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Mini Deserves Better Than This

Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 Uncharted Edition
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It’s rare that a new car is met with what appears to be apathy from its own manufacturer. Sure, Honda’s engineers were reportedly ashamed of the company’s first EV prototype attempt, but that isn’t the same as simply giving the bare minimum of bothers.

Mini is celebrating, I think, something about its crossover offering by releasing a special edition model called the Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 Uncharted Edition that its publicity team simply couldn’t care less about. Don’t believe me? Here’s the entire global press release, so you can be the judge:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

When used on sand, the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL 4 can demonstrate its maximum traction and driving stability in every corner. The Uncharted Edition underlines the exclusive characteristics of the untamed adventurer. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 feels at home off the beaten track with its powerful engine and all-wheel drive. The 131 kW/178 hp four-cylinder engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology ensures brand-specific, sporty driving fun.

Here’s the link if you don’t believe me. By comparison, here’s a long, multi-paragraph release about a single room at BMW Welt in Munich.

To expend precisely one paragraph on a striking new special edition without any mention of what makes it special seems like some mixture of laziness and carelessness. It’s got all-terrains and an orange stripe and repeating print on the side trims like a set of swim trunks from 2013; come on, guys.

It’s seemed for a while that the corporate overlords at BMW have been neglecting Mini, but this feels like a new low. The Countryman is supposed to be a money-printing machine, a half-timbered BMW X1 with a thatched roof. And it’s not been unsuccessful; it’s been the best-selling Mini in the lineup for a while now, perhaps owing to how much Americans love bigger cars (which Mini doesn’t really do, otherwise.) And an all-new Countryman is set to debut later this year, which is also why this new special edition for the outgoing car is getting such tepid publicity.

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But that new Countryman, and the forthcoming new Cooper, had better give this brand a badly needed shot in the arm. It’s not like BMW has done anything spectacular with the brand over the past five years.

2015 Mini Cooper S

The first reborn Mini hatch was on sale for six model years, and its successor saw a similar run of seven model years. The current-generation car? Nine model years. Nine. The third-generation Mini hatch is the oldest car model in the BMW extended family.

P90497306 Highres

The Clubman? Dying. The Paceman? Dead for years. The Coupe with the roof like a backward baseball cap? Ancient history at this point. Mini hasn’t received an all-new model since the 2017 Countryman, but BMW’s been trying to fill every niche since then. I reckon part of the issue is a loss of identity. Just like how BMW doesn’t seem to know its past anymore, it doesn’t seem to know Mini history either.

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Mini Jcw Gp

Case in point, the last JCW GP was a bit of a mistake. Sure, it was absurdly quick thanks to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a 301-horsepower version of BMW’s evergreen B48 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but it was also frustrating. The ride over pockmarked asphalt was unbearable and the automatic gearbox just wasn’t as engaging as a manual could’ve been. What’s more, it came with the silliest body kit this side of Mansory, and it carried a ludicrous price tag of $45,750 including an $850 freight charge.

P90504460 Highres Mini John Cooper Wor

If that wasn’t enough, it looks like Mini might kill the manual gearbox altogether, with an Autocar report claiming that the JCW 1to6 Edition might be the last manual gearbox-equipped car Mini will ever make. It would be sad if this turns out true because the Mini brand was never about outright speed, but pure driving enjoyment.

2004 Mini Cooper S

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Just as the Dodge Neon SRT-4 was quicker than the R53 Cooper S and the Mazdaspeed3 was quicker than the second-generation R56 Cooper S, any number of modern sport compact cars are quicker than the current Cooper S, but that doesn’t matter. A unique blend of upscale appointments, funky design, and eager yet friendly character make the Cooper S different from, say, a Hyundai Elantra N.

Mini Cooper S 3 Door

Mind you, it’s not all BMW’s fault that the Mini brand seems to be wavering. It’s not uncommon for people to claim that three-door Mini hatchbacks are no longer mini, but that’s a disingenuous claim. While the current F56 hatch is a whopping 8.9 inches longer than a 2002 Cooper S, you have to remember that everything has grown over the past 20 years for valid reasons like safety. Judged by modern standards, the current Mini three-door hatchback is ten inches shorter than a Kio Rio hatchback. If that isn’t mini, I don’t know what is.

2025 Mini Cooper Electric

Perhaps the electric era can provide salvation for the Mini brand. After all, most automakers don’t seem eager to offer small EVs in America. The Chevrolet Bolt, the lone exception, dies soon anyway, leaving a void in the market. While Mini currently offers an electric model for a reasonable $31,895, its limited range of 114 miles makes it a difficult sell as an only car. However, the next-generation model coming for the 2025 model year should bump that up significantly with a WLTP range estimated at 249 miles for the Cooper SE model. Mini’s also working on a genuinely small electric crossover called the Aceman, which should fill a gap between the hatchback and Countryman crossover previously filled by the Clubman wagon. (Editor’s Note: If it comes to North America; I’ve heard BMW people on this side of the pond are fighting for it. I hope they prevail. -PG)

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Of course, this all depends on whether or not the marketers, product planning team, and all those sorts of professionals can keep the interest up in the brand in the interim. While Minis sell well in Europe and other markets, Americans are currently locked behind ever-changing option packages and that on-again off-again availability of manual gearboxes. A manufacturer can build the greatest car in the world, but if it can’t figure out how to sell it, you’re not going to see many on the streets.

(Photo credits: Mini)

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Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 year ago

Mini could try and built a trendy delivery van: They could call it the Pacman.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 year ago

Tragically, the testing facility was double-booked with Rolls-Royce and the only prototype was destroyed after a fender bender with the upcoming Ghost.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Sure Mini. Nothing says “let’s hit the dunes” more than low profile tires.

When used on sand, the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL 4 can demonstrate its complete immobility and stay in one place stability in every corner. The Uncharted Edition underlines the exclusive characteristics of the uneducated adventurer. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 feels off base and beaten with its powerless engine, and sometimes will drive. The 131 kW/178 hp four-cylinder engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology ensures blandly specific so so driving fun.
Are they even trying?

This is the advertising equivalent of getting a car stuck on the beach and watching the rising tide take it out to sea.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

I think what you are forgetting is it only cost a couple hundred bucks in steel to make an equivalent car bigger. But it cost pretty much the same to make a little car luxurious.

Len
Len
1 year ago

Does anybody else hear Ben Stein reading that press release aloud? It does sound like it was “AI generated”, in any case.

MkeZ
MkeZ
1 year ago

I loved the initial we dont give a crap what the market thinks, here’s a practical (yes I said practical) little two door hatch that handles well, is fun, and comfortable*. In fact I still have my ’16 because I just don’t see any other options to fill how I use it.

*depends on what kind of suspension you think is comfortable

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
1 year ago
Reply to  MkeZ

Exactly. I love my R53 for quick trips and daily duties, but haul out the truck for large cargo needs. In rare instances a MINI can be an only car but usually it’s best with a second complimentary vehicle if possible. And no I’m by no means wealthy, just willing to drive a 30 year old monster that I can fix with a hammer and a crescent wrench.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 year ago

I think you are being a bit unfair to BMW. They have been working hard behind the scenes to come up with new bigger grills for these.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 year ago

Mini is a weird brand in terms of the American market. It’s a premium, small, hatchback with a premium price tag. This is a hard sell for most people in the United States. Even with their “SUV’s” they made, people will always read the name and think “small car”. It’s the same problem that Smart had. “Oooo, it’s a SMART car. Guess I’m a dumby, huh?” Same thing happens with Mini, “Oooo, a Mini, just a little car huh?”

I own a Paceman, the redhead stepchild of Mini’s. It’s currently sitting needing a turbo, timing chain tensioner, and clutch here soon. Will I do these repairs? I’d like to but BMW parts pricing and all the goofy repairs make it difficult. Most shops don’t want to touch it and the dealer pricing is a sin.

Mini dealers are the epitome of “BRANDING” where the only thing they believe in is Mini and the salespeople will do their hardest to convince any soul that walks in that a Mini will always be perfect for their life style. Family size, living situation, and personal income be damned!

All in all, things don’t look too bright for Mini. Same goes for it’s Italian look alike, Fiat. These things just aren’t destined for these shores.

Allen Lloyd
Allen Lloyd
1 year ago

Former BMW Mini owner here. What they nailed initially, but have lost over time was the feeling of speed. The R50/53 was never all that fast, but the controls were setup in a way that made the car feel faster than it actually was. Over time they have dulled all this to land on something that is slower and feels it compared to others.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 year ago
Reply to  Allen Lloyd

This right here. The interior was fun, it was different, and it made you feel like a pilot with the overhead switches and big gauges. It’s an event to drive an older Mini. The new one just feels like a BMW with some colors on the inside.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 year ago
Reply to  Allen Lloyd

Agreed. I’ve head plenty of Minis as rental cars over the last couple decades, and each time I got in one I felt like it was slightly duller than the previous one. I would always convince myself it just my hazy memory trying to make past memories fun until I had one last year and…the thing was simply dull to drive. Isolated steering feel, lazy turn-in, disengaged suspension, and an uneager engine that hated to rev. It was no more exciting than the Camry I had after it, and there weren’t enough charming paint schemes or quirky interior designs to compensate for it being a boring car with the reliability and pricing of a BMW.

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago

Does the Uncharted edition mean Tom Holland drops it out of a cargo plane upon delivery?

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 year ago

I’ve casually considered Minis over the years because I’m fond of fun, engaging, small, cheerful cars. But there are a lot of valid reasons why they’re not popular in the US. The first of these is price…well equipped Minis essentially cost as much or more than entry level luxury cars. Whenever I’ve perused listings for them I’ve been shocked at how many check in between 40 and 50,000. Are John or Jane Doe going to want to drop that much on something with a luxury badge or something with a Mini badge?

Another is reliability. They’re German. They’re going to have issues…and a lot of Mini’s issues are pretty well publicized. They’re essentially collections of hand me down BMW parts…and unsurprisingly you’re going to deal with German luxury car reliability and ownership costs, but without the prestigious badge. Again…that’s a hard sell.

Finally, they’re small. Don’t get me wrong-I like small cars personally. I live in the city and understand the benefits of something that’s easy to park. I’ve owned two hatchbacks in a row. But the size of everything else on our roads makes living with small, low cars exceedingly difficult. These vehicles are a negligently piloted lifted brodozer away from being totaled at all times…and drivers are well within the “BRO CHECK OUT MY AFTERMARKET TRAIL LIGHT PACKAGE BRO” blinding range.

It pains me to say this as an enthusiast, but my Kona N has been exponentially easier to live with than my GTI was for this reason. The extra height and visibility makes a ton of difference in a world where every other car is 6 feet tall and 6,000 pounds.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
1 year ago

“A unique blend of upscale appointments…”
I test-drove a Clubman no fewer than three times and was never able to get past the Premium Price (at least in $CAN). The thing that really bugged me, though? They have these funky toggle switches for everything (neat!) but the second you put a finger on one you feel that they’re made of cheap silver plastic, and don’t even actuate a mechanical switch. It might as well be a stick on an N64 controller, which, now that I’ve made the comparison, would have been better.

OnlyFlans
OnlyFlans
1 year ago

When I first read the “Uncharted Edition” I thought there was going to be some lame tie-in with Nathan Drake and SIC PARVIS MAGNA embossed on the headrests or something.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
1 year ago
Reply to  OnlyFlans

The body count is going to be *high*

415s30
415s30
1 year ago

It’s a BMW, I have never liked the interior on these cars and that’s where you spend all your time.

Last edited 1 year ago by 415s30
CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago

The ghost of BMC called and they want their brand back.
Talk about tarnished!

Cyko9
Cyko9
1 year ago

This just reminds me how I wanted to buy a used Paceman, pry off the letter “e” and replace it with a hyphen, then give it a Pac-Man itasha wrap. Luckily, those cars are not selling cheaply yet.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago

More like Unappreciated Edition, amiright?

M K
M K
1 year ago

The picture even makes it look like it just got stuck. The front wheels helplessly claw for traction as the anemic ALL4 system overheats and disengages. Meanwhile a Crosstrek with properly aired down tires smugly drives by without offering to help, leaving the poor mini to deal with the circling Brodozers.

Carson Giardini
Carson Giardini
1 year ago
Reply to  M K

Until 14 seconds later when the cvt inevitably explodes

M K
M K
1 year ago

It was a smug Crosstrek with a proper manual transmission 🙂 The headgasket did however start leaking just over the next dune.

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago

Isn’t this basically the same problem they all eventually run into with retro styling?

Everyone’s excited at first, sales are hot as older folks fondly remember the cars of their youth, but that wears off pretty quickly. If you have an especially compelling vehicle (ie Challenger with its cheap power), you might be able to get away with it for a while, but most flame out. After all, where can you possibly go with the redesigns?

A non-enthusiast would have a very difficult time telling a 2003 Mini from a 2023. And the small car/CUV space is crowded.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

I think you’re right, BUT… when Chrysler, Ford, GM, and VW realized that their retro-mobiles had run their course, they just stopped making them. And that was fine, because they had plenty of other models to sell. MINI, as a brand, can’t really sell anything that doesn’t bear at least some passing resemblance to the original Austin Mini of 1959. Whenever sales drop below sustainability, the whole brand is just done.

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Agree, which is why I think it’s done.

BMW already sells FWD cars and CUVs now, and their reputation is already low among people who care about sacrileges like that; they are probably better off just putting their badge on whatever they want to salvage from Mini’s carcass.

Last edited 1 year ago by V10omous
415s30
415s30
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

They should make them classy and timeless with no gimmicks, I have always hated the interiors but being a BMW makes it a no from the start I suppose.

Goose
Goose
1 year ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

VW? You sure about that? I’m thinking this will be the exact problem with the ID Buzz. After a few years of novelty, people are just going to realize the ID Buzz is just a mediocre EV powertrain in a mediocre minivan packaging with retro dressing on top. Even worse is they’ve been taking YEARS to release it since they first showed the concept in 2023 so I’m betting the styling novelty wears off even faster than the PT Cruiser, S197 Mustang, 5th gen Camaro, etc.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 year ago
Reply to  Goose

Well I was referring to the New Beetle and the New New Beetle, of course. In terms of the ID.Buzz, it’s too early to tell. But since it’s a basic, one-box design, it wouldn’t be too difficult to redesign into something less Transporter-like.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Goose

Im sorry years to release since showing the concept in 2023? Dude it is June 2023, where do you get years?

Goose
Goose
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I meant to say 2017 when the Buzz was first shown, not 2023. Anyways though, the ID Buzz traces back to 2001 Microbus Concept, or if you want to get EV-microbus specific, the 2011 Bulli EV. So yeah, 6 years is a long time, 11 years laughable, 22 years an eternity.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

 After all, where can you possibly go with the redesigns?

Take the 911 route, and just keep refreshes small enough that purists love them, but large enough that everyone will know who bought the new one. Learn what fans love, and don’t mess with that while you try to lightly cram in the latest styling trend–major stress on lightly.

Mini was doing it well for a few years, then then the changes became too small. But I don’t believe the styling was the real problem, it was the slow death of small cars. The styling simply doesn’t work very well on things that aren’t small cars–or at least they haven’t really found a good way to apply it. The first Countryman came close…

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

I honestly didn’t know if the 911 or the Wrangler would be brought up as a counter point first.

But the very fact you mention purists is telling. 911s can afford to appeal to purists, because they are expensive and don’t need to sell many to succeed. For decades, Jeep could do the same because they had no competition. Mini plays in very competitive segments.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

Correct my friend. Now if it were affordable, reliable, and supportable you can get away with an appliance with a few upgrades each year. But falling apart expensive parts, and nothing starts aint going to happen.

Groover
Groover
1 year ago

“Judged by modern standards, the current Mini three-door hatchback is ten inches shorter than a Kio Rio hatchback. If that isn’t mini, I don’t know what is.”

Yep, I’ll say this to anyone who’ll listen – MINIS makes *SMALL CARS*. Drives me nuts when people bleat that the Countryman is “huge”.
The current Countryman has a smaller footprint than any Honda or Mazda and is only longer than a Toyota GR86 (but it’s shorter than a Supra).

Groover
Groover
1 year ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Good grief I can’t believe I forgot about the MX-5.
I hang my head in shame.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  Groover

I think what is hard for people is seeing a new Mini beside an old one. But cars have gotten bigger. And they can’t get as small as the old Mini. Just the required safety features make that impossible.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

Not to mention people have gotten larger.

Sean Hannay
Sean Hannay
1 year ago
Reply to  Groover

People have been making the same tired “They’re not mini anymore!” joke since the R50 came out 23 years ago. Yes, they’re bigger than their predecessors but are still smaller than 98% of the cars on the road. My wife had an F54 Clubman – Mini’s big car – and it was the size of a VW Golf.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Sean Hannay

They should just add a corolla sized vehicle sinxe many left the market.

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