REview - 1992 Austin Mini 1000 - Is it really this good? (Spoiler: "Yes")
The Austin Mini was produced from 1959 to 2000. It has a reputation for being one of the most enjoyable car that pretty much anyone can afford. Fun and light while still remaining practical and economical. But does the Mini really deserve all the hype it still gets today, 56 years after the first model came out of the Longbridge plant in England? Let’s try to figure it out!
Full disclosure: This is a very biased review. I had enough of renting shitty cars out whenever I'd go back home in France, so I bought it in order to actually enjoy myself whenever I'd go back. It sleeps 10 to 11 months a year, as I currently live in Japan and rarely get to drive it. Nonetheless, I very much love this car!
Along with the Beetle, the Mini is one of the most iconic car design to ever see the showrooms. It looks a bit dorky, yet manages to be one of the cutest car around. Old people, kids, men, women, rich and poor, everybody loves it. The amount of smiles per gallon it gives to everyone is incomparable with any other car and is still unrivalled today. When it first came out in 1959, only 20000 units were made. Noone would have thought at the time that it would sell all the way to the 21st century with the same, pretty much unchanged, design.
The interior though... THIS is particular Mini is fitted with this a very-1990’s cloth interior, but higher trims were much better and it would be unfair to judge it based on how ugly the interior of my car is. All Minis have a minimalistic, yet pratical design, allowing 4 grown ups to sit almost normally. The transverse mounted engine allows lots of leg space too. Despite being small and filled with the gas tank and the battery, the trunk will easily take your weekly groceries, granted that you’re single and don’t eat much.
It also doesn't have a working radio right now. It died on me a while ago and I never got around replacing it but when it worked, it was very audible over the noise of the exhaust/engine. Considering that I drive a lot, it’s nice to have a bit of music and not just the engine screaming in your ears for hours at 5000rpm on the freeway.
Driving the little monster now... It does 0 to 60mph in a bit over 20s, its engine produces 42hp/58lb.ft of torque and I don’t think anyone ever managed to stay awake long enough to see its quarter mile results. But to quote James May, the power is “sufficient”. Once you’re seated behind the wheel, everything will feel much faster than it really is, acceleration included.
It can brake very well also, and your stopping distance will most likely be limited by your tire instead of your brakes. Drums in the back won’t be a problem at all to stop the 1250lbs of the car. Grippy tires are recommended if you don’t want to lock the front wheels constantly when you start pushing it a little. Brakes don’t fade either but let’s face it: You don’t really need brakes in this car. They are here “just in case”.
First thing most people will complain about when driving, is how stiff the ride is. You bounce all over the place and the small upgrade I did to the car, installing adjustable shocks, changed NOTHING. It’s very unconfortable. Some kits do exists, making the car a lot more confortable and I can’t recommend them enough if you plan on daily driving a Mini. It will be tough on your back and bouncing all over the place for a couple hundreds of KM might give you serious heachaches.
As for the gearbox, if you don’t have a short shifter installed, the very high gear lever is comparable to what you get in a truck. LONG movements are required to get from one gear to another. Otherwise, it’s a solid gearbox with synchros everywhere, first gear included. For much quicker shifts, a short shifter is recommended though.
Once your start pushing it a little and try to have some fun behind the wheel, you will see that this is where the Mini shines. The archetype of the inertia car. You don’t need to touch the brakes and all you have to do is to never let go of the gas mid-corner in order to avoid a potentially very snappy lift off oversteer, very treacherous, especially in the wet. Avoiding this is fairly easy though: throttle to the floor, always! You will be within the legal speed limit most of the time anyway. Here is a little test drive video of mine, on the road by my place in France.
The classic Mini is a driver’s car. If you don’t care much about how a car drives and just want a cool looking city cruiser, I personnally would not recommend one. Sure it’s tiny and cute, but if you use it every day in traffic or live in a city with potholes everywhere, you might quickly regret your purchase. It’s not confortable, not THAT practical and it’s very slow. On the other hand, if you enjoy driving, slaloming between cars in cities and flying down mountain roads, do it!! I bought the car for 1700€ 2 years ago and I have invested around 1500€ worth of restauration into it, including a brand new paint job. As of today I could sell it back for 4000€ quite easily. Prices on these are climbing, thanks to hipsters everywhere in the world who love being seen in them. While prices will never get very high, its reliability and cool factor make sure you won’t lose any money on one. It’s one of the funnest car you will ever own and you won’t even lose money on it! Much better than a Smart4Sure...