The World's Coolest Car Still Has Its Mojo
By Sami Pritchard
We've always loved the dash and brio that MINI represents. Not only does it encapsulate all that was cool about the 1960s—just watch Michael Caine and a trio of MINI cars navigate a shopping arcade and the Alps in the classic 1969 movie The Italian Job—but it’s remained true to its origins.
An avatar of style and sustainability, there’s good reason why design guru James Dyson has described it as “one of the most fun inventions of my lifetime.” Like his own products, the MINI is a triumph of design and function, and the latest models have played that legacy forward as the car has matured to accommodate contemporary driving needs.
Take, for example, the 2014 MINI Hardtop. What other car can squeeze into a tight space, and manage an automatic 0-60 acceleration a split second faster than it’s manual equivalent? That may explain why a recent UK poll named the Mini the best British car ever built—ahead of the Jaguar E-type, Range Rover, or even James Bond’s beloved Aston Martin.
Of course, the MINI hasn’t really been a British car since BMW bought it in 1994, but it’s British in spirit, and German in engineering—the best of both worlds. It's the British heritage that bestows its quirky design and elegant interior finishes, and German engineering that makes this, in essence, a BMW by any other name: an English Bulldog married to a German Doberman.
Above: British in spirit, and German in engineering, the MINI is design classic
More than any other car, the MINI becomes—like our wardrobe or our pets—an extension of our values and personality. I remember hitching through France as a student, and getting a ride with a spirited older lady in her MINI. As we raced through the Dordogne Valley, she would pat the dashboard affectionately, crying, “Venir ma chérie!” (“Come along my darling!”). You wouldn't do that in a Hummer. Anointed the world’s first “classless car” when it debuted in 1959, the MINI continues to reflect a less grandiose, more free-wheeling attitude to the world, one in tune with the era of the 99 percent. The car’s Green Mode includes a coasting function to disengage automatic transmissions when your foot is off the gas, and a feature to enable the engine to switch off at stop lights to help cut fuel emissions.
Not many cars are able to lay claim to as many legendary aficionados, from Steve McQueen, to John Lennon, to Peter Sellers, all larger-than-life personalities who found in the MINI a car to match their temperament. We can only guess what they'd make of the new MINI Hardtop, with it’s TwinPower Turbo engine (co-developed with BMW), and celebrated go-kart handling. It helps make an efficient, powerful little car more efficient and powerful still. Also: what other car can you buy in Volcanic Orange?