depicted here, the Mini exhibits impressive traction. Only when pushed to the extreme limits does a slight understeer become apparent.
It should be noted that enthusiasts who appreciate this ambitious driving behavior should be prepared for some compromises in suspension comfort. However, these compromises are seldom significant, especially considering the substantial improvements the Mini has made in this area compared to its two recent predecessors, and even more so when compared to the original Mini.
Particularly discerning sports car enthusiasts may criticize the slightly synthetic feel and reduced communicativeness of the steering. While the layperson often describes this sensation as the clichéd “go-kart feeling,” professionals would prefer a more authentic and nuanced experience.
The chassis of the vehicle aims to exude the same high-quality performance as the Mini’s optics. However, it seems to lack the aggressive demeanor found in earlier models, instead prioritizing a slightly more serious driving experience.
When it comes to shortcomings, there are hardly any significant complaints. Nonetheless, one may wonder why the Mini, known for its exceptional durability, doesn’t achieve perfection in all aspects during a general inspection. In fact, according to defect statistics from the GTÜ (Gesellschaft für Technische Überwachung, a German technical inspection association), two main issues stand out: the rear brake and the headlights.
Unfortunately, the car cannot rectify these problems if it is presented for inspection with faulty lamps or with the tire pressure monitoring system warning light illuminated. In some cases, and this is truly astonishing, the car may even lack sensors in the wheels. Additionally, common inspection faults for Minis include deteriorating bumpers on the rear shock absorbers and, beware of this potential pitfall, expired gas springs in the active bonnet.
|Mini Cooper Cooper||Mini Cooper D Cooper|
|Trunk volume||278 to 941L||211 to 731L|
|Displacement / engine||1499 cm³ / 3 cylinder||1496 cm³ / 3 cylinder|
|Performance||100 kW / 136 hp at 4500 rpm||85 kW / 116 hp at 4000 rpm|
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